Monday, December 8, 2014

So Far, So Good

The care packages are coming along nicely! Between the two departments, we are making 65 total. There are currently 8 people on hospice, and about 35 in the extended care facility. We figure it's nice to have extra.

Day and night, I'm searching still for the perfect addition to our gift bags - one that speaks love and comfort. When I come across something, out of my skin I jump. Yes, that excited! This elf thing really does it for me.

Starbucks, Panera & Target have once again treated us well. Year after year, we're humbled by the kindness they extend our way. What Starbucks provided is well enough to share in the care packages and with the hospital staff too. I love when this happens because we wish to remember the doctors, nurses and other support staff as they work their way through the holiday season.

As we walk the days of Aviana's Elves, we come together with those from years past, but also, with those we've never met. Every interaction is meaningful and leaves us feeling full. Thank you. 

I had many bags with leaves on them, but I thought these could use a few snowflakes : )

Some of the goods.

Rainey approved.

We aren't through yet. There's still time if you'd like to donate ❤️

Friday, December 5, 2014

Fire & Ice

When faced with death, especially that of a 2-year-old, my message was clear, live. Live all I can, while I can. Before car met bodies, I was under the impression of time. In one impactful moment, I realize, I couldn't have been more wrong. 

Instead of all going black and bleak, the colors shift. They change. The clouds become more billowy. The sky more blue. On the drives back and forth to the hospital, the trees are vibrant in their varying shades.

As I float through this alternate universe, I wonder how this could be when my parallel is smashed? Our daughter hanging by a thread.

"Welcome, you have just entered a world of wide range dichotomous emotion. It's nice to meet you. Sit, stay for a while, have a cookie."

I decide quick. Take all the positive. There's already enough chaos, sad, and lonely. 

This new world has one giant magnifying glass dropped on top. With it, I'm able to examine every aspect of life, and loss. I always had a great love of nature, people, music, etc., but now, it's different. Now, they can be taken away. I can be too. This casts a new light. With these new eyes, I can truly see what surrounds, positive and negative energy, the people who suck that energy, the love, trust, compassion, and so much more.

I follow. I like where this is taking me. It holds purpose, meaning, weight. Overnight, and in a snakelike fashion, I shed the skin of who I was and become another. I gain lots of good, and lose some too. Most times, I'm at peace with the trade off. This new person must see, taste, do, and be part of everything. Our daughter has shown me what's important, but in conjunction, given me an even shorter stick for b.s. and drama. A whisper gains momentum - avoid the negative, turn towards the positive. Especially in those who surround and love us. In those who feed, instead of deplete.  

Sometimes it's a challenge to intermingle this newfound influx of adrenalin with grief. Life becomes free and full, but at the same time, draining and discouraging due to brain injury. These feelings mix together and cause me to feel like many in one. I go with it. I have to. This is the way it will be. On especially tough days, like a mantra, I repeat "there will always be something that's not going our way, something that's difficult. There has been in the past, maybe not to this level, and maybe there never will be to this extent again, but there will always be something to work through."

Aviana shows me to grab hold of moments. To live in them while we can. So, we take our little mentor's hand, and with every chance - we do. But as things intensify, so do the moments. In the beginning of tumultuous - they are clear, deep, cutting, and difficult. We are trying desperately to follow her lead, but she's taking us on a road less traveled. A road unfamiliar to the life of a parent. Parents want nothing more than to care, feed, and sustain, not the alternative. To wrap ones mind around feels foreign, but in the name of our child and her cues, we push through. I'm run down. The full extent, I can't even see for myself. Others are worried, deep down, I am not. It's simple, I'm not what matters most right now. She is.

Once the three of us are on the same page, peace is made. I can once again look to her, even in death, and see life. She's taught me to value, seize and continue. We must. I know in her absence we will live. All of us.

Sometimes it comes easy. At times, it's hard as hell. All the time, I am open to every reason our lives touched, our paths crossed. Dave and I both consciously and subconsciously use these reasons. Through her, we seek meaning throughout our days. We are cognizant of our connection to her. And because of how fiery she was in life and all she endured for those years, she pushes us in ours too. She propels us to do things we may not have, to sit through and still, and to push harder. She also encourages us to enjoy the big and small moments of our everyday. Aviana is one shining spirit.

Like bookends, here are a few of my favorites from this year -


This place was put in our path years ago. At the time, I couldn't have known its significance. Our adoption process was taking more time than expected, so it was suggested that we take one last vacation just the two of us. Our choice - Cabo.

I saw the dome. "What's that?" I questioned. I heard some words, "Hot. Meditation. Sit. Still." That was it. That was enough for me to head pool-ward.

Our next time back was a pick up and run hooky trip from our therapy program. That time, I wished to be in the mind space for the dome, but with the intensity of all that was going on back home, there was no way. Flat out and cool was all I could muster.

After Aviana died, we made the decision to once again return to our place of letting all go. As excited as I was to ride !camels! the dome was first and foremost. I looked it up -

Temazcal - a steam bath of pre-Hispanic origin that is utilized for therapeutic, detoxifying and ritual purposes, as well as a ceremony of purification and cleanliness. It signifies a return to the womb of Mother Earth for healing and rebirth as a new person.

At a time like this, I couldn't think of anything better for the two of us.

We just walked from the pool to the dome prior to signing up. 

My writing will never capture the true beauty of our Temazcal experience.

A smoke signal from hot coals guides us down. As we arrive, we're greeted by Alberto, who's dressed in white linen. Every sense awakens. Our eyes dance upon the varying shades of green. There are giant aloe vera and palm leaves surrounding the entire entrance. Tiny assortments of fresh, fragrant herbs add beautifully to this natural landscape of color and texture. Red, pink, and white rose petals mix together and rest on a backdrop of green vines. They are everywhere; lined inside and out the dome. My breath escapes me. I turn to Dave. Our eyes meet in a knowing disbelief. Next to a pitcher of fresh mint tea, three teracota cups sit in wait. We soon toast, drink, and then watch as Alberto slices those huge pieces of aloe with a Crocodile Dundee sized knife! All I can think is, "That's not a knife. That's a knife!" And it was. We are asked to rub the oozy, slime over every square inch of our bodies. So we do. I think I'm done, but Alberto gives me a half you're not finished smile. "Our face too?" I ask. Alberto laughs, "Yes, your face too."

While standing in our shell of dried aloe, we sip our tea. So taken by the dome and our nearby transformed surround, we forget to extend our near sighted eyes. On the horizon, a seaside sundae. Layered one atop the other - green grass, a sandy beach, the ocean, and in place of the cherry - a big blue sky. For a second, I wonder. What would I take my spoon to first? I can't decide, so to reality my thoughts return, and they are beautiful too. In the shadow of death, all we can think and feel is life!

"How hot?" Our vision broke. "As hot as you want. We can handle it. My words surprise, but at the same time - not at all. If she can, so can I. Coal after coal, we watch as he labor intensively transfers them from one pit to the other.

After brushing ourselves with bunches of herbs and a few other rituals, we enter the dome.

With our tea, we gather around the fire. Soon Alberto picks up a piece of the stone. He asks that we each set an intention for our practice. We think for a small amount of time. Out loud, Alberto speaks then scratches the stone across the fire, as if to burn it. He passes the stone to me.

Internally, I state what I hope to accomplish in the Temazcal that day. I scrape the stone and attempt to pass it on to Dave. Alberto stops me short and says I need to state my intention out loud. I stammer. I feel uneasy. We've seen him all over, beforehand, at the spa, he will be our Yoga on the beach instructor. He doesn't know our story. I want to stay under the radar with this. He'll now know. I question, he reassures. I look at Dave with tears. They mix with sweat from the blazing heat. Drying just as fast as they fall. I feel nauseous, salty. I love salt. Weird thoughts are causing me to procrastinate. I'm suddenly claustrophobic. I'm never squirmy in small spaces. Something is squeezing me. I turn back to the fire. The words won't come. In my throat - they're trapped. Not because of him, but because of me. I can't say them. I try again. Nothing. But tears. We sit. Time passes. Finally, through a broken voice I say, I'm hoping to heal from losing our daughter. To hold onto her memory and release the pain. I scrape the rock hard, and pass it on. Through that tiny bit of stone, I feel an immediate release. Dave cries too as he states a somewhat similar intention. I understand the importance of symbolic rituals.

Hours of meditating, chanting, healing and alternating extreme hot with some freezing cold too pass in the dome. Alberto says it's one of his longest sessions. We feel some sort of pride in staying until he called it. Like we had done right by our girl. Once we emerge, we're soaking wet, and covered in herb debris. We look at each other and laugh! Under the outdoor showers, all physicality of what occurred falls away, but internally, those hours will remain safely.

We're freezing. Alberto has big, fluffy towels and robes waiting for us. He walks us out to the grass where he has perfectly placed crisp white sheets. "Lay inside, join hands, close your eyes." he says in a hushed and gentle tone. He places one hand on each of our heads. Alberto says some of the sweetest and most important words my ears will ever hear. We later open our eyes to pure blue sky. We are one. We are new. As for Alberto - he's nowhere to be found.


To feel alive. 

There are spaces of time I have to push myself to get up and go on without her. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes I need to remind myself. To wrangle up and grab hold of, to get going. Sometimes it takes everything I've got. Much of the time I manage, but sometimes I'm taken over. Always though, I'm seeking. Trying to find the thrill, the chill, whether in thought, person, vision, lyric, or ingredient. It doesn't matter - anything which sparks! My goal is to feel. And there's so much around, which helps. While I'm still wandering this earth, I want to do all the things she can't or didn't have the opportunity to. 

On the last night of Write the co-founder said something along these lines, "just to let you know, we may be closing the workshop by jumping into Doe Bay. So... you may or may not want to wear your swim suit under your clothes."

It had been cold all weekend and the water was much the same, if not colder. I grew up with one brother in particular who thought it funny to throw me over the side of the boat and into Lake Tahoe. If you've never been in Tahoe, it's freezing - year round. As much as I love Tahoe, that scarred me for life. So I'm a creeper. My first thought was, "Pass. I'll leave jumping in to the others."

I show up the next day in warm clothes, and definitely no swim suit in sight. At the close of the workshop, one of my very favorite people throughout the weekend spoke. She explains how she and the co-founder Jenn, start each month by jumping in. She calls it a brain stop. In that moment, you stop all that's going on, all thought, worry, anxiety, and stress. When you come out it's like starting over. After the cold, it's strange, but all you feel is warm. Her every word is like poetry. I'm not much into poetry, but that day, and in that moment - I was. And because of Kerry, I was all in.

As I said, sometimes I must be reminded. I suddenly flash to all I read in The Power of Now. It sounded much like a letting go. I am suddenly back in Alaska and all I was explaining to Gary as he was contemplating whether to join Dave and I on the ziplines through the rainforest. "You don't have to, but I think we especially need these kinds of things now more than ever. Moments that make us feel! Ones that bring us towards life alive. Ones that excite!" And he bit. We three had the best day together in Ketchikan!

Doe Bay never sounded so good.

I walk down to the bay with the group. I run back up to our room, my bags all packed by the door and ready for our taxi. Like a yard sale, I throw my clothes around trying to find my suit. Off, on, pushing my stuff back in the bag. Flips on my feet, I run back.


Hand in hand...

We run.

I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, 
get busy living,
 or get busy dying.

~ Shawshank Redemption

Friday, November 21, 2014


Hello! How are you this fall day? I'm loving it. 

I signed up for a writer's workshop at the beginning of the year, back when I could hardly commit to a dinner date, let alone a many months in advance workshop, a plane ride, and days away. Back then, this was a leap of faith. 

In the last year I've learned to join a world I once knew. It's different now; I'm different, but yet the same. I'm finally able to plan, to commit. 

As the retreat showed itself on the calendar, I had no idea we'd be living in Tahoe! As hard as it was to now leave home, I had a feeling this opportunity would be pivotal in my life.

And it was.

The workshop, the presenters, and the people I met are what dreams are made of. 

 I've been writing a book about our journey with Aviana for awhile now. I was recently at a severe standstill. I could never concretely figure out why. I had a few ideas, but couldn't break from the holdback. For various reasons, I was more frustrated than ever before.

Everything came clear during the workshop. Upon returning home, I've become a writing machine. I previously didn't understand the process. Now it's all flowing. Filling page after page is one of the best feelings.

The people I met at Doe Bay collectively set me free. For them, I am beyond grateful!

* * *

From beginning to end - this was a trip of a lifetime.

My friend Christie joined me. We started out in Seattle a day early. For some reason, I felt deja vu.

Yes, I'm late in posting - go figure. The trip was in October.

Halloween - the most wonderful time of the year! That's how the song goes, right?

I love looking around chocolate stores!

The next day we boarded a tiny plane. Destination, Orcas Island.

Doe Bay...


Doe a deer.

A female deer. I have no idea ; )

True to their name - these sweeties were everywhere. 

Me = mesmerized - hypnotized.


I wasn't zoomed. They let you come so close. I bet I could touch them. I wanted to!

We carved pumpkins!


A great man once said, "Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans." 


Our plan was to go out that night and put LED candles in these cuties. We were going to take the bombest group shot ever. 

The dear deer had other ideas. We watched them pull our pumpkins off the stage and eat them instead.

This place had such great food, but most times we were cooked for. Jesse and Jen are the ones who put on the retreat. Jesse made us the best meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert too. If you ask my mom and Dave - they say there's a whole lot I avoid. 

I ate more on this trip than I eat in a week. At every meal, I went back for seconds and sometimes thirds. Jesse made my kind of food! And the way she cooked was - how can I say, of and from the heart.

Also my kind of place. The food - so good.

Mother may I? Some more, please.

Our daily walk to the retreat house.

Thank you Doe Bay.

I will forever hold you in my heart.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Bends

More than anything I look forward to Aviana's Elves. I feel a little hesitation as this time of year inches closer though. At first I'm unsure why, but soon realize. As a family we never lead with our story. The discomfort stems from the thought of going around and volunteering what happened, especially to strangers.

This season my mom has called numerous times in tears. "I can't do this! I can't. It's too hard." She's cried in front of more people than she's cared to. She has shared with more people than she's wanted. We've had many conversations about why it's worth it. We've talked about the smiles all her tears will bring. Sometimes she doesn't care, but I know she does. She's hurt because Aviana isn't here enjoying the holidays like she would have been had this accident not happened. She comes around fast though. It's useless, she's gone. What are we going to do. Nothing. So let's do some good. It's just a thought process.

While I know there are times we're both tired from our story and having to repeat it, I also know there's an overall healing taking place in every connection. My mom says she can't, but she always does. I wish you could see her. The woman is persistent. She powers through. I'm more impressed with each passing year. The people out there love her, and those who stall or give her the run around, well - they are just a challenge for her. She walks out, cries because she misses Aviana and doesn't understand why they don't understand it's for the benefit of others. She then gets mad, simmers down, regroups, later goes back and they become her best friend. It's a cycle. It makes me laugh, but then again not. I understand from both points of view; this work is important to us, but they are bombarded this time of year. 

This year as we were getting started, we ran into a few roadblocks. Tahoe Forest has different requirements. They needed to get approval for everything. This ended up taking some time. The result was this - we weren't able to provide any care packages for the Cancer Center. Unfortunately they would be too much of a potential complication. We also weren't allowed to include any snacks or beverages either. We can however provide the gift cards you so graciously provided. 

For a moment last week, I was at a standstill. Before redirecting our efforts back to Kaiser Roseville, I inquired about other departments. Pediatrics, this wouldn't work. They offered one which was a perfect fit, right along with hospice. The Extended Care Center. I toured the facility and couldn't be happier providing the packages to these lovely men and women. They are patients who have dementia, Alzheimer's, some have cancer, had a stroke or some other illness. They require a high level of care for an extended period of time. As I looked around, and talked to some of these people, I envisioned them receiving one of our care packages. Of course it matters greatly to me what's in our gift baskets, but at the very same time - not at all. As I looked at their faces and into their eyes, what matters most is that we're thinking of them.

I called my mom right after leaving. I told her of the people who were in the Extended Care Center. I asked her to remember all the people who would sit, waiting for someone to come visit back when we would pick grandma up of the day. My mom remembered well. My mom used to go up to many with a warm smile. She would touch their arm, talk to them. That's a feeling that's never left me, of seeing my mom - so loving, so gracious - to a perfect stranger. Week after week, my mom showed love when there was hardly anyone there to give that love. While in the ECC that very same feeling came back to me. 

As my mom is out sharing our story, I want her to capture what she felt all those years while visiting my grandma. I want her to feel what I felt that day in the ECC. And no matter how hard - while being within those hospital walls - it all makes sense. The worth always outweighs the pain. And the best part, it's because of and in the name of our dear, sweet Aviana.

Thank you for being with us - through the highs, the lows, and all the parts we're still trying to make sense of.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saving Grace

We honor you today, and everyday. 

We thank you for blessing us with almost 5 years with Aviana. We thank you for giving us the opportunity, for saving our love, for sparing the one we learn from. The one who continuously teaches us what's of true importance. The one who helps us to understand - love deeply, appreciate more. 

We thank you.

Thank you for all you do - for us, for your family, for our country.

Our love always.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

One Year

My mom and Gary decided to come up for the one year anniversary on the 26th. I'm glad they did. We had a nice day together. Tahoe brings out the best in them. They are calm, relaxed, and happy.

The month before, my mom didn't think she would want to come because she'd be crying and bringing us down. She also didn't think she wanted any part of burying the remaining ashes. I wanted her to understand she could cry whenever, and all she wanted. We wouldn't mind. As for the ashes, the choice was hers - she could stay in or go for a walk while we buried them. Most important, I thought it would be nice if we were together. 

As it turned out, she was in a great mood, and halfway through the day - it was her suggestion to bury the ashes. My mom loves a good nursery, so we drove to Tahoe Tree Company and bought some aspens. My mom found some pots for her own backyard as well. We came home and Dave and Gary began making holes for the three trees we'd purchased. While they were planting, my mom and I scoped the surrounding area for the best place for Kama & Aviana. We wanted somewhere pretty, someplace close to the house, but also where we could look out and see them from inside as well as the deck. 

The three of us stood as Dave dug and Rainey ran around the yard. Just as we were about to place the wooden box of ashes, Rainey broke the mood in the best way possible. Leave it to our girl! I think it may have been orchestrated from above! As Dave was covering the box with dirt, we all started crying. Gary, as he so often does, told the most beautiful stories of Aviana.

We placed them in the middle of a winding rock walkway, under this little pine tree.

I then stood two pinecones side-by-side against the tree. One for each of our girls. 

Once finished, we turned on the game and cooked a great dinner. My mom, the Giants number 1 fan, cheered them all the way. We completed the night with one of her favorite desserts.

The entire day was spent as normal when together - we talk, laugh, eat, tease my mom, and enjoy each other's company. It was a really nice day and into the next morning until they went back home.

I know this was especially hard for my mom, but I'm happy she came and faced what she didn't want to. I could tell deep down she knew it was good for her. I think as the day progressed, and the hesitation may have been looming still - something in her pushed through and knew it would somehow be for the better.  

Later that night Dave and I were talking about where we placed the ashes. I was describing all the reasons why I thought it was the perfect place. Dave said something which made it the ultimate...

"It's like each of the four surrounding trees represent your mom, Gary, you, and me. We're always there, watching our girls."

I thought it was beautiful! I had to add Rainey in as that pine tree you see between the two on the right though ; ) 

~ One year ~ 

We miss Aviana deeply, but are forever grateful for the time we had with her. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

In Spirit

With each passing year of Aviana's Elves, your love and generosity never cease to amaze and inspire us. We truly appreciate your continued support.

While Aviana won't physically be here this year to guide her elves - she will be in spirit.

She has this way about her. She connects dots. She pushes things together. She steers me when aimed in the wrong direction. When I'm having trouble seeing, she clears the way. Sometimes I feel her, sometimes I don't. I now know to be patient. If I wait for her, she comes through; somehow she always does. She's forever my girl - here and there.

Before, I didn't know this about death. I never truly believed in this sort of thing. But now, I think differently. I guess I should say - time and again - I've been shown otherwise.

For many reasons, I look forward to Aviana's Elves this year, more than any other.

Thank you for standing beside us.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forever Your Elf

Pack this, unpack that.

Disconnect that, connect this.

Load this, unload that.

Break it down, set it up.

Move it here, it looks better there.

In the busyness and excitement of our move, one important thing keeps appearing in the back of my mind. Aviana's Elves. As I stare at this house full of boxes, I know. I want to somehow, someway, make it happen. I can never let it go. Ever.

I flash. We were them. They are us. They will experience some of their worst days this year. All the holiday happiness. The people smiling, drinking their steaming hot chai lattes, or whatever it might be. The others, driving around with trees tied to the tops of their cars. Many going through the holiday season as normal, while we were in the fight of our lives. I can't shake the feeling, nor can I shake these families. Never do I want to.

From the back, to the sides, to the front - the shift in focus occurs while placing the contents of each box. With Aviana above, and us below - I begin to narrow in on what's most important to us as a family.

Two places swirl my every thought. The families on hospice, and the ones at Tahoe Forest Hospital. More specifically, the ones in the Gene Upshaw Memorial Cancer Center. Both, near and dear to our hearts.

The friends we carry along from hospice mean everything to us. I hold the people who work in this field in the highest. Having recently been a family on hospice, we now understand what it feels like to be in that final chapter - the love, the care... all the while knowing where it leads. There's nothing more I want than to wrap these families in my arms and never let them go, so much so, my plan is to volunteer for hospice and possibly go back for my master's - but for now - my wish is to provide them with an amazing care package over the holidays. My hope is to let them know someone is thinking of them.

I'm not sure if the Gene Upshaw Memorial Cancer Center sounds familiar, but a long time ago I posted, because Dave provided the engineering so this is definitely a full circle moment. I picture these people, but more specifically, people like my friend Cameo's sister, Trina, going in during the holidays for infusions. I can't even begin to imagine what that must feel like, or the domino effect it must have on the entire family. I would love to also give them a sliver of love - some kindness - anything to let them know we are thinking of them during their time of need.

Many times throughout this past year, some are afraid to say Aviana's name, but others are upfront in asking how to honor her, especially on our upcoming one year anniversary. I know grief is specific to each individual, but for us - we never want to stop hearing Aviana's name. If I could skywrite her name - I would. We think of her all day, every day. We not only welcome any talk about her, but it makes my soul sing. It keeps her memory alive, and from two parents who've lost their girl, all we truly care about in this life is keeping her as alive as possible. We might cry, but it's okay. I cry all the time over her. I think of it as a good thing. I tell people, just as I laugh and feel happiness over her, I'm good with feeling the pain too. I would rather feel pain, than nothing at all. The pain keeps her just as close to me as any other emotion.

As far as how to honor our girl - I always say however makes you feel best! Whatever you saw in her, is what she would probably want put back into the world! More often than not, people want more specific ways of honoring her ; ) So if you're still wondering - we would love nothing more on this upcoming one year anniversary than to provide our local families on hospice, and at Tahoe Forest Hospital with as many care packages as our hands can handle!

As we speak my mom is out pounding pavement. She called me bright and early this morning and said, "Good Morning! I'm ready and about to start ____!" I said, "Baking? What are you about to bake?" Even louder she said, "No!! Not baking...I'm about to start begging!! I laughed! My mom helps us every year. Her specialty - going around to businesses for our gift baskets! She's magical! Much better than I ; )

If you would like to join in our efforts, we would appreciate the love! 

Here are some ways you can help...

You can donate magazines, inspirational quote books, movies, unscented anti-bacterial soaps and lotions, cards, etc. If you choose to help in this way, I hope you don't mind me asking that all of these items are new.

You can also make a cash donation and I will put it towards the purchase of the above items or anything else we think might be of comfort.   

If you include a cash donation, you can make the check out to David or Jennifer Hodder. You can send any and all items to:

Aviana's Elves
c/o Dave or Jen Hodder
P.O. Box 4
Carnelian Bay, Ca 96140

If you have any questions or would like to donate through Paypal, you can contact us directly -
our e-mail address is ~

  I appreciate your consideration in helping us once again! We have been shown so much kindness over the many years. We're always amazed when someone goes out of their way to think of us. We vow to keep this going year after year, as it's simply the most gratifying way of giving back to families who might be going through one of the worst times of their lives.

We are planning on starting deliveries around the middle of December!

Our love to you all!

Meek and me.


 ~ forever your elf

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sent Away With Love

Aviana's birthday couldn't have been a more perfect day in and on Lake Tahoe. With our combined ashes we set off to our three chosen destinations. 

Our first stop was in front of our new house. We wanted to be able to look out our sliver of window, off our back deck, or drive down the road and know Kama and Aviana were with us always. 

We decided to release the little sea turtle, which contained a combination of the two first.

Next, we decided to place them in front of my dad's house, and for all of the very same reasons. I grew up there so his house and the entire surrounding forest have a complete hold on my heart.

Aviana Reese Hodder

Sent Away with the Words of a Love Song

August 16, 2006

October 26, 2013

We couldn't help but laugh and joke because the Aviana one would not sink. Dave was saying things like, "Avi do it!" We were also joking and saying how it's all in her time, and by her own agenda - not ours.  To this day, we still can't make her do anything!

I think the funniest part was at the previous stop we spent a good amount of time because it was our first. There was a real lull towards the end, kind of like we weren't sure when to go. We had rented the boat, so I finally said, "Come on guys, let's go, time is money!" So when this one wouldn't sink, Roger yelled out, "Come on Avi, time is money! " We couldn't stop laughing : ) 

Avi sure has a way about her and we love everything, even her extreme stubborn streak.


Our last remaining place was Lakeview Beach. This is the beach I spent my entire childhood. We would take the boat out every weekend and this was the place we would pull in and spend most all of our time. 

Our dog Baxter would pull us around on our rafts for hours. We would walk across to Lakeview Pizza and often times order food and bring it back to the beach. Lakeview is where my dad hung out the majority of my life. It's also where I worked from the age of 13 to the time they closed down when I was about 20. We all miss them terribly. It's now Old Range Steakhouse and is the place pictured with the green roof. 

From a very young age, my cousins and I would carry our rafts down to this beach and spend the entire day in the lake or catching crawdads from the pier with string and a little piece of raw bacon (eww)!

While Aviana was well, we took her down there a few times, and Kama many in her life.

There wasn't a question about wanting Aviana and Kama intertwined with our past, present, and future lives with Lakeview Beach. 

It was perfect how the Kama Girl one (although both ashes were contained) was being placed here as our dog Baxter sadly passed away crossing the street from Lakeview to this beach.

Kama Girl

The Reason Why

November 16, 2002

October 26, 2010

The three of us had the most enjoyable, peace filled day on the lake. It was full of everything I'd hoped for: reflection, happiness, living, light, love and especially calm.

* * *

We reserved just a little of the combined ashes to bury at both our and my dad's house on the 1 year anniversary. Our friends and neighbors Jen and Scott just so happened to give us the perfect going away gift - one of my very favorite trees - a Dogwood. I have left an open invitation to my mom and Gary. If they so choose - they are welcomed to come up and be a part of that day with us.  

* * *

We returned the boat and decided to walk over for a nice lunch overlooking the lake. Uncle Roger, Dave and I thoroughly enjoy each other's company. We always have the best laughs and great conversation - whether light, extremely in depth, or anything in between. This day in particular was nothing but light, as hoped for : ) 

After lunch, we stopped by Skylandia Beach and took Rainey for a swim. 

I don't know, do you think she likes Tahoe?

After the beach, it was our plan to go out to dinner to further celebrate Aviana's birthday. Dave and I decided we'd rather stay home and cook a nice dinner. I opened Pinterest and had my dad and his friends pick whatever they were in the mood for. We shopped, cooked and had a really nice night together. 

Since the accident this day has previously been indescribable. The culmination of incredible love and knowing otherwise in your heart of hearts is a pain which can't be explained. On this day, of this year, I felt the most overwhelming peace. Aviana was with me the entire day. It's as though we are one - as though we have an understanding. I don't know if that makes sense, but it makes perfect sense to me. 

Our girl was here for the exact time she was supposed to be, and now she's gone. And while at times it can be desperately difficult to live without her - at the end of the day, we know she's where she's supposed to be and wasn't here for one moment longer.

I always find solace in that deep down knowing, and ultimately that's what carries me through each and every day.