February 20, 2017

Tributes – Life Update

Hi All,

My family has experienced a lot of loss this past year. We lost my beloved Mother in Law in August (see my tribute to her here) and then my Grandmother in late October at 96, and our beloved dog Shayna, in January, at 12. I decided to do a tribute to my Grandma and Shayna since I did one for my MIL. Words don’t come easy to me, I am no writer by any means, so I did the tributes in one post together because it took me a bit of time to be ready to do them. Or to find the right words.


My Grandma Esther, or “abuelita” as she loved to be called by her 3 grandchildren, (and YaYa by her 7 great grandchildren), truly enriched our lives with her flair for literature, food, languages and fashion. She had a wonderful childhood growing up in Morocco and it was there she met my Grandfather when he was stationed there during the war. It was here in the DC area that they raised 4 children together, so I was lucky that my Grandmother was always nearby and was a very large presence in my life growing up (my grandfather, sadly, passed away when I was 6).  She spent every holiday with us, went on some family vacations, took care of us when my parents traveled and even just came for dinner and would spend the night.

Me and my grandparents (that is my other grandfather) that I was close with growing up

My Grandma had a joie de vivre (a love for life, as she would say) that was infectious. I still remember the look on her face and feel the kisses she would shower on my cheeks whenever we came to visit or the kisses she would send through the phone every time we talked. 

She spoke three languages (French, Spanish and English) and one of my earliest memories of her is how every time I saw her she’d say “Je t’adore” (I adore you). I knew I was supposed to say it back, but I was always confused by why my grandma so lovingly told me to “shut the door”! I will never forget her wonderful accent and the time we tried to teach her the correct way to say McDonald’s but she would still always say Mac-Don-ALD. As we got older and she learned to email, I loved how she signed her emails “Abrazos y Besitos” (hugs and kisses). 

She prized time with her family over everything and would insist on friends and family having a cup of tea and a cookie at each visit. She always kept an assortment of cookies available, Chips Ahoy chocolate chip chunk being a favorite.
She was a wonderful cook and was always busy in the kitchen making delicious Moroccan zucchini with onions, eggplant Parmesan, stuffed cabbage, and Tajine (i.e. Moroccan meatballs, or what I lovingly called her “mush”). She loved good food and would eat just about anything. She was legendarily known as the “human garbage disposal” for going around the table after everyone was done and eating up all the leftover food on the plates!

Her love for fashion and keeping up with the latest styles was a huge part of what made her special (and probably where I got my love it). She always wore her signature silver or gold bangle bracelets from Morocco and the lovely tinkling sound of them against each other was just “Grandma’s sound”. She was always reading the latest Vogue and never stepped out without looking put together with the appropriate scarf—along with her fashionable clothes (leopard print was her favorite), berets, and accessories. When her great grandchildren were toddlers, she took on the design of tiny aprons as a new challenge and took genuine pleasure in picking out a special patchwork of fabrics for each one. They turned out amazing—totally vintage chic. She even made one for me and it is still my “go to” apron! As she got older, she got more serious about knitting and knit every baby she knew a gorgeous soft and specially personalized baby sweater and baby blanket that we all treasure. 

It’s so hard to sum up all that she has meant to me and our family and how she will continue to shape the rest of our lives. We are so grateful to share so many special memories with her.


My husband and I got married in the Fall of 2003. We had decided not to get each other wedding presents since we both knew what we really wanted was a dog and it didn’t make sense to get one before the wedding. So, on our 6 month anniversary, we got our first fur baby, Max. Max was a Pug/Lab mix and a force of nature like no other. He was adorable, smart, loving and mischievous all in one big dog. While I loved him dearly, he was a handful and I’d always wanted a smaller dog, particularly a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. A few months after we got Max, we made the bold decision to look in the paper for another dog and found an ad for a Cavalier/Cocker Spaniel mix. My husband, having grown up with Cocker Spaniels, agreed it just seemed like this was the perfect mix for us. On that July day, we brought home our beloved Shayna.

Max & Shayna as puppies

Having 2 dogs was obviously a challenge but mostly rewarding and fun.  We enjoyed those first years with just us and the dogs. When we had our daughters, the dogs took a bit of a backseat, but my husband and I always took the time each day to snuggle with them and take care of them and show them love. Sadly, we lost Max suddenly in May of 2014. This was a huge loss to us but it was softened by having Shayna still to come home to.

My husband and I joke that she was often in the shadow of Max for all those years since his presence was hard to ignore. It made us take the extra time to shower her with SO much love and attention, usually in our bed at morning and at night, when she would snuggle up with us. She in turn, was just her sweet, quiet self. To our amusement, she grew a little more mischievous, reminding us of all the trouble Max used to get himself into eating things he shouldn’t. We felt she did it in his honor. Ha! She loved a good walk and just sitting outside to catch a breeze. In recent years we realized there wasn’t a pile of blankets or pillows she didn’t love. One particular memory that comes to mind is the day my girls were playing with the pillows in our guest room and somehow two got left in the middle of the floor by our garage door. So, I walk into the house and there, in the middle of the floor, are the 2 pillows and Shayna sitting on them. Then, we got this Princess tent and inside it went this big princess pillow. Well guess who I kept finding in the Princess tent? It only took me a little while to realize it was THE pillow she was going in there for. Once we got rid of the Princess tent, we decided to continue letting her use the princess pillow and just put in a part of the house as a bed for her during the day. She rested on that pillow every day until the end.


Her health did start to go downhill a bit in the past year, most notably she seemed to hear less. And then, around Thanksgiving, she hadn’t been particularly well, battling this horrible skin infection I thought we had finally gotten an answer to the week before her passing. But, in her very last few days,  there were signs  that the end was coming. It didn’t make the last day any less sad of course and saying goodbye is never easy. The house is quieter and the bed feels emptier but her memory will live on in our family every day.

Last photo I have of her

I am so blessed to have had them in my life.

Of course, we talked about getting a new dog. But we needed time, and so a month later…..on a Sunday, we went a adoption event at Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Virginia just to see what was out there. And just like that – WELCOME BUSTER!!

We’ve never rescued a dog before I felt this was right for our family. I had no idea how we were all going to agree on one breed and I wanted a different experience. The funny thing is I didn’t expect for us to find one so fast and I thought it would take a little bit of time to fill out an application, get approved, blah blah. Plus, we have an upcoming trip so ideally I wanted to wait until after that. But, I should’ve known going to look for a dog meant there was a chance we’d come home with one. And honestly, I’m glad we did. I’m not far enough removed from having a dog that the routine isn’t coming back like clockwork. He’s a sweet and gentle dog, albeit a little younger then I wanted (he’s 13 weeks old and from Puerto Rico), but seems like a perfect fit for our family. The girls are over the moon and frankly, so am I. The house just didn’t feel right without a dog around.

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1 Comment

  • Reply jen February 20, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Oh Reneé- what a beautiful and touching tribute to them both. Your grandmother seems like such a beautiful woman on the inside and out! My childhood dachshund Gertie loved pillows and blankets, too! Your sweet Shayna made me think of her. I’m so very sorry for all that you’ve been thru this last year. Wishing you all things wonderful and lots of memories to be made this year with your newest furry family member ?

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