Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tattoo This

My next tattoo will be a red-capped robin slightly looking down as he is perched on a cherry blossom tree, located on the back of my left shoulder.

Red-capped Robin
The reason I chose this bird is simple, first for its name. Then, I selected this particular type for its physique; short and stocky, like my brother Robin. Then, the color red; as I said before, if I were to associate Robin with a color, it would be red. The bird also has a unique feature of a red looking cap, hence the name red-capped robin. My brother always wore hats. Therefore, this bird will represent my brother Robin looking down watching over us.

Cherry Blossom Tree
The reason I chose a cherry blossom tree is for its Japanese symbolism and how it ties deeply with the fundamental teachings of Buddhism (read my old blog Is Buddhism for me?). Here are some clippings from various web sites paraphrased to give you an understanding of the Japanese symbolism and connection to the Buddhist teachings:

The Japanese feel that the cherry blossom represent life in that life is something of great beauty yet it is very quick and passing and in the end is full of suffering also. For the Japanese, it is a reminder to live life fully and in the now. This concept ties in very deeply with the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. According to the Buddhist tradition, the breathtaking but brief beauty of the blossoms symbolizes the transient nature of life as well. And that all life is suffering and one must simply give in to the suffering and let go. Through this letting go the suffering ends and people can achieve enlightenment.

Another symbolic representation of the cherry blossom tree that I uncovered today, is that for the Japanese, the cherry blossom is often used symbolically or idealistically to represent the true way of a Samurai. The Samurai never know when they are going to die and instead of worrying about death they have to live their life to the fullest and be fully prepared to die an early death. They felt that if you were not prepared to die then you could not fully live. So a Cherry blossom that has fallen from the tree is often symbolic of a Samurai who has died early in battle. In fact one of the saying that was common for the Samurai was today is a good day to die. It is not that they had a death wish at all it was more of a life wish. They knew their life was rough and dangerous and that it would end in a sudden death. In fact it was more honorable to end in death during a battle then to live to an old age. So like the Cherry blossom with its short yet beautiful life the Samurai lived in the same way.

Based on the Samurai story, I was thinking to add one cherry blossom flower on my lower, lower back...right under the tree branches…to represent my fallen brother. (too much? maybe.)

So anyway, as you can see, this tattoo will not only symbolize my brother Robin, but represents his lifestyle, my lessons learned from him, and a reminder for me to live life fully and in the now. Life is transient.

I will be visiting a new tattoo parlor tomorrow in hopes that they will be able to create a beautiful tattoo based on my vision. Wish me luck!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Balloons for Robin

Today, I went to visit my brother Robin.

In my hand was a red balloon. I didn't choose red because of the song or the movie...I chose red for two other reasons: if I were to associate Robin with a color, it would be red, plus, I wanted to see the balloon as long as I could before it faded into heaven.

While sitting there by my brother's side, I told him my wishes, my wants, my regrets, and all the would haves and could haves. And that with this balloon, I was letting them all go, or at least I would try. And while I was crying with my head down in my lap, balloon in hand, I felt Robin telling me "don't cry." It wasn't like I heard his voice in my head or his image appeared. It wasn't even like he was specifically telling me this. It was just a feeling that came over me...don't cry. So, I stopped crying and started smiling. So, it was time to let go. I stood up and released the balloon. I stayed there with Robin until the balloon was engulfed by the clouds and I could not see it anymore (which took a surprisingly long time). It left me with a smile on my face (and a sore neck).

Last night, I spoke to Mathew about giving balloons to Robin in heaven. He loved the idea. I think it's helping him understand the concept of heaven and Robin not being with us anymore. I also believe this will be a great way for my 3 year old son to "communicate" to his uncle Robin and keep him alive in our hearts forever, and for me as well. I will make this our tradition...for every birthday (his and ours), for every party, holiday, visit to the cemetery, or even to let him know we are thinking of him just because, we will release a balloon into heaven for Robin.

Robin, I love you!
Here's your first balloon!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's personal.

What religion are you?

Me...oh, it's personal.

But for the sake of blogging, let me try to vaguely explain...

I have a relationship with God. My faith in God is personal. I prefer to not be labeled or classified in a religious group. My faith is not fear-based or money driven. It's not based on contradictions or hypocrisy. There's no temple or church. There's no superstition or magic. It's simple and pure. I have faith. I have morals and ethics. I am spiritual. I pray. My belief and faith system is a way of life, not an organized system based on scriptures or rituals. I simply believe in God (as it is defined by me). No one can judge me, criticize me, make me feel guilty or bad. The bottom line is that it's just between me and him and no one else.

In this passing week of sitting shiva for the loss of my brother Robin, I've come to appreciate my personal relationship with God even more. I realized that I truly believe in God wholeheartedly. And I stand by my belief that everything happens for a reason. I don't dismiss that this idea can be questioned or even false in the end. That's why for me, it's personal. I respect and appreciate the rituals and beliefs of others, knowing fully it sometimes contradicts my own. I know this faith of mine will be tested and pushed to the limits beyond imaginable (as it has done so already). I know I will question things and wonder why. But I understand that my faith and relationship is an ever-evolving path of enlightenment. I can now stand firmly grounded and believe that my personal relationship with God is honorable and virtuous. And some may not understand it, nor do I ask them to...because in the end it is just between me and God.

It's personal.


Mathew's Angel

While picking Mathew up from school after seven long sad days, I assumed he forgot about our last hour together on Tuesday, August 11th. I was wrong.

Our last hour together was bothersome for both of us. Mathew was napping when I got the call that woke him up to the sounds of my disbelief. I can't imagine what he was thinking or feeling in this moment. He was immediately concerned with me and gave me some "luvin!" When he asked what was wrong, the only thing I could tell him (without thought or planning) was that Robin was "hurt." And after some tears, hugs, and pacing, I told him that I needed to go see Robin and take care of some things. "But I want to take care of things with you," he would say. Or "Mama, do you need some juice?" You can see he wanted to take care of me. When his father came to pick him up, he did not want to leave me, nor did I want him to. He is my main source of light, energy, and happiness. It was a difficult hour between the two of us, to say the least. After he left with his dad, I rushed down to Miami...

* 7 days later*

Heading home after sitting shiva, I didn't really know what to expect from Mathew. His dad said that he missed me and asked for me a lot. I didn't know if he remembered much of what happened on Tuesday or not. When I did see him, he was purely happy to see me. He talked to me about school (I missed his first day of school on Monday), his new friends and teachers, and so forth. And when the excitement passed, he calmly asked if Robin was still hurt. Taken by surprise, I explained to him simply that Robin passed away.


By now, we have talked about Robin on several different occasions. And I've delved into it a little deeper. He asked to make a card for Robin last night (which made me think he really didn't understand). I've purchased a few books for him, which he is not ready to explore. I tried a couple times to read them to him...and he's just not ready. I figured he doesn't understand. Again, I was wrong. He just understands in his own way.


This morning he says to me:
"Can we pick up Harley and Robin and bring them to Mimi and Papa's house?"

Mathew's understanding of death is of course minimal. His closest experience is losing our dog Harley, and we got to say good-bye and take pictures before we gave him up for adoption. This is quite a different experience, but nonetheless, I do believe he understands (again in his own way). I believe Mathew understands that he is gone and that we won't see him again, he just doesn't understand what gone is or why. As time passes, he will learn and grow with this experience. And I will keep Robin's memories alive forever.

For me, Robin is Mathew's angel now. I don't know if Jewish people believe in Guardian Angels, or even if I ever did, but I do now. Maybe this is just a way to give me comfort and peace or to keep his memory alive, I don't know. But I will constantly look to Robin for help, guidance and protection for Mathew. And I believe, that Robin will be watching over him, like a guardian angel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getting Up

Yesterday morning was the end of sitting shiva, which is called "getting up." It concluded early in the morning and was the hardest part of shiva for me. After morning temple services, we all met up at the cemetery. I arrived early and found myself slowing treading towards Robin. It was a hot day with a breeze coming from the east. The first thing I notice, when I stand at the bottom of Robin's gravesite, is that it is now covered in fresh, moist sod, not yet woven into the soils of earth. The next thing I notice is the vision of a cross defined by the space between the newly placed sod. Interesting. I was definitely solid at the moment, firmly grounded, able to speak calmly to new arrivals, and capable of not shedding a tear while seeing others' tears fall. After the few close friends and immediate family arrived, it was time to start the ceremony of prayers.

My parents, Philippe and I are positioned on the south side; the Rabbi on the west side (the bottom side), and all others completely around...supporting, praying, loving my brother Robin. During this short ceremony of prayers, I lost focus and battled my ability to stand firmly (figuratively). I tried to re-gain focus by escaping reality for a moment. I tuned out the Rabbi's voice and stared catatonicly at his feet. He was wearing a pair of worn out black loafers with a gold chain-like accent at the top. It had a loop and a twist in it. His black pants had cuffs and were just the right length for him. The left pant leg was laying over the golden accent on his left shoe. I couldn't tell you what shirt he was wearing, or if he was wearing a hat or sunglasses. I just looked at his feet. But when that stopped working and the nose started dripping, I focused up, higher up, as if to feel my brother's presence or to see a light of hope. The light blue sky was inviting to the eyes and the gliding white clouds were peaceful. The leaves on the trees were swaying and shimmying. The wind was soft on my skin. And again, I couldn't hold my focus. The sounds around me were too powerful to leave the physical reality of it all. And in the end, when the Rabbi said: use this time to ask Robin for forgiveness (for things we did/didn't do, said/didn't say) and to leave it buried with him...no one could retain their composure. This was the hardest moment for all of us. I internalized my regrets and wishes, my solid turned to mush. Shiva is over. Walking the path down the cemetery aisles, it hits me...the strongest feeling of loneliness ever. I am encountered by many hugs and the "I'm sorry's" and the "stay strong" clich├ęs...and all I want to do is run, run far away and run alone...maybe just to cry...to cry the heaviest tears I've ever known. Instead I sulked like a child; half trying to hide, half looking like I was begging for someone's attention. While feeling horribly empty, I wanted to be alone yet wanted a hug. While feeling rage and envy, I still wanted to be alone yet I needed a shoulder. While feeling all that I was and wasn't feeling, I did and didn't want to be alone. Disoriented, emotional, overwhelmed, spaced out, scared, broken, hurt, pitiful, confused...inside my heart, I was alone. Shiva was over, it was now time to slowly emerge back into society...without my brother Robin. alone.

The sitting shiva experience was __________ (fill in any positive or negative adjective of your liking, it would apply). At this point, I am ready for the next step... I am ready to jump into the hectic world of my work. I am ready for some normalcy in my life. I am ready.

One thing though, I am left needing one good, sulky, lonely, heavy down pouring tears of pain. In the end, I discovered sitting shiva just deferred my grief and pain to a later unknown date. I will definitely revisit my brother and do this all over again someday soon, for myself...alone!

In the meantime, on to happy memories and happy thoughts...
back to reality...

Robin, I love you!
forever in my heart

Before I go, let me make one thing clear:
NEVER EVER ask "How are you?" to someone who is mourning.
seriously ridiculous!

Monday, August 17, 2009


We may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget.

rest in heavenly peace robin
gosh, how I miss you terribly so!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Carpe Diem

Robin, my dear brother Robin, lived his life to the fullest. He lived for the day and grabbed life by its horns. He may not have had savings or retirement plans, he may not have had the big picture in mind, but he never missed an opportunity to explore the world and live life. He lived it in extreme too. What an amazing life he lived! I'd like to take from him a phrase that he didn't necessarily use to define his life, but looking back, these words defined his lifestyle:

Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero – "seize the day and place no trust in tomorrow"

Robin's adventures were plenty and extraordinary. Many have lived longer lives and have not nearly experienced half of what he did. Here in no particular order is a list of his crazy, awesome adventures, each one carrying a multitude of memories and in most cases in multiple instances...

deep sea fishing
shark fishing
bass fishing
swimming with sting rays
swimming with dolphins
poker tournaments
dealing blackjack
mardi gras
fantasy fest
times square new years eve/day 98-99
jumped from helicopters - snowboarding
europe travels
bungee jumping
lobster diving
boar hunting
boar hunting by hand (knife)
deer and gator hunting
gun shooting and collection
motorcycle madness
pyrotechnic wannabe
night clubbing
ice hockey league
swimming in competitions all over the world
water polo meets
macabbi youth games

his attendance to various sporting events:
world cup finals match in barcelona
world series marlins game 7 walk off win
nba finals
nhl finals
ncaa orange bowl championship

The list is not nearly complete, I will be back to continue adding...
For those that knew Robin and have a new adventure to add, please share the stories and even the pictures too!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sitting Shiva

In Judaism, Shiva is the week-long period of grief and mourning for the immediate family. The process of following the shiva rituals is called sitting shiva. I won't go into the the details of the rituals, but if you are interested...look it up.

This is my first time sitting shiva and it is for my dear brother, Robin. Before, I had a perception of shiva to be a depressing experience. While no one wants to sit shiva, I didn't want to the way I don't "want" to fast for Yom Kippur. I have formed personal opinions and views on religion and sitting shiva was not on my list of traditions I needed or wanted to follow (and not because it involves death). I just don't like the idea of sitting in a house full of mourners (granted I would be one myself). I didn't want to be in a state of constant grief for seven straight days, day in, day out. I am comfortable with death. I am comfortable with my faith. I am confident and believe in "the heart of life is good" and "everything happens for a reason" outlook. But sitting shiva, I always believed would make it harder for me to feel my own feelings, to find my own peace with "my" loss. I would be lost in the grievance of others. I didn't want to experience the pain of others while suffering myself. To see another suffer causes a severe reaction of sympathetic suffering. How would I be able to mourn myself? I like being alone. I like feeling and processing on my own time. It's difficult to witness or even fathom my mother's loss in her eyes. It breaks my heart to know my father's heart is not whole. It troubles me to see my little brother lose his best friend and only brother. How do you bear the pain of all those around you and still find the strength to hold on yourself?

I have to say after sitting shiva for a few days now, I can say my perception of this ritual has changed. I may not be practicing and following all the rituals written in "the book," but there is something to be said about this process of mourning. I wish my son was old enough to be with me through this process. He is my hope and my light in life. To not have him with me, when I need his light most, is challenging. Yet, I happen to have found light and hope in this peculiar process. The immediate family are in the same house sitting shiva for seven days. Family and friends are visiting and surrounding you 24 hours a day for seven days. They are there for you in such big ways, even without anything being said or done. Some have flown from far away cities and countries. Some are here for fifteen minutes and others everyday. Friends you haven't spoken to in fifteen years surprise you with a sense of respect and honor by visiting you during your time of need. It's so comforting having a household full of noise, albeit it may be mostly the noise of hurt. Besides the seven day of grieving, I find it is most importantly the seven days of remembering. We are sifting through pictures, Facebook, and text messages. We are telling stories of the things he's done for one another. We are talking about the places he's seen, the crazy things he's done. We are rehashing childhood stories. We are even mentioning our regrets and wishes. Friends are telling stories we've never heard before. We are talking about Robin every day, every minute...his heart of gold. He is on our mind always. We cry, we laugh, we are sad and happy. We are living. We are moving through the common stages of grieving, together. I believe this will be a lifelong process, but sitting shiva helps us to begin our lives again.

So now, my only fear about sitting shiva is the reality of life afterward. These seven days are unrealistic and uncommon. It's not the normal days of our lives. What will my everyday life be without my brother Robin? I still don't know the answer to that. I'm still sitting shiva. What I do know, is that my life will still be filled with love and happiness and Robin will always be a part of that. He will always be with me and live through me. And no matter what happens after shiva, I know we will all be okay.

Robin, we all miss you terribly so. Please come back to me in my dreams. I want to see you again. I love you!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Robin Joseph Azoulay

At my brother's service on August 12, 2009, I spoke a few words. The idea of summing up my brother's life or trying to express what he meant to me in a few words seemed daunting. As soon I started writing, the words and tears flowed endlessly. It was agonizing and soothing at the same time. Even better still was sharing this with all of Robin's friends and family. It was such a pleasurable sight to see so many people in honor of Robin and in support for us. Thank you all for those that were there physically and in spirit! I'd like to share again my words to those that couldn't make it. I only hope these words comfort you as much as they have comforted me in writing and in speaking them.

First thank you everyone for coming and pouring your hearts out with me and my family. I'm not sure what to say, I just know I wanted to say something.

My brother, my older brother, Robin. We weren't always close, but that never really mattered. He was always there for me with his heart wide open. He was a natural giver and lover. To know him was to know love. Robin truly had a heart of gold. And even though his heart failed him yesterday, I know his heart and soul is still pouring and flowing with love for all of us. There is just no other like him in this world. He will live on through all of our hearts.

For me, the memories that keep flooding me are the moments of Robin as an uncle to my son, Mathew. Their time together was not nearly enough, yet he left a deep impression in his heart, as he did with all that knew him.

In my dreams
I'll always see you soar above the sky
In my heart
There will always be a place for you
For all my life, I'll keep a part of you with me
And everywhere I am, there you'll be.
There you'll be!


this photo is resting with Robin...

rest in beautiful peace Robin...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Waxing or Shaving

I probably have put way too much thought into this imaginary debate in my head. I wax my legs, bikini, eyebrows, and lips (and once long ago underarms too). I am a fan of the waxing for many reasons, but I find that I have been questioning whether I should switch back to using the razor on my legs. I made the switch for my underarms over a year ago and now, the question is: should I switch from waxing to shaving my legs?

So let me have this mental debate on my blog:

Right off the bat, waxing is hassle free. It cuts back on your beautification process in the morning. The less I have to do in the morning, the better. And then, you don't have to wax again for another 4-6 weeks. And although the hair does grow back it doesn't feel stubbly or prickly at all. It grows back softer and has a long lasting, silky smooth feeling. Gotta love that! You also avoid the razor burns, cuts and nicks. Oh and another thing, hair growth diminishes over long time wax use.

So why should I change? Good question:

I think the most sucky thing about waxing is having long hair during the most inopportune times. For example, you are at about 3-4 weeks since your last wax. Your hair is growing in, enough so that you avoid wearing shorts and skirts, but not enough to schedule the next appointment. So while in that "in between" phase, your friends ask you to go to the beach, or even worse you go out with your friends wearing jeans, meet a hot guy at a bar, and well you can fill in the blanks on that one. The other annoying thing is finding the time for the wax appointments that are congruent with your wax lady. It's like scheduling your pap smear, you need to do it a month in advance or all the slots get filled.

And on a side note, I'm not sure which side "cost" should land on. I never did a cost comparison analysis, but it seems waxing would be more costly. Anyone that shaves want to weigh in on their cost?

So while the negative surely don't outweigh all the benefits to waxing, it does make me wonder why I don't just shave sometimes!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


For those that knew me in my college dorm days, know that my walls were filled with Absolut magazine ads. I collected these ads for the simple reason that I loved the creative genius of their advertisement. I actually still have them all (just not on my walls). I also have two (yes, two not one) copies of the book: "Absolut Book, the Absolut Vodka Advertising Story." Thanks Denise! I eventually stopped collecting the ads while still appreciating the awesomeness of the Absolut ads.

Even their commercials as recent as the one I saw yesterday was awesome:
"Doing things differently leads to something exceptional"

Ten plus years later, I am only now starting to see another company match the level of creativeness in their advertisement. Of course, this is based on my own personal opinion and taste. And ironically, this company is also selling alcohol. The company I am referring to is Corona! Instead of collecting the magazine ads and tacking them on my walls, I figured I'd just share them on my blog. Plus, most of the ads I've seen have been on billboards.

Note how the ads say "Relax Responsibly" instead of "Drink Responsibly" - Genius! I love it!

Here are a few, in no particular order:

Before I go, let me leave you with this:
I am MADD...a mother against drunk driving!
Support the MADD blog too.

If you must drink and drive, drink Pepsi.
Friends don't let friends drink and drive.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I am an emotional girl.
I live and breathe with my emotions.

I've got this passionate heart that just overflows with emotions.
It cascades through every ounce of me.
It exudes through my eyes.
It embodies my personality.
It shares with my words.
It carries on in my writing.
It lives through me.

My emotions empower me and drain me just the same.
My emotions can be reactive, preemptive, and also calculated.
My emotions hinder me yet make me soar.
My emotions define me and make me grow.
My emotions burden me and they also release me.
My emotions are complex yet so simple.
My emotions are in tune with my body.
My emotions don't hide.
My emotions are me.

I live and breathe with my emotions and I love that about me.



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