Wednesday, September 28, 2011

it's happened to one of us (again)

this blog thing. this big, beautiful, loving blog thing we each participate in... whether we only participate as reader, or we write... it doesn't matter.

because when a tragedy befalls one of us, this community pulls together to hold that family up.

and it's happened again.

one of our own, has lost her own.

and he was beautiful and vibrant and handsome... and only 12 years old with a faith in God deeper than mine's ever been.

i implore you to read her heartbreaking blog posts. and lift her up in the comments section. she needs your words of kindness, your prayers, your beliefs... so please take a moment to give her some love.

because that's what we bloggers do for one another.

we hold one another up when we can't stand on our own. she needs our arms.

Friday, September 23, 2011

kristabella came to cali

and all you got were these stupid pictures of us at wineries!

ha! you know you're jelly! :)

this is us at MUMM.. i drank some sparkling something or other. i liked it so much i bought a little, tiny bottle. HA
(just curious, but um.. why does my face look oompa loompa orange in this picture?!)
jennster & kristabella

and here we are at sutter home, where my new favorite wine (BUBBLY MOSCATO!!!!) was born (much thanks to sarah and geo for intro'ing me to the fab new flave)
sutter home, bubbly moscato, bitches!

i think we were at ruthorford here. have i mentioned how NOT FUN wineries are? everyone is sooooo stuffy and blahhhhhhhh.
WINE TASTING WITH @kristabella!

thank god we had each other!! (and baby 24 year olds who just moved away from their mommy from delaware to harrass!)
kristabella has the blurry pics of them! HAHAH!
chicago- in da hizzy

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

the 40 mile MS bike ride

it happened folks.
susan & jennster

oh yes, did it happen.
teri's got her game face on.  jennster's got her ster face on

i did 40 miles ON MY BEACH CRUISER for the second year in a row! (go me) it's not that riding a bike 40 miles is all that hard... cause let's face it, it really isn't. but you try going uphill on a freaking beach cruiser.
part of team Cruisin for Susan!

this year was WAY harder than last year. i have no idea why. other than maybe i was uber motivated last year? or maybe cause i KNEW where the hills were and when they were coming this year?! i have no clue, but i feel like i had to get off my bike a lot to walk it up those stupid hills. i'm a failure.

not really.

i totally rule.

like our team tent- WHICH HAS WON BEST TENT TWO YEARS IN A ROW MIND YOU! we (and by we, i mean robin the tent designer, decorator, purchaser of all things tent) TOTALLY ROCK!!!!!!!
the winning party tent- SECOND YEAR RUNNING!  CHAMPS!

speaking of our tent, did i mention that we had an arts & crafts section for the kids to make beachy picture frames? ahem. i'm a kid. so i made one. BUT LOOK HOW PRETTY IT IS!!!! :)
i named my frame MALIBU. like the beach, not the rum, alchies.
um, we had an arts & crafts table for the kids.  i'm a kid too so i made this frame!

until the REAL pictures come back, all i have are blurry camera phone pics. cause i'm awesome like that!
team cruisin for susan- aka, team drink

to everyone who sponsored me... THANK YOU SO MUCH! i had fun (even though it may not sound like it)... i will be doing it again next year. i'll complain more then! ha
weber sisters

and YES, i did cut the sleeves off of my shirt. i don't believe in sleeves people. i'm not sure HOW MANY TIMES i have to tell y'all this! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

today is my birthday

(and leah oliver's too)

in a day and age where we don't hand write letters anymore...
and 99% of my birthday wishes come in the form of a text message or a facebook post...

i wanted to post a couple of the ACTUAL! BIRTHDAY! CARDS! i got in the mail.. cause they are funny! and they made me happy!

you know what is the most hypocritical part??? i am just realizing how much i love getting cards in the mail- the little notes, the funny sayings... but i NEVER freaking send any!!! to anyone!!!

but you know what? i never have. it's not like i just stopped one day because the internet got popular or something. i've never sent cards- not at christmas- not ever.

i really need to start. cause if these cards bring me this! much! happiness! then other people might love it just the same!! :)

this freaking card made me LOL so hard!!!! thank you ali! :)
bwahahaha- birthday card!

birthday card, inside

and this card just made me happy! apparently, the word FOR jennster is AWESOME!!!! i'll totally fucking take it! (thank you catjacks)
birthday card!

i think i may change my name to jennster, the gold star of awesomeness! you know, just for today!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Leah E. Oliver- repost


when i first participated in dc roe's 2996 challenge, i got to learn about a brave firefighter named sal calabro. it was truly my pleasure to honor him, get to know him, and write about him. i was grateful for the project because it introduced me to someone i wouldn't have known otherwise. on that day when so many of our lives were changed forever, he was a hero. and he paid the ultimate price. i can't believe his family has had to live these past 8 years without him. it breaks my heart.

when dc sent out the email that he was doing the project again, i signed up without hesitation. and this time, i got Leah E. Oliver.

the first thing i noticed about leah was that we shared the same birthday. september 12th... the day after "the day." i stopped for a moment before i read any further about her to just kind of appreciate the randomness (and not so randomness) of it all. what was the likelihood that the person i would get to write about would share the same birthday as me?

the more i read about leah, the more i found myself smiling and thinking that we would have totally been friends. everyone said the same things about her. how warm she was... her amazing smile.. she made everyone feel welcome.. she was always positive and smiling and happy. everyone who knew her talked about how much they loved her and her laugh. what a great way to be remembered.... always happy. i can only hope to be so lucky.

Leah Oliver

i don't think you'd guess by this gorgeous picture of her, but she loved to go on motorcycle rides with her dad. a passion that they shared with one another. there is a memorial page up for leah where her father has written the sweetest most heartbreaking letter to his only daughter. the following is part of what he wrote:

"Life is about not knowing. Surely the last few weeks have proved that to all of us. But bringing Leah into this world is one thing I know for certain I’ve done absolutely right in my life. I love all my children equally, and I’m equally proud of each of them. Leah was just that little bit special because she was my first. As oldest children often do, Leah marched through life with a sense of purpose, determined to be successful. And she exceeded my expectations all along the way."

leah grew up in dartmouth, massachusetts and went to college at columbia university. it seems like leah's life was just getting started. she had a new boyfriend (in an old friend) and had recently started working at marsh & mclennan in the world trade center. she couldn't wait to show her mom the view from the 96th floor. the 96th floor. i guess you can only imagine how and why she didn't make it out that day. she loved her co-workers and felt like she had the job of her dreams. things were falling into place for this 24 year old.


never to turn 25 because the following day would not come for her.

she left behind so many family members who miss her. a boyfriend who has had to move on without her when he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with her. it's hard for me to write about someone who was so young and whose life was just getting started. because you read about the person they were and you want so much more for them. you know how much they could have had and then you get angry that all of that was taken away. imagine how i'd feel if i had the pleasure to actually know leah in real life??

september 11th still hurts. sometimes i think i'm ready to deal with certain aspects of it. like a tv special about 9/11 will be on and i'll record it so that i can watch it later at my own pace. but then i'll go to turn it on, and within the first 30 seconds, i'm already in tears and i can't take it. i'm not ready. it's still too raw. and it's been 8 years. and i didn't even know anyone who lost their life that day personally. (i know people who knew people) it wasn't right. it wasn't fair. and it breaks my heart to know how much my life has changed since that day, and i wasn't even directly affected. so many other people have had to live each day since without their loved ones in their life. and all i can say is that i'm sorry. i'm so sorry that sal's boys have had to grow up with only a memory for a father. i'm so sorry that leah's family has to go on without her. i'm sorry she never got to have her 25th birthday. but i can promise you that i will forever think of her on our day from here on out.

there is a scholarship set up in her name.. there are tributes to her where you can read more about her. i wish i could have known her.. but i'm glad this project introduced me to her. and now to you.

Friday, September 09, 2011

No Sal, You're The Best- Repost


it's been 5 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center. 5 years. September 11th has affected me in too many ways to count. too many ways to truly even begin expressing in writing, words, or otherwise. i'll try to sum it up by saying it's something that is never very far from my mind. i will never forget how i felt that morning. my drive to work.. blinding myself with tears that wouldn't stop falling. i specifically remember looking to my right at the car passing me and him just looking at me, with total concern in his eyes. and then sitting at work glued to the television, wondering what the fuck i was doing there. the pain. the horror. the emotions. everything about that day comes screaming back to me in an instant if i let it.

i know people are tired of reliving this day. they want to move on. but what about those who lives were forever changed, more than yours or mine was? how do you balance moving on, with remembering? and when do you get to the point that watching a special about 9/11, or seeing pictures, or hearing voices of the now dead- doesn't bring you to tears? when does it become something you can talk about without having an emotional breakdown? does it ever? they say that time heals, and in my life i've always found that to be true... until now. because to me, 9/11/2001 is just as real today, as it was then. i'm having trouble putting it into the past. it's like there's this hole inside of me that just stays raw and full of so much intense emotion. and that's where everything about this day resides and lives. just as alive now, as it was then. i have no idea when or if that will ever change.

when i chose to participate in dc's 2996 project- i had no idea what i was truly getting into. sure, i would be given a name of a "victim" from that day to write about. but i had no idea how much i'd come to learn about one person i'd never heard of before. and now, i just wish i'd gotten the chance to know him in life, instead of the opposite. i am leaving this up for a few days because i really want it to sink in. sal was a person you could have known. he could have been your neighbor, your friend, your coach, your local fireman, etc. he was all of those things to many people. and now he's gone. the least i can do is allow everyone the time to actually read about him and get to know him while you deal with your own emotions about 9/11.

so this is for sal- and everyone who knew him.. and those of us who didn't get the chance.

Sal was 38 years old and just finishing his shift when the attack began on the WTC in new york city. he cancelled plans he had just made with a friend to work out, turned his car around and headed back to the firehouse. Once there, he jumped on his firetruck heading towards the destruction. That's just the kind of man he was. He didn't run from chaos.. he ran to it... to help ease it. Sal had been part of Ladder 101 for 14 years, since he first started working as a fireman. That firehouse was a second home to him. All of his co-workers, brothers. The entire Ladder Company was lost that day. 7 guys just vanished into the rubble; to never be heard from or seen again. The group of guys from that ladder company are now referred to as the "Seven in Heaven." Sal was one of them.

A proud American, you could often find Sal watching specials about World War II and the Vietnam War on the History Channel. Growing up with his older brother, they would often fight about who would get to go to war (if there was one) and who would stay home with their single mother. It seemed that the only time Sal questioned defending the nation, was when his mom was involved. When she passed away, he got his only tattoo on his left shoulder, in her memory.

Like most firefighters, Sal loved his job. But he loved his family more. His greatest joy in life was watching his 2 young sons grow up. He coached the T-Ball team, and when he couldn't be there, he would call his wife multiple times daily to see how they were doing and what they were up to.
"He was an unbelievable dad," Mrs. Calabro said. "I can't explain it. My kids would always look for him before they would look for me. When they got hurt, they wanted their daddy."
Sal and his wife met as teenagers in a grocery store where they both worked. They'd been together ever since and were married on September 16, 1989.

Sal was a beloved firefighter. His catch phrase was "You're the best!" Whenever he would say it, people would respond back with, "No Sal, you're the best!"
"The guys on the job loved him," Mrs. Calabro said. "Since he was there for 14 years, they called the firehouse 'Sal's House.' They said he was the heart and soul of Ladder 101."

Now the "heart and soul" of Ladder 101 only exists in memories, on memorial walls, in framed photographs, and in the hearts and soul of those he touched and loved. The man who once described heroes as "people who knowingly and willingly enter a peril situation and lay down their lives for other people" has become just that. A hero by his own definition. And mine as well.

Rest In Peace Salvatore Calabro. And thank you for letting me get to know a true hero.

this website has a lot of information about the Seven in Heaven and is where i found the majority of my information and pictures about Sal.

i am adding in this poem that salvatore's wife wrote to him.. i just found it, so forgive me for adding it so late.

i found this poem here... please click the link, because maybe the person you're blogging about has a love letter as well.

Salvatore CalabroTuesday, 1/7/2003
A Conversation With Sal
Often I dream of a conversation with you.
I tell you I love you, and wish 9/11 wasn't true.
What the hell did happen?
Do you believe it yourself?
I'm still in shock, and don't know what to do with myself.
You needed to know about history and war,
Did you know you'd be part of such violence and gore?
What would you say? Are you OK where you are?
You remain in my heart, and are never too far.
I hope you have everything you didn't have in this life.
I hope you forgive me for my shortcomings as a wife?
The world has gone crazy. Nothing is the same.
I want to keep you alive -- let everyone know your name!
Sal Calabro -- my husband, a father, a hero he is.
The flag now in vogue was a fashion statement of his.
In my sleep we do visit. No words do I hear.
I understand you are with me -- your smile says don't fear.
People think I am crazy, your signs I do see.
Moths, numbers and birds are messages for me.
Help me and guide me in raising our boys.
They need to remember you and all of the joys.
Their lives are filled with sadness. You were their best friend.
Please protect and guide them 'til the very end.
We have all changed. Life isn't the same any more.
I hope you will meet me when I come through that door.
Until then I'll always love you!
Keep letting me know that you are here.
And I will let you be remembered --my love and my dear.

The father of two is remembered in this letter written by his wife, Francine.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

wtc skyline comparison

if you remember, we took blake there for his "double digit" birthday, and so he could see yankee stadium before they tore it down.

you know, the ORIGINAL yankee stadium.

it was also the second time i visited the empire state building. i knew i took pics from each angle just like i had done the first time. i wanted to find the pic of where the towers would have been for a comparison... i remember the weather that day was awful- super humid, cloudy, smoggy, whatever... visibility sucked. but i snapped a billion pictures anyway. humidity be dammed.

i found the pic.

here they are side by side.
the first one taken in december of 2000.
the second one taken in may of 2008.

skyline comparison-  pre and post 9/11

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

fdny, engine 8

i just wanted to share some pictures i took of some firemen back in 2000. i honestly don't know if they're okay, or not- but i'm really hoping that they lived through that september day.

engine 8 guys- december 2000

fdny- engine 8

fdny  12/00

Sunday, September 04, 2011

the first time i went to new york

it was december of 2000.

i celebrated new years, 2001 there.

i traveled with friends who had far too much money (and myself at the time a single mom with none) so to say the experience was different is an understatement. i saw things i've never seen since. million dollar lofts in soho... apartments with secret passages and rooms. i seriously felt like i was on an episode of gossip girl- before gossip girl was even created!

it was crazy.

this first trip of mine to new york was also the first time i'd ever seen the twin towers. i remember getting off the subway at the last stop and walking through the mall. i stopped in a small store and bought a light blue candle that had yellow stars and moons carved into it. i remember thinking how weird it was to have a mall underground, but that i wanted something from one of the stores in it.

i swear i remember walking past an express clothing store before taking the escalators up.

my girlfriend took me into the towers. i believe it was tower one that had the observation deck? or maybe that was where you bought the tickets? i think i'm wrong.

one world trade center directory

i didn't know the difference between them. hell, in all honesty- being from southern california, i had never even HEARD of the twin towers before seeing them. when an LA'er thought of new york, they thought of the empire state building, times square, the statue of liberty, central park... i remember asking my girlfriend what the big deal was about those buildings and she was shocked i didn't know what they were, let alone had never even heard of them before (she was from canada where they know everything! :) ). she gave me a little historical background on them, and while i was impressed with their height, i remember thinking.. eh, they're just buildings. and they're nowhere near as pretty as the empire state building, or the chrysler building (you know, when i wasn't thinking the chrysler building WAS the empire state building).

now of course i miss their beauty desperately.

there had just been a HUGE snowstorm and even if the deck was open, we weren't going to be able to see anything. i remember that the outdoor one was closed and that even though it was after christmas and right before new years, there were plenty of people working in the buildings. i remember meeting one security guard at his desk and taking a picture with him. although i can't find that picture anywhere!!! the inside of one of the towers had huge silver snowflakes hanging all around and i remember thinking how cute it was that this huge building got all decorated for the holidays. we walked through both towers. we saw all the stores in one of the buildings and i remember thinking, there's a tailor here? who buys suits when they're already at work? my girlfriend laughed, and tried to explain to me just how many people worked on wall street, let alone the sheer number in the 2 towers.

i think for some reason i simply just didn' like i had no comprehension. maybe because it was the holidays and the buildings were virtually empty. the normal hustle and bustle was something i never got to witness. maybe without seeing it, i couldn't even imagine what it was like on a normal workday there.

i remember we left the buildings, walking through tunnels that connected them, or walkways... i can see everything in my mind, but i just have no idea what everything i'm seeing is.

this is my first time seeing the towers

after this huge snowstorm at the end of december 2000

i went to the empire state building by myself on that trip to new york. i think i waited something ridiculous like 4 hours to go up. but it was worth it for this picture alone...

view of the twin towers from the empire state building

i came back to the city 4 months later and took this picture from a ferry i was on in May 2001

this pic was taken in may of 2001

i had no idea that i'd be seeing those cloud souring towers for the last time...

Friday, September 02, 2011

9/11- 10 years later

no one wants to talk about it.

or they pretend they've forgotten.

the latter makes me mad. how can you forget that day? if you lived through it, witnessed it, watched it unfold on tv, heard cries from your friends on the phone and then watched the news after it all happened... how can you EVER forget that day?

every year, i say the same damn thing- "it feels like it just happened yesterday..."

but the thing is- to me... it does.

i still remember everything i ever felt from that day. hell, i still FEEL the same feelings right now- ten ridiculous years later.

and no, i can't believe it's been 10 years. i can't believe that much time has passed. it should be enough time to at least watch tv shows on the subject and not burst into tears, right? 10 years should be enough time to talk about the day without your eyes welling up, right?

well apparently it's not enough time for me.

because i still can't do any of those things.

i taped a special that i hadn't seen before, called "9/11- where were you" and i asked blake to watch it with me.

i completely forget that he has no real memory of that day. i mean, how could he- he was only 3... and for as obsessed as i was with watching every.single.thing about it on the news, i distinctly remember shielding him from it. he didn't need to see those images frame after frame repeating themselves. he didn't need to be tortured that way i was torturing myself.

so we watched the show and he asked a lot of questions. and he was shocked as certain images and scenes were shown from that day. he constantly said things like, "was that real? was that real footage? oh my gosh, was THAT real? was that plane flying into the building the real plane doing that? did anyone survive? what about the people on the plane... did any of them survive?"

he was shocked. he was horrified. it was as though he was seeing it all for the very first time.

and i cried.

i think this year... i'm going to dig up my new york pictures that i took when i first visited the city in 2001 (before the attacks). they were on real film, so most of you haven't ever seen them before, and i can't remember the last time i looked at them.

i'm going to post some each day- along with my tributes to sal calabra and my birthday twin, leah e. oliver. i know i have some fireman photos in there that i harrassed during my visit. i hope they're all currently living, loving and being loved in return.

until then... never forget. live your life. don't dwell in sadness and horror- but never forget what happened that day and what we lost... as a country, as a people, as a human being.