“It started out as a Mardi Gras party!”
You might as well know how it all started, in case you weren’t there. Many of you were there – but maybe I never told you why Lito and I had the first “PartyGras.” There is significance in everything.
After I had my third child, I suffered from severe postpartum depression. And unlike Brooke Shields – I didn’t have friends like Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey to tell me how to live my life. But I did have a great supportive family and amazing friends who gave me sound advice. I was bored at home having not worked at a “real” job for six years. I was doing the mommy and me thing for the third time around and I felt stuck. Of course most of my feelings had more to do with the postpartum than reality – but it is extremely difficult to separate the two at the time.
I needed an outlet, something to look forward to, something creative and fun. Lito and I had attended an event at Julian’s school that had a Mardi Gras theme some time back and we loved it. We talked about having a theme party or going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans ourselves someday. We recalled being at Disneyland when they had a New Orleans style parade and they called it “PartyGras!” We love anything and everything Disney!
So, the goal became having a theme party. Something we can repeat for years that would become our “signature” event. We tried for many years to gather our friends together by having Christmas or New Year’s parties and open houses. But people always had other obligations. We wanted something that our friends would look forward to every year. It was something that I looked forward to every year! I loved thinking about it, planning it and attending it. It wasn’t a kid’s party or a birthday party, or tied to any religious milestone. It was a party just for fun, that anyone could enjoy. Well, almost anyone! PartyGras is for adults only!
Why only adults? Well, that was a no brainer at first! I was surrounded by little kids and babies and everything I did at that point in my life had to do with children and/or other parents. Mommy & Me, tumbling class, Karate class, Indian Guides, preschool, kindergarten, Barney, Blues Clues, diapers, feedings, snack time, nap time . . . And I had been focussed on this stuff (and loving it most of the time) for six years! I needed and wanted to go out and have fun – adult fun, dressing up, having a cocktail in a glass, listening to loud music, singing, dancing, hanging out with friends, staying up late – very late, and letting loose! One liberating thing was being able to say anything without being guarded. In other words – I didn’t have to spell out things I didn’t want my kids to hear me say and I could use some “colorful” expletives, if I wanted!
“If the mountain cannot come to Mohammad, Mohammad will go to the mountain.” Or in this case, vice-versa! If I can’t go clubbing – I will bring the club to my house! Luckily, with a little pleading, Lito agreed! And so it happened. It was a blast! PartyGras! The first one was a Mardi Gras theme. Everyone came dressed in their best Mardi Gras costumes, there was a prize for the most creative. It was a potluck – a Cajun Cooking Contest – with a prize for Lito’s favorites. We knew he would try everything! We had beads for the flashers, lots of drinks and karaoke. That was the entertainment. It was a blast!
I already planned on having one every year and the name of the annual event would always include “PartyGras” (pronounced pardy-graw.) We crowned the couple who put their best foot forward with enthusiasm and zeal as “The King & Queen of PartyGras!” We started in 2001 which made it easy – something not planned – to remember the number of years we have been doing this!
1. Partygras! Cajun Cookoff
2. Partygras ’02: Flamenco/Spanish
3. Partygras III: I dream of Jeanie Pajama Party/60’s Convenience Foods
4. Partygras IV: Club 10532 70’s Party/Fondue
5. PartyArgh V: Pyrate Party/Potluck
6. Partygras VI: Vamp Night/Potluck
7. Partygras ’07: The Godfather/Italian
8. Partygras! 2008: Academy Awards/Hor d’oerves
And the winner is . . . everyone! I hope you enjoyed it. It was by far the best one ever. I’ll remember always your acceptance speech, as you were given the Academy Award for what you are best at – friendship! Everyone had their 45 seconds of fame!
I would like to thank you, my friends, for making these memories the highlights of my life! No amount of medication, exercise, and counseling could bring me out of depression without your support and love!!!
The year my Dad died . . was actually a good year for me because I had many opportunities to travel, which I love. I traveled a lot and saw many beautiful things. I never knew when I started out this year that it would be the last year my father would be in my life.
When I look at the beautiful pictures and videos that I took, it makes me think of so many things. Like how life continues to go on even after someone you love is gone. How even though I can’t show my parents the amazing pictures that I took, I believe that they can still see them.
My year started out on a dream vacation to Disneyworld. We took the boys and my mother-in-law to Florida. We enjoyed our children on that trip. It was our chance to make some family memories that we hope they will treasure their whole lives. We were there for New Year’s Eve and we had the time of our lives. During the fireworks, I thought to myself that I couldn’t imagine being happier.
Some of the places I happened to visit this year I had been to before with my parents. They loved to take trips and we often went camping. We drove up the coast on more than one occasion and went to San Jose, Seattle, Victoria B.C. and many points in between. I was reminded of the adventures that I experienced with them as a young girl as I embarked on my own adventures this year.
In April, Lito and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by taking a 4 day trip to Seattle, Washington. My niece, Ally, and my Dad stayed with the boys. Lito and I had a great time. We stayed at a “4 Diamond” hotel and dined at incredible restaurants. We toured Seattle and visited some awesome museums. We went to the Space Needle and took a ferry to British Columbia. At Butchart Gardens we saw the most amazing flowers and landscape. We had High Tea at the Empress Hotel. It was very romantic.
When we returned home from that trip, we talked Dad into staying an extra night. He went home in the morning after stopping to see me at work. That was the last time I saw him. That weekend was the last weekend the boys spent with their Grandpa. We were so grateful to him for all the time he spent with us and for everything he did for us.
A few of the most amazing pictures I have ever taken were actually at my Dad’s funeral. Well, more specifically at the reception following the funeral. Colin suggested we do a balloon release, and boy did we. We wrote messages on the balloons and then let them go into the clearest, bluest sky ever. Red, white and blue balloons, for Memorial Day, in memory of Dad’s patriotism, service and love of his country. It was a poignant moment and I was so glad I took pictures of it. It was uplifting to be with my family at that moment. I took a group picture of everyone just after we released the balloons. I was standing on a hill, so they all look as if they are bidding my parents a farewell into Heaven!
At the end of June, I went to Charleston, South Carolina for work. I loved it there. It was a nice reprieve from work, from the family, kids, grieving. I needed to get away on my own and this gave me a chance to focus on something – training for work, as well as get away and experience something by myself. It felt so strange to go somewhere like this and not be able to share it with Mom or Dad. Dad did know I was planning that trip. He would have been amazed that Lito was so supportive of me going so far away on my own! He was a little backwards when it came to that kind of thing. Maybe we are the ones who are backwards?
I loved the hospitality in the South. The people who live there have so much pride in their surroundings. I was taken in by the beauty in the simplicity of the things that I saw. I loved the birds and the bridges, the water, the history and the architecture.
I felt like my Dad would have been proud of me for taking this trip. I liked to make my Dad proud. I was constantly seeking his approval, and my mom’s. That’s what has been the hardest change to accept, that I don’t have my sounding board. That I am on my own, no one to make proud in the same way my parents would be proud of me. Deep in my heart, I know they will always be watching over me.
Just after my birthday, in July, I went to Dayton, Ohio for work. Getting through my birthday was the most difficult part of the grieving process so far. I missed my parents so much. It helped to have a trip planned to keep my mind off things. There wasn’t any sightseeing involved in this trip, but I found the University of Dayton to be absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed spending time on campus and was inspired by the work of the Marianists there. I had a great time and met some wonderful people. Again, a great escape!
I have been able to spend these bittersweet moments going through the grieving process and still somewhat enjoy myself. At times I felt guilty for having fun, but then I would think that my parents would want me to experience these things, admire their beauty, share them with my family and enjoy them myself.
Lito had a chance to escape this year too. He spent much of his time racing radio controlled motorcycles. He set some goals for himself and has had a great time achieving them. He has brought home some humongous trophies. We have all been so proud of him. I am sure this was a healthy way for him to deal with his grief as well. He was very close to my parents too. Lito had a chance to take a trip by himself to race in Battle Ground, Washington. Back to the Pacific Northwest for five days! He had a great time and came back a winner!
The boys spent a few weeks in Henderson, Nevada visiting their Lola and Uncle Ron during this time. When we went to pick them up – we spent a night at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. We wanted to spend some time with them doing the things that they like to do. So, it was roller coasters and carnival games. We had a good time. When we got home the boys mentioned to me how much they miss their Grandpa. They missed spending part of their summer with him and Grandma, too.
The boys and I accompanied Lito to his last race so far this year in San Jose, California.
It was a fun overnight trip. We spent a day sightseeing around town. We took the boys to the Tech Museum which was right up their alley. We also took them to the Winchester Mystery House, which was interesting and touching because I recall going there with my Mom and Dad. We watched Lito race and had a fun time. The long drive home wasn’t bad. Our little family cruisin’ in our minivan. We enjoy being together and that’s what counts.
We traveled some, saw some amazing things, went to baseball games and spent some time with family and friends. We are hopeful for what the future will bring. Who knows where our lives will lead. Whatever happens, good or bad, I will have the strength and love of my family and the beautiful memory of my parents to get me through.
These are all the beautiful things that I saw the year my Dad died. . .