This past Wednesday was November 28. That will always be a powerfully important date in my life. This year's 11/28 was the one year anniversary of the blog post "Gang violence, up close", which is linked at the top-right of this page. The original title was "Life and death in one day", because:
Life -- My daughter Samantha was born on November 28, 2002.
Death -- I came upon the fatal shooting of Julian Ruiz on November 28, 2006.
It's like having a birthday on 9/11 or getting married on a day that later becomes the date of some awful event. Brings mixed emotions.
I decided to give some time to Julian's memory in the morning, and went to the memorial that's setup near the site of the shooting. I had written a letter to Julian and wanted to drop it off. As I did that, I noticed that Julian's dad, brother and lot of Julian's friends were hanging out there, just talking and reminiscing. I went over to them and ended up spending almost 90 minutes with Julian's dad. That conversation may be recapped another time, but not now.
The rest of the day was Samantha's! We had a great time eating at her favorite restaurant (Escalante's), watching her open presents and just basically making a huge deal of the whole thing. That's my job and I love it.
Here are a few things you may or may not know about Samantha, and then I'll conclude with a string of pictures from the past two years.
--She almost didn't survive to be born. Jamie had an emergency appendectomy at 8 months of pregnancy, which is very rare, and the surgery was high-risk for both her and unborn Samantha. I'll post that story in full in the next couple of weeks.
--She just turned 5 but she's been reading for quite a while. She read every one of her birthday cards by herself.
--Our bedtime routine is totally insane and fun. I pick her up, spin her around and throw her into bed (it's called the "super bunny hop"). One night I'll read a book, and the next night I'll make up a story. She gets to pick whether I say a "sweet prayer" or "silly prayer". Then she picks which song I sing to her. It's one of our most cherished times, and she talks about it regularly during the daytime hours, anticipating what lies ahead.
--From the time she was 18 months old, we've had a regular daddy/daughter date to eat kolaches on Saturday mornings. At first it was just me and her, but now usually all four of us go. She could put away two whole kolaches when she was two years old. You don't know what a kolache is? You should. They're awesome. See info here. Samantha's favorite is ham & cheese, although she's starting to enjoy the Italian chicken variety as well.
--My pet name for her is "sugar booger", sometimes shortened to "sugar".