Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010: Providence comes in sevens... pt 3 of 7


Tales from the Cancer Center, Chapter 3.

Remember the awesome husband and wife I wrote about last night?  Try keeping up with this piece of the story...

Wednesday was my final day at UC Irvine Medical Center until we find more funding (which we will).  When I first ran into the husband in the hall, he mentioned that his wife was feeling too weak to have music and that I should check back with them the next time they were in.  See, the last time they were in, I was there, so he naturally thought I was around all the time like most employees.  I explained to him that today (Wednesday) was my last day under the Gunther Grant that Arts & Services for the Disabled had written for music therapy.  He looked SHOCKED.  He immediately said, "Well, who can I write a letter to?  I mean, I'm no millionaire, but this can't stop."  At this point we were standing outside his wife's room at the end of the hall way.  I turned around and looked down the hall at the nurses station.  I figured, I'd have him go talk to the Nursing Supervisor and they would send it up the chain of command, but lo and behold, who is standing at the nurses station counter?

THE head admin of the cancer center.

How often is she up on the unit?

Hardly ever.

The administration offices are in a different building altogether.

How many times have I met her or even seen her face?


Once at the final planning meeting for the cancer dinner.

The second time?

Sitting at the head table right in front of me as I presented.

I look back at the husband and I say, "Well, HER!"

So, I walk right up to her and she gives me a warm hug like we've been best friends, though we only officially met after the dinner that night.  I tell her it's my last day; we ran out of funding.  She tells me she had no idea.  She then proceeds to say that they just received a large donation two days ago to be put to use wherever they deemed useful, and that she had no idea what she was going to put it towards.

Then, the husband strides right up behind me, and I introduce them, slide out of the way, go back to his wife's room, and tune my guitar to play "The Rain Song."  Meanwhile, over my shoulder I hear the entire conversation take place about what a difference music therapy made for his wife after only one session (completely in line with what I presented about.. music therapy WORKS in its very first treatment... not just music).  I hear the administrator gush and explain how grateful they are to hear that, then I hear the nurse manager chime in at length about the difference music therapy makes on the unit...

... they were ganging up on her!

Fine by me.  That's what you call 'an abundance of proof.'

Sometimes, God SHOUTS.  Being a Native New Yorker, I like shouting.  :-)

Now, do the math.  I'm not supposed to be there on Wednesday.  The admin RARELY is on the unit.  The husband and wife are there for the first Wed in 3 weeks since we were both there last.  We all end up in the same place at the same time.

Anyone remember the stories at the beginning of the summer about me running into the other soccer players?  God seems to know exactly who to put where... and when!

I can tell you what my psychologist friend told me... this is how it works through his lens... I expect these type of events, and therefore, my radar and my beacon are poised and ready.  I have a hard time NOT running into people I know in public events/places because I expect to.

I just call it Providence.  Yep, I have to show up to make it happen, but that's all I do.  I just keep showing up, confident in my faith that God will once again do the rest.

And God delivered again.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you.  May 2011 be simply magnificent for you.  Show up,  work hard, be authentic, and let God handle the rest.  I know 2011 is going to be nothing short of MARVELOUS and MIRACULOUS for the tiny but mighty Ringgold clan, and I begin the year in deep, DEEP gratitude that you will be there with us, and we with you!

God night, and God Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30, 2010: Providence comes in sevens... pt 2 of 7

The site of my home office while Ali is home sick... playing Barbie...


Do you know how good God is?  She's better than you think.  ;-)

Sorry, I couldn't resist.  I just think it is funny that God is referred to as a He.  Isn't God more than that?  I like how in a lot of scriptural references, people are eliminating the use of masculine personal pronouns for God, and instead they are just using the word God.  Hey, I just posted on Courtney Roth's blog and I used Him and His all over the place... it's a 30-something year old habit, but it's one that I shall continue to allow to evolve.

Sorry.  Tangent there!

Okay.  Onto part 2 of 7 in our Providence comes in Sevens stories from yesterday...

The Rain Song...

I posted a video of my brother-in-law and I playing an abridged version of Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" while we were vacationing in Colorado last week.  Well, I kept working on the tune, and now have got it pretty well under my fingers on my classical guitar as well including the ending, which eluded me at the time of the video recording.  Led Zeppelin is a MAJOR musical influence in my life.  I spent my 4 years of high school on a pretty exclusive diet of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.  Their music is so broad; I challenge you to find a band that wrote more diverse music within a single album and remained commercially - not only successful - but the single most popular band in the seventies... and I say that by measuring album sales and concert tickets sales.  Zeppelin re-wrote the books on concert sales.  They were the mega stadium band that ushered in the era of arena rock and stadium rock bands.

Okay, now that I have laid out (perhaps again) my deep love for and connection to Zep, imagine this...

Before I went on vacation, I worked with a patient and her husband who are in their late sixties.  While working with them, they asked for some Led Zeppelin... particularly "Stairway to Heaven."  Now, I am one of the only people I know that sings it and plays the entire piece on a classical guitar.  Let me tell you, to fans of the song, they are incredulous when I pull this off sitting bedside in a hospital.  It's a song you really don't expect someone to be able to master singing and playing, since it's not normally a solo piece, so when you hear it, it really is a treat.  Anyway, it made their day.

After I learned "The Rain Song," I thought to myself, "I wonder if I can pull this off in the hospital on my classical guitar?"  It is in a really unusual tuning which is harder for nylon string guitars, because nylon strings actually have memory.  When you change the tuning, the strings will stretch or tighten in an effort to return to their default amount of tension.  True story.  "The Rain Song" is in a really, really alternative tuning, and it's about 7 minutes long, so by the 5 minute mark, those strings are wanting to  slip and slide outta tune!  So, I kind of left it on the back burner and decided not to really think about it any further.


When you are receiving chemotherapy at our infusion center, you are usually on a schedule.  Due to Ali getting sick, I changed my schedule around so Grandma could watch her while I finish the Gunther Grant out, and so I could take care of her today.  So, I ended up back in the infusion center on a Wednesday, not Thursday like I had originally planned.  So, yesterday, who do I bump into at the nurse's desk as soon as I walked in?  The husband!  What's the first thing out of his mouth?

"Man, my wife and I just LOVED that Led Zeppelin you played for us last week!"

Target acquired.

I start de-tuning my guitar within seconds of getting it out of my case.  He mentions she's too tired for music today, but I look through the window and she is awake, so I pop my head in to say hi, full well knowing that she will probably perk right up at the sight of the guitar again.  He follows into the room and they both proceed to go on and on about how amazing it was to hear "Stairway to Heaven" done so well.

"Well, it's funny you should mention that, because I have something NEW for you!"

The lilting melody and cascading chords from the song languidly flow out of my guitar, across the bed, and bathe the husband and wife in the warmth of a familiar melody forgotten.

For 7 minutes, only my guitar spoke.

For 7 minutes, this husband and wife were thirty-something again.

For 7 minutes, there was no cancer.

For 7 minutes, there was no cancer.

For 7 minutes, there was no cancer.

Behold, the power of music.

Behold the power of Providence.

Thank you, Ali, for willing to be sick exactly when you became sick; you have no idea what you facilitated in the exchange, and we're just getting started.  Stay tuned for the next FIVE STORIES...

God night.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29, 2010: Providence comes in sevens...

The amazing nursing staff in the Infusion Center at the Chao Family Cancer Center at UC Irvine Medical Center.  Thank you to the Gunther Foundation and to Arts & Services for the Disabled for allowing me the privilege of working with these amazing women in 2010.


Today was so full of Providence, I had to take notes at the dinner table to make sure I didn't miss anything in this post.  I don't even know where or how to begin.  Let's just start, and see where we go, shall we?

Okay, at yesterday's doctor's appointment, Ali was running a fever, so the doc said she had to stay home for 48 hours after her temp returned to normal.  Now, I was supposed to work at the hospital fulfilling the last two sessions of music therapy for the Gunther Grant that I am currently there through this Thursday and Friday.  So, on the way home from the doc's office yesterday, I called Grandma and asked if there was a day this week that she could come over and watch Ali while I finished off this grant.  She said that she could come over today, so I combined my remaining hours into one full day at the hospital today.

I head out the door a little late thanks to some east coast work I had to submit, and by the time I got the exit off the freeway for the hospital, it was POURING rain.  I noticed hiding behind the freeway sign was relatively young girl, trying to take refuge from the elements while hopefully picking up some donations from commuters along the way.  Now, regardless of what anyone else's attitude or philosophy is about "giving money to the homeless/beggars," I follow a very simple credo.  If I have it, I give it away, because it's not mine in the first place.  Second, Jesus was homeless.  Do you think most people at the time saw a man with flowing blonde hair and a beard?  Historically speaking, they probably saw a dark haired, dark skinned homeless man.  So, I think of the homeless as Jesus in Disguise.

Anyway, I open my wallet thinking I have a 5 or a couple of singles I can easily give away, and what do I see?  A single twenty.  Rats!  I don't want to give that much away, I immediately hear my mind say.  Then, I laugh at myself.  I'm asking the universe to give me 3 million dollars and I can't give away twenty?  I seriously laughed out loud at myself in my car, pulled the twenty out (with a little tinge of pain nonetheless), and got ready.  The light turned, and as my car made it to her, I slowed down and rolled down my window, twenty in hand.  A very happy - yes, happy - young woman emerged from her makeshift lean-to and reached out, and without looking at the money, just smiled a GIANT smile and made solid eye contact and actually connected with me.  Her eyes shone as bright as her smile, and I couldn't help but think, "What are you doing here?  You obviously have much to offer this world, if you can reach out and connect with me in an instant through the rain at a stop light while my car is moving."

I let it go, since the moment was moving by so fast, but I won't soon forget her.  What was funny was that my mind was wining, "How are you going to be able to eat lunch now?  You know you don't have enough money in the bank to pull cash from the ATM, and they don't take credit at the cafeteria!"  It was as if my mind was trying to punish me for listening to my soul instead of it.  However, within a fraction of a second, my soul replied, "Tim, they provide free lunch in the infusion center, and they have offered you free lunch before, you'll be fine."  Again, I laughed because if I had reacted to my mind and withdrawn from the chance, thinking I could only get food today through one way, my fear would have won out, and a girl would be standing in the rain with a chunk less cash, and I'd still be getting fed.

I'm not swimming in cash currently due to the 6 month hiatus I took from working, but I ask you, who needed that twenty today more, her or me?  If you find yourself thinking that standing in the rain at a exit ramp of a freeway the best way you're going to get money for what you need, you are having tougher times than me, and I'll help every time.  Don't care where the money goes, it was God's anyway.

Fast forward to lunch time.  I am in the infusion center, and before I even think about food, one of the AWESOME nurses grabs me and says something to the effect of, "Did you try the clam chowder yet?"  I'm thinking that's the soup they are serving, but she corrects me, "No, one of our patients brought in a VAT of amazing New England clam chowder!  Here, follow me!"  She leads me into a tiny room - the same tiny room I store my rain coat - and shows me the vat of soup and the giant bag of rolls to go with it!  Sure enough, a patient had brought in a full-on commercial grade vat of the tastiest, stick-to-your-ribs and warm-your-bones clam chowder I've ever had.

Folks, I grew up in Connecticut.  I KNOW New England Clam Chowder!  There ain't NOTHIN' better than a bowl of that stuff on a miserable rainy day like today was!  No offense, socal, but I have low expectations of anyone's attempt at NECC, but this guy NAILED IT!  It was soooooo good.

Didn't need that twenty after all.

Okay, there are literally SIX MORE STORIES from today alone, but I just don't have it in me to write them all out in one blog post, and you don't want that much, as much as you love being here.... hahaha.  So, I'm going to share one a day for the next six days, and if more come along the way, we'll just have to double up.

You know, I used to write "Providence Story of the Day," way back when Bella was born.  No what I realized today?  I used to think that I got one Providence moment per day... like an allotment or ration.  No what I realized today?  I am the one who said that.  Therefore, when "the" story of the day would happen to me, I thought that was all I was gonna get that day.  Don't get me wrong, I was super excited I got one a day, and never for a second wondered why I didn't get more.  Today I realized that God's Providence is all around me, just WAITING for its chance to shine upon me.  The only limits are the ones I PUT ON GOD, not the other way around.  I was honestly exhausted by 4:30 today just trying to be with the fact that no less than SEVEN phenomenal stories of God's love showered down upon me today.

Do you allow for God's hand in your life daily?  How many acts of his Grace do you consider yourself worthy enough to receive per day?  Ever notice who made that up?

My friends, the lids we place on our selves, on others, ON GOD...  they are clear, but they are there.

What lids will you be removing in 2011?  DECLARE IT HERE.  You have an audience of committed listeners here who know you, love you, and will stand for you that it be so.

What lids will YOU be removing in 2011?

God night.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28, 2010: Back to the grind...


... and the doctor's office!

Ali woke up with a temperature again today, and that makes it 3 days + , which earned her a trip to the doc's office!  Soonest they could see her was 4pm, so we hung out at home and she was a total trooper, because I am SLAMMED this week with work, work, and some more work!  She was really understanding that I had to work in the office, and that while I was here, it didn't mean I was always available.  I really was impressed with a) what a good mood she was in today compared to the past 2 days and b) how well she played and colored by herself for large parts of the day.  When we got to her doctor's office, she still had a temp, and as soon as the doc looked in her ears, we knew part of the culprit... double ear infection!  On top of that, she has a general winter flu which she could have easily picked up on the planes to CO or on the Polar Express.

The sweet moment of the day was when her doctor, at the end of the appointment, awkwardly gave me a hug out of nowhere, and looked in my eyes all teary eyed!  He didn't say anything, but I got it.  He's a little younger than I am, and he has small kids at home, too.  He is really sweet, but a little timid/shy socially (actually a lot, but we LOVE him dearly).  He also took the time to call me in MN right after Bella died to offer his condolences.  Again, an awkwardly delivered but heartfelt conversation.  I have so much respect for him, because he clearly doesn't know what to say, but he gives it his best, and it's just so authentic and honest, that it just comes out beautiful, despite being rough around the edges.

That's all any of us can do... our best.  I think that when we lead with our heart, we may not get the words out like we hope, but people hear our heart, not our words.  When you are being authentic, I think people can feel it more than hear it, and it's that feeling - that connection - that we all love and crave.

In other news...

I'm going to place a new page on the blog here starting in the new year for the fundraising game for Bella's Birthday Bash!  Anyone is invited to participate in any fashion they choose.  All are welcome.  Stay tuned!

Also, now that skiing is checked off the bucket list... I need something tangible to keep me active.  So, starting on Monday January 3, I am embarking on an 18 week journey called "Transformation," by best selling author Bill Phillips.  I have had the good fortune to hang out with Bill in his home on a couple of occasions now, and I am reading his latest book by the same name.  He was knee deep into the manuscript the first time I played guitar in his parlor, and now, that book is being released, well, I think the soft release was actually today!  That's funny.  I didn't even think of that as I started writing this.

Anyway, Angelique both had great success with Bill's "Body For Life" program, so I am ready to let him take me to a new place in my health and fitness once again!  Bill really has got it figured out.  His first book, "Body For Life," was designed as an "outside-in" approach to wellness.  However, he found that many of his readers struggled with maintaining an external program of diet and exercise due to some internal issues that were holding them back.  His new book, "Transformation," takes the opposite approach.  It is more of an "inside-out" strategy where as you break down and break through the internal barriers to your own potential, that frees you up to achieve and maintain the results on the outside you've always wanted.  This way, his readers now have a roadmap that takes opposite routes to the same destination, thereby giving EVERYONE a shot at it!

I really think very highly of Bill, and I am putting myself through his new program also because he has created an AMAZING online community over at and I want to be a part of that community!  When you get a chance, if you want a breakthrough in your health, fitness, and/or vitality, go over to and see what it's all about.  Better yet, go watch this story about my new friend Marty.  I met Marty at Bill's house in November, and Marty and I both have something in common.  We outlived one of our kids.  Watch this guy's story and you'll see why I am throwing myself into this challenge.  Marty is my hero.

Plus, now that I have "outed" myself to you, I gotta follow through!  So, please, no more candy!  Only fruit as gifts!  Please!  LOL.

God night.

Ali took the following two pictures today in my office... figured they'd be just fine... Bella's photo of the day... through Ali's eyes...

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010: We're back home in CA


We made it home safely today, but not without Ali's flu really making her miserable on the 2 flights home.  Ali basically vegged out in front of the TV today while our sherpa Mark took us on one last hiking adventure.  We basically hiked from 8,000 to 9,000 feet in 6-18 of powder to an overlook where we could see a whole other mountain range and Vallecito Lake 1,000 feet below. Gorgeous views at the end of it all,

Providence story of the day?  The flights caused Ali to to be miserable.  All she wanted was her little Lucy.  I explained that we had to go to Grandma's to pick Lucy up.  She wasn't too happy about that.  She wanted Lucy right then and there.  Well, we head down to baggage claim, and who is waiting for us?  Grandpa, Grandma, and Lucy!  I don't think Lucy has EVER seen the inside of the airport!  Ali immediately got happy and Granda mentioned, "Yeah, something told me I should just bring Lucy today..."


Now, I can't even keep my eyes open, so I say THANK YOU GRANDMA AND GRANDPA for bring Lucy to the airport, and THANK YOU NANNY AND MANNY for an absolutely LOVELY holiday!

God night.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26, 2010: Happy Boxing Day!

Manny in his favorite chair... O.U.T.

Daddy also O.U.T.  Ali dropped the props in and mommy took the shot...


Well, we're all pooped out from all the fun here.  Jon, Tracy, Jake, and Harrison left early this morning, and the rest of us really didn't set any records for speed or productivity today.  Isn't vacation great?  Ali came down with a mile flu yesterday, so last night was devoid of sleep.  Today, Nanny volunteered to watch her so mommy and I could go into Durango and do a little shopping.  We met up with Ralph Jr., Mark, and Venus for lunch at an Irish Pub and then hit the Ralph Lauren Outlet to return a couple of things.  RL stuff runs really small apparently, so the 2 shirts I got didn't fit.  No problem.  Their after-Christmas sales ROCKED, so I walked out with a pair of cords, a dress shirt, a polo shirt, a dress for Ali, a baseball cap, and 3 pairs of socks, and 39 cents to spare!  Nice.

The weather was beautiful today; we had sun, clouds, and a little snow, all in one day.  A nice fire handled any evening chill in the air.  Overall, it was a nice, take-it-easy kind of day.  

Tomorrow evening, we head back home to a busy week of year-end deadlines, but right now, slow and easy wins.  Enjoy the pics.

God night.

Ali doing her makeup with her new musicbox vanity...

Outfit number one of the day...

Ali's new dress from the outlet... check out her pink headphones to match!

My brother Paul and his daughter Liesel after her Christening last year.  The girls are less than a month apart!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25, 2010: Merry Christmas!


More beauty
More fun
More friends
More family
More faith
More food
More deer
More guitar playing
More fabulous socks of the day
More hiking
More laughter
More gratitude
More memories
More wine
More beer
More Tums
More gifts

Notice where gifts were?
No one needs gifts or a holiday to experience ALL of the above.
Let's all make a pledge to not wait for a holiday to choose to experience ALL of the above (or parts, depending on your style... for example you may not... play guitar... ;-) )


You or someone you love may not make it to the next holiday.
CELEBRATE TODAY, because you have today to do with WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE.

Merry Christmas to all, and happy Birthday, Jesus!

P.S.  Jon and I recorded a shortened version of Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" on youtube per someone's request.  Click Here to enjoy.

God night.

December 24, 2010: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas...


... let's start out with a story.  Thanks to Donna Yazbek for sending me this on facebook...

The "W" in Christmas

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peacefulexperience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by it's bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snow caps upon their heads. Those in the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down -totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W". The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding
her "W". 
Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities. For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear: "CHRISTWAS LOVE" And, I believe, He still is.


Author Unknown

How AWESOME is that?  As much fun as the Santa myth is, the legend of the birth of Jesus is simply amazing.  Regardless of theological interpretation, regardless if you believe in the immaculate conception or of a virgin birth, regardless if you believe Jesus of Nazareth is/was the messiah, the story his birth simply sets the tone for a memoir of power through humility and service not seen often on this planet.  That man.  Oh, that man.  So clear in who he was.  So clear in who he was to be.  So clear in what he had to do.  Jesus set the bar, my friends.  Courage?  Top Jesus.  Faith?  Top Jesus.  Love?  Top Jesus.  Compassion?  Top Jesus.  Humility?  Top Jesus.  Servitude?  Top Jesus.  Leadership?  Top Jesus.  Born in a barn, travels the land as a homeless man, arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey, dies in a loin cloth amid thieves and murderers.  Befriends women, minorities, tax men, prostitutes, the poor.  Challenges the Sanhedrin, the temple, his own people, the very validity of the power of Rome, and dies for it all.

What are we REALLY celebrating tonight and tomorrow?  Not a mythical fat man's ability to travel the globe on flying reindeer in one night.  Like I said, it's cute, but frankly largely exploited.  What would Black Friday be without Jesus?  We're not celebrating Santa's Birthday, we're celebrating Jesus'.  In the movie, "Brazil,"  there is a great moment when in a crowded shopping mall, a small group of protesters walks by with a sign that reads, "CONSUMERS FOR CHRIST."  Man, that said it ALL.

We're not waiting with baited breath for Santa, we're waiting with baited breath to pause and thank God in Heaven for the lowly birth of a tiny baby, that in a short lifetime, radically changed the world for 2,000 years after.  Regardless of whether Jesus is or isn't 'the only son of God,' (which in all honesty just doesn't make any sense to me and smacks of traditional mythology)  his life was so extraordinary that we celebrate its beginning 2,000 years later.  You haven't heard me use Jesus' name hardly EVER before tonight, right?  It's not my style, but tonight, he deserves some recognition!  Hey, I don't even know historically whether Jesus was born on December 25, but this is the day we have chosen to mark the occasion, so be it.  And so it is...

I really wasn't planning on sharing any of this tonight, but apparently God was.  LOL.  I had no intention of writing any of the above while I was working on editing pics from today.  Funny how God works.  

Today can be broken into three parts:  1) morning snow fun 2) afternoon/prep & evening feast, and 3) Polar Express.

1)  Jake and Harrison's snow man seemed lonely, so Ali wanted to build a snow musketeer by his side.  Never mind that the snow musketeer is facing the opposite direction.  So, Ang and I (with help from Ali) set out to see if we could pull it off.  Behold our triumph in the 1st slide show!  Then, we went for a hike to a little fort nearby with the dogs.  The weather was cloudy and about 32 degrees, but DRY so it felt quite pleasant.  

2)  There was a lot of prep (just like in most houses) work for tonight's feast during the day.  Ang helped the kids make Christmas cookies as seen in slide show #2.  The table was set, and the assembly line of food was underway.  After the polar express, we all reunited and had a magical feast with fresh homemade raviolis and  meatballs and an awesome salad to cool it all off at the end.  We were all so stuffed from the meal that I don't know how much dessert was even attempted!

3)  The Polar Express was really cute.  Tracy's family and Ang, Nanny, Ali, and I all got seats together on the train.  Some hot chocolate, a red and green marshmellow treat, a Santa hat, a mug, and a reindeer bell personally hand delivered by Santa himself made for a fun ride, including the sing along we did all the way back from the north Pole.  Then, Ali got to meet Santa and spend a little more quality time with him just once more before he descends upon our house in just a short while from now.

Twas the night before Christmas
and all trough the house
not a creature was stirring,
just this grieving blogger.

It hits hard, and lately, it hits often.
The silence of Bella is deafening to me
I work hard at staying present and grateful
and yet that profound sadness emanates my being.

I am sad and grateful simultaneously. 
I can be, because it is, without me commanding it so
I do my best, because done is better than perfect
And all the while, my ROCK, my breath, Angelique,
keeps the anchor connected, and we pull each other up.

So tomorrow we watch and cheer and laugh 
as children's dreams either come true or not.
We love either way, and miss the heck outta Bella the whole time.
This is how we grieve.  This is how we live.

God night and Merry Christmas.