Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Ever get lost in your own life? It's happened to me a time or two. Things get out of hand, projects get too big, everything is a distraction and suddenly you realize that you have forgotten who you are and what you do. It's not as existential as it might sound, but it is a bit disconcerting.

For me, remembering who I am in life is writing. Those who actually read this dribble, thanks by the way, can always tell when I'm over-committed or overwhelmed. Once in a blue moon I'll even get a concerned email: are you ok?

Writers block is never fun when I have it, but when it ends, I often feel like I was able to reboot my brain, and in the process delete errors that are distracting me, and start over with a clean desk top.

Now what to do with all of those extra files...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Families and Tribes

Dealing with death can be draining. If the death is unexpected, shock can overwhelm the emotions and a sense of loss that initiate the grieving process. But when that is not the case, when the death of a loved one is a long time coming, that process is much different. Maybe it's because I'm much older now, or maybe it's because I understand what it means to celebrate life. Whatever the cause I'm thankful that this experience was not traumatic.

We had my Dad's memorial this past weekend. It was a really good time. We had food from his favorite Chinese place, attendees were encouraged to pick out and wear one of his ties as a keepsake, and there were friends and music, and a good amount of laughter. My cousin Mary Helen who accompanied my 80-year old Aunt, put together a great memory board. We had photo albums, his Air Force uniform, and what turned out to be a crowd favorite, the "beefcake" picture by the bar.

Overall it was a great reminder of what it means to be surrounded by friends and family. Later in the weekend, when my cousin from Texas noted how many people we seem to know, I explained to her that we don't have a lot of family here, and what we do have is scattered across the state, so we made our own family. "It's more of a tribe," I told her.

Although the concept of the Urban Tribe became more main stream with television shows like Friends, and Seinfeld, looking back I recognize that I learned the practice from my parents. At the age of 21 and 22 settled in Vallejo, California, not knowing a soul, but they made friends and connections, made careers and made a life.

I realize now, how lucky I am to have had that example. Although my parents were largely square, and played by the rules, no one could ever say that they didn't do brave things. It was a great lesson learned. I just hope my kids will be so lucky.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Death and Taxes

The only two things that are certain in life are Death and Taxes. Or so I am told.

I received my tax documents this week. With a steady resolve, I put them all into a drawer of my recently inherited china cabinet, where they wait ominously.

The thing about taxes is that it is kind of a reality check. I made how much? What did I spend it on? If it's been a good year, I feel a bit scandalized by the amount. If it's been a bad one, I go through a more complex feeling of self congratulations for making it on so little, and genuine fear of not making it at all. I know there are a lot of folks out there who are much worse off.

The death of a parent is another kind of reality check. When your parents start their own decent, it's hard not to notice the issues they deal with. I can't help but wonder what degenerative disease will take me now that I know what risks I have. The risks, make old age just as ominous. Instead of documents sitting in a drawer, I have future visions of myself losing my memories, motor function and eventually succumbing to a degenerative disease.

I know, it's a fate we all face, like taxes, but in this instance my own personal dilemmas seem to be at the forefront of my preoccupations this season. But at the same time I can't help but recognize the current health I have and my desire to have a life well lived.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Always Wanting More - Alfredo Guajardo Morales

In few short hours we will bury my Dad. He died 4 days ago just shy of his 78th birthday.

Although expected, his death was still a bit of a shock especially for my mom who was convinced he would out-live her based on the life line on his palm. When we told her, she kept looking at her palm rubbing her thumb along her life line in disbelief.

Growing up, my Dad was practically mythical. He was involved in everything and exceptionally well connected. We considered it normal to have the Mayor over for parties, to be on a first name basis with judges, and to always be in the 4th of July parade. Even with our own activities, our parents were involved. If there was a project or a committee, my Dad would be on it, making things happen.

His involvement bled over to political arenas where he quickly became involved in many campaigns. I learned my way around, by mapping the streets of my town, walking precincts. He was in service clubs, on boards, and just had this way of making things happen. Once, he organized groups of low-riders for a neighborhood street cleanup to combat their bad image.

Looking back on it now, I realize where I get my own tenacity, because my dad was simply never satisfied. When he went in the Air Force, he was deemed too short to be a pilot, so he took one of the most dangerous jobs he could get on a plane without flying it. He was a flight mechanic on a typhoon chaser out of Guam. After the Air Force, still determined, he took private flying lessons and learned to fly single engine air craft. One of the proudest days of his life I think, was when he flew his own plane back to Texas to see family. I'd never seen him happier.

My Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 12 years ago. One of his doctors called it the "long goodbye." He was right. Sadly, most of my kid's recollections of their grandfather is of him being forgetful, not the man I knew.

Alfredo Guajardo Morales was born in San Antonio Texas in 1934. He lived life to the fullest, and taught me everything I know about always wanting more. Although we commit him to the ground today, all I can think is, "just keep flying Dad."