And The Project Officially Starts March 1st…

This gallery contains 8 photos.

The Studio started the project by placing gold hands in the shape of a heart that will be the focal point of the flag….

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Remembering Rudy…Honoring Rudy…

acosta heart

I wrote this in February of 2014…The project I discuss has never been completed and at some point I will complete it.  It has now been 4 years.  Every year I will repost this on Memorial Day..

Choose to remember Spc Rudy Acosta as we draw near the 3 year anniversary of his passing for our freedom (At the end of this Blog see how local friends can remember and honor Rudy too).  

Truth is I could be writing this about any fallen soldier, in any community. Just like cancer patients, something I am very familiar with, there is a parallel with our fallen soldiers…each and everyone has their own individual journey but the story is in so many ways the same.

Spc Rudy Acosta’s story struck a cord with me when I read about his passing…somehow connecting with my heart and soul.  A young man doing what he always wanted to do, serve his country.  All I could think of was here is a 19 year old who was willing to give his life so that my 18 & 15 year old’s could pursue their very different dreams.  Rudy did not go in expecting to lose his life, but certainly knew the high risk.  It gave me pause.  If we still had the draft it could have been my son (s).  But it wasn’t…it wasn’t because this young man and so many like him (her) choose this as a mission in their life; alleviating the need for a draft in this country.  Born in 1960 I am all too familiar with the draft and war.

There is a sad reality to this story that is not discussed much.  Spec Rudy Acosta was shot at close range by someone a government contractor hired to work with our troops and he was not alone; Several soldiers in that facility were injured and another lost his life along with Rudy.  It is a sad state of affairs when a soldier is shot in a situation that was completely avoidable.  Rouge Afghan’s must adhere to the old adage all’s far in love and war.  They did what ever they could to infiltrate this base.  We don’t expect woman and children to be car/suicide bombers either, but that happens too.  As I often say life is wonderful but sometimes so incredibly unjust.  I think this qualifies.

Seeing the community come out in force to show this family that this young man did not give his life in vain;  That as a community we cared and wanted to support them through this difficult time.  The day Spc Rudy Acosta was laid to rest was by all accounts an outpouring of love.  Something we can feel very proud of.  It would have been so much easier for just the planners and friends and family to be the ones along the route to his final resting place.  Yet, school children were led to the sidewalks to honor Rudy along with Veterans and everyday citizen’s all waving flags, showing him the respect he so well deserved. That the family deserved to FEEL!

There is that period of time when a family is overwhelmed with the outpouring of caring from friends and family after a loss.  That day comes when people aren’t checking to see if you are ok quite as often; you find yourself alone with your own pain with less and less people taking up the space and time.  Pain grows!  Let’s continue to hold up this family.

Personally, I wanted to keep the giant hug that the community started alive.  I designed a car decal and thought if I could get as many people to put it on their cars as possible the family would be reminded in a positive way that we would never forget the sacrifice of their family for not only our community, but our nation.  Every soldier deserves more than one day of honor and Rudy is no exception. I have to say it didn’t work out exactly the way I imagined…I left stacks of them at Oggi’s, who was happy to hand them out, and Santa Clarita Christian where Rudy went to school.

Never making the impact I had hoped or imagined.  That was two and a half years ago…I do still see the stickers on cars.  Makes me smile I hope the family feels the same.

In October, by chance, I met Dante Acosta, Rudy’s dad.  It was my first contact with the family.  We are both involved with Circle of Hope and I was raising funds at Vista Valencia as I started doing in October the past two years.  Dante came to attend one of the events.  A chance meeting that was met with mutual admiration.  Dante was as happy to meet the person who had made the car decals as I was to meet a member of Rudy’s family.  To personally say Thank You! That’s correct, we did not know each other from Adam.  Though as far as I was concerned we were neighbors and that’s all that mattered.

I am about honoring all of the people who have ever served in the military; Honoring Spc Rudy Acosta is a no brain-er.  I have an Art Project that the community can get involved in that will have a tangible lasting piece of art the family can enjoy when it is complete. A constant reminder of gratitude and community!

http://www.signalscv.com/archives/42569/

http://www.signalscv.com/archives/42717/

DSCN1617 DSCN1616 DSCN1615 DSCN1614 DSCN1613 DSCN1612 DSCN1611 DSCN1610 - Version 2 DSCN1610 DSCN1609 DSCN1608 DSCN1607 DSCN1606 DSCN1605 DSCN1604 DSCN1603 DSCN1602 DSCN1601

 

Place: Ken Lewis Taekwondo, 29487 The Old Road and Live Oak in Castaic (661.295.8531)

Dates: March 1st through the 19th (the 19th will be the 3 year anniversary of Rudy’s passing)

Times: Monday –Thursday 5PM till 8PM, Saturday 10AM-11AM

Project: For any donation to the Rudy Acosta Memorial Foundation, starting at $1, place your hand print on a canvas to create a flag when it is done.  A Beautiful way to show the Acosta family that we will never forget!  Parts of the Flag will have higher donation values.

Please come out and support this project and this family…

I would like to make a statement about the connection between the race for Councilman and this project.  There is NONE!  This is not a political statement.

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Fighting Your HMO for Your Life

Take Note!

Could not have imagined the insanity of a friends journey with health care this last 4 months;  I am writing this a bit prematurely because the War is still on to get a diagnosis and I do mean WAR.

I expect that if I have a health issue that whatever needs to be done to find out what’s wrong with me will be done;  If you have a PPO that is most likely true.  If you have a HMO, specifically United Healthcare, that is not the way they see it.  Dollars and cents take precedence over your life in their eyes. Perhaps a malpractice death suit costs them less than treating you.  Somebody please explain the stinking thinking!   Without disclosing too much info about the health issue or the person I will do my best to give you the picture.

A person has a potentially life threatening illness (they physically see and live with the symptoms every single day…a constant reminder of time ticking away).

The person fights with the insurance company every day to approve tests that the Dr’s order to be able to diagnose this condition; every single day for the last 4 months.

After threats of law suits and pleading about how potentially life threatening the situation is; Deny, Deny, Deny.  Start your denial challenge it will only take another 25 days to get an answer after the 10 or so days we have taken to deny the test in the first place.  Oh you aren’t going to stop calling and threatening us.  The denial was sent in error…here, go have your way with this one.

If the initial thought process is accurate days matter to have a good potential outcome for this person.  Remember we are at 4 months and counting as I write this.

There are few options for what this can be, so the scope of the tests are fairly cut and dry.  Still no diagnosis and the test that could potentially give the answer has been denied as not medically necessary.  Mind you the test was ordered urgent by the specialist.  The day after it was ordered the insurance company downgraded it to non-urgent.  That gives you an answer of approval or denial in 5 business days instead of 24 hours.  When you call to check on the 7th business day you are told that they don’t have your files to determine the need and the 5 days will begin again from that point.  Finally they agree that they will give you an answer in 24 hours. DENIED..NO MEDICAL NEED FOUND.  Feeling at a loss;  no diagnosis, problem still exists, no way of getting the necessary test to determine a diagnosis.  You can now challenge, that will take 25 more days

Now you have to make hard choices to pay out of pocket…life or money.  Trust me it’s a tough choice when you have a family to support.  You feel short sighted (it’s our natural instinct)…without you to make money where do they stand…Big picture time.

Frustration cannot describe how I feel.

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Italy…finally

Sometimes amidst chaos dreams happen.  A trip to Italy…a trip of a lifetime; mine certainly was.

vatican

It was a very emotional and complex journey.  I took the 13 hour trek by myself meeting up with my son, Nico and sister, Sande in Rome.  I had a several hour layover in London.  The first sign of Italy was at the gate to board for Rome (FCO)…it came over me like a warm wave.  Every Italian waiting to board looked like my family.  Living in Los Angeles, the melting pot of the world, I wasn’t prepared for that.  Everyone in Los Angeles is as different as snowflakes.  I found it comforting.  The feeling grew as I began to explore Rome the first morning.

Nico had class so Sande and I set out to see the city.  I was hugely bothered by the graffiti although Nico assured me it didn’t have the stigma that we place on it in the US.  Again, I was impressed by the people, how they dressed and carried themselves and looked like me. Everyone looked like my reflection of my Italian side of my family.  Rome was so familiar; I could see how the influence effected how New York City was created by these immigrants.  It felt like finding missing puzzle pieces as we turned onto every new piazza.  I quickly understood the love affair Italians have with Art, Design and Architecture. I was making a pictorial of all things inspiring me.

Four glorious days in Rome.  It is a visually stimulating city.  The Trevi, The Pantheon, The Colosseum and The Vatican. Each inspiring on their own. Oh, and the Pope!  Food is fabulous and fresh…ohhhh those tasty tomatoes.   Walking cobblestones is hard on the body, but worth it non-the-less.  My favorite moment in Rome was when we strolled by the Pantheon after dinner and there were classical street musicians playing in the voluminous entry; so unexpected but perfect at that moment.

Florence walking from the train station Christmas is really taking hold of the city. And then you see it, the awe inspiring, Duomo.  Simply breathtaking, it takes your breathe away!  Smaller easier city to enjoy than Rome and no cobblestones to endure.  A few interesting moments I will never forget in Florence, “The David” no words can describe it and no words are necessary.  Sostanza a restaurant that is a kitchen with tables where you sit with strangers and enjoy 100 year old recipes of artichoke omelets and brown butter chicken.  Best meal ever, ever!  Enjoying the Boboli gardens I was waiting for Nico and Sande when a young girl about 8 or 9 sat down practically on me.  She went running off as fast as she had sat down making eye contact with me.  A few minutes later she was back with her family.  Again she sat right next to me on the bench and put her hand on my leg.  Her mother/grandmother were telling her to stop.  I told them it was ok, did they speak English?  The mother did a bit so I was asking where they were from and they said Carrara.  I immediately said that’s where my family is from.  We exchanged pleasantries…the little girl had one of those indescribable connections to me.  It obviously stuck with me.  Nico had his usual fans, crossing The Ponte Vecchio a group of young people were so excited they were sure they were having an Edward sighting.  Nico being the gracious young man he is, walked over let them take pictures and continued on his way.  It was a common occurrence no matter where he goes.

Nico caused a lot of confusion because he looks Italian…but he is an American through and through.

Venice was a picture come to life.  I felt very alive there…I couldn’t soak it in fast enough.  It was a cold and foggy day but that did not put a damper on my experience.  Stopped in the best café for a little pasta, cappuccino and Sande had the best hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream.  There was so much walking as there was everywhere in Italy.  No scooters or cars though which made it a bit more enjoyable.  There was just so much to see.  We put a lock of love on one of the bridges.  This was one of my favorite days.  I was so happy all day.

The surprise of Pisa; I wasn’t expecting much.  It was a lovely city less touristy then Rome, Florence and Venice.  Ice skating in the main piazza as you get off the train.  When you come around the corner and see the leaning tower it takes you off guard.  It is a beautiful building. But it is leaning….then back on the train and off to Cinque Terre.

The day we traveled to Pisa and Cinque Terre I had a few ah ha moments as we passed through Massa e Carrara area.  I was so tickled to even see this region where my fathers, mothers family was from.  The huge slabs of Carrara marble were amazing, stone yards after stone yards along the train tracks.  The snow covered mountains in the background.  I tried to image my family being there, living there.  What was it like?  My dad’s name on the stone yards Carlo Telara.  Did my family own one of these mines only to be lost in a card game?  So many questions.

On to Cinque Terre at sunset; just one unique breathtaking place after another.  Little colorful seaside villages that are built straight up the cliffs.  Fabulous dinner prepared by a local young man who was born there.

Flumocino; a most unlikely last two days in Italy.  I was so surprised by this fishing village.   Nico and I stayed in an ultramodern hotel right on the inlet where the fishing boats came rushing in by 3pm everyday and gone again by 1am.  Felt like home…the locals asked why there; to me it felt like a great way to decompress from all the traveling the previous 8 days.  Good meals, great walk in the most non-touristy place we visited.  Barely anyone spoke English there.  It was just a very small working village at the south end of Rome.  I was not sorry that’s how we spent the end of the trip.  It gave me a chance to relax before heading back to the US.

This trip was a very personal journey for me.  My love of family, genealogy…that desire to know where I came from.  The time was spent with Nico and Sande which meant so much to me…but what was even more important was that I felt like I was able to enjoy the experience in my own head.  Staying as present in every moment as I possibly could was a goal that I was able to accomplish.

Favorite Italian word: Allora; a three syllable word that virtually means “so”.  Loved the dramatic use of the word in conversation.

And although Nico was bothered by the following, our little inside joke…I found it endearing.

Ciao! Ciao! Grazie! Ciao! Grazie! Grazie!

I hope the coin I threw in the Trevi brings me back again someday!

trevi

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I have been very busy…

Recently, my office had 60 days to relocate, to our benefit.  And my family decided to re-open our Taekwondo business after about a 6 year layoff (medical issues).

I hope to be back to posting soon…

Ken Lewis Taekwondo, Castaic, CA

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#Sandy Recovery…My NJ, My Heart!

jersey strong jpg

Below is what I wrote just a week after “Sandy 2012” hit.  It hasn’t been a year yet and recovery is very slow.  The double edge sword of helping the individuals who have been displaced or restoring the shore and the economies they support.  Without the restoration of the boardwalks and tourist attractions that support the economy; there would be nothing for the individuals to restore to either.  They go hand in hand.  Coming back from major disasters takes many many years.  New Orleans is still in recovery…so much of their economy is recovered and the first thing they had to address.  The individuals of Katrina, Sandy and Oklahoma need their structure back before they can have a chance to recover.

Thank you Gov. Christie for caring about my home town as much as I do…but you have the power…stay with it!

gary ocean 79

I get to say this is where I learned what life was all about. The place I was born and raised. Unless you have been to the Jersey Shore and places south, you don’t know Jersey.

A week after “Sandy 2012” I’m reminded of who I am and what it really means to be Jersey Strong. The news keeps showing pictures of the iconic places that have been lost in this storm. I am reminded of the sense of neighborhood; how we always care for each other. We take care of each other…you don’t have to be the neighbor I’ve lived next to for 40 years, maybe you moved in yesterday. Do you need a place to be warm, get a hot meal, take a shower; no one will turn you away. Getting everyone back to creature comforts is the goal of the community. Rebuilding is necessary to continue an economy that allows for the way of life so many know. Not to restore the childhood memories that have been ripped from all of us. That was a gut reaction as the pictures started to surface. The memories of community are what make “Jersey Strong” through and through. That wasn’t ripped away but strengthened in this storm.

I have been asked over and over by people why nobody got their possessions out. The simple answer, for a lot of people these are summer homes that were locked up for the winter. A stage 1 Hurricane didn’t feel like an immediate threat. Generations of family’s have survived these storms, why now, why would this storm be any different. It was truly unimaginable. I knew I wouldn’t be able to budge my family, so I just hoped they were far enough off the ocean to be saved the devastation that appeared to be on it’s way. Never losing contact with them even through the heart of the storm was a true blessing being so far away.

It was hard to describe to them the unthinkable and what they were going to be dealing with in days to come. They were isolated in there home with no idea of the devastation going on around them. My family is resourceful and were storm ready! And like true Point Pleasant natives are all helping their community.

You may not know that Point Pleasant Boro has a volunteer EMS and Fire Departments. They have been working (volunteering, not making money off this) 24/7 taking care of their community…My sister going between her actual job at the hospital to the First Aid. My nephew working at the hospital, my mom at the church preparing hot meals…that just scratches the surface

This summer I went to the Boro’s High School graduation. All of us packed into a small gymnasium because of weather; As I sat there listening to the children of all the people I graduated and went to school with being called, one of the student speeches was exactly what you felt at that moment. Talking about the excitement of leaving for college but understanding that the gift of community that was instilled in every graduate will be carried with them no matter where they go. As a native who left, this really struck a cord with me. I may not live there but my heart is with every person. I was given wings by my parents, but, always knowing that safety net called home “Point Pleasant Boro” would always welcome me back.

If you are looking for a way to help during this long rebuilding and want to know exactly where your money is going; a donation to the Point Boro EMS will go a long way in helping them continue to care for the community!

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#Prayers for Oklahoma…

As I sit here and watch the news about the tornados my heart is crying for the people in the wake of the destruction.  Too many times I have been affected by disasters and this brings you back in an instant.

I have many friends and family still in the danger zone this evening as they are warning everyone in 4 states it may not be over.  Be safe – we love you all.

The most recent for me personally was being the eyes and ears for my family in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  I had the luxury of being in touch with my family throughout the storm.  The other side of that was that I knew every street and town that they were showing on the news.  It was my childhood memories being wiped out before me.  How do you explain to the people there on the ground that their way of life has changed from what they had known their entire lives.  I tried, until they were able to get out and about, then it started to sink in.  I was able to grieve for that loss before they even started or could grasp the destruction.  I had several family members that are first responders and going day and night non-stop helping.  Today seven months later things are still unrecognizable in some areas, people are not back in their homes, St. Paul’s in Bay Head and other churches are still providing meals…even with all the reconstruction that has been accomplished.  Jersey Strong!

I personally lived through the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  We actually lived under the secondary epicenter in Santa Clarita.  Survival, shock, numbness, dazed, confused, surreal…all words that describe the feelings that kick in.  Community was comforting.  We had no utilities, no stores, businesses were cash only and you weren’t allowed into them.  It was like a war zone.  Yet several miles away it was like it never happened.  We drove out past the worst of the devastation to find the most surreal moment of my life.  Walking around a grocery store that had no shortages people shopping like normal.  I remember wanting to scream, “do you have any idea what happened.”  That experience taught me how unimportant things  were.  Everything breakable was broken.  None of that is important ever again.  Family being safe was the only thing that matters.

It is a flood of feelings that never truly leaves your soul.  May every person dealing with this tragedy be blessed as they move forward and reconstruct their lives.  America Strong! ♥

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It’s Been a Year Since a Contest Gave Me a Voice…

Bat Girl....Pink Ribbons… I remember the first words out of my mouth after the call from my GYN telling me I had Breast Cancer. “I can’t believe the rest of my life is going to be associated with a Pink Ribbon”. Wow! OK then the tears came. It wasn’t that I was anti Pink Ribbons. I donated regularly to Cancer and Breast Cancer charities. Pink though, REALLY? My favorite color has always been black (don’t say it) anyone who knows me, knows this. In the days to come I received all kinds of Pink things from people reaching out to support me. Trust me it was comforting and it really didn’t matter what the color. The gratitude I felt was humbling to say the least.

The first year during my treatment; the last day of my chemo fell on the day before the Revlon Walk. My oncology group belongs to a big team. They were geared up and telling me how I would walk next year. After 6 rounds of the TAC protocol once every 3 weeks…I was frizzle fried. Next year it is, because I will be sleeping through this year I thought. Come May of 2009 I am geared up and ready to go. My husband is having back problems so my brother from another mother, Robert, offered to walk with me. We met a woman who decided to walk even though she was still going through radiation. We stayed with her…I was happy for her and scared for her at the same moment. She did it. There were some moments I thought she would have to stop. But, she did it! My mind understands the good these walks do. I’m sure without them my prognosis would have been grim at stage 3b/c and BRACA2+. Yet it never felt right to me. I felt like I was at a parade honoring the dead and very little celebration of the thriving. Not from lack of trying…they try to celebrate survivors.

As a survivor I was searching for a way to give back. The walks obviously weren’t going to be my thing. So many people you don’t even know care so much, finding a way to give back seemed necessary, seemed like a responsibility as someone who had been helped by their efforts.

In April 2012 a contest and a realization of the value of my journey to others, gave me the understanding of how I was going to embrace the “Pink” and finally be able to give back. Major League Baseball has a contest that has been going on for the past 8 years. It is a Mother’s Day tribute honoring Survivor’s as Honorary Bat Girls, one for each team. If you watch baseball, It is the day the players wear pink and use pink bats. 2012 I was the lucky person picked to represent the Dodger’s in Los Angeles. This was my winning entry.

“As a survivor giving back feels like a responsibility, I share my story of going from what was thought to be early stage 2 to the reality of Stage 3B. Four years out and I am still here and cancer free. I share the scars, the side-affects, and that even if you have no family history is not a reason to pass on the BRACA Gene analysis. Four years out I tested positive for the BRACA2 Gene mutation. I just had a prophylactic right mastectomy. I have never veered away from the most aggressive choices. Left modified radical mastectomy with concurrent DIEP Flap reconstruction. TAC protocol Chemo (6 rounds), radiation 28 rounds, Tamoxifen, Hysterectomy, and now a right mastectomy with latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction. Great team of surgeons Dr. Maggie Dinome and Dr. Tracy Cordray. My children are actors and we have all participated in SU2C commercials (one while I was still having chemo). They volunteer for runway shows or anything connected with cancer awareness. My favorite thing, ask my children about my cancer, and they will tell you,” they forget I’m a cancer survivor.”..the best gift ever through this whole ordeal. Be your own self advocate and eliminate any threat so you can go back to living your life without the shadow of cancer in the wings”

I was contacted by the Dodger’s and they asked me if I would be willing to take interviews; “yes of course”. If I was an actual baseball fan; “yes of course” (they had no idea). I could bring my family and friends (joining me were my Husband Ken, Sons, Nico and Skylar, my friends, Marilyn and Chris, my son, Nico’s girlfriend Lauren and my reconstructive surgeon Dr. Tracy Cordray ) . Leading up to the game I asked all my Facebook friends, family and people I was in contact with to give me the names of their loved ones who had been touched by breast cancer.  I made pink ribbons with each of those names on them to wear to the stadium.  Having everyone feel like they were there and engaged in the event with me. Not till the morning of the game, after reading in the Northridge Patch; did I find out I was going to get to say “It’s time for Dodger Baseball”. I practiced all the way to the game, nervous I would say the wrong words. Something else I thought about was, don’t you dare waste your moment, say something meaningful. I was afraid I would be so overwhelmed by the excitement of the experience I wouldn’t remember what I wanted to say. Or I would be giggly and flustered, that is my MO. So I called my friend, Ali Simard, who is a PR guru.  She was so kind and helped me navigate the media waters so I was able to get the message out that was important to me in that moment of excitement. When the headlines immerged I was so proud, “ Dodger’s Honorary Bat Girl Gives Message of Hope”! Hope for the newly diagnosed, hope for people in the midst of the fight. Admiration for the people who dedicate their lives to fighting this disease, all my wonderful Medical Professionals (Dr. Maggie Dinome, Dr. Tracy Cordray, Dr. Katherine Henick, Dr. Robert Wollman, Dr. Carol Nishikubo, Dr. Mousad Azizad, Caesar, Kathy, Mary…it truly takes a village of Medical professionals). Who, I will tell you, never take any credit for a survivors success and they should. I am often told you did this…In my mind; I did what I was told. I am here because of them.  And the caregiver’s Ken, Nico, Skylar and my Mom.  So I have always felt weird when people say they are honoring survivors. What for? Celebrate my life, but unless I actually do something to be honored for, I don’t get it.

In my effort to make this count I found a way to share the excitement I felt. The pink Baseball gear including that Pink Bat makes people smile. If you know me you are probably one of the people in my year-long awareness campaign that has had a picture taken with the bat. You can see them on my Facebook page; 2012 Honorary Bat Girl Lisa Nevolo-Lewis.

There is a second chapter to this story. Just before this wonderful experience, I had started a process with the organization Bright Pink (http://www.brightpink.org) to be a Pink Pal. It has been the single most gratifying thing I think I have ever done. It has given me much more then I have given. Pink Pals mentor women currently going through breast cancer treatment and or trying to decide how to deal with being high risk. I found that I was sort of an anomaly since I had had two different kinds of reconstructive surgeries, done at different times for different reasons. My diverse experiences gave me a lot of direct knowledge I could share. Each and every person fighting cancer has their own unique story. The common thread is the language we speak. One of my Pink Pals told me she never felt she could explain to even her husband what she was feeling or going through. But when she talked to me, I actually understood instantly and she no longer felt isolated by her journey. This one thing taught me the value of my story. This is why I share my experience any time with anyone who has an interest.

A contest changed my entire perspective on the Pink Ribbon. Something I now choose to embrace on my terms!

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Thinking of Laura this Mother’s Day…still missing Sarah!

sarah sculp

Mother’s Day…I have written many things about my mother and more importantly I tell my mother exactly how I feel about her almost everyday (don’t worry it’s all good).   So I’m pretty sure it’s ok that I take a different approach to this Mother’s Day.  Sharing my heartache for others, and hoping this honors them keeping their loved ones in the spotlight to never be forgotten.

I have had a very heavy heart since the beginning of this year;  It started out with one of our beloved Taekwondo families 19 year old daughter, Sarah, who went missing on New Year’s eve.  The next 9 days were spent searching and pleading for her return.  Our community came to the call and went door to door, day after day helping search for her;

they and we were behind the family holding them up, knowing we would want the same.  Every parent’s worst nightmare;  On the 9th day a helicopter happening by a crevice in the Angeles Crest Forest got a glimpse of a car.  It wasn’t long before the heartbreaking information was all over the news.  Sarah had gone off the side of very windy mountain road early on the morning of New Year’s Day.   It wasn’t an unfamiliar place, exactly the opposite an area she knew well as she and her sisters grew up in the mountains where her dad, Mike, worked, at the Bear Divide Hot Shots.  I remember Sarah as a hard working, talented student who was always happy and smiling and loved her friends at Taekwondo.  I think my favorite memories are from Lock-In’s (A Halloween tradition at the studio, an all night party) and the infamous pillow fights she loved so.  When you watch a child grow up they tend to leave a very big impression on your heart.  Sarah Forever…

Thinking about Laura, Sarah’s mom, this Mother’s Day; how do you find a balance between enjoying your Mother’s Day with your three other daughter’s and all your grandchildren and the hole that has been left by the unnatural passing of your youngest child.  If I had a magic wand I would wave it and make this all better.  Aside from that unrealistic wish, I don’t think anything can help particularly on this first Mother’s Day since the accident.

I send all the love in the world to Laura and all of the mother’s dealing with this exact loss on this Mother’s Day!  The mother’s of Sandy Hook Elementary, The mom of the little 6 year old from the Boston Marathon bombing to name a few others.

From this mom to all of you, I send you the strength to celebrate your child’s life this Mother’s Day! (((HUGS)))

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Throw Back Thursday…to honor my friend Nancy

231162_1053038977042_2947_nIt’s Not “JUST” TaekwondoBy Ms. Lisa Nevolo, 3rd dan 2008

One day after a testing, deciding whether a young student should pass their black belt testing; one of the other instructors said to me, “What’s the big deal, it’s “just” Taekwondo”. I have never been able to get rid of that. Maybe because I was much older and hopefully wiser. I knew my small decisions now would be more meaningful to the student later. My journey starting at 36 years of age was never “just” Taekwondo. It changed me as a person. How I viewed myself and how I felt the world viewed me back. I was always this sort of old independent sole who loved where I came from and always wanted to prove I could do anything myself. And usually do!

Taekwondo gave me the means to show who I am as a person. Which is why I am at this place in time writing this piece. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in November 2007. I was scared for about four days between the call telling me I had cancer and the day I saw the Surgical Oncologist. The unknown factor was the hardest thing I dealt with. I wanted to be told I wasn’t going to die from this. It was truly my only concern. Then the focus was how fast can you cut this out of my body. Can you do it right here in the office. It took a lot more tests and several weeks before it got scheduled. During that time I never thought about; “I have cancer” or “why did this happen to me.” I was more clear headed then I can remember at almost any other time in my life. Get the facts, make decisions and move forward. I felt reluctant to be a student of breast cancer. But I needed the information to make good decisions.

My thoughts leading up to the surgery. God I have a great life. A job, a home. A family I adore. A lot of people on my side, in my corner cheering me on. I kept being tossed back to the previous few years and used the past experience to explain to my health professionals why I was always ok. I felt I had to explain, nobody could be ok with going through this. Right! That’s what everyone kept telling me.

In December of 2005 I was tested as a person and a Taekwondo instructor like I had never been tested before. My hope is that this tragic and unfortunate combination of events that has come before my diagnosis lends understanding to why I feel blessed and only look toward the healing. Life is wonderful and sometimes so incredibly unjust….I knew immediately why I was involved. Now the lesson is paying me back in spades.

The first week in December started out with excitement building. Testing, Banquet, all the year end fun. I had decided to honor someone I felt was a saint. Nancy Shapiro had spent years making the elementary school my children attended a wonderful place to be. Never mind a personal friend and my direct line into a school that as a working mom I always felt an outsider. I was going to honor her because I never understood why they didn’t. It was going to be a special night.

I was home putting the finishing touches on awards as I usually did and Ken and the kids were already up at Robinsons Ranch, the banquet hall. Ken calls me and is explaining to me that one of our moms had been murdered. I was having a hard time letting the word murdered sink in. We were asked not to share the information because the school her children went to wanted to have a group meeting with the children that knew the family. I was now entrusted with smiling and carrying on as if this hadn’t happened. Having to clear the place settings at a table I knew the family could not show, without anyone else questioning why I was doing this. The story is a sad one of domestic violence. A murder suicide that happened as her and her children arrived home after a long day of work and school. It was on so many levels difficult to deal with. As the facts came to light I realized that my youngest, Sky, had been having dinner with them talking about having a play date at their house; twenty minutes after leaving him this mother was shot in cold blood in front of her children.

Banquet was the year-end celebration it was suppose to be and my dear friend Nancy was happy and her family so proud.

The next night was our monthly Bunko night. More holiday hoopla. Nancy wasn’t herself and something was definitely a miss. On Friday morning I call our mutual friend (Nancy’s sister from another mother) Brenda. I’m happy because my boss has decided to contribute money to help out the boys who lost their mother. To my shock and awe Brenda proceeds to tell me that Nancy went to the hospital last night and had a seizure before they could even see her. I’m in stunned silence. As the rest of the week played out with the funeral of the murdered mom and finding out more about Nancy’s condition; the reality verses the speculation of what was wrong became numbing. Glioblastoma; I hope no one ever has to hear that said to them and certainly not have it spelled so you can look online. After spending a day digesting what I had read I called a friend who was a brain surgeon. He agreed to talk to me if I agreed never to share with the family what he was telling me. I agreed because that’s what they had their Dr’s for. I was still a friend and would be teaching Nancy’s children Taekwondo regularly. It was very important to know the facts. 3 to 18 months life expectancy. That’s the fact.

Brenda and Nancy. Most people looked at them as the same person. I never did, I liked each of them for very different reasons. Nancy would thank me for being there for Brenda. I hoped Brenda was just happy to have another friend to share with. Being a care giver is a really hard job being able to exhale is really important. I know it was hard but I think the times that were the most rewarding were when Nancy was just lost in joy or the emotion of a wonderful moment. She had an exceptional quality of life for most of the year she survived. Highly unusual for this condition. She made choices not to plan for her death. Everyday was another day her children had a mom and she was going to do everything know to man to give them one more day.

As time went on Taekwondo was the family it needed to be. The safe place for this family to continue living and I mean living. Those boys earning a black belt took on a whole new dynamic and set of obstacles. The years Nancy had sat in the background had new meaning to how important the supporters of people earning a black belt are. Her kids were stoic and courageous without fail. It became a big focus.

I think that the following sums up the fact that it’s not “just” Taekwondo. Failing a child at their black belt testing, knowing full well in two months their mother may not be there to see it happen; Is only magnified by the fact that the child understands and the black belt would mean nothing without having earned it. Nobody wants to be given a black belt.

My life has new meaning since this year of complete and utter courage was witnessed. An opportunity to make everyday of the rest of some ones life as wonderful as it can possibly be, and we did. Nothing I face in the fight against Breast Cancer will ever feel insurmountable.

Life is good…take a deep breath! Enjoy my life with me……

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