Tag Archives: Dad

Darkness & Light

Day of the Dead altar 2014

Rem and I set up our Dia de los Muertos altar last weekend.  Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a not an event from the culture either of us grew up in but we borrow or share it with our neighbors here in San Rafael and San Francisco.

Each year the altar is a little different. It seems like each year we have new names to add to our garland of hearts.

Heart Garland

This year we included sweet Ruby and I found a photo of a much younger Rem and a young Ruby to display.

Ruby Girl with Rem

In addition to our altar, we attended the San Francisco celebration for the first time.  This included a Festival of the Altars in Garfield Park and a Procession with traditional Aztec dancers, artists, activists and community members.  I like the description on the Dia de los Muertos SF site about the event:

Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Meso-American holiday dedicated to the ancestors; it honors both death and the cycle of life. In Mexico, neighbors gather in local cemeteries to share food, music, and fun with their extended community, both living and departed. The celebration acknowledges that we still have a relationship with our ancestors and loved ones that have passed away.

In San Francisco, Day of the Dead has been celebrated in the Mission district since the early 70s with art, music, performances and a walking procession, which help us contemplate our existence and mortality — a moment to remember deceased friends and family, and our connections beyond our immediate concerns.

Altar in SF

So – a holiday that remembers and honors our loved ones that have passed away, and uses both food and art in the celebration. This is Pan de Muerto, or “bread of the dead,” a sweet bread yeast bread, from our altar last year.

Pan de Morto 2013

At Craft Gym in late October we made Papel Picado or perforated paper, used as decoration for different occasions but for Dia de los Muertos, it usually depicts humorous and whimsical skulls and skeletons.

Homemade Papel Picado

Rem and I have some beautiful papel picado that we bought on a visit to Tijuana with much more detailed and elaborate designs.

commercial papel

Artisans using traditional methods use chisels to cut through about 50 sheets of tissue paper at a time but machine made versions are also available.  I cut mine with scissors and did one sheet at a time.

In our celebration of Dia de los Muertos, I notice the contrasts: skulls that are made of sugar, bright, festive colors instead of the more familiar dark ones used around death and grieving in our culture.

Candles glow on our 2013 altar.

Candle Lit Altar 2013

This past weekend I paid a visit to my dad’s grave. It was late in the afternoon and from the path below his grave, I could see the piece of abalone shell set into his gravestone, catching the rays of the setting sun.

I hiked up the hillside  and cleared away stems and dried up flowers from the site, arranged some fruits and vegetables of the season, then scattered the dried flower petals around. I still feel deep sadness and miss my dad terribly, but I also honor his memory in many ways, including lighting candles on an altar for Dia de los Muertos.

After shedding a few tears, sharing some current events and singing some songs, I took a final look at his grave.  The colors of the abalone shell, glowing in the last, diffused sunlight were beautiful and reminded me that even as our days become shorter and we’re entering the darkest part of the year, there is still light and beauty to be found.

Thank you for your visit. Thank you, Rem, for sharing your photos.

Altar 2014




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Filed under Crafts, Life

Thinking About My Dad

Daddy Red Turtleneck

Saturday, May 24 will be two years from the day my dad died.  I’ve  been thinking about him.  The other day I saw something that made me smile and I immediately thought of telling  him about it.  A vendor at the Farmer’s Market was munching contentedly; a carrot in one hand, a bottle of hot sauce in the other. I imagined telling my dad the story and knew he’d think it was funny but in less time then it takes to read this sentence, I remembered he was gone.  With an ache in my chest, I knew I couldn’t tell him about it.

I haven’t been going to his grave as often as I did the first year after he died.  It’s been a few months at least, and it’s been on my mind to get down there.

This weekend I had the opportunity.  Rem and I were house-sitting for my mom and on Sunday morning, he needed an early-morning ride to the ferry.  He was heading into San Francisco to take photos at the annual Bay to Breakers footrace.  After dropping him off at 5:40 a.m., Molly and I went down to Fernwood.

The sky was just growing light.  A thin, grey comforter of fog was draped along the upper slopes of Mt. Tam.  Molly was delighted to be out of the car and went up the path ahead of me.

The hillside is covered with rattlesnake grass, wildflowers and eucalyptus trees.  Oh, and some poison oak too.

Hillside Fernwod

It is only as I got closer that the stone marker was visible.

Papa's Tree

Papa's Stone

Roses for Papa

I laid some flowers and cried some tears.  I told him that Caitlin was graduating at Chico and that was where Mom was.  I talked about how sick Beau has been but that we’re so relieved he’s improving.  I sang two songs and watched some hawks circling up high above the trees.

As I walked carefully back across the hillside to the path, I searched for feathers but didn’t see any.

Molly was full of energy and I had plenty of time to wander around the cemetery, something I kept thinking about doing and never taking the time in my many visits down there.  Molly romped ahead, sniffing around and happy as could be.  I was thinking about my dad and how much I miss him.  I thought about how many lives were represented by the stones around me.

One message caught my eye and made me smile.

It all comes out in the wash and a little chocolate never hurts

Comes Out in the Wash

I think I would have liked this woman!

The positive attitude that came up with those words lifted my spirits and made me try to re-frame my sadness. I focused on all the wonderful years I lived with my dad in my life instead of the last three; the year of struggling with cancer and the two years since he died.

It made me think that although these gravestones represented loss and grief they also represented peoples lives.  Many stones have a name and two dates and little else, yet whole lives are lived in the space between those two dates.

As I followed a trail, I found a section of older graves and stones that were cracked and broken.  Some gravestones only show one date or a very short span of days.  Others list the age of the deceased and many lived short lives.  The oldest year I noted was 1907.


On their website, Fernwood states the cemetery has existed since the late 1800’s.  Again, instead of thinking of all of those people dying, I walked around and thought of all those people living.

I saw this fragment of stone that just showed a single date.  I don’t know if Valentine’s Day was remembered as the birthday of a loved one, or the date someone lost a loved one.

February 14

Walking around, exploring the cemetery, was very peaceful.  I looked through the trees at the view of Richardson Bay.

View from Fernwood hillside

Looking down the hill I see the pyramid skylight on the Fernwood Funeral Home, reminding me of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Pyramid Skylight

Some things I had glimpsed while driving past and now I had I time for a closer look.

Like the Buddha statue in a tree.

Buddha in a Tree

A rustic gate open to a path curving around the hillside.

rustic gate

A beautifully carved wooden Buddha sits atop a rough base created from a tree stump. In spite of missing a finger, he was very serene.


Little talismans have been left in his hands: a bit of shell, a rhinestone rabbit  with a wreath of rhinestone flowers, and a sweet little green clay cat. with a pink neck scarf.

Rabbit & Cat

Dia de los Muertos figures dangle on a cord around his neck, holding a dried orchid in place.

Face of Buddha

Day of the Dead figures

Molly and I have had a nice hike and I was in much better emotional shape than when we’d arrived.

Time has softened the blow of losing my dad.  The grief and sadness aren’t gone but they aren’t here all the time either.

Our family will be gathering to celebrate my brother Beau’s birthday on Sunday.  I imagine there will be lots of good food and laughter. We’ll probably share stories about Papa, and catch up with each others lives.  If we think of something that he would have found funny, I believe it will honor his memory if we share it and enjoy a good laugh.

Dad 50th Anniversary

Here is a link to the post I wrote last year at this time.  That post includes links to other posts written about my dad.

Thank you for your visit.







Filed under Life


Graduation Podium

A big congratulations to my sister, Kathleen, on her graduation on Saturday, from Dominican University of California.  She has earned a BA from their School of Business and Leadership and graduated with honors, earning both Cum Laude status and a Departmental honor.  I’m so proud of her accomplishment!

I made a card a card for Kathleen using an Itty Bitty Banner (like these) and a drawing of a graduation cap, tossed in the air.  I used to have a rubber stamp with a similar design but  I couldn’t find it (I probably gave it away when I did my Big Craft Clean Up).


I should have started the Itty Bitty Banner earlier because I used Diamond Glaze dimensional adhesive to give it a  hard, glossy coating.  It doesn’t show in the photo, but it has a thick, shiny finish.  I tried to hurry it along with a heat tool but that made it start to bubble up.  Oops.  I finally put it in the freezer when it was almost set but still a little tacky and that did the trick.

The graduation was held in a huge tent at Forest Meadows Field.  Ariel,  Kathleen’s little sister (Kathleen has been an active Big Sister volunteer for many years), came early to save seats. My mom, sister Sarah, and I got there almost an hour before the ceremony started.

This is Ariel with my sister and mom reading their commencement programs.

Hi, Ariel!

It was a little chilly in the tent but I’m really glad we didn’t have to sit out in the sun for three and a half hours!

Here is the tent with Mt. Tam in the background.

Tent & Tam

Since we had plenty of time, I took a walk around.

This is the Class of 2013 Shield: Wisdom in Community.

Class Shield

Lots of diplomas for the 500 or so graduates.


Empty chairs ready for the graduating students.

Chairs for Grads

They would be processing from across the campus, led by a bagpiper and entering the tent down this aisle lined with banners.


People were saving seats for friends and relatives.

Reserved Seats

Many had made signs or brought balloons or flowers for their graduate.

Grad Picture Doggie Balloon "13" or is it "31"?

At last we heard the bagpipe.  We couldn’t see much but excitement was mounting!

We could see the flag and see a few caps through the crowd.

Entry of the Grads

After the bagpiper entered  and completed his piece, we finally heard the familiar notes of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance”… and I lost it. I looked over and saw my mom had lost it too.  We were thinking about my dad and wishing he were there with us.

Sarah and Ariel had gone out to watch the graduates process in and Sarah came back teary-eyed.  There is something about music that just goes right to your core.

After the typical speeches, awards and long list of names as each student received her diploma, the ceremony finally came to an end and we were able to congratulate the new graduate

Kathleen & Ariel

Sisters & Mom

Kathleen was wearing a beautiful silver and turquoise bracelet borrowed from my mom as a way to honor my dad.  My parents grew up in New Mexico and Papa almost always wore a piece of turquoise jewelry.

All of my siblings and I, without any planning or discussion, wore silver and turquoise jewelry to my dad’s memorial service.  I was pleased that Kathleen thought of this way to have Papa at her ceremony.

Turquoise Bracelet

We enjoyed the reception with cold lemonade, brownies, strawberries and other treats.


Congrats to everyone who is graduating and to their families and friends who offered support and encouragement while they worked towards this goal.

Eena the Graduate

Coming soon: The GRADUATION PARTY!

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Crafts, Life

Big Craft Clean-Up Revisited or Old Habits Die Hard

Crafting is a stress-reducer for me and something I really love and look forward to.  My time for crafting is limited but I try and do it as often as possible. Lately I haven’t been crafting as much as I’d like and it’s my own fault.

The reason? I’ve been falling into old habits and not keeping my craft space organized.  I have to admit it: I let my beautiful craft desk get buried in stuff.  I worked hard to carve out this space for myself last year when I took on and completed my Big Craft Clean-Up.

This is what my desk looked like the other evening.


I want to make the most of every minute of craft time and don’t want to use those precious minutes for putting stuff away.  It doesn’t take long for things to pile up.

That polka dot book is my address book and it has a very nice home in the bedroom.  The heat gun lives in a drawer and I don’t even have to stand up to put it away.

Address Book

Paintbrushes and pens all have their place.  A receipt I don’t need?  The wastebasket is within convenient reach.  Glue and Fluid Matte Medium (used in my Art Journal and on some Easter Eggs) also have homes.

Brushes & Pens

An egg carton?!  OK, it was right after Easter and I’ve been blowing eggs to decorate, but this particular carton was empty.

When I started putting away this pile of supplies, I found paper from cards I’d made for Easter, St. Patrick’s Day and yes, Valentine’s Day.

Egg Carton

More receipts! A calculator, which has a place in the green bin right next to the address book, and a pile of mail. I’m shaking my head at my own disrespectful treatment of my craft space.

Receipts & Calculator

Not surprisingly, the mess had crept over to my craft dresser..  More egg cartons, at least there were some eggs in evidence, and stamping supplies.

Eggs on Dresser

And overflow onto the floor next to the dresser. My bag of needle felting supplies has a less visible place behind the couch. But it had been sitting in this corner since February, when I felted hearts onto the sleeves of  sweaters.   A bin of 12×12 paper was open and the paper inside was sagging in the gap..


I realized, as Easter approached, I was feeling the sadness of another big family gathering and holiday without my dad.  It sometimes feels like all I can manage is to get to work and home again and I have no energy for anything but lying on the couch with a magazine after dinner or looking at Facebook.

However, I also knew that looking at the mess on my desk was only adding to my depression and keeping me away from the crafting that I love.  Piles of supplies had shrunk the available space until once again I was crafting on the dining table.

With cards I wanted to create in mind, it was time to clean up my act and occupy my desk. I was keeping myself from the joy of crafting and the very real benefit of stress relief I find in sitting with my art supplies and making something.

Clean Desk

That’s much better!

I updated my cork board with some new, favorite cards.

Cork Board Cards

I put things back where they belong and gave this new tin I picked up recently in Chinatown a spot in the corner.

Very Special Tin Box

Inside the tin are some stickers, jewels, washi tape and other embellishments that I love to use in cards and my art journal.  Having them in one container makes it easy to bring them along when I go crafting with a friend or up to Sea Ranch.

Contents of Tin

The pens and brushes I use most frequently are in mugs – others have been put away.

Mugs with brushes & pens

Without all the supplies and stuff covering it,the desk is inviting and spacious.  There is room to notice the small things like this little feather I picked up on my walk yesterday.

Little Feather

I seemed to find a lot of them in the weeks and months after my dad died and that was comforting to me.  I hadn’t found one for a long time but yesterday, this small bit of grey plumage caught my eye.  It was on the trail and it made me smile.

It would be great to say I will always keep my desk nice and neat but I know myself.  For now, it is clutter-free and it has been restored as a place where I want to sit and spend time. I even sat down this morning and did my taxes!

Happy Happy Joy.

Thanks for coming by.


Filed under Crafts

Missing Santa

Santa Mike & Papa

It’s Christmas Eve and also my dad’s birthday.  This is our first Christmas without him.

In the picture above, my dad is on the right and my brother is on the left.  Being Santa is kind of a family thing.  I love Christmas and have lots of wonderful memories and traditions that I enjoy.  But I miss my dad and find the sadness catches me by surprise sometimes.

Ceramic Santa

Of course Santa is everywhere this time of year and most of the time I’m ok, but sometimes I lose it. I don’t feel bad about crying either.  I’ve found that the sadness passes too, often as quickly as it comes.

Rem's Santa

My dad didn’t play Santa that often but he had the beard, the twinkle in his eye and the love year ’round.  He really loved playing Santa and had a whole character down.  He wasn’t a bored mall-Santa with an acrylic beard and vinyl boot toppers putting in his shift.  He interacted with the kids, listening to them and asking them questions.  He used to talk about “Randolph” the reindeer.  Kids would try and correct him but he would insist that his reindeer’s name was Randolph.

Li'l Li'l Pup

Sometimes, he would pretend to fall asleep, snoring dramatically, because he was so exhausted from working in his toyshop.  Some kids, usually girls, wanted to let Santa sleep, shushing others with a cautious “Shhh, Santa’s sleeping.” But others, often little boys, would tug his sleeve and shout at him “SANTA!  Wake UP, Santa!”

Santa on a Big Rig

So – I’m thinking about my dad and missing him.  But I look around and see the familiar red hat with furry white trim.  I’ve decided that Santa is a good way to remember him.

I made a pot of minestrone the other day using his recipe.  Cooking is another good way to remember my dad.  Making and eating the soup thick with vegetables, elbow macaroni and beans, topped with grated Parmesan cheese was like a little tribute to him.  He enjoyed cooking and loved feeding others.

Our family will be gathering today and tomorrow and there is an empty place and a sadness with him gone.   But his memory lives on in countless ways.

Papa in Red

David Faw

December 24, 1934 ~ May 24, 2012


Filed under Life

Day 17: Chocolate Bowl – Fail!

The theme for today’s 30 Days of Creativity project was “Pop”.  I’d originally planned to make Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Pops over two days but the weather was too hot for baking a cake, the first step.  I looked at my list of possible creations and saw the chocolate bowls made from dipping small balloons into melted chocolate.  That sounded good and would fit the theme well enough since you use balloons and pop them after making the bowls.

After my Magic Shell Chocolate Sauce wasn’t so magical, I don’t know why I still wanted some kind of chocolate shell, but this looked pretty straightforward…and I do love chocolate.  Which is how I ended up with chocolate in my hair.

The idea is to blow up small, round balloons, spray them with non-stick spray, dip them in melted candy melts and let the chocolate set.  Pop the balloon and gently peel it away from the resulting chocolate bowl.  I saw it on Can’t Stop Making Things and marked it for a future attempt.  Attempt Failed!

Maybe my balloons were of poor quality.  I coated them with nonstick spray after blowing up.  Mine were more pear shaped but I was only going to dip the bottom.  The chocolate candy melts were melted and I’d cooled them off before dipping.  I dipped and pop!

It looked slightly gruesome.  Chocolate splattered across the kitchen, up on the walls, down on the floor.  It was a mess.

Rem and I agreed I was done with my creation for the day.  I had failed at my chocolate bowl making attempt but succeeded at defining the word pop!

He helped me scrape and wipe and sponge chocolate off of the stove, the sink, the floor, the walls, the cupboard doors and off of me.  I changed clothes.  And ate a bowl of mint chip ice cream.  I drizzled some of the remaining melted chocolate over it.

Last year on Day 17 I did a photo montage in San Francisco’s North Beach.

Another definition for the word pop is dad or father.  Today was my first Father’s Day without my dad.  A friend suggested doing something he enjoyed.  I went to Rodeo Beach with Molly.

Now I have to scrub the chocolate off of my clothes and take a shower.

Thank you for your visit.


Filed under 30DOC, Cooking, Life

Just Less Orderly

This sweet note, written on lined notebook paper, was left in the garden of my parents house by a little girl in their neighborhood, along with a white rose:

Dear Grandpa fa

I hope life is good up in Heven and I know you went to Heven because you were and still are a great person.  I hope you get this note because right now I am crying.

Love from many years.

All the cards and emails we’ve received are full of warm, heartfelt messages of love and support.  An email from a friend across the country included this wonderful quote from NPR commentator Aaron Freeman:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell her that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.

I am comforted to know my dad’s energy is still around.

Here is a link to my father’s obituary.

These are previous posts I’ve written about my dad’s cancer.

Sometimes Life Just Piles Up

On Caring

Keeping Busy

Goodbye, Papa

Thank you for your visit.


Filed under Life