“This is story 10 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Motherhood Series. 10 mothers give us a glimpse into a small portion of their motherhood journey. I am so grateful that these 10 women gave me the opportunity to share their stories on my platform. Though they focus on different topics, each mother has gone through challenges that tested their strength, patience, and sense of self. Thank you again for sharing.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory
This is Estephanie’s story, written in her own words:
“My name is Estephanie, but friends call me Juelz. I’m the proud mother of Elían, fiancé to Tone, Founder of Divine Eye, LLC, Licensed Esthetician, and Body Sculptress at Adriana’s Beauty Salon.
When I first found out I was pregnant my exact words were ‘holy shit,’ as I smiled. This is not something our family knows, but our son was planned per say. We knew our future wouldn’t be easy and that it would be scary, but we loved each other and knew that we would figure it out. My son turns 4 in January, and man he has been our biggest blessing. Being a mother to me means endless amounts of strength, courage, and resilience. It’s a feeling that no other can ever fulfill.
You can have the crappiest day, but even when your child is figuring out their emotions, they manage to still make you smile. You sit and observe them, you then realize, ‘My God, you were in my stomach. I created those beautiful hands, that smile.’ And then I think, ‘Damn you sound just like me.’ Like Faith Evans said, ‘I never knew a love like this before,’ because my family is different in many ways like many others. We’re all unique. I’m a single mother to Elían while my life partner, Tone, is incarcerated.
Honestly, my mom was aware of our situation from the beginning. However, Tone isn’t just someone I met 5-6 years ago. I’ve known him my entire life. We’ve been a part of each other’s lives since we were 12. We have history, we dated in high school. Puppy love, right? But I always knew he’d be an amazing partner. My fiancé was fighting a case previous to our relationship’s beginning. My mom knew about his past, and they have an amazing relationship. My family didn’t know about his case, and I was very private about people I dated. So when I finally brought someone to the family they were excited. His situation wasn’t my story to tell. It was Tone’s private matters. We didn’t want the negativity to surround us. People are ruthless sometimes with questions and overstepping boundaries.
But of course, secrets always find a way to come out. My family became aware of his case while I was 7 months pregnant. By then, they had gotten to know him for who he was and witnessed how amazing, hardworking, and loving he truly is. They witnessed how attentive he was while I was pregnant and after I gave birth. He made sure to stay home and give his son time. By then, it was too late for the judgement. My family loves Tone. I feel like we just didn’t give room for judgement. We focused on ourselves.
We had a lot of court dates, even before I was pregnant. We never knew which court date they would remand him. My anxiety was pretty high. His case is a federal case, and the judge truly had the say if he’s remanded before his sentencing or not. During my pregnancy, all we did was plan and discuss how we would raise our son. We discussed scenarios because we truly never knew which court would be the last one until it was.
May 15, 2018 my fiancé, my son, and I were joined by other family members as we walked into the federal courthouse located in Oakland, CA. The day had come for sentencing and we believed a miracle would happen due to his many accomplishments and life changing choices.
My life changed in a blink of an eye when the judge sentenced my fiancé to ten years and eleven months. My son was two days away from turning four months old. It was devastating to hear. I dropped to my knees. I couldn’t believe it. It was his first time being sentenced – never missed a drug test, attended all court ordered classes, and worked a full-time graveyard shift (he does drywall). Minimum for each count was 5 years. Tone was just as surprised.
Life was great up until that point. I was doing amazing in my career. My son was healthy after a difficult delivery. We had just mailed out invitations for our wedding. I was very hesitant to plan our wedding, but I said ‘Why live in fear?’ Tone was waiting for me to give him the okay to plan the wedding. I was afraid this would happen and it became my reality. I don’t regret it one bit. Life had different plans for us. We knew the possibility was high, but like everyone, you pray and hope for the best.
The people closest to me understand my position of wanting to wait for Tone. There was concern, but in regards to my mental state. They reminded me of all my options. Reminding me that I too matter and that any decision I took, they would stand by it. Meaning if I waited they would support it, and if I decided to walk away they would support me too.
I haven’t wanted to throw in the towel because of the love and respect I have for Tone. I know I don’t owe him anything. I know this case has absolutely nothing to do with me and I know it’s me putting a lot of hope into the relationship. I cannot get up and leave, I say that because I’d be leaving for the wrong reasons. I’d be leaving because I’m ‘lonely,’ not because I don’t love him or because he doesn’t treat me right. Of course I want my family to be complete, of course I want to have date night to get dolled up while holding hands with my partner, but if I walk away, that’s walking away from my family.
The journey hasn’t been easy. Single moms and mothers like me, who aren’t single but due to circumstances have to do it alone, we forget to praise ourselves for all that we do. There are lonely nights where we stay up to cry, wake up with puffy eyes, and handle business. When there’s so much to be done you don’t know where to start but you do. The amazing memories we create with our children, good and bad that you can look back and laugh.
Motherhood was never supposed to be easy. It is the next step of growth. Motherhood teaches you to unlock those traumas you’ve been avoiding because you don’t want to project it onto your child. Motherhood gets you in a loophole of emotions, but doing motherhood alone without your life partner is hard. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a partner pass away. I’m blessed to be able to receive a phone call, an email, or these days – even a visit.
The first years I struggled with my depression and anxiety but I managed it. I lost myself in that process. I lost my glow. I lost my happiness because I was stripped away from what I thought was my perfect life. In reality, what is perfection? I don’t think anyone knows what that is. I just knew I needed to fight, and that the fight wasn’t going to be easy. Everyone’s first thoughts are, ‘Oh she’s going to leave him, watch,’ or ‘Oh, she’s going to cheat on him if she waits, watch,’ or even worse, ‘Watch her wait and the relationship fails.’ Like sheesh, can we be a bit more optimistic here please?
It truly takes a village, my support system has helped me so much with my child. When I needed to go back to work, all hands were on deck. My mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-laws helped me take care of my son. Mondays and Wednesdays my mom would watch him, the other days my sister-in-law would watch him, and when she couldn’t anymore my mother-in-law took over. My cousins would come over to help me so I could catch up with laundry or cleaning while they helped me with my son. They watched me break down crying an endless amount of times. My cousins and close friends gave me a safe space to vent and plot my next moves. My mom motivated me even on the days I just wanted to be alone, she made sure to get me out of my comfort zone.
I found love in food. It was my coping mechanism even when I was a teen. However, I knew I needed to do something different but didn’t know what. I created myself a routine. Every week looked the same. But I grew tired of it. I would begin books and I couldn’t finish them. My attention span was so small and I couldn’t understand why if I truly loved reading books. Then it was time to dive deeper. I knew I needed to go back to therapy. I tried it but I was afraid to open the doors of Pandora’s Box. So I stopped, but I started to journal. Not every day, but I tried as much as I could. I prayed a lot and I cried a lot.
As a mother, naturally you are a nurturer. I love nurturing my family, that means my fiancé as well. Not only do I have to learn to cope with my roller coaster of emotions, but I too have to attend to my man’s needs and his vulnerabilities so he doesn’t lose his mind for not being here with his family and witnessing our son grow everyday. That’s his biggest fear because he grew up without a father too.
It’s far from easy for Tone. This was his biggest fear: not being able to watch his child grow up every day. He wishes he could be here, but he has his moments of depression and anger. He writes Elían letters and draws beautiful artwork so he could see them. It’s been harder for Tone when we did have visits – to sit in front of your child and not be able to hug them or even hold their hand due to COVID. If you break the rule, Tone can be sent to solitary confinement. Tone has been in solitary confinement many times during this pandemic, caught COVID twice, and was freezing because it was so cold in those cells.
What hurts the most is not knowing how he will come home from the traumas he’s endured during his life in prison. How he will handle the changes I’ve made during the time he was gone. I worry if we will be able to adapt to the new life after the honeymoon stage fades of having him home. How my son will handle his father being home, if he will react negatively when his dad wants to correct him or if it’s going to be awkward for him.
I can relate with my son because I also had to visit my father in prison until I was 25 years old. I know the feeling when I see my son watch his father enter the visiting room, how his eyes glow, and he cheeses under his facemask. The pandemic has been far from easy – it has been our biggest challenge. As of right now, we have no visits due to COVID-19. The facility is unaware when the visits will begin again due to cases rising. In the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic I organized a protest (#YOSOYTUVOZ Lompoc, CA) with the help of my family and other families to bring awareness to the inhumane acts that were taking place in the prison.
Not seeing each other for almost one year, and now being able to see each other and not hug each other is difficult. Helping my son understand that his daddy does love him but can’t hug him is devastating. Especially when he compares himself to other children and their fathers. I know that feeling because I also would do it as a little girl – but now as a mother it’s by far the worst feeling.
Growing up without a father was difficult. I didn’t understand why my father committed the same mistake knowing the high risk of being away from us. My father has always battled with addiction and being in and out of prison. The time my dad was home we have great memories of him, but I also have nightmares of him. I would take care of my dad when he was coked out. I would intervene in the physical beatings my mother received while he was under the influence. I worried if he would come home or not, and if he came home, I feared what state he would be in.
I’m a daddy’s girl 100% however, it does get overwhelming. It made me a giver and a nurturer yet gave me a cold heart. Although my father is no longer incarcerated, he struggles with his addiction. I can’t believe that although I’ll be 28 next month, I no longer have a healthy relationship with my father. When I’m dealing with heavy stuff I switch to survival mode. It’s been a journey to calm down the survival mode because I have a son now and can’t just get up and leave.
I feel that maybe my family is sympathetic towards my current situation because my mom went through the same thing with my dad. But my father was nothing like Tone. My family didn’t meet my father until after I turned 2 years old because he went to prison while my mom was pregnant with me. My dad wasn’t the best partner for my mother, a lot of healing needed to take place. And with Tone, it was peaceful, no drama, loving, respectful, and family oriented. It was a different experience my family witnessed with Tone. He had similarities like my dad given the choice of lifestyle they chose for various reasons, but he has my Papa’s (grandfather) hard working attitude and detail oriented when it comes to family.
The only thing my son and I can relate to is that Tone is incarcerated for mistakes that were previous to our relationship. The way I’m helping my son with not having his dad around is by teaching him coping mechanisms to help with his emotions while being frustrated. We do a lot of breathing techniques, drawing/painting when he’s sad or having an off day. When he’s mad I tell him to go to his room to take a breather, use the punching bag, or to use his drums. I like teaching him things Tone would teach him, and showing him movies Tone loves. I bring him to work with me, I’ve taught him how to fold towels, and help me with laundry. I do things with him that his dad and I emphasized we wanted to do. I speak highly of his dad and I remind him no matter where his daddy is, that he’s always thinking of him and loves him dearly.
Elían wants to know everything about his dad, from what he eats to what kind of cologne he wears. Sometimes at night is when it becomes harder for me. The hardest question by far has been, ‘Why daddy don’t love me or hug me? I miss him.’ Those were the words I heard the first time we visited him after COVID-19. It was a new facility we were going to and the first time seeing him since the last time we visited pre-pandemic. It was very rough for my son. Again, hearing that from a 3 year old was devastating. It was so hard to put the words together as I cried with him because as a child, I remembered that feeling.
My son is very attached to Tone given the circumstances. Their bond was strong even when I was pregnant. When he would hear his dad’s voice, he’d have a whole party in my belly. One thing about my son is he’s very curious and asks a lot of questions. This year we officially told him his dad was at a camp. He knows that his dad is at a camp correcting his actions by having an adult timeout. And sometimes, as adults we make mistakes and everything has a consequence whether it is good or bad, but when it is bad the timeouts are a little different. They have to go away for a little bit to learn new habits.
However, we emphasize that if it were up to his dad, he’d be at home with us every single day. I emphasize to him how much his daddy loves him. I have pictures of his dad everywhere. My son’s godparents have bought him a Build-a-Bear with his voice recording telling him how much he loves him so he can hear it everyday. Books about his daddy (wonderbly.com), also blankets with pictures of him when he was a baby with his dad.
Obstacles in life will always happen, no matter how great your plan is, no matter how good of a person you are, life will challenge you. I am learning to believe in myself because of motherhood. Everything life has taught me has led up to this moment. So when I find myself asking, ‘Why me?’ I now say, ‘Okay, so what’s the lesson here and where can I grow?’ Being a mother doesn’t mean having all the answers, it means figuring it out with the answers you do have and working from there.
It sounds so simple, but trust and communication is how Tone and I maintain our relationship. We are very raw with our conversations. We have conversations that couples find difficult to have – our fears, our regrets, our happiness, our past, our traumas, things we like about each other, and things we find difficult about each other. I am very open with my emotions and I’m like a firework. And Tone is more reserved and quiet about his emotions. But I can sense it just by the first moment I hear his voice. I cry a lot to him if I’m being honest. I get a sudden rush of guilt for complaining to him and he reminds me that I’m his partner and he needs to talk about these things with me. We pray a lot. We read the same books so we can discuss them to create conversation. I bought a deck of cards for couples to ask questions to get to know each other even more. We try to know everything about each other because all we can do is use our words to explain what and how we feel on a daily basis since we don’t have each other physically here.
I am hopeful Tone will be able to come home sooner than we ever expected. I am hopeful that this nightmare will just be a chapter in our story where we can look back on 20 years from now and say, ‘Damn, baby, we did that.’ Where we can tell our future grandchildren and great grandchildren our love story. Like not only did we overcome this sentence, but a whole pandemic too.
The best advice I can give someone that is dealing with this same scenario is to learn from each other. LEARN EACH OTHER’S TRIGGERS AND LOVE LANGUAGE. Learn to compromise, learn to understand one another. This journey is far from easy, there will be nights that you feel your heart is truly hurting and the tears won’t stop running down your face but it’s during those moments you grow. It’s during those moments you learn that although you feel like the world is against you, it’s not. Never say, ‘Why me?’ Say, ‘What do I need to learn during this time?’ Take this time to truly get out of your comfort zone. Learn to trust yourself because the doubt will eat you alive. Don’t listen to the bystanders, pay attention to the support and love you receive. No one will understand your relationship better than you and your partner.” -Estephanie
Before there was a “Bay Area Collection,” a “Vibes Collection,” an “Established Collection,” and so forth, Reaux&Co was merely a dream tucked safely in Pricilla’s heart. Since a young age, Pricilla knew she wanted to be her own boss, and she had everything planned out on how she would achieve her goal of owning and designing her own clothing line one day. So how did Reaux&Co go from just being thoughts and ideas jotted down on Pricilla’s phone to becoming a full blown business with over 1,300 sales and being sold in 2 physical store locations in just a little over a year? It started with an acceptance letter to FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
Pricilla was so thrilled that she got accepted into her dream college. Going to FIDM was always the plan she had set for herself. She loved designing clothes – cutting and sowing fabrics on the dress form and letting her mind run wild with what she could create. Her mom had other plans though. Due to the cost of tuition, her mom encouraged her to go the junior college route instead. Pricilla was devastated, she was certain that FIDM was her next step after high school. Still, she took her mom’s advice and went to San Francisco City College. She didn’t resent her mother for encouraging her to go to a junior college, but she was still headstrong about FIDM. She couldn’t let it go, and in turn, it made her lose her drive to go to school.
“I wouldn’t say resentful, but definitely stubborn,” Pricilla said remembering how she felt when she appeased her mom by going to a junior college. “I just had my mind set on it for so long. So when it didn’t happen, I was just so disconnected from even wanting to go to any other school. Even though SFCC had a fashion course and major, which I did take a couple of those classes, I was stubborn and wanted it how I always envisioned it.”
While in community college, she found herself very unmotivated. She had no idea what she wanted to do, or what she was even interested in outside of the fashion route. Pricilla started to feel like she was just going to school because it was something she was supposed to do because that’s what’s expected of everyone right after high school, but it wasn’t something she really wanted at the time. She decided to stop going to college and start working instead. Of course her mother wanted her to stay in school, but her mom also understood that she was an adult who could make her own decisions. Therefore, Pricilla believes her mom didn’t feel personally responsible for her dropping out. FIDM or not, going to school was her choice.
Pricilla felt really stuck in life. She didn’t know what direction to go, what career move was next, or where to even start. And then, she had her “saving grace,” her son, Ronin. She discovered soon after he was born that he was the push she needed all along to pursue her life-long dream of being a business owner. Pricilla knew it was finally time to put all of her marbles in her small business idea because she couldn’t afford childcare and had to find something she could do while still working from home and tending to her son. It only seemed right to name her clothing brand after the person that motivated her the most, Ronin. She took his nickname, “Ro,” and decided to put a spin on the spelling. She liked how aesthetically pleasing “Reaux” looked and rolled with it.
“He just made me look at life from a whole different perspective,” she said, revealing why having her son was so eye opening. “When you become a mom you really feel this weight of wanting to be so much better for this other life you’re now responsible for. I was so stuck before I had him, in terms of what I wanted out of life and the direction I should go in. After I had him, I knew I just had to go for it, for what I always wanted.”
Pricilla was very hesitant to launch Reaux&Co because she didn’t know how people would react to her line. She admits that her self-doubt was just her overthinking it, being scared to fail, and just overall being too hard on herself. After all, she has had these collection ideas in her phone for over a year before Reaux&Co actually launched. She already had the ideas, she just had to finalize her business. But Pricilla knew she had to start, and start it soon, because it wasn’t about just her anymore, it was about Ronin. She even went back to school the same time she dropped the brand as her back up plan and safety net.
Representing the Bay Area was so important to Pricilla, that she decided to have her first collection drop be the “Bay Area Collection.” She is so proud to be from the Bay Area, and wanted to capture that in her clothing line. To her, there is no place like the Bay, and only those that are from here know that. She loves that there is nothing like the Bay Area culture, and really wanted to project that vibe in her first collection and brand as a whole. Luckily, Pricilla never had to go to her backup plan because Reaux&Co‘s launch was a hit! She advertised the “Bay Area Collection” through Instagram and gave teasers on what products she would be selling. Instagram was a great tool to help get word around that she was going to launch Reaux&Co.
From there, Reaux&Co took off. The brand is known for their matching and personalized clothing items for parents to match with their minis, specifically moms. Pricilla knew that she wanted to focus on clothing for moms and their minis because it’s what she liked as well. She is forever matching with Ronin, taking full advantage of it now since she knows he won’t want to match with her forever. That’s how she gets most of her ideas – she thinks about what she would dress Ronin in, and tries to put her own spin on things. Her “Vibes Collection” is especially popular for their mom tees and crewnecks, and she plans on dropping more “Mommy & Me” lines soon. She knows that matching clothes is a customers favorite on Reaux&Co for sure.
Pricilla was so happy that Reaux&Co was doing well. In the beginning, she was so worried about how people would react to her small business, and to her surprise, she suddenly had supporters and customers that loved everything she dropped. So much so, that she had a copy cat. Her “Mom Vibes,” clothing is very popular, it is one of her best selling items. So Pricilla was shocked to see another small business using the exact same font, wording, and shirts as hers. She couldn’t believe that her original idea was being copied, but took the higher road. She knows ultimately, there is nothing she can do about other businesses imitating her products. She takes it as flattery, but knows that she would never try to purposely copy another small business’ work. Reaux&Co does use other brands in their clothing, and Pricilla knows that that’s when things can get a little tricky.
“I know it’s a thin line some brands walk when we use certain logos of high brands like YSL, LV, Nike etc.,” she said. “You just really have to make it your own, and put your spin on it.”
And customers have definitely loved Pricilla’s spin on those high end brands. What surprised her going into the business is the tremendous amount of support she gets from acquaintances and complete strangers. She has met and built relationships with a lot of her customers who have supported her business venture. She also didn’t expect to connect with so many moms through Instagram. Some have reached out to Pricilla, telling her that she inspired them to go for what they want, that she was that “push” they needed to just get started. And Pricilla appreciates those moments because she looks back to the tine where she was in that exact same position.
“It still blows me away to be honest,” she said when asked about people she doesn’t know personally support her in everything that she drops. “I have strangers I don’t know in real life, that will support each and every collection and for that I am so thankful for. The support is everything to me.”
The support she gets from her customers motivates her to come up with new ideas and not be so hesitant with creating. Pricilla explains the process of dropping a new line as hard, but still fun. Most of her ideas come about when she thinks about what hasn’t been done or what she hasn’t seen for kids clothing yet. She knows what will set Reaux&Co apart from other clothing lines is how much they can stand out. Reaux&Co‘s goal is to go against the grain and be the leader at creating trends, not follow them. And when she gets that idea, the next step is to create a mock up on the computer, and make a physical sample. If she likes the physical product, she will take high quality pictures of every item in that line, on models and by itself. Pricilla stresses the importance of marketing, and building anticipation for your drop. This means posting teasers and countdowns 2-3 weeks before you intend to drop the line so your customers can get excited. The last step is to drop the items and make them live, crossing your fingers and hoping it’ll do well.
Thankfully enough, Reaux&Co‘s experience with dropping new lines has always been fairly successful. That means Pricilla is making trips to the Post Office about 5-6 days a week. She’s made friends with all the employees at the Post Office at this point, since she is such a frequent customer. Shipping has definitely been an issue since COVID. When the pandemic hit, Pricilla noticed that that’s when Reaux&Co really started to take off, about 3 months into launching the business. She admits that she still doesn’t completely know why that was – more time for people to be on their phones, being at home with extra time, making a conscious effort to support small businesses during a pandemic – whatever it was, she’s grateful for it because Reaux&Co started to flourish. That meant more shipments with many delays. With COVID, the postal services are delayed and that means a headache for trying to get things delivered and shipped on time.
During these times, Pricilla can get overwhelmed and discouraged, but has never thought about calling it quits. She understands that there are some things that are just completely out of her control, and the best thing she can do is to just stay organized. Things can get hard, like shipping and getting the wrong number of products, but she knows that at the end of the day, it’s all part of the job. She pulls herself out of that stressful funk by allowing herself to take time to rest. Pricilla will do activities with her son, like taking him to the park, order food, and spend quality time with him to get herself out of that hectic headspace. It’s all a balance.
And Pricilla admits that sometimes there isn’t much of a balance when you’re trying to be a full-time mom and full-time business owner at the same time. There are times where she has to work while Ronin is watching Cocomelon, eating his lunch, or going down for a nap. Most days she will set aside time for Reaux&Co so she can give her son her undivided attention. She is a one woman show holding down her business, but she appreciates that there are so many people that help her outside of the business to make sure she has time to work. And staying organized, making sure everything has a place, and ordering from her vendor in time is all a part of keeping the balance and making her life easier. Especially since she does all the creating at home.
All the hard work and the struggle to balance being a mom and her own boss is starting to pay off. Pricilla is starting to see the fruits of her labor, putting in her all into Reaux&Co for over a year. She has seen over 1,300 sales, and is selling her brand in 2 physical store locations. Haven Kiyoko Kids reached out to her to have her clothing be carried at their location. She is especially grateful for Kirsten for seeing the potential in her then small brand. The second store location came to her as a referral from a family member who knew the owner of a shop in Oakland, and now Reaux&Co can be found in “E14 Gallery.”
Reaux&Co‘s goal for 2021 is to continue to reach and connect with more people. They are pushing to try to have Reaux&Co be in another physical store location, and overall just want to keep making improvements to give their customers a great experience. Pricilla hopes to have her own store one day, for that is the ultimate dream goal. And she would want to carry other small brands in her future boutique, as others have done for her. She doesn’t put too much pressure on the idea, and knows that this is an end goal that will take time and hard work. In the meantime, she continues to pray on it.
Pricilla wants her customers to know that she was a mom who decided to go for her dream. When she didn’t attend FIDM, she found herself lost and having no sense of direction. She envisioned her school and career to go one way, and couldn’t reroute her plans when things didn’t go the way she had hoped. Ronin was that saving grace for her. When she had her son, she knew that she had to do it not only for herself, but for him. He was now her reason and motivation to go for her dreams. Without the Ro, there would be no Reaux&Co.
Her advice to other small businesses in her field is to stay creative and stay true to yourself – when people know and see that you’re authentic, they will notice and gravitate towards your business. Pricilla is excited and hopeful for what’s to come for Reaux&Co. She wants her customers to know that they can expect more unique lines for themselves an their minis. Pricilla is content knowing that so many mothers have found happiness, inspiration, and fashion through her small business. What started as just ideas on her phone, quickly turned into her empire in a little over a year. And she knows that she wouldn’t have made it this far without the people that continue to support her and Reaux&Co.
“Thank you for believing in us!” Pricilla said on behalf of Reaux&Co. “Thank you for always showing so much love and support with each collection. None of this would be possible without the support. Every like, share, repost, and purchase means the world to me, truly. We will continue to deliver as long as you will have us. Thank you so much for being here.”
Faye remembers it fondly – using a big fork to mash all the ripe bananas that were in a huge white plastic bowl her mom handed her. Smashing the bananas was Faye’s special job every time they made banana bread, and she was happy to do it. Her mother would eyeball the recipe, adding a splash of milk, mixing in flour and sugar, and somehow getting it perfect every time. Making banana bread with her mom are the earliest memories Faye has of baking. And now with her own children, Faye has passed down the banana smashing torch to them – remembering how excited she would get to help her mom in the kitchen.
Growing up, she had always watched both of her Lolas cooking, and her parents were pretty nifty in the kitchen as well. Faye has always felt like baking was always in the “background” of her life, and didn’t realize at the time how much baking meant to her. With time, Faye saw it clearly – baking was her passion that lit a fire in her soul. With the help of her husband, Ryan, and COVID, Kapwa Baking Co. was born. And now, Faye and Ryan are serving classic Filipino desserts, selling out almost every time, while balancing their full-time jobs and raising their 3 children.
It has been a journey to get Kapwa Baking Co. to where it is today. The business was formerly known as Bake Me Happy SF, but with the help of COVID, it took on a new look, menu, and name in 2020. Faye shares her small business’ story, but Kapwa Baking Co. is so much more than a business to her. It has been her dream for years, and her and her husband are finally laying down the foundation of their business. Her goal is still the same – to one day have a café or bakery where she serves her regulars their usuals, a place where the community can gather and enjoy her delicious food. This is why she named her business “Kapwa,” the Tagalog meaning for “community / neighbor.” She was 9 years old when she left the Philippines for the US, and the desserts she offers are some of her favorites that remind her of home.
“My family moved here when I was 9, so I was still pretty young,” Faye said. “But I was old enough to have some concrete memories from the time time I spent there. I admit, a lot of my memories revolve around food haha!”
Ironically, the baking dessert connoisseur’s dream growing up was to be a dentist. Faye’s mom had a dental practice in the Philippines, and for as long as she could remember, she wanted to be just like her mom. Faye wanted to make that dream come true, so she went to college to pursue being a dentist. At the time, she didn’t even think twice about baking and owning a business. She continued with her studies, but found herself spending every break – before and after school – in the Culinary Department’s library. Every time Faye stepped foot in a bookstore, she would go straight to the cookbook section. She wanted to learn more about everything and anything related to desserts and baking. And when she wasn’t reading about food and baking, she was watching it on the Food Network.
Faye knew that she probably loved baking more than the average person, but didn’t give it much thought, other than being a hobby she really enjoyed. Baking was a stress reliever for her during her high school and college days. Faye would bake cookies pretty consistently, and just give them away to her classmates in college. When she started becoming aware of her new found passion in baking, she still continued with her original plan – she never switched her major to pursue the culinary arts. Faye has no formal culinary or baking training – everything she has learned has been through cookbooks, Food Network shows, other cooking channels she would religiously keep up with on YouTube, and of course, trial and error. She is 100% self-taught and humbly acknowledges that she is learning new techniques and information everyday.
“I never really looked at the underlying interest I had in sweets and desserts,” Faye said reminiscing on her college days. “I spent a good chunk of my college life working towards a career that I thought was my dream. In the end, I finally realized that baking and creating fed my soul and that it was what I was most passionate about.”
So, Faye fed that passion when she could. She felt as though baking and creating desserts was just the natural path for her to take. Her very first official “order” came from her dad. He ordered a Shako chocolate cake. If you look it up, a Shako is a cylinder shaped military hat that has embellishments and pompoms and feathers coming out of the top. Faye’s dad took her to get all of her materials to make the Shako cake, and she felt a little overwhelmed. At that point, she had only worked with American buttercream. In the end, she completed the chocolate Shako cake – decorated with fondant, a Styrofoam feather pompom decorated with royal icing, and edible gold dust for the embellishments. This tough first order of hers really opened her eyes to all the different mediums she could use in her dessert making. She started researching all the different ways she could use edible decorations and mediums.
From there, Faye started baking cakes for her friends and family’s birthdays or for special occasions. And usually she would give the cake as a gift. With time, she started experimenting with cake pops, personalized sugar cookies, macarons, and other small desserts. Faye jokes that the time she spent in the Culinary Department’s library finally came in handy! But it wasn’t until she had her son that her business started to slowly take form, about 8 years ago. This is when dessert tables started to gain popularity for being the highlight of parties.
When Faye’s son had his 1st birthday, she wasn’t working at the time. They couldn’t really afford to pay someone to make the anticipated dessert table, so Faye put her baking skills to the test and made all the desserts herself. Friends started to ask about all the desserts that were at the party, so Faye gladly started to take orders. A couple years later, Faye and Ryan welcomed their daughter into the world, and that’s really when the ball started rolling. They started their first small business, Bake Me Happy SF, where Faye catered desserts for birthdays, parties, showers, weddings, and any occasion that required treats.
Kapwa Baking Co. has been an idea that Faye and Ryan sat on for some time, but never pursued. It wasn’t until they took a trip to Portland 3 years ago that re-sparked their interest in having a small business that they could one day have a physical location for. When they were in Portland, they were inspired by all the mom and pop shops that they saw. Still, Bake Me Happy SF was doing well, and they were content with what they were doing for the time being. That all changed when COVID hit. When one business fell through the cracks, another business was born.
Faye admits that COVID and the Shelter in Place orders were the catalyst for starting up Kapwa Baking Co. It was the push that the needed since a lot of events that Bake Me Happy SF had were canceled due to the pandemic. Faye and Ryan had no choice but to pivot their business. That’s when the couple decided that Bake Me Happy SF would change into Kapwa Baking Co. Faye closed down Bake Me Happy SF ‘s websites and Instagram account since she was no longer going to offer the same desserts as she used to. Faye was very hesitant when they were going to launch Kapwa Baking Co. because she didn’t know how her followers would receive it. Her dessert menu was completely new – serving classic Filipino desserts, and some with a new twist, like her Pastillas Milk Jams. Since these were products that were different from what Bake Me Happy SF was originally known for, there were some doubts about how successful the new menu and business would be.
“The first week of our launch, I was fully prepared to only receive 1 or 2 orders from family members because our first product was something completely new,” Faye said.
To their surprise, Kapwa Baking Co. launched successfully! They have only been in business for about 6.5 months, but have already received so much success and support. They consistently sell out of their items, and can get booked pretty quickly. The max amount of orders that Kapwa Baking Co. can take each week varies based on Faye’s work schedule. She works as an administrative assistant at an elementary school, and even though there are no kids present because of the pandemic, COVID has made the job more demanding. There are weeks where they sell out pretty quickly, and that can be due to the limited orders they can accommodate, and then there are weeks where they can take a lot more orders because her work load isn’t as bad. It really all depends from week to week.
Kapwa Baking Co.‘s menu includes: Pastillas Milk Jams, Ube Monster Bread Pudding, Ube Cheesecake Fudge Brownies, Ube White Chocolate Cookies, Cookies and Cream Bread Pudding, and their most popular item – the good ‘ol classic Pastillas. Pastillas are a milky sweet candy that’s very popular in the Philippines. The recipe Faye uses is the same recipe her sister taught her over 10 years ago. When her customers drive by to pick up their orders, their pastillas are soft and fresh. Around the holidays, Faye was selling out of their milk jams because people were buying them to give as gifts. And usually one person will order on behalf of other people like their coworkers, family, and friends, and Kapwa Baking Co. will be greeted with a hefty order. This isn’t something Faye and Ryan complain about, though. They are just happy and grateful that their products sell out and that a lot of people enjoy them.
It’s definitely a blessing to have your products be so popular and selling out very often. Because of the business’ success, Faye and Ryan are still trying to find the middle ground of balancing Kapwa Baking Co. , their 9-5 jobs, and spending time with their 3 children. COVID has brought its own level of craziness to her full-time job, so Faye does all the work for Kapwa Baking Co. after hours. It is chaotic to say the least, but Faye thanks Ryan for having her back, because without him she wouldn’t be able to manage it all. Their daughter has commented on how busy her parents have been, and how they aren’t spending as much time together. Because of this comment, Faye has made a point to have “break” weeks where they don’t take any orders so they can have quality time with their children. Thankfully, her two eldest children are very helpful and self-sufficient, and love to help their youngest sibling, so when it is time to get down to business, all hands are on deck.
And that is exactly what is needed on baking days. That is the most chaotic time of the week – when it’s time to make and bake all the orders that came through. Faye does prep work throughout the week, like measuring out ingredients, prepping packaging, and tiny steps that can be done ahead of time. But all the baking and food preparation are done the night before the pick ups / deliveries. It may get crazy, but Faye does it to make sure that her customers have the freshest products from their company. Faye handles all the bookings, communications, and baking, while her husband, Ryan, handles the packaging aesthetic and deliveries. They have been meaning to find a time where they can have official “business meetings” between the two, but haven’t had the time to pencil that in permanently yet. For now, the flow and balance that they have now is working well.
There are days when Faye feels discouraged, exhausted, and like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but it has never gotten to the point where she feels like throwing in the towel. Faye admits that there have been a handful of nights where there were some tears and a lot of frustration because things didn’t go as planned. She deals with it by letting herself feel the emotions, but letting it go after. Faye knows that for the time being, she has to hustle to get Kapwa Baking Co. to where they want it to be. There are days where her full-time job drains her and she is overwhelmed with her “to do” list, but she knows that this business has been her dream for a long time, so she has to push through those difficult days. This mentality is part of the reason why Kapwa Baking Co. is so successful.
Faye has also been successful when advertising her small business online. When they were planning to launch Kapwa Baking Co., Faye made an Instagram and Facebook account for the business. They have gained a lot of their followers through friends and family sharing their page and posts. Faye recognizes that this is why Kapwa Baking Co. has been so successful – because of the support of friends, family, and customers sharing their content online. Faye makes it a point to add a personal touch to what she posts on the business’ Instagram and Facebook page because she doesn’t want to just post their menus from week to week. She tries to switch it up and have that personal connection with those who interact with the business page.
The positive feedback that they have been getting from customers and those around them is what surprised the couple the most. The support that they get from other small businesses is very heartwarming and encouraging. That’s why Faye’s advice for other small business owners is to support one another. This builds connections and awareness of other small businesses, especially during a time where small businesses are most at risk. She believes that supporting other small businesses will shed light on what’s important – raising up the community, her “Kapwa.”
“We are also looking forward to working with many many other small businesses and doing our part in raising our kapwa business owners up,” Faye explained as she went into collabing with other businesses.
When Bake Me Happy SF turned into Kapwa Baking Co., they revamped their whole menu. Faye was inspired by her favorite desserts and foods that she ate when she was a kid living in the Philippines. Their very first product, Pastillas Milk Jams, were inspired by her favorite candy – pastillas. Instead of having the pastillas in candy / solid form, the Milk Jam can be served on top of bread, ice cream, or even by itself! Faye and Ryan do a lot of experimenting with flavors and testing their recipes. Taste testing is Ryan’s primary job, and though they let their kids in on the tasting fun, they are aware that anything sweet is good to them! So, they will sometimes ask friends and family to taste their new treats. For now, their dessert menu is centered around them taking their own spin on traditional Filipino desserts and food.
Faye laughs and says she wants her customers to know that she is “extremely shy and awkward.” She wonders if people at curbside pickup notice how “awkward” she can be, but wants people to know that despite her shy demeanor, she loves to meet new people! A lot of their customers are friends, or friends of friends, or somehow know a mutual connection, and Faye enjoys building friendships with those who buy from Kapwa Baking Co. There are times where she is very hard on herself, and is working on celebrating her own victories, since she loves to celebrate others’ victories.
Their goal for 2021 is to partner with more local businesses and possibly expand to Farmer’s Markets. Faye wants to dedicate more time to Kapwa Baking Co. so she can consistently take more orders. They are really hoping that opening a physical location will be in their cards somewhere down the line. It has been Faye and Ryan’s dream to one day open up a brick and mortar for their small business, and that’s where the conversation always leads to when they talk about their dreams and goals. Faye loves that she has her husband’s support through it all. She describes him as her #1 supporter, business partner, and all around helper. This is their dream, their goals are aligned, and they are keeping their eyes on the end goal.
“That’s always what it came down to – to own a place where people can come together, share their talents, and enjoy our treats,” Faye said. “A place where people came in as strangers and left as family, where we would know our customers by name and serve them their ‘usuals.’ We wanted a place where we could feature other small businesses and their hustles, hold open mics and art shows for local musicians and artists. Hence the name we chose… Kapwa.”
For as long as I can remember, my family and I have always celebrated my parents’ anniversary in Reno. We would get so excited that we would pack days in advance. My sisters and I would wake up early on those Saturday mornings and prepare for the long drive with snacks. That’s how you know we were going on a trip – when my mom bought the family size bags of all our favorite snacks. That 4 hour drive used to seem like forever. Getting to the rest stop in the mountains was a sign that we had less than halfway to go. I can still see me and my sisters waiting on the side of the lobby as my parents checked in, fighting over who has to hold the Beauty and the Beast suitcase. I can still remember those late nights at Circus Circus, playing the games, winning stuffed animals, and watching the live shows. Then, before going back to the room, getting ice cream would be a must. Me and Merl would play with the stuffed toys we won, and we would stay up late watching TV. That’s how it’s always been, until we got older and turned to the pool instead of Circus Circus. But with the current pandemic, this time around we skipped our annual tradition and kept it local.
This weekend we celebrated my parents’ 30 year wedding anniversary. “But 36 years together!” My mom always adds in. 30 years married and 36 years together, since their wedding date and official date are 6 years and 1 day apart. We’ve always celebrated their anniversary together as a family. But this anniversary felt different. There’s something about every tenth wedding anniversary that gets to you, it’s one of those big milestones. 3 decades married made all 5 of us feel old in our own way. Especially since we weren’t celebrating the way we usually do was definitely a sign of the times. I got my parents, but especially my mom, these orchids because “if someone gives it to you, it will bring good luck.” Haha.We’ll forever remember that their 30th wedding anniversary was during a pandemic. But still, 3 decades is definitely something to celebrate, even if we’ve all been pretty good about distancing and avoiding crowded public places.
We decided to keep it local and celebrated at Pier 39, a place we used to go to when we were younger. If I’m remembering correctly, this is the first family outing we have been to since the shutdown happened in mid-March, aside from drive through birthday parties. I had my first outside dining experience since COVID-19, and it felt a little weird being out again. My dad made it a point to say that he would not eat inside a restaurant. Thankfully, it was a sunny day in San Francisco and outside dining was pleasant…. for the rest of the family, while I – of course – sizzled in the sun because my seat wasn’t in the shade. We had the table furthest from everyone else, with the view of the water and boats. I was blind and slowly baking in the sun majority of the time, but it was still nice. After Pier 39, we played tourists in San Francisco, passing Ghirardelli Square, going down Lombard Street, looking over the city at Coit Tower parking lot since it was still closed, and riding through Chinatown. And apparently my dad took us to where he and my mom had their first date.
My dad and uncle were best friends in high school, and that’s where my parents’ love story begins. Without Uncle Rey, my sisters and I probably wouldn’t be here! They were always at the same functions since my mom and uncle were brother and sister and ran in similar friend groups. I’ve heard about the late night hangouts, bowling, picnics, and all the places they used to go to to meet up with friends. It’s kind’ve crazy to think of my parents as teenagers / young adults. My little sister described it saying, “isn’t it crazy that mom and dad have always been a part of our lives but they had a whole other life before us?” Something that I’ve always thought of, but more so now as I enter into my adult life and think of my future.
Anyways, my mom always tells us how she knew my dad was a good guy because of this particular story. He asked to take her out and she said yes, but only if her home girls could come along too. He said yeah and treated them all out. To my mom, she saw it as him being a very generous guy because he was kind to her friends even though he originally only asked her to hangout. Long story short, they started dating. 6 years into dating, they decided to get married. It’s so crazy to think that my mom got married when she was 26. To put it into context, that would be like me getting married next year. Growing up, I’ve always put my mom’s timeline along with mine as certain age “markers” to eyeball when it would be appropriate for me to do the same – like get married, move out, have kids.
It’s crazy to think that they’ve been together for that long! 30 years married, 36 years together. Damn. Growing up, I thought nothing of it. But now as an adult, I’m more at awe when celebrating their anniversaries. Especially since I see now how a relationship is hard work. If you want something to work, you really have to work for it. My mom was 20 when they first got together, and that is a lot of changing, evolving, and growing together over the years. And it’s sweet to know that they’ve been there for each other through every stage of life. My parents’ marriage taught me that no relationship is perfect, there will definately be disagreements, but if you’re really committed to someone, you find a way to make it work. My parents are definition of ride or die for each other.
I like how after all these years, we still come together as a family for their anniversaries. When we were younger, our trips to Reno were the vacations we looked forward to. Our parent’s anniversary was like a holiday to us. We got to celebrate and get treated out. We got to play games, win prizes, and spend their money. As we got older though, I will admit that Reno and Cache Creek hotels lost it’s touch. We were starting to be in our late teens and early 20’s, and Circus Circus just didn’t have the same effect as it used to. I think this time around, with the pandemic and all of us being young adults – 29, 25, and 23 – we are seeing that these anniversaries are important and… dare I say… limited.
As I grow older it makes me melancholy knowing that not everything lasts forever. So I’m cherishing these moments more because I never know what life will be like 1 year from now, 5 years from now, 1 decade from now when we’re celebrating 40 years of marriage. Now it’s our time to give back to the selfless parents that chose to spend all of their anniversaries with their kids. Now we take them out and treat them out for their anniversary. Oh how the tables have turned, but I like it better that way. They made us happy taking us places and starting traditions since we were kids, so it’s only appropriate that we return the favor now that we are older.
My parents’ 30th wedding anniversary will definitely be one for the books. The pandemic anniversary. Haha. But I’m glad we got to spend it all together as a family. “ThAnK yOu, gUuUysSS!” My dad said in a dumb voice as we drove off leaving Pier 39….We all broke out laughing. That’s the Cabillo’s for ya – can’t show affection properly but be feelin’ all the feelz.
Krizhna and Zarnee’s love story began in 2009 at Westmoor High. They started off as friends their first 2 years of high school, but that changed their junior year. They had multiple classes together and always seemed to be partnered up in English class. Krizhna explains how she always saw Zarnee as just a friend, until she realized that he was always there for her in her time of need, even if that meant venting about another guy. The best friends slowly but surely turned into lovers. This was the start of their journey. Zarnee made their relationship official on December 22, 2011 at the local Macy’s. His support and presence – what initally drew Krizhna to Zarnee – would be tested as they experienced parenthood together.
The couple was 4 years into their relationship when they decided to start their family in 2015. They were both barely 20 years old, and knew people would think they were insane to try to have a baby at that age, so they kept it hush hush. They didn’t have an exact reason as to why they wanted to start a family so bad, but knew it was something they both wanted. At the time, Zarnee and his family were not on talking terms, and at that point, he was out of their house for 2 years already. In a way, starting their own family would compensate for his broken family relationship.
During her break one day, Krizhna went to Target to purchase a pregnancy test. Her best friend and co-worker at the time, Kadigah, was actually the first person to know Krizhna was pregnant. She texted a photo of the positive pregnancy test to an ecstatic Zarnee who was doing laundry. Their joy was through the roof, and they were excited to finally have a family of their own.
“I think that was the first time in a while he was genuinely happy,” Krizhna reminisced.
When it came time to telling Krizhna’s family, she felt as though her mother’s intuition kicked in. Krizhna, her siblings, and her mom sat at the kitchen table in their grandma’s 1.5 bedroom inlaw. She explained that she had something to tell them, but her mom already knew before the words came out of her mouth. Her mom was disappointed but was still supportive. She had the “well, it already happened,” attitude and knew that being upset would not change the fact that she was pregnant. Her siblings were shocked, but followed their mom’s lead. They supported Krizhna’s decision to keep the baby and start a family.
At the time, her dad was still in the Philippines. Krizhna jokes that, “thank god,” her mom was the one that broke the news to him. He was astonished. His attitude was similar to her mom’s. He had told Krizhna, “Well, it’s there already. We just have to accept it.” However, her dad took matters into his own hands and messaged Zarnee on Facebook – asking if he had plans to marry his daughter. In the Filipino culture, being married before having a child is seen as an “essential” step. They felt the pressure of feeling like they “had to” get married, but decided that if they were going to get married, it would be on their terms, not because they feel forced into it. Having a baby on the way didn’t mean they had to rush into marriage to do it the “right way.”
The support from her parents and siblings made Krizhna feel more at ease. But she knew she had one more important person to tell on her side – her grandma. Krizhna, her mom, and siblings lived in her grandma’s home. She has always had high expectations for Krizhna, so when she told her she was pregnant, her grandma had no words. She said very little, sighed, and walked away. Her grandma expressed that she should’ve been focusing on going to college instead of starting a family. Her mom tried to talk to her grandma, telling her that there wasn’t much they could do, they have to just deal with it. Still, her grandma’s mind was made. She wanted Krizhna out of the house – she was so disappointed, she didn’t want to see her. So, she left, at about 2 months pregnant.
She moved in with Zarnee, who was living at a friend’s house. He got kicked out of his family home 2 years prior, and now, his pregnant girlfriend was in the same position. Surprisingly enough, Krizhna expected this reaction from her grandma. She knew that once she told her the news, she was most likely going to get kicked out. Zarnee and Krizhna stayed at their friend’s house a little over 2 months, but they quickly had to find their own place. They looked for different places that they could call home, but ended up getting scammed out of an apartment. Their only option was to live out of their car. They were homeless and living in their car for the remainder of her pregnancy. She was about 4-5 months pregnant.
She was never upset with her mom or siblings for not vouching for her to stay to her grandma. Krizhna’s mom was aware of their living situation, and tried her best to sneak them in when she could. Her grandma would work on the weekends and sleep over her patient’s house. On those days, Krizhna’s mom would sneak her and Zarnee into the house and let them sleep over. When it wasn’t the weekends and her grandma didn’t sleep over at her patient’s house, her mom would still find gaps for them to come to the house to shower or eat. From the beginning of their relationship, Krizhna’s family always liked Zarnee. Prior to the pregnancy, he would offer to drive her family places, and in return her mom would cook more food when she knew he would be coming over, knowing his rocky relationship with his own parents. So even though she got kicked out of the house when she told her grandma she was pregnant, her mom and siblings’ support was still apparent, and she was grateful.
Zarnee, on the other hand, was very conflicted about telling his family about the news. He was kicked out of his family home back in 2013. Their relationship was rocky and he didn’t even know if he should tell them that he was going to be a father. His parents also had high expectations for him, and when they realized that he didn’t want to take the college route, they were very upset. They didn’t agree with his life choices and resented him for not wanting to further his education. The route he decided to take was to work and eventually become a mechanic. Zarnee was confused as to why his family didn’t support his choices. He knew that telling his family that Krizhna was pregnant would be another can of worms, and honestly, he didn’t know if he wanted to open it up.
When Zarnee finally reached out to his parents with the news, they didn’t take it well. They voiced how disappointed they were that the two were going to be parents so young. After he broke the news to them and recieved that reaction, Zarnee and his parents both cut off communication. He didn’t reach out to them and they didn’t reach out to him. He tried his best to remain positive and not let his parents’ words get to him. When he and Krizhna got evicted from his friend’s house, they had nowhere to go. Living in the car with his pregnant girlfriend during cold Bay Area winter was getting the best of him. He knew he had to reach out to his family to ask for help.
He called and let them know that he and Krizhna got evicted from their previous living situation. Zarnee expected some sympathy, but instead, he was greeted on the phone with “I told you so’s.” His parents told him that he put himself in this situation by not listening them. It was “his fault” and he had to deal with it. Alone. Zarnee begged his family to take them in, especially since it was around the holidays during winter time. But his parent’s did not budge on their decision. They couldn’t stay at Krizhna’s grandma’s, they couldn’t stay at Zarnee’s friend’s, and now his parents refused to let them stay at their house as well. Zarnee couldn’t believe it. He felt so betrayed and hurt by his parents’ decision. With still nowhere to stay, they tried their best to remain positive.
“I couldn’t believe that my own parents were not concerned that me and my pregnant girlfriend were sleeping in the car,” Zarnee shared. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything right at that moment.”
On the days where Krizhna’s grandma was home and her mom couldn’t sneak her and Zarnee over, the couple would sleep in their car. When they would saved enough money, they would rent hotel rooms so they could sleep comfortably on a bed. Being homeless and expecting their first child put a lot of a stress on them. They really struggled to weather the storm – not only figuratively, but literally as well. The Bay Area winter was taking its toll on the already struggling couple with more rain and freezing nights.
Krizhna remembers January 18, 2016 to be a very rainy – at times even hailing – day. She and Zarnee were really happy to have a hotel room that night because it meant that she could rest and relax on an actual bed. That night, Krizhna started having intense stomach pains, which prompted Zarnee to call the nurse. This angered Krizhna since she was only 31 weeks pregnant. She knew that she had a handful of weeks left until she would deliver, and didn’t see the need to go to the hospital. But since he already called, they took the advice of the nurse and went to the hospital, straight to the Delivery Department.
When they got there, two nurses quickly admitted Krizhna in and wasted no time hooking her up to machines. She remembers being so confused because no one was really telling her what was wrong or what they were hooking her up to. To add to the confusion, she wasn’t asking many questions either. It was all happening so quickly. They waited at the hospital for a couple of hours because they were told that the high risk doctor wouldn’t be coming in until later. Krizhna dosed off, and a few hours later she was woken up by the doctor who informed her that she would have to be transferred to another hospital. Why? Because they didn’t have the proper equipment to deliver her 31 week old baby. They were in shock, a full term pregnancy is usually 37-40 weeks.
Krizhna was transferred to CPMC. And in her room was the isolette, the little plastic crib where they place new born babies. She asked her nurse if she was going to be giving birth anytime soon since the isolette was in the room. Her nurse confirmed that she indeed was going to be giving birth in a matter of days. Krizhna and Zarnee couldn’t believe it. And on January 22, 2016 – 3 days after being transferred to CPMC – they welcomed their first born, Reginald James.
Krizhna remembers how heartbroken she was. After giving birth to Reginald, she didn’t get to carry him. He went straight into the isolette and then to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Seeing Reginald in the NICU was tough. They remember he was so small and thin that they could see his bone structure. When he was born, he weighed 5 pounds, but he started to lose weight and got down to 2 pounds. The first two weeks of his life were the toughest. They didn’t know if Reginald would make it because he was losing so much weight.
“It was really tough,” Krizhna said. “We witnessed him become a needle bag, lose so much weight to where you could literally see his little tiny bones, to having a feeding tube because he didn’t know how to feed with a bottle.”
“The most challenging was seeing him in the incubator getting smaller and smaller,” Zarnee said recalling how he felt during Reginald’s stay in the NICU. “He had a feeding tube, IV, and a lot of monitors attached to him. There was one instance where he kept moving around too much that the IV wasn’t staying still. So the doctor told us that they had to give him a PICC line. They described it to us as a long thin needle that went from the tip of his finger through the arm to his heart. I remember being so worried…”
Reginald was in the NICU from January 22, 2016 to March 1, 2016. In that time, they got in contact with a social worker who was completely unaware that the couple was homeless and living out of their car. The social worker informed Zarnee and Krizhna that they could stay in one of the rooms in the hospital since that floor was vacant. This way, they could be closer to Reginald since his stay at the NICU would be prolonged, and Krizhna had to pump every 3 hours and supply him with food anyways. This way, they didn’t have to worry about the commute or not being by Reginald’s side. Without hesitation, they accepted the offer. Though the circumstances were unfortunate, they were just relieved that they had a bed to sleep on for the time being.
They stayed in the hospital room the whole time Reginald was in the NICU, about a month and a half. In that time, they really wondered what their next steps would be. Where were they going to live? They had a new born baby now, living in a car would not be ideal. Zarnee had just left his previous job, and Krizhna was on unpaid maternity leave. They felt like they were running out of options. It was when Krizhna’s mom asked her what their living situation was going to be once Reginald was discharged from NICU that made Krizhna realize she had no choice but to reach out to her grandma.
Krizhna knew that she had to put her pride and guilt to the side if she wanted a home for Reginald. She knew that enough time had passed, and that her grandma wasn’t that upset with her anymore. There were times before Reginald was born where her grandma visited her at the hospital, giving her food and checking in on her often. When Krizhna told Zarnee that she planned on asking her grandma if they could stay with her, he agreed. He knew that this was the best decision. And after a lengthy conversation with her grandma, she let Krizhna – and now Krizhna’s little family – know that they were welcome to stay at her house once Reginald was discharged. Krizhna’s grandma was not the only one with a change of heart. Zarnee’s parents brought Krizhna comfort food after she had delivered Reginald, and they were slowly on track to building a relationship again. Things were looking up.
With a roof over their heads, their son out of the NICU, and family bonds being rebuilt, Krizhna and Zarnee felt a weight lifted off their shoulders. They were so eager to start and have a family, and now here they were. Unfortunately, instead of feeling complete and happy, Krizhna felt the exact opposite. The day after Reginald was discharged from the NICU, she drowned herself in work. She remembers working 50+ hour weeks to avoid going home and spending time with her son. She didn’t know why she felt so distant and cold towards the baby she and Zarnee both planned for. So, she used work as a distraction.
Postpartum depression hit Krizhna hard. She felt immense guilt and directly responsible for Reginald being born premature. She blames herself for being under a lot of stress, especially because of being homeless, and taking on a new job at 6 months pregnant to make ends meet. Krizhna believes that it was her fault for why Reginald was not carried to term. He was born at 31 weeks and 5 days, Krizhna beats herself up over the fact that she had 9 more weeks to go. She remembers her last month of being pregnant, she was working double shifts almost everyday and doing a lot of physical work like carrying 30-50 pound boxes.
Krizhna remembers one night where she was so upset. She didn’t know exactly why she was irritated and upset, but all she knew was she wanted Zarnee out. Not fully understanding her emotions, she got so frustrated and took her emotions out on her little family. She told Zarnee to take Reginald and leave, stating that she wanted nothing to do with them. Instead of arguing back and being upset, Zarnee held her and let her cry it out. He was still the guy to be there for her and listen after all these years.
“That moment was when I knew I started a family with the right man,” Krizhna said.
It was confusing for Krizhna because she knew she loved Reginald, but a huge part of her felt like she didn’t want to be a part of his life because she caused him so much physical pain by not carrying him to term. She remembers that first month of his life over and over again in her head – how much he suffered, how scared they were, how helpless he was. And she really believed she was the main source and the one to blame for it all. She used work as a coping mechanism because if she worked more, she wouldn’t have to focus on the fact that she wasn’t bonding with her son, she wouldn’t have to see him, she wouldn’t be reminded of the guilt she felt. So Zarnee cared for Reginald for the first 5 months while she worked.
For the first 5 months of Reginald’s life, Krizhna felt no bond with him. It was really hard because she was still living under her grandma’s roof and being surrounded with family. She felt as though she had to put on a front for her family’s sake because depression is not something that is normalized in her family and her culture as well. There would be times where she would be crying about something that upset her or show that she was upset and her family would brush it off like it wasn’t a big deal. Having people treat her postpartum depression like it didn’t exist or was something not to be upset about really bothered her. She knew her family was supportive of her, but she didn’t feel comfortable to open up about her inner turmoil. Krizhna knew they just wouldn’t get it.
There were many times where Krizhna really felt like seeking professional help for her postpartum depression. But she was terrified. Her worst fear was that they would end up taking Reginald away from them because they’d probably deem her “unfit” to care for a child, and then send her off to a mental hospital. She didn’t feel a connection with him and wanted nothing to do with him, but at the same time she knew that if they were to take him away, she would lose it. Looking back, Krizhna knows that her feelings were in conflict with one another. But she wasn’t going to take that chance of Reginald possibly being taken away.
It wasn’t until Reginald was 5 months old that Krizhna started to bond with him. She remembers the event that changed it all. Reginald was about 5 months old and was really sick. He had a high fever and a boil on his bottom. Zarnee and Krizhna had to take him to the emergency room where they cut his skin open to remove the abscesses from the boil. Reginald was crying like she had never seen him cry before. She could tell that he was in pain by how hysterically he was crying and clenching onto her and Zarnee. Seeing him like that made Krizhna’s heart break.
“Seeing him in that position made me realize how much I love him and how I would do anything to take away his pain,” Krizhna said remembering that emergency room visit. “Ever since that day, I grew closer to Reginald and started appreciating the fact that even though he was born early, he is alive and healthy.”
A little after Reginald’s first birthday, the couple had startling news. She was pregnant again. Krizhna was on the pill briefly, but stopped because she was getting bad side effects. She was not ready for another baby. She called her best friend, Karina, and told her about the news. She cried and vented out her frustrations and worries. After the call, she showed Zarnee the positive pregnancy test. He was so shocked that he didn’t know what to say. Krizhna explained to him that she was not ready to have a second child so soon, and she didn’t know if she wanted to keep it. Zarnee supported her in whatever decision she chose, but they both slept on it. The next morning, she still didn’t make a decision.
It actually took a couple of days of going back and forth on the idea of keeping the baby or not. A few days after finding out she was pregnant, they finally came to a conclusion. They were going to follow through with the second pregnancy. What made them sway in that favor? The two of them thought about their first born and how much he means to them. They couldn’t picture what life would be like without him and they loved him so much. Reginald was the best thing that has ever happened to them, so they knew that even though they weren’t ready, they’ll get through it as long as they have each other.
They were both hesitant to tell their families about the news. Not because they thought they wouldn’t be supportive, but because of how her first pregnancy went and how recent it was. When Krizhna finally told her family about the second pregnancy they didn’t react the same way as her first. Her intuition was right. Instead, they voiced how concerned and worried they were about how the pregnancy would go, given that Reginald was born premature. Little did they know that this time around, it would be worse.
Krizhna and Zarnee describe the following events that took place:
“I had my first prenatal appointment on February 10, 2017 where we had an abdominal ultrasound and saw a healthy heartbeat. Zarnee and I were so happy and relieved. Our doctor told us that my due date was October 5, 2017 and I was even more happy because our baby’s birthday would be close to mine and Reginald’s birthday is close to Zarnee’s and so we felt like it was all meant to be. We started talking to our doctor about what I would do differently this time around to prevent another preterm delivery and we even started guessing what the gender of our baby may be. We were hoping for a girl.
After our ultrasound, we came to accept and embrace our pregnancy, we were filled with joy. I couldn’t wait for my bump to grow and take lots of pictures, have a baby shower – since we didn’t get the chance to have it when we were pregnant with Reginald, for Reginald to be a big brother, to give birth – I was ecstatic.
On February 22 or 23 I believe, I was working one of my double shifts and I had cramps that felt very familiar and I knew something was wrong but I disregarded the pain hoping that if doing so, it would go away? I don’t know, I really don’t know why I had that mentality. I remember it was so painful that I was in the middle of what I was doing and I had to hold my stomach in a fetal position. The pain lasted about 5 minutes. I had a follow up appointment on the 27th and yet had another abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound, but this ultrasound was different from the first one… we no longer saw the healthy heartbeat of our baby… Our doctor didn’t know what or how to say that the baby may not have been alive anymore so he gave us the option of going for a second opinion to see what is going on. I knew right then and there we had lost our baby but Zarnee had hopes so we went ahead and got another ultrasound on March 1 and received the same devastating news. I was numb when she told me that there was no more heartbeat. I felt like I lost a part of me that day.
We went back to our doctor in which he told us that we would need to do a procedure called Dilation & curettage (D&C) to remove whatever part of my baby is in me. He told me that the procedure would take no longer than 30-40 minutes including the rest time. Crazy how fast it is to remove something so precious from me like that. He also gave us the option of bleeding out until clots come out but it would have to come out within a week otherwise I’ll get an infection. He let us know to think over it and call the office back to let them know what our decision was. I didn’t think about it. I told him that I made up my mind and proceeded with the D&C. I didn’t want to bleed out by myself and go through more trauma than what I was already going through. I don’t think I could’ve handled that. He scheduled the appointment for March 3 and he prescribed me 2-3 medications in which I believe one of them was to soften the cervix to make it easier to vacuum whatever is left. I was numb, I was broken.
March 3rd we went in to do a D&C. I was drugged from whatever pill I took but I still felt what was going on and I still knew what was going on but I put up a front in front of Zarnee to distract him from what I was going through because I knew that it broke him seeing me like that. My doctor had come in and I remember seeing this vacuum like machine that he brought in and my stomach dropped. I knew it was time. I knew it was time for me to let go of something that has not been there for a while. I knew it was time. He asked me if I was ready and I said yes but deep inside I wasn’t. I wanted so bad for a miracle to happen but I knew that I was hoping for something that is not going to happen. He did his thing with the vacuum and I remember holding onto Zarnee’s hand so tight because it was painful. I felt the suction of the vacuum and I don’t think the physical pain I felt compared to the emotional trauma I suffered.
Right after the procedure, my doctor said that I was no longer pregnant and everything was out. I died inside hearing that. I did not know what heartbreak felt like until I heard that I was no longer pregnant. I laid in the patient bed for 5 minutes and left. I cried hysterically in the car and we went home and I cried some more. I think I cried for about a week straight. Something in me that day died along with my baby.”
“After hearing our doctor say that there wasn’t a heartbeat anymore, I was very hopeful that there would still be one and that he was wrong. I kept telling myself and Krizhna that there was (a heartbeat). I tried to assure her and myself that from the time we left to the next appointment.
When we got the second opinion, my heart dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I felt like I got played. I felt crushed. It’s like, there was just a heartbeat and now you’re telling me there isn’t a heartbeat anymore? How could that be? I don’t understand. I didn’t want to understand. When Krizhna got the D&C, it made it so much more surreal that our baby is gone. Dead.
Seeing the doctor use the vacuum to suck out whatever was left of our baby was heartbreaking but what was even more heartbreaking was seeing Krizhna laying down there, sad because there was nothing she could do. Her body is practically being invaded by this tool and I was scared of what could happen to her. When the procedure was done, I didn’t want to leave her side or get her out of my sight because I felt that the least I could do was be there for her after what she had just gone through. That was probably one of the worst days I’ve ever had to this day.”
Krizhna was 4 weeks along when her pregnancy test read positive. When she miscarried, she was about 6-8 weeks pregnant. When Krizhna and Zarnee got out of the procedure, the first person she called was her mom. She cried hysterically on the phone saying, “I lost my baby, I lost my baby.” Her mom advised her to come home. Zarnee also called his parents in the car and when his parents answered, Zarnee lost it. He broke down crying, and they comforted their son saying that everything will be okay.
Krizhna knew that her mom didn’t know what to say or how to comfort her. It was the same with Zarnee’s parents. Nobody knew what to say to make them feel better, and honestly, nothing they could say would make them feel better anyways. By the time they came home, the household was aware of what just happened and they were welcomed with homemade soup from her grandma. Her mom and grandma cared for Reginald all day while she locked herself in her room. She knew that taking care of Reginald while she detached from the world in her room was her family’s way of comforting her. She couldn’t talk about her postpartum depression, and now she found herself in a position where she couldn’t talk about her miscarriage either.
After the miscarriage, Zarnee and Krizhna’s relationship was on the rocks. They were both hurting, but didn’t know how to communicate it or comfort one another. She felt like Zarnee wasn’t hurting from the loss of their child because he wasn’t reacting the same way as her. She acknowledges that Zarnee was trying so hard to understand what she was feeling, but she kept pushing him away. Every conversation seemed to have the same outcome. Whenever they talked, it would turn into an argument, and all of a sudden the miscarriage would be brought up, it would always be followed by silence and tears.
“I don’t know how we got through it,” Krizhna said. “I think it took us a while to be a team again.”
Zarnee handled the miscarriage by going back to work and taking care of Reginald. Having a 1 year old kept him busy, and it also kept him sane. Krizhna recalls only seeing Zarnee cry about the miscarriage once, and that was after the procedure. To her, it seemed like Zarnee didn’t care because he would only talk about it when she would breakdown. She sees now that maybe it was for the best that he reacted that way, because if they were both a “mess,” they couldn’t care for Reginald. Zarnee saw Reginald as his strength during this difficult time.
“Having him kept me sane,” Zarnee admitted. “He made me want to fight and get through it… Even though he doesn’t know it, he really saved me when I was going through it.”
After their miscarriage in 2017, Zarnee and Krizhna started trying again in 2018. And to their surprise, they were pregnant again in April. However, in a span of 3 days, they found out that she was pregnant and then she wasn’t. She knew she was pregnant so she went to the doctor. They did a blood test on her twice to confirm she was pregnant. Her HCG levels were dropping, which meant she was miscarrying. She was exhausted. However, the 2nd miscarriage didn’t effect her as bad because she didn’t get to hear the heart beat, and she wasn’t as far along. But, it did still hurt them. They were discouraged and didn’t want to even talk about trying again.
But a year later in June 2019, she found out she was pregnant again for the 4th time. When she found out she was pregnant, she took a pregnancy test everyday until her 8 week appointment. That was her way to make sure she was still pregnant, and it brought her and Zarnee peace of mind. They were so excited to be pregnant again, but didn’t want to show it. They were very hesitant with being excited, in fear that they would miscarry again. They just didn’t want to have false hope after everything they’ve been through.
Because of their past experiences with miscarrying, they only told a handful of people they were expecting the first 3 months of being pregnant. Krizhna’s mindset was : if I miscarry again atleast I only have to explain it to only a couple of people. But when she reached 16 weeks, she knew she was in the clear to let the secret out of the bag! Now they were beginning to get excited again after 2 years of back to back heart break.
This pregnancy was so different than when she was pregnant with Reginald. Krizhna was nauseous all day everyday, hated the smell of fried food, and was exhausted all the time. She had to take progesterone, a pill that makes sure the baby attaches, and take it vaginally. They would go to bi-weekly appointments to make sure that the baby was okay, given her history of pregnancy. This time around, every little pain she had, she would go to the ER. She was taking no chances. Zarnee was very over protective and made sure that Krizhna was taking it easy and eating all the right foods.
On January 10, 2020, Krizhna was at work when she started to have really bad contractions. She managed to finish her shift and went home. That night, her contractions were so bad that Zarnee took her to the hospital. They informed her that she was only 1 cm dialted, and sent her back home to rest. The next day, her contractions intensified. She really couldn’t take it anymore and her parents couldn’t stand to see her in pain. By 8 PM she was at the hospital and Zarnee met her there coming from work. She was 6 cm dialted, and they informed her that she would be giving birth in the next 24 hours. She was only 34 weeks pregnant and had another month to go.
On January 12, 2020, Mia Alea-Luna was born. This time around she got to hold Mia before they put her in the isolette and to the NICU. Krizhna remembers how much more smaller Mia was compared to Reginald, and this made them worry. Having their 2nd born in the NICU made them nervous. And this time, they didn’t have the housing that came with Reginald’s NICU stay. It was harder because once she was discharged, she would have to pick up Zarnee from work at night and they would visit Mia. Reginald wasn’t allowed in the NICU, so they had to wait until he was asleep to visit as well. Fortunately, Mia only stayed in the NICU for 2 weeks.
Krizhna still experienced postpartum depression after her 2nd child was born. But this time was different. With Reginald, she didn’t want to be around him or connect with him. But with Mia, she was very overprotective. She believes this shift happened because she felt so guilty about how she felt after Reginald was born, that she didn’t want to act like that towards Mia. And it wasn’t because she loved Mia more, but because she knew that Reginald was old enough to witness everything. She didn’t want him to see a disconnect between her and his new sister, in fear that it would traumatize him. And most importantly, she sought help. She sees her therapist once a month and is taking medication for her depression and anxiety.
Their parenthood journey has not been easy. They have faced a lot of heartbreak together. Krizhna and Zarnee try to celebrate the first miscarriage by just being together as a family for what would’ve been the baby’s due date. They don’t celebrate the 2nd miscarriage because they never knew what the due date was since she miscarried very early on. 2 years after her 1st miscarriage, Reginald would always tell Krizhna that he would see his brother. There would be times that he would be alone in the room saying “I’m playing with my brother,” and instead of being scared, it comforts Krizhna, knowing that their baby is still around them. They never got to find out what the gender was either.
“Take all the time you need to mourn your loss,” Krizhna advises other parents who have miscarried. “It is more common than you think it is. You are not alone.. even though it feels like it right now you’re not alone. The loss of a child you never got to meet and hold is something you’ll carry with you for a very long time and although it’ll hurt being reminded of what happened, you are resilient. You will get back up again. As each day passes it’ll hurt less than the day before but the sadness when you’re reminded of it is going to be there so do whatever you need to do to heal – whether it be celebrating the anniversary of the miscarriage or the due date or talking to someone who shares the same experience. There’s always a rainbow at the end of the storm.”
And Zarnee and Krizhna definitely got their rainbow at the end of their storm. They are now raising their beautiful children together in Zarnee’s childhood home. Once Mia was born, they desperately looked for houses that they could call home. There just wasn’t enough room in Krizhna’s grandma’s 1.5 bedroom inlaw. Zarnee knew how important it was for Krizhna to have her family with her, so they searched for houses that fit everyone’s needs. They toured about 10 houses in a span of 1 month, but nothing felt like “the one.”
One day, after touring yet another home, Zarnee went to his parents’ house to pick something up. He updated them that they still didn’t find a house. It was then that his parents asked if they wanted to live in the old family house, and even extended the offer to Krizhna and her family to come along. Zarnee couldn’t believe what his parents were telling him. He gladly accepted the offer, and went home to tell Krizhna and her whole family. He was so happy that his kids would have enough room to run around and for each member of the family to have a room and bed to sleep on, rather than the floor. Zarnee loves the fact that his kids get to grow up in the same house he grew up in.
“To this day, I thank my parents every time I leave their house of the blessing they gave us,” Zarnee explained.
Zarnee and Krizhna have been through hell and back with each other. They never expected that their journey to parenthood would have so many twists and turns. They mended family relationship, they went through heartbreak, they witnessed their children in the NICU, they went from homeless to home owners, and never gave up on each other even in their darkest times. Their main focus now is to raise their children together and be there for them. They embrace every part of their journey to parenthood because it gave them their most precious gifts – Reginald and Mia.
To this day, my parents still laugh and tell the stories of me in preschool. I was a half day kid, so I was only in preschool for a couple of hours. The preschool was in a center, and a lot of the parents, my dad included, would just chill on the sidelines near the exit and talk amongst each other until it was time to go home. I was 4, and I remember always taking glances to where the parents were because I always wanted to keep an eye out for my dad. I wanted to make sure he was always there, that I wasn’t alone. I could be having a lot of fun playing with friends or be distracted by toys, but the moment my dad wasn’t in view I would lose it.
My dad always describes the same events. How he would always see me trying to look for him. He remembers me always turning around to see if he was still there, and how I would cry when I couldn’t find him. One time he had to use the bathroom, so he went up to me and told me he’d be right back. He had to explain to me where he was going and for how long since every move he made I cried because I thought he was leaving. He told me over and over again that he was just going to the bathroom and he’d return shortly. According to my dad I agreed and went about playing.
“Not even one minute later,” my dad exaggerates, “I open the door, and you’re standing there crying!”
My parents tell the stories of me as a clingy preschool kid all the time. And how after preschool my dad would be holding my little sister in the carseat in one hand, and me clinging onto his leg on the other side as he dropped us off to my grandma’s house, “Mama’s House,” so he could go to work. These are vague memories that I remember, but for my dad, that time he was in the thick of being a dad to 3 young girls, 2 of which were under the age of 5.
Growing up my mom would always tell me and my sisters, “See! You should be grateful for your dad!” I didn’t really grasp that phrase completely until I grew up. Because as a kid, growing up with my dad, who off the bat, did everything and anything for our family, I thought nothing of it. It’s all we ever knew. But as I got older, I realized how good I actually have it. I realized that a lot of people don’t have a dad like mine.
In my family, we all have a short temper with each other. But at the end of the day we all got each other. That’s what my parents taught us, and my dad has shown us that time and time again. It doesn’t matter what happens or what was said, I know my dad would do anything for any of us in a heart beat. I think my dad’s one hell of a guy. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad.
He has been the example of what a man should be like. Not only as a man, but as a father as well. When I tell you my sisters and I are spoiled, I mean that shit and it’s high key embarrassing. Not in monetary value, but with acts of service. In my household, we don’t know how to be affectionate towards one another without making it a joke. It’s actually something we need to work on. But our love translates by how loyal we are when shit hits the fan, acts of service, and food. That’s how we show our love.
My mom always told us to choose the right guy, “like your dad.” Growing up we were like “EwWwWwW” because the thought of your significant other being like your parent is fuckin weird. But now, I look at my man and see the resemblance in his character. He reminds me of my dad. And that’s how I know I’m headed towards the right path. My dad has spoiled my sisters and I, that we have certain standards when looking for a partner. We’re not going to settle for a halfass kind of dude when our dad has set the bar of acts of service and loyalty to my mom and my sisters so high from the get. He’s always been by my mom’s side and has been there for our family through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Never budging, never running away from problems, never making excuses, but facing every problem head on. And being present for everything.
Growing up, my mom was the tough one and whatever she says goes. Period. But we would always sway our dad to try to change her mind. And if it was a hard “no,” from mom, it was most likely a “ugh. Ok ok” from dad. Whether that be “can we go to the mall?” “Can I change the channel?” “Can you drop me to my friends house?” “Can we get boba, I’ll pay!”
My dad is the most selfless, loyal, honest, and generous person I know. Even if he doesn’t have much for himself, he’ll still try to give to someone if he knows that they have it worse than him. When we would be waiting in the car for one of my sister’s at BART, he’ll literally get out of the car to give a homeless person some crackers. He’s just that kind of dude. He’s not rich, but he’ll give someone the last of his cash in his wallet.
I’d like to think that that’s where I get my empathetic ways from. My dad. I’m always trying to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I’m always trying to fight for what’s right, to stand up for those who need help. He’s taught me to care. And not just care for the people I know. A lot of people are taught to just look out for themselves. But my dad is the opposite. He puts others before himself sometimes, all the while looking out for his family and those around him. But at the same time, teaching us to look between the lines and look past some people’s alternate motives.
Every Father’s Day we ask my dad what he wants for a gift. “Nothing.” Is his response every year my whole life. You know when someone says “nothing” but you know they’re lowkey expecting something? Yeah. That ain’t the case. When my dad says “nothing” he legit means don’t get him anything. But of course we still get him gifts.
To our driver, social justice warrior, unproblematic, Prince-loving-mother-trucker, “despacito” singing, “K” replying father – Happy Father’s Day! We appreciate and love you, and we can’t imagine this life without you! Cue in the ugly faces and “ya ya ya okkkkk” since we all can’t show proper affection 🥴💘.
Lee Ann graduated from SFSU with a Bachelors degree in Child Development in 2015. She has the most patients with children and has the biggest heart. All her former co workers could only tell me good things about her. She’s that kind of girl that nobody can ever speak ill about even if you tried. She has a heart of gold and a passion for learning.
She is now a pre school teacher and is working on getting her credentials. She is so relieved that all her hard work has paid off, saying that once you receive that diploma, everything you had to do to get to that point will be worth it. I congratulated her on all of her accomplishments and asked how her love life is and if there is someone special in her life.
“Losing my Dad really made me driven,” Lee Ann said. “I wanted to succeed for him. So I threw myself into school. And because of that I tried balancing work and school. It was also how I coped with grief. I somewhat pushed aside any kind of “social life”. The busier I was, the less I had to think. Education has always been so important to me. I’ve had a love for learning. The more I learned, the more experienced I felt. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.”
Education became Lee Ann’s main focus. It was her form of coping with the grief of losing her father. She told me how growing up she wasn’t involved in any sports or other activities. When I asked her why she told me that her father traveled a lot for work, but he would always come back home on the weekends. Her mom didn’t want to enroll Lee Ann in weekend activities because the weekend was a time for the family to be all together. She said she is happy that that’s how it was.
“The other reason I did that was so that I could focus on me,” Lee Ann said. “I was so unsure of myself and lacked confidence. If I wasn’t confident in myself how could I be supportive in a relationship? But now that school is done and I’ve reflected and grown a little bit of that confidence. There is one aspect that’s missing. I look forward to the future and being there for someone. I can’t wait to be a Mom and watch someone grow. Teach them and watch the world through their eyes.”
Now Lee Ann has accomplished what she wanted to do and now has a career. Next she will fulfill her next dream: to fall in love and start a family.