Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

I want to begin by writing how incredibly grateful I am. I woke up this morning, and I instantly started making a mental list of all the people, places, and things that I am truly thankful for.

The first one was waking up in my nice comfy bed next to Raymond and our eighty-five-pound black lab named Drake. Drake thinks that he has to sleep in between us because Raymond is his master and I'm just the lady that feeds him.

I never wanted the dog, but after Matt was killed Raymond needed him. It has taken some time for me to adjust to having Drake. Now, eight-plus years later, I can't imagine our lives without him.

Raymond opened the blinds after he brought in our morning Zeal and our coffee. I'm grateful to have a husband who brings his wife coffee to bed every morning and has done so for the past twenty-six years. As I sipped my coffee, I can see out our window that this Thanksgiving day is beautiful. I can see the sun shining through the many trees which surround our house. I am in awe of the array of fall colors I'm witnessing from the comfort of my warm bed.

My thoughts are filled with gratitude and love for my girls. Oh, my God, I can't even begin to describe the love and admiration that I have for them. The never-ending jokes and love that they have shared with us have been my saving grace. Our baby girl, TeaRae with her serious but very affectionate self.  Our eldest daughter, Briana with her loving yet blase' attitude. They literally light up my life just thinking about them.

Today we will spend Thanksgiving with TeaRae, her boyfriend Colin, and his family. Again, the gratitude I have for Colin and his family is overflowing. Colin continues to be a huge supporter of The Matt Garcia Foundation, but the most significant gift is that he loves our daughter.

William and Briana will spend today with Will's parents. Briana and Will are soon going to be parents themselves. Little baby boy, Ansel is due to be here in just four short weeks. I am ecstatic about being a grandma.

This is the first year in a long many that my husband will be here with us celebrating Thanksgiving. The gratitude that I give to God for doing for Raymond what he wasn't able to do for himself is eternal. <3

The list goes on and on. The wonderful gift of gratitude is that once you begin to make your list, either mentally or by writing it down, it just continues to grow and grow. I love that!

Ever since Matthew was killed, I have been posting my thoughts and feelings to my blog. I have started most of these blog posts with how the loss of Matt has devasted us, Of course, this is and always will be the truth for our family.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to begin my post with the beauty and love that I see all around me. I want to express the gratitude that I have for each and every person in my life.

 I want our girls to know just how much I love and adore them. I want Raymond to truly feel the appreciation that I have for him and all that he does. I often lack with giving him his props. Raymond is a remarkable man who has literally given someone the shirt off his back and his shoes too. Thank you, honey, for being the type of human being, loving and kind, that I strive to be. I'm thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Our experiences shape our lives

Today is a new day. I "get" to wake up and choose my attitude. I'm genuinely grateful for each and every opportunity that I am given to do this. The fact of the matter is, I can choose to shift my attitude at any moment. How amazing is that?

I read our meditation this morning which talks about how our experiences shape us into the people we are today. As I was reading this, I began to reminisce about my own life experiences.

 The personal experiences when I was young helped develop me into a person who lived in fear most of the time although I tried to mask that fear by using mind and mood altering substances, which would eventually fail me. 

When I finally surrendered in 1990, those same experiences that once haunted me were now giving me the courage and strength I needed to change my life for the better.

I had no idea what the future held for me, but I was sure that with God and my new found friends, I was now on the road to recovery.

Living life on life's terms has not been easy. In 1999 when my cousin Kathy was murdered I thought to myself, "God, where are you? How could you allow this to happen to Kathy?" God, never verbally answered. Instead, HE placed me on an incredible path to healing. 

It took me a long while to stop being full of anger. We had many court dates that we were not made aware of.  The nightmare of Kathy's murder and her murderer not being held responsible was dragged out for eight long years in our justice system. This did not help my thoughts of injustice and anger. 

My beautiful friends hung in there with me. Helping me, praying for me, guiding me to healing. We started working on forgiveness. I say, "Working on" because it is a practice for me every day. I don't just "HAVE FORGIVENESS,” and then I'm done. NO, I have had to work on it, Practice it, Live it, every day.

In January of 2007, Kathy's murderer was finally sentenced to 15 years to life. There would be no hurrahs. Kathy's dad, Uncle Red had since passed away from cancer. Her mom, my beloved Aunt Judi, was sick as well. 

The positive that did come from it was the fact that "I" for a while now, was practicing forgiveness on a daily basis.  I felt better. I was less angry at the time Kathy's killer was sentenced.

 I now understood the meaning of "the end results" of drug/alcohol addiction; Jails, institutions, and death. Kathy was dead, and her killer was going to prison for a long, long time. There would be NO winners here! 

A year later I received the phone call that would bring me to my knees and shatter my world forever. My only son, Matthew had been shot in the head, and he would not recover.

The one thing that I will never forget from that night at John Muir hospital was me saying out loud "oh my God, this is why we have been working on and practicing forgiveness!' For just that one profound moment, it was crystal clear. 

I didn't stay in that moment of clarity for long. I continue to go through all the stages of grief, shock, and horror still today. The guilt of how I wasn't able to really "be there" for our daughter's as they struggled with the devastation of losing their only big brother to murder.

 But, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my higher power (GOD) gave/gives me everything that I will need to walk through this horrendous tragedy while helping others as well. God and Matt have guided Briana and TeaRae too.

Thanksgiving is next week. The holidays bring with them, emptiness as we celebrate and Matt isn't here celebrating with us. I will forever miss my boy. I'm thankful that I can also feel excitement and hope for what is yet to come. 

Our eldest daughter and her husband will have their first child next month. My heart is full of love for this little baby boy whom I feel that I already know and love. I'm grateful for an open heart.

 I'm thankful for giving myself permission to "FEEL" everything! I can be sad and happy at the same time. I can be confused and clear at the same time. I can love fully. The experiences of my life have shaped me into who I am today. 

Thank you, God, for giving me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Thank you, for clearing my mind and healing my heart. Thank you for continuing to guide my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Amen

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

God, clear our minds and heal our hearts

On October 24th my husband was informed that his position had been eliminated. He was laid off after nearly 19 years of serving our community. I know he is in shock. Me not so much. I could feel in my gut that things were not right there for some time now.

I'm incredibly grateful for the teachers that I have had along this life journey thus far. I'm thankful for God and the people that HE placed in my life.
I am by no means a perfect person, none of us are. Although I was taught long ago if I'm talking all this love, faith, hope, and forgiveness, then I darn well better be doing my best to walk it too. That is all that I am going to say about that!

Raymond has a heart of gold and meets people where they are. He is the biggest optimist that I've ever known. He reminds me that everyone has a story. We all need help at times; even those people who have claimed to be friends for years. But for some reason were unable or unwilling to communicate what was about to happen.

We know that people will fail us. I fail people, and you have or will fail people also. My hope and prayers are that in that failure we all learn to communicate better.

  My husband will be just fine. Raymond is and always has been a go-getter. He is such a go-getter that he was ASKED to raise money for his former place of employment, just weeks before he was blindsided. Raymond did just that and raised a significant amount of money. Because raising money and helping those less fortunate is what Raymond does.

I don't want to bash a  place that has helped so many people. We love the help and changed lives that we have watched over these many years. Hell, they even named a building after our son, Matt Garcia. I just hope and pray that the new leaders take a good long hard look at the way they treat people.

 I don't have the answers to the many questions in this life? I don't know why tragedy strikes? I don't understand why so many have to suffer? I don't know why some people are in the wrong place at the wrong time while others are in the right place at the right time? Nor do I understand why innocent young children die?

 The only thing I do know is that we have to find ways and means to make life a little better every day. Some days are much harder than others. We have to keep moving forward in the most positive way we can. While at the same time trying our best not to hurt others in the process.

Sometimes, the most positive thing I can do is to rest my mind and body for a day or two. I pray for a clear mind before I speak or write. I ask God to give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak.

 I don't have the answers for what YOU need to do in YOUR life nor do YOU have the answers for ME in mine.

We just have to trust God. Walk our talk and be the best we can be one day at a time. Oh and do our best not to be assholes.

Friday, October 27, 2017


“The darker the night, the brighter the stars, 
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!” 
~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I resonate the most with this quote. I have cried out to God on many occasions in my lifetime. Many times when I was young, struggling to get out of harmful situations. The numerous times I wanted to stop putting poison in my body but couldn't. I knew God was there. I just thought that I had done so many terrible things that He really didn't want anything to do with me.

All that changed on April 6th, 1990. At twenty-three years old I had come to the end of my rope, and I knew it. There would be no turning back. My mind was confused, and my body was dying. I weighed less than one hundred pounds. I was incapable of taking care of myself let alone the two beautiful babies that God entrusted me with.

I felt darkness and despair consuming me as I walked through the cemetery with my two little children. I had no more manipulation left in me to use. I could no longer blame my life situation on anyone else. It was crystal clear that I WAS MY PROBLEM! My innocent babies were suffering because of ME!

The one thing that I knew for sure was that I desperately wanted a better life for my children. I knew that I wasn't able to give them that with the lifestyle that I was living. I had to do better and be better.

I had a moment of clarity as that small still voice inside myself whispered that its time to get MY SHIT TOGETHER! I had a profound and deep knowing that THIS WAS MY LAST CHANCE! It was ME who was going to have to change EVERYTHING.

I'm so very grateful for the women in my life who helped to pick me up and show me the way. I was blessed with a fantastic mentor and beautiful friend, Laura. She has contributed hugely to guide me physically, mentally and spiritually for over 27 years. She has walked every step of this recovery life with me.

Laura took me under her wing like a mama bird caring for her hurt baby bird. I didn't even know how much I needed that. She reminded me that I had been harmed and what I needed was love. She would love me until I could learn to love myself.

She helped me understand the importance of reaching out to ask and receive the services that were available to a single mother; parenting classes, therapy for myself and my babies to break the cycles that I had become accustomed to.

Laura was there when I married the love of my life, Raymond. She was in the delivery room with Raymond when our little bundle of joy, TeaRae came into this world. Laura was there in intensive care at John Muir when my son, Matthew was shot. She was there as we buried him and has been by my side always.

Life is so short and I never fully realized it. I get it so profoundly now! I want to breathe in every second of life today. I thank God for never leaving me even when I let go. Thank you for blessing me with incredible people all along this journey. I look forward to remaining open to receive even more blessings with each new day.

God, clear my mind and heal my heart. Give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Guide my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Amen

Saturday, October 14, 2017

We are all just one phone call from our knees

I'm shocked and saddened, as we all are, by the destruction and devastation created by the recent fires. Thousands of people displaced because their homes have burned down.The death count continues to rise. Many people are still searching for their loved ones, who are missing, as the fires continue to rage in many areas of our state.

We haven't even been able to wrap our minds and resources around the horrific hurricanes and floods which have killed many and demolished thousands of homes and businesses in several states and countries. Next, the deadly shooting in Las Vegas where many more innocent people lost their lives. Our hearts ache.

We are all just one phone call from our knees. I heard that lyric in a song recently, and it resonated with me to my core. That one phone call, for me, was on the evening of September 1st, 2008 at approximately 8:30 PM. Within seconds our lives were changed forever.

My son, Matt had been shot in the back of his head. He would not recover. Matt was kept breathing on a machine for as long as needed to donate seven of his organs to people who would surely die without them. Matthew gave life to many others as we watched his life fade.

I can’t explain to you, in words, how the murder of my child has affected my life.  I can tell you that I became a different person; our family became different people from that day forward.

Because I would much rather be positive than negative, I will begin there. My heart has opened in a way I never expected. I am filled with compassion and empathy as I had never had before, even though I “thought” I did. Every moment of life means another opportunity to reach out my hand, give a smile, and help someone.

At this moment, many people need help. Many have received the one phone call. Many are suffering the loss of a loved one. Many are without a home due to hurricanes, floods, and fires. We have a purpose today to collectively come together and help those who are in need.

 Today, I’m not allowing the pain, sadness, grief, and devastation to keep me isolated from the world. I'm aware of this extraordinary gift of compassion and empathy. For these, I am eternally grateful.

Having a grateful and open heart does not mean that I deny my grief, sadness, anger, and pain. I feel my feelings today. I talk and write about them often.  What does happen for me is when I allow all of my feelings to come and move through me, I’m also letting the love, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude to move through me too.  

I used to think that the grief would swallow me alive. It felt like it was going to literally kill me. I had to ask for help. I had to realize that I would not survive this horrific life experience unscathed. 

My world would forever look different now. It was also up to me as to how “different” I wanted it to look. I can make my new world hostile, scary, angry, and sad all the time. Or, I can choose to see all those things along with also seeing how beautiful and loving people are when negative things happen.

Every day is new and different. I don’t want to carry all the anger, sadness, grief, and pain into each new day. Trust me; all of those feelings have not left me. They are still here, lurking behind quiet spaces in my mind. They are waiting for the perfect moment, the moments when I’m tired/frustrated, to latch and hold on for dear life.

For me, it’s about balance; something I have never been great at doing. It’s about not denying but allowing my feelings. I have to practice allowing “ALL” of them to come and move through me with ease and non-resistance. 

It’s in my nature to want to push away, shove, eat, and smoke or whatever, the feelings that I don’t want to feel.  I had to realize that if I don’t practice and learn how to allow them here with me, I will have a more difficult time allowing those “Good” feelings to come. That’s the Balance!

I am by no means an expert at grief nor feeling my feelings. I had an urge to write about my experience thus far. I have had nine years to practice using these tools that were shared with me by various professionals, and other grieving people that I have met along this long winding road. Thank you all <3

Dear God, Clear my mind and heal my heart. Guide my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Amen

Thursday, September 21, 2017

As I Lay Here

As I lay here in my warm comfy bed with my window slightly
opened I can hear and feel the air coming through. In this moment I feel safe and content.
I begin to scroll through the feed on my phone and quickly shift my thoughts to the hundreds of thousands suffering loss and devastation. My heart breaks for my dear friends who have lost their children. The pain is unlike anything that I have ever encountered.
It’s easy to become callous and bitter by the world. I have to remain diligent in MY pursuit for peace. It’s not easy. It’s a daily practice. I know for ME, that if I don’t look for the beauty and the good in this life; I will live a life of fear and anger. I refuse to allow MYSELF to live in that state.
After Matt was taken from us, my world was turned completely upside down. I had no sense of anything anymore. I was totally lost and off balance. My heart had been shattered and there would be no putting it back together in the same way it had been before he was killed.
It took a couple of years for me to even begin to come out of the fog that I had slipped into. I look back now and am amazed by all the ways that I distracted myself, to ensure I didn’t FEEL anything about what had actually happened. As I look back now, I’m positive that all the distractions saved me.
I’m forever grateful for the countless family and friends who have been by our side before, during, and still. Thank you for just being with us. I want to just BE for my family and friends, as well.
There are no words to speak that will lessen the pain and grief. It’s a never-ending new “normal” which will never be “NORMAL”. I’m grateful for my life. I’m grateful for my amazing and beautiful family and friends. I’m grateful for recognizing the good people and love that is all around me even in my deepest despair. Thank you.
God, clear my mind and heal my heart. Guide my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Give me the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the words to speak. Amen
I found this on my Facebook memory page from years ago:
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key and life itself is grace. ~ FREDERICK BUECHNER