Hi Recipe Testers,

Many of you may remember the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral. My life has been Six Funerals and a Wedding. All of you know about Jeanette, but in this week alone there were three funerals. Our beloved Jeanette's on Saturday, Debi Stull's sweet dad on Monday and Christy Cushman's dear mom on Tuesday. I'm still thinking of Ninette's Mom, Vincent's Dad, and Lady Anne's sister. And I only have to go back a few weeks before that to think of Ashley's Dad and Bill's mother. The waves of sadness as we think about those we love often hit us at odd times. One little thing: a smell, a food, a song, will remind us of all that we love about someone and then feelings come flooding forward. My heart is a bit heavier these days and I sometimes feel like tears are hiding right behind my eyelids almost as if my eyelids have an extra weight on them. But I do keep finding beauty and happiness in many things: Melissa Madeline's birthday at Legoland Monday, the beautiful wedding on Saturday, our annual Halloween Party tomorrow. All of these happy things that make us go forward. And every time I see beauty in nature, like the sun shining on the water as I drove back to Ventura today, I think of all the people I love that are not with us physically, but are in spirit and in our hearts.

The thing about death is that you never actually get over it. Anna Brady died over 20 years ago. And just as I typed her name I started to cry! 20 years have past and the mention of her name still makes me cry. Of course that first year was the worst. I had so many nightmares over and over again. It just couldn't be undone. Every time I look at the sun and see it shining down on me, I think of Anna. Or when I see Grass Mountain I think of Anna. And so life is changed. It is never quite the same as it was before. It doesn't mean we can't find all sorts of joy and happiness in everyday, because we can. I'm not miserable, but just mention the person I miss and my eyes tear, my throat chokes up and my heart hurts. But even though it causes pain remembering the loss, the fact that I can physically feel it makes me know she is still with me. That she isn't gone because we can still "physically feel" them in our heavy hearts. And I can have my moment and remember the person and then go forward. It seems the best to face grief head-on instead of hiding from it. To get the tears out and let them fall and say how you feel. Then you can go forward.

I was standing in line at Trader Joe's today and somehow from talking to the checker I found out that her husband died in a car accident 5 years ago with her son. The son survived. And I listened to her tell me different things she does with her son from fishing to ice hockey and how proud she is of him. And then she said he spends every Sunday with his grandmother, because her husband was the grandmother's only child. So even though she missed her son, she can be with her grandson every Sunday. And there I am crying for this grandmother I never met and this woman in the grocery store whose name I don't even know. But as I'm rolling my cart full of groceries away the woman said "but my daughter just had a baby so I have that happiness in my life. Happiness still comes after the very worst things."

On Saturday, Jason and the girls went to Jeanette's funeral. The Chaplain from Children's hospital, Vikki, gave the eulogy. She told the story of Princess Jay and Prince John who lived in the Kingdom of Ventura. Their fairy Godmother, known as Auntie, came to take care of the Prince and Princess. Then when Princess Jay when she was five years old had to go into the dark forest and battle a monster called Cancer. Then she went to stay in a castle in another kingdom (the hospitals)....and so the story went on as a fairy tale and everyone there was weeping but story helping everyone, especially the children, cope with this senseless loss.

I have so many recipes to send you from Thanksgiving food to just great fall recipes. Then I need to send you every recipe from the wedding on Saturday because it was some of the best I've ever made. I worked really hard on every recipe and was worried because the wedding was Vegan. I didn't want people to say "well, it was good for Vegan food" I wanted them to say "this was the most delicious food I've ever had at a wedding" and have no clue it happened to be Vegan. And they did. Today I've been cooking for our annual homeschool Halloween party tomorrow and I want to send you that menu as well. And while my life is a mixture of sadness, happiness and food, I don't want to paste the recipes here now with the obituaries.

So I'm ending with prayers for all of our loved ones, those recently lost and those lost long ago, but who are still in our hearts. We must be filled with gratitude for the Blessings and beauty we are showered with everyday. Life is short and we must cherish each moment, because it is the moments that mean so much.

Love, Maili

PS And the FIRST response I got from the recipe testers to this e-mail was from Ray, with the joyous news that Dan's baby boy just arrived! Just the happy response I needed!

From the Ventura County Star:

We are deeply saddened by the passing of 14-year-old Jeanette "Jay" Orrantia who left us on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 14 after a 9-year battle with cancer.

Jeanette was an absolute inspiration to all who knew her. Her family, classmates and the entire community were touched by her extraordinary grace and courage in the face of adversity. She unknowingly motivated others to follow her lead and stay strong regardless of life's difficulties. Jeanette's undiscriminating kindness toward both humans and animals, and her gorgeous smile, touched so many who desired to know the secret to her unwavering positivity. She was a difference-maker, she was beautiful inside and out, and she will never be forgotten.

Jeanette will be forever missed by her beloved brother Johnny Orrantia and "Auntie" Rosemary Shorr. She is preceded in death by her father, John Orrantia III. She is survived by her mother, Tammy Hatfield of Bakersfield; grandmothers, Yolanda Dimas of Las Cruces, N.M. and Janice Brown of Bakersfield; grandfather, John Orrantia II of New Cuyama; great-grandmothers, Rosella Ayala of Ventura and Jean Lopez of Bakersfield; and many aunts, uncles, cousins and others who loved and supported Jeanette from near and far.

"You were the brilliant star that cascaded from the sky and landed in our arms. You illuminated our world for a short but wide swath of time and became the fabric of our lives. Inspiring us to keep moving ahead, you carried your unparalleled strength and light like a torch on this crazy, beautiful path. You never knew how amazingly stunning you were to the eyes, minds and hearts of all you met along the way. Those left behind in your stardust will forever shimmer in the glitter of your all-encompassing love, one-of-a-kind style, and zest for life. Rock star, superstar, SUPERNOVA... how blessed we are to have been warmed by your rapturous glow. We love you, Jay" -Alyssa-


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