Even before we met in high school I shared a connection with Kelly. It turns out we lived only three blocks apart, though we only discovered this when she invited our class over to make signs for a pep rally. Her phone number was just one digit off from my parents’ restaurant so for years she had been getting calls for Aldo’s Pizza. But even without the quirky connections, I liked Kelly from the start. A generous nature, a smile that never stops, and a laugh that bursts out in both good times and bad, reminding everyone that life is good. Really good.
We were friendly in high school, but it wasn’t until college that we became friends. We’d visit each other and party, though it’s not really the parties I remember. It’s how much fun we had just sitting around, talking about anything and having a great time. There is so much to love about Kelly. Her optimism. Her loyalty to her friends and her teams. (Go Niners!) He ability to weather tough times with strength and hope. Her dedication as she raises money and walks to end breast cancer. She loves to have fun, loves friends, loves life.
She’s no pollyanna, sweetly ignoring life’s problems. Kelly complains just like we all do. But even in her gripes there is a sense of camaraderie, a friendly shrug of the shoulders that reminds you that we all get our rough patches, but life goes on. The sun still rises, football season still starts, and blenders still crank out delicious margaritas. At least hers do.
Like too many of my dear friends, I don’t see enough of Kelly. But I hope she knows how much I admire her. And I’d meet her for margaritas anytime!
Who is this man I married? A brilliant mind who can remember just about anything he reads and can figure out a problem before most people realize there is one. A father who can take our kids without a word of handoff, for an entire weekend, and love it. He makes friends so easily, striking up a conversation with anyone on just about any topic. He holds his views, but is very open and considerate of where other people are coming from. He’s incredibly kind. A man who loves a good argument. A man who never stops wanting to learn more about life. To others and himself, the most honest person I know.
All this is true, but it doesn’t begin to describe the man I married. He takes such good care of me. Says impossible things, like how my job being at home with the kids is harder, and since he couldn’t do his job if I wasn’t at home doing mine, I should never act as if that I don’t earn money for the family. Wow. Or how he assures me he doesn’t mind if I go out to to my own thing, and I can see he really means it. When I’m in a bad place and feeling like a terrible mother, he points out how much I get done on a “bad” day, and how happy our children are. He gently pushes me to run and to write. He always spoils me on my birthday, but the real gift is how he looks at me in that way that shows I have all his love.
It’s not always sunshine and roses, but it actually is almost all the time. I love my husband for all that is does, and all that he is. Lucky me.
An invitation to stay at her place even though we’d never met. Late, late nights in D.C. or Vegas or California or Austin, drinking far too much and singing George Michael far too loudly. A sense of humor that is delightfully wicked but never mean-spirited. A cat whisperer. A cold frothy pint on a hot Texas day. A terrific laugh. A terrific everything.
What started as an interest in Middle Eastern studies has become her calling. She pursues it with an intensity I find not just a little bit intimidating. I lose track of all that she’s doing: working on her dissertation, learning Farsi (to add to her fluency in Arabic), presenting at conferences, working as a TA, applying for (and getting) grants and fellowships and jobs. Like so many brilliant passionate souls she’s plagued with a fear that her work isn’t good enough. And time and again the proof is in the accolades showered upon both her work and upon her.
She’s studied in several countries and traveled to more than most people could name. Even tame trips include twists, like a brief ride through a war zone. She’s a queen of the road trip, stopping at destinations well off the beaten path and rolling along to a soundtrack all her own. She’s an amazing person I don’t see nearly enough of. She’s more loved than she knows, but not even close to how much she deserves.
In high school I was always in awe of Michelle. Whatever she decided to do, she would do. We both took honors classes and actually liked what we we learning - true nerds. We both prided ourselves on our straight As. For me, that took up most of my time. But Michelle always had another hobby or activity she wanted to try, like ballet or sewing or modeling. She was always fabulous, and always had a great time. She looked at life and saw nothing but new things to try, new skills to learn.
Fast forward a few decades later and I reconnect with Michelle on Facebook. And so much of what she was exploring then she’s still doing now. She sews and sells adorable girls’ clothing. She dances ballet. She’s still got those model looks. (Seriously, has she aged at all?!) All this and a lawyer too, though she’s at home with her girls these days. All the more time to explore life and spread that joy to another generation.
Back in high school Michelle never seemed to believe how awesome, incredible and beautiful she was. For her birthday, I hope that she can look back and see that she really, truly was. And is.
She goes by Granny, but she’s the youngest, hippest grandma I know. I lucked out to get Wendy as a mother-in-law. Quick-witted and quick to smile, she’s so much fun to be around. She’s a formidable opponent in just about any card game. She loves life and loves to have fun. It’s hard not to do the same around her.
She started her family when she was just 20. I envy the energy of a young mother. Philip has early memories of freshly-baked bread and homemade salsa. She sewed clothing for the kids and herself. Now she sews and send blankets and stuffed toys to her grandkids. She adores animals and has a menagerie of dogs, cockatiels, a sun conure, a lovebird, an assortment of fish, and usually a loaner pet or two.
All her grandchildren adore their Granny Jones. I wish we all lived closer so there could be more hugs, more laughter, more late nights playing Mille Bornes and more Wendy in our life.
My father Manuel was born 900 miles from the coast of Portugal on São Miguel island, the youngest of 8 children. His own father was born in 1876 and died at the age of 60 when Manuel was only four. Times were hard for a widow with a large family. Measles killed two of the children as babies and nearly killed him as well, but fortunately a Jewish doctor fleeing Nazi Germany had settled on the island and was able to treat him. After a few years of struggling the family moved to live with relatives in Brazil. At the age of 20 Manuel decided to settle in California where his oldest brother (who had been born in US) was living.
He met my mother at a Portuguese dance. As he and a buddy crossed the room towards some “dancing-type” girls, one of the old ladies stopped him and suggested he dance instead with the quiet girl in the corner. Perhaps it was love at first sight, but he wasn’t ready to settle down. It took nearly 8 years before my father realized he it was about time to get married and knew she was the one for him - a “marrying-type” girl.
He had just completed his B.S. in chemistry but with a mortgage payment and a baby on the way he didn’t want to take a pay cut to start work in that field. So he stayed at Round Table Pizza, was promoted to manager and raised three kids on that salary, scrimping to save enough for a pizzeria of his own. At work he had - and still has - a reputation for yelling at his employees. He’s infamous as the little guy who yells all the time. The employees noticed that he never yelled when his kids were around. Though he could raise the roof when he wanted to, he showered us with love. Tough and firm but incredibly kind, he was a dedicated father. Only now as a parent myself do I appreciate how much he sacrificed to provide for us. I still I feel the security of knowing no matter what I need, he will be there for me.
People sometimes call him Aldo - the name of his pizzeria - and he doesn’t correct them. His old friends call him Manuel. Casually he’s know as Manny. But for me he’ll always be Daddy. And we’ll always be his babies. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I look at Tirzah I see an incredible woman who doesn’t believe how amazing, beautiful and unique she is. I’ve seen her turn heads in bars and on the street and in the supermarket and just about anyway she goes. And it’s not just her beauty or that gorgeous head of hair. It’s her. It’s a smile and a light that people notice and want to be around. She simply doesn’t see it, and I wish I could write eloquently enough to convince her of what everyone else notices at first glance.
There’s more to this woman than outer beauty. Tirzah is a caring friend with the biggest heart I know. She loves to have fun, but when times are tough she makes tough sacrifices and survives. I’ve seen her work as hard as a person can to get through school and earn her masters degree, all while working full-time and raising her young son. She’s a wonderful mother who gives so much of herself for her precious boy. She pours love out into the world, and I know that love is waiting to come back to her. Maybe not when or how she expects it, but it’s there for her. It’s perhaps not as simple as clicking her heels together three times, but happiness awaits. She just has to believe she deserves it, because she does. So very much.
Fun and feisty, honest and caring, wild and wonderful. Lanelle is someone I love having in my life. We’ve run long miles together. We’ve danced on beaches in the Mexican Riviera. We’ve sung off-key to our favorite songs after more bottles of wine than we could count. Every time I hang out with Lanelle I have a wonderful time.
Lanelle has a strength that runs to her core. I remember how long and hard she worked to master acupuncture, and I see how hard she continues to work build up her practice. She’s a survivor. She pursues what she loves. I think she doubts herself sometimes, and she shouldn’t. She’s amazing and beautiful and a joy to be around. I am so grateful for her friendship, and I hope for more nights that end with too many empty wines bottles and big wide smiles.
Is there a person anywhere who doesn’t like Mark? I have a hard time believing it. He is the friendliest person I know. No matter what the situation he just rolls with it. I’ve never heard him say a bad word to or about anyone. If he doesn’t agree, he has a way of stating it that come across as “To each his own.” I’ve seen him get annoyed a few times, and I imagine he does get angry but in 8 years of knowing him I never witnessed it. He’s just so mellow.
Don’t confuse mellow with one-dimensional. He works hard, at all hours and all over the world. He really gets into his hobbies, whether running or mountain biking or diving or underwater hockey, and he has the scars to prove it. (Seriously, if this guy gets any more cadaver parts he’ll be the next Frankenstein.) He’s amazingly intense about music of all kinds. He’s a vegetarian who grills up meats like a 5-star chef. You can listen to him spin stories of wild days in Israel or talk about a current political event or tell you something his kids did that afternoon and realize there aren’t many more pleasant ways to spend an evening.
I’m so happy to have Mark as a friend, and soon a neighbor. Cheers to many more long evenings under the stars doing nothing and having a wonderful time.
I can’t think of my cousin Anthony without picturing a quiet, wide-eyed little kid who loved movies. And while most kids were happy with typical Disney fare, from an early age Anthony was also watching some pretty intense stuff. I remember how much he loved Tim Burton’s Batman, holding his little batman doll high whenever the Joker appeared on the screen. He and his dad played their own version of tag based on Killer Clowns From Outer Space. When describing how the Nutcracker moved, he said “It’s a little bit like the living dead.” Is it any wonder he’s grown up with a love of truly twisted films? Or that his passion is making movies of his own?
I’m amazed whenever I watch one of Anthony’s films. I’m still picturing my little cousin, not a talented young man bringing his own unique vision to his art. It’s so cool to see someone pursuing what they love. I’m also Anthony’s godmother, which is a position I have fully failed at. I’m not religious at all, so I let my mom (who is his sister’s godmother) take over for both of them. Now I see that I shouldn’t have let that special relationship slide away. I’m so proud of my cousin, and hope he knows he can always count on me for anything.
How can I type words that could ever capture how amazing you are? Every mother thinks they have the most handsome and intelligent child to grace the planet, so I know my own observations may not be the most reliable. But how can I look at my four-year-old boy and not be astounded? At how you dance to the party rock and the Wednesday night banjos. How you sing your favorite songs while swinging your heart out. How you always want to dress up as the villain in your favorite movies. How you remember everything, whether it’s a book you’ve been read once or a person we met a year ago. How you smile when you see the moon. How you hug me when you see I’m sad and say “It will be OK, mama.”
You are my light, my son, my sunshine. I love you for always being who you are, in a princess dress or Spiderman pajamas or nothing at all. How can I ever be the mother you deserve? All I can do is love you, and be amazed by you, and yell at you when you drive me crazy, and love you some more.