A Tribute to a Boy and His Dog

Published by Rebecca at 7:58 PM under

~To Peter, and the dog that you loved~

What we have enjoyed, we can never lose…all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” 

-Helen Keller



Rook    August 15, 2002 – February 1, 2011

I never knew how strong my love could be until I had my first child.

I never knew how deep my grief could be until I lost my first pet, a beautiful lab named Nikki.

Tuesday, Rook, a beautiful Golden Retriever, lost his battle with bone cancer.


Rook was not my dog; he was the beloved companion of my friend, Peter McMurray.  Rook was a beautiful, gentle and loyal friend of every member of the McMurray family.

I only heard Rook bark once, when I came to his door for the very first time.  He never barked again, at least that I could hear, when I visited his home.

Rook always greeted me at the top of the stairs, tail wagging, eyes sparkling.  He loved having visitors and if you were loved by the McMurrays, you were loved by Rook.  Once you were part of his world, you were a visitor no more, but a member of his family.

The moment Rook figured out that I would pet him the moment he sat at my feet, we became instant friends.  He would often get scolded if he bothered me for too much affection.  He was such a big goof of a dog with the sweetest look of longing, I could neither turn him away nor shoo him away.

I once said that if I offered Rook an inch, he would take a yard.  And it was true.  There was no such thing as too much attention.

It wasn’t long before Rook wormed his way into the hearts of the rest of my family.  When we first heard of Rook’s illness, we were deeply saddened and dreaded the day that we would see him for the last time.

Rook somehow knew that it was important to me to have a few portraits of him.  I wasn’t able to photograph him the day I planned to.  I was anxious, knowing that Rook was probably the only one who knew when his time would come.  I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to have my final moments with him.

He waited for me, and on Sunday he and I had our photo shoot and I gave him what was to be his last head and belly rub.  He was tired, but he was a happy, willing subject, as I lay flat on the floor in his face; following him around from room to room laughing as the bribing with treats backfired, all in the hopes of getting the perfect shot.


He was his rugged, handsome self.  At times, he even seemed to deliberately pose for me.

Since Rook’s passing, I have wondered if I could imagine Rook as a person, who that person would be…today, I figured it out.  If Rook were a person, I believe he would have been Matthew Cuthbert from “Anne of Green Gables”.  Strong, gentle, playful, faithful, stubborn, but the kindest of human beings that could ever be.

Rook was not my dog, but Rook lives on in my heart just as much today as he has over the last five years, and just as deeply as if he had been my own dog.

This is for you Peter, because he truly was your dog, and you were truly his boy.

Farewell, Rook.  You will be greatly missed.


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Why Does Tomato Juice Taste So Much Better on an Airplane?

Published by Rebecca at 6:00 AM under


In July 2009, my husband and I took our first international flight out of the country without our family.  We were on our way to meet our baby-in-waiting, Fernanda Carolina.  Having started the adoption process 3 years before, she was hardly a baby anymore, but in our minds, she was still an abandoned baby waiting to come home to her forever family.

She was 2 1/2 when we saw our first picture of her.  She was 5 when we met her for the first time.

This is a journal entry that I wrote on the plane on Zac’s iTouch.  I forgot completely about it until he sent it to me by e-mail  as he was getting it ready to sell.

I can't believe we are really on our way to Guatemala.  The vision in my head of meeting Fernanda and actually holding her in my arms overwhelmed me and I cried all the way through take off.  I am grateful for a window seat with nobody right next to me, so there will be no hyperventilating or panic attacks.  It is a little unnerving sitting so close to the engine and it is quite loud...so I'm feeling pretty grateful to Zac for loaning me his beloved iTouch with his amazingly eclectic collection of music.

As I expected, I am already missing my children and it's only been 2 hours.  As I think back over the last 12 hours, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such amazing children.  With all the stress of packing and organizing it got a little tense last night. Thank you Lexie for your reassurance and comfort; and Zoe for your getting out of bed to snuggle with me even though you were almost asleep; and Zac for answering my barrage of questions and being the ever-sensible one in the midst of my emotional-ness; and Jeremy for saying "I think I should take the girls to see a movie", and making yourself available in the evenings.  I am so blessed.
Why does tomato juice taste so much better on an airplane ?


These were Pat’s first moments with Fernanda.  We both were slightly hesitant…would she like us?  Would we like her?  Could our love for her overcome our language barrier?

You can see from these pictures…there were no barriers of any kind.


The days went by quickly.  It was a little unnerving to be confined to the orphanage, which seemed more like a private school to us than a “hogar”.  High concrete walls topped with barbed wire surrounded the perimeter of the property, and no one could enter or leave without having one of the employees  unlock the heavy metal door. 


The children had a small courtyard to play in, and they seemed content with their tightly guarded and controlled environment.  Most of their time was spent at little tables, coloring, drawing and fighting over the markers.


We attempted to overcome our claustrophobia by going for walks when the children were napping or having meals.  Pat took many long walks, taking care of the errands and shopping for groceries.

I spent as much time with Fernanda as I could.  I knew I wouldn’t be bringing her home with me on this trip.


…..to be continued


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“She glances at the photo, and the pilot light of memory flickers in her eyes.” -Frank Deford

Published by Rebecca at 8:11 PM under



The Christmas that I turned 4, my parents bought me a little pink piano almost like the one in this picture.  I don’t have many pictures of myself as a child, but I do have a photo of myself and my mom in front of the Christmas tree with my little pink piano.

I loved that piano.  I made up songs, and I played songs that I knew by ear.  From that point on, I knew I wanted to learn to play the piano.

When I turned 7, my mom and my grandma, both of whom were raising me at the time, bought me a real piano.  It was a Steinway, it was shiny black, and it was beautiful.  I picked up where I left off as a 4 year old, teaching myself songs that I already knew and making my own melodies.

I waited patiently for the day that I would take piano lessons.

Just a few short years later, my mom re-married and we moved to a new city, leaving my grandma behind.  I got a new puppy, and my grandma got the piano.

I never took piano lessons, and that piano never found its way back into my life.

In the summer of 2000, my good friend Brian Holdsworth showed up to my house on a Saturday morning with a very big gift.  It was a piano…black, with gold lettering, like my beloved Steinway.  It made me ecstatic to once again hear those beautiful notes coming from my dining room.  My son, Zac, after 2 years of learning piano on a keyboard, finally had a real piano to play on.  He began taking lessons again, and he made that piano his own with the beautiful classical music he was learning to play.  He went on to major in Music in college and now makes a living singing and playing piano.

Each one of my children has learned to play that piano.  It has created and re-created every type of music that they have obsessed over, from classical to Broadway tunes.  It has had been a companion to suffering, joy, pride anxiety, accomplishment and recreation.

Today, it stands quietly in the family room, waiting for another determined musician to grace its keys.  I imagine that every time someone comes down the stairs, it holds its breath in anticipation that the little black stool in front of it will be occupied and its keys will move again. 

Every now and then, I come across that picture of my mom and I next to my little pink piano on that Christmas morning; and every time I do, I can swear that I hear a beautiful black Steinway with gold letters calling to me from downstairs…


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I Have My Father's Eyes

Published by Rebecca at 5:47 PM under

Every now and then, a picture will appear somewhere that really touches me. I don't always know why it does...sometimes it triggers a deep memory that I have repressed, or it's just so clearly an expression of God's beauty that I can't ignore it.

Recently a friend, fellow photographer and my gentle mentor posted a picture on Facebook of her father. I didn't take the time to read the caption because I was so captivated by the image, but it was clear to me that it was somebody that she was related to. In his face I could see her smile, her eyes, her expressions; and if I could meet him, I imagined that I could also see her gestures. It's funny how you can know someone only casually, but see a picture that bears a resemblance to that person and suddenly you feel like you've known them for years. It was a photo that she had taken of her dad so that he could have a nice Facebook profile picture. After I left a comment, I expected tons of people to see the same resemblance and post what I had, but as fate would have it, I was the only one who had.

I thought it was odd that no one else said anything about the resemblance...and the more I looked at the picture, the stronger the emotion became that it evoked in me. I knew right then that God was speaking into my heart about my own father, and about Himself. I knew I would have to write about it before I forgot, or before it became just a fleeting emotion.

At birth, I was given up for adoption by my Filipina mother. My biological father was an American serviceman who was stationed in the Philippines during the late 50s. He is not named on my birth certificate, and I have only one picture of him that was taken with my mother before I was born. I don't know anything of his background except that he was a classical musician and a decorated Air Force pilot.

I keep that photo on the refrigerator so that I can see it every day and be reminded that I do indeed look like somebody. I have his ears and his mouth. I have my mom's forehead and her eyes. There are some days that I walk by it purposely so that I can connect with the two people that created me that I have never met.

Some days I have great sadness because I have never gotten to look straight at them in real life and see all the qualities that make me who I am. Maybe I have her smile and her gestures. Maybe I laugh like my dad and have his intellect. There are days when I wish that I could just take a random picture of them and see something of myself there; and even more, have some one else see something of myself in there. I wish I could meet them and watch them walk, talk, laugh, tell stories and eat food.

But this is not to be, at least, for now.

God has given me four beautiful children who I look at and see myself; and when I look really closely, I can see the resemblance between my children and the grandparents that they have never met. Each one bears a physical mark that is shared with one or the other of my parents. All four inherited musical talent that I never would have imagined could be passed down in such painful silence.

Then there are photos...Lorraine Varela's image of her father with all the striking similarities that I wish I could have posted here; and the two photos above that I was able to catch while happening into a private moment after a wedding between a bride and her grandfather. If you look real close, you can see a small tear on his cheek. Maybe there weren't obvious resemblances between the two in the photo, but I could see it that day in real life.

So here's to you, Lorraine, and you, Kim. May you always see and cherish the resemblance that you bear to your family.

As for me, I have my Father's eyes.

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Under Jeremy's Hood

Published by Rebecca at 6:45 PM under

 During the summer before my senior year of high school, I took an Auto Mechanics class. It was taught by one of the cutest teachers (at least I thought) at Redondo Union High School, Russ Parkinson. I'm not sure I had any real interest in learning about cars...my dad was a car mechanic par excellence, and any automobile I would ever own would be impeccably maintained by him. I would never need to get any oil on my hands.

My good friend and partner in crime, Pat Garrison (otherwise known now as Trish Sipek) and I sacrificed our summer mornings to oil changes, gapping spark plugs, changing tires, jumping batteries, checking and replacing fluids, repairing windshield wipers, taking carburetors apart and putting them back together, and replacing mufflers...I hated that the solvent we used to get the grease off of our hands took off my fingernail polish and I whined incessantly that my claustrophobia should preclude me from having to scoot underneath the car on my back. Trish and I were the only girls in the class and there was no way we were going to be given any special treatment.

We thought we were just indulging our infatuation with Mr. Parkinson, but in reality, we were becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of auto repair. Later when we both owned cards, we could talk shop with most of the guys that we hung out with and when our cars needed mechanical attention, we could not be bamboozled into spending money on things that weren't necessary. And we didn't pay the outrageous hourly rate charged by most mechanics, because we knew all the right people in all the right places who would work on our cars for free or inexpensively because we knew their lingo.

The time came for me to pass the mantle to my daughter Lexie, who recently took a 9 month course in Auto Maintenance. Now she understand how her car works and can car talk with the best of them. I know that if she breaks down somewhere, she won't panic, and if she needs to, she can change her tire and jump start her car when her battery dies.

I have always loved all things mechanical. I love the underside of cars with all the hoses and wires. I have read and re-read the manual that goes with my car and love to try to diagnose my car troubles before my mechanic does.

So, I say thank you to Russ Parkinson, who made me cut my perfectly polished fingernails and who helped me overcome my fear of being on my back underneath a car, and ultimately taught me that there is true beauty underneath the hood of a car.

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The Price of Serenity

Published by Rebecca at 8:19 AM under

I have always loved the sound of water...dripping, flowing, rippling, cascading. I grew up on the beaches of Southern California where the sound of waves crashing on the shore was as much a part of my life as having the radio on.

Now I live in Snohomish, a suburb of Seattle, WA. I can't hear waves crashing, I don't have the assaulting smell of salty air that hits my nose the minute I open my front door. Sand doesn't hide in every pair of shoes that I own.

I live just a short walk from a beautiful man made lake that I can see from my living room window. During each season, there is a different view of it and different ways that the light hits it and sends its beautiful messages into my living room.

But I really miss the sound of water.

So I asked my husband, a landscape designer and manager, if I could have a fountain in the front of my house where I could hear its music.
If you come over to my house, you will be swallowed up by my enchanting landscape. Everything growing in my yard has a name and its favorite way to grow. It is the most peaceful, visually captivating landscape on the planet.

But the sweetest breath of God's fresh air is the fountain and the little pond that surrounds it. Water flows up through the rock and cascades over the side into the home of scads of little tadpoles and other water creatures. As dusk, you will hear a symphony of frogs that are audible throughout the neighborhood. The melody and rhythm of the background music is provided by the gentle trickling of the water. The magnum opus has no beginning and no end.

If only I could get as close as those leaves, floating on the surface.

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God Invented Hilarity

Published by Rebecca at 1:27 PM under

I've always believed that God has a hilarious side to His character. Just look around you...there are a lot of things to laugh at in our world.

Alicia Shockey laughs a lot, and she doesn't really seem to take herself too seriously. I love that.

God invented hilarity, and this moment of hilarity that I had the honor of capturing is but a glimpse of God's true sense of humor.

Thanks for the reminder, Alicia.

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You're the Reason for the Teardrop on My Camera

Published by Rebecca at 9:24 AM under

Every year in June, friends and family at church, in our neighborhoods, at our schools, celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of their children. For some it's graduation from Jr. High to High School, for some it's 6th grade to Jr. High, for some it's High School to College and for some it's College to infinity and beyond.
Every year in June, I go to somebody's graduation, or somebody's graduation party. And every year, I am touched by all the words that are spoken by both the parents and the grads. Sometimes I don't really even know the families of the grads but I am still moved by their emotion. I always leave these occasions feeling like I know everybody just a little better.

Such was the case with Beth's graduation party. Watching her open presents, listening to her banter back and forth with her Mom, hearing the stories of the relatives who had traveled from different states and what her plans are for the future...I almost felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation. Such an outpouring of love and pride for Beth and all that she has accomplished...it all made me wish that I had not waited so long to get to know this beautiful girl.

I shed a few tears that day. I probably ate way more Baklava than I should have. I embarrassed my girls by teaching the Electric Slide to some middle aged women such as myself. I got to listen in on and participate in some family intimacy. I left knowing this family a whole lot better.

I love that.

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The Right Hand Better Know What the Left Hand is Doing

Published by Rebecca at 11:59 AM under

Jesse Bica, the world's fastest jump roper in the world.

This is no joke...he won the World Championship Speed Jumper title in South Africa last year. I never even knew there was such a thing.
Last summer, as part of his Eagle Scout project, he organized a fundraiser for a friend who had been in a near fatal car accident. This fundraiser was a jumproping exhibition and included routines done by the whole "Hot Dog" jump rope team.

I went to this fundraiser and I was flabberghasted by what I saw. It wasn't just double dutch...it was gymnastics, it was speed, it was teamwork. It was a variety of athleticism that I had never seen before.

What I was most impressed by was the intricacy of their teamwork...each jumper was absolutely and totally dependent on the turners for the rhythm of their jumping, the coordination of their flips and somersaults, and ultimately the safe outcome of their routines. One wrong move and a flip between two ropes could result in a broken neck and permanent paralysis.

The turners depended on the rhythmic sound of the jumpers to keep their own rhythm.

It was all a very coordinated group effort made up of individuals' precision athleticism that caused me to re-think my definition of team work.

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And Jesus said, "Let the Little Children Come to Me"

Published by Rebecca at 1:52 PM under

This is Sadie. She is #4 in a lineup of 5 children. As her mom, Allie and I were preoccupied taking pictures of her newborn baby sister Lola, Sadie played contentedly nearby, talking to herself, laughing, and occasionally wandering back over to make sure that Lola was being well cared for. It was quite the photoshoot for Sadie...she wasn't really concerned about how many pictures were taken of her, what her hair looked like or even if there was chocolate cookie smeared all over her chin. She was just happy to be with us. Such is the life of a sibling so far down in the pecking order.

It has been said that if we allow God to be our birth control, we will have a huge family, because God loves children. It has also been said that we should never have more children than we can afford to take care of. It's a good thing that I have never heard both of those comments come from the same mouth at the same time.

Big families are a blessing. Children are a blessing. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

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