Saturday, August 30, 2008

I See Charlotte

There are two sides to my life.  The first side is filled with the love that I feel for my angel family.  The wonderful life that we have conceived together.  The values which Mark and I have instilled in our girls.  The idea that life is beautiful.  It is the side of my life which I vowed to myself as a little girl that I would create.  A peaceful, contented life.  A family in which the members all love and cherish one another.  Mark and I have succeeded in building that kind of a life.  I am not saying that it doesn't take a lot of work and dedication, but I am saying that it is worth all of the effort that I have put into it.  My angels and my husband are worth it.  I am worth it.

The other side of my life is that side which I have eluded to in some of my previous writings here.  It is the side where people bear thirty year old grudges.  It is the side where the cruel irony of an early death leaves relationships unfinished.  It is the side that is filled with hatred and pain and lies.  It is the side of right-fighters.  It is the side that I never chose to live in, yet there I was, and sometimes, here I still am.

My brother chose a different kind of life and a different kind of wife.  He created a different kind of life.  He allowed the muck of growing up in a very chaotic household to color his life with different hues.  Whereas I saw bright, he saw dull.  Whereas I saw a chance to escape the kind of life that made me ill, he saw reason to continue the ugliness of how we were raised.  He remained stuck in the web.  He was a good guy in many ways, but that didn't prevent him from leaving behind an absolute mess.  A mess that my nieces must now live in.  A mess that I am now trying to sort out.  A mess that I know he would be absolutely disgusted to discover, yet still a mess that he had some responsibility in creating.

I have spent the better part of the past week in emotional and spiritual pain.  I have been containing my own feelings about my SIL's actions towards me and my family in an attempt to reserve any small chance that I will be allowed to continue a relationship with my two nieces while they are still children.  I have been told to be patient.  I have been told to wait.  I have been told, I have been told...  And then the letter came.  A letter filled with hatred that spewed off of the paper like a soda can that had been shaken before it was opened.  And my soul cracked open as did my mouth.  I am finished waiting.  I am finished being patient.  I am finished allowing my brother's memory to be ground into the dirt like some useless piece of trash.

When I took the picture of the garden spider above, I was watching it build it's web with awe and admiration.  In so many ways, just looking at the spider repels me and makes me want to run screaming in the other direction.  But in other ways, I can see the absolute beauty of it's intricate web.  I can see how the spider moves with such purposefulness and even grace as it spins the threads which will contain it's home for the night.  Some might just see a very scary spider.  I can see Charlotte.

And so, as I sit here pondering all this and trying to make some sense out of it I realize that every life must have two sides.  And what makes the beautiful side so much more vibrant is the fact that we must also live with the other side.  The side that hurts our spirits.  The side that causes us pain.  The side which we never chose, but if we remain brave enough, we learn to live with.

May you always honor the beautiful side of life even while sometimes having to face the darkness.  May you fight for what is good because you are worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Because Life is Beautiful...

Mark and I know how blessed we are.  We have always known.  We began our life together with very, very little materially.  We had just graduated from college and we had big plans to drive from New Jersey to California, a place that neither of us knew anything about, to settle.  I had been to California once when I was about nine years old with my family, but Mark had never been.  We were going to start our own business...From nothing...With nothing...But we had heart and courage and dreams.  That was enough.  We did not know that we couldn't or shouldn't, so we did.  We were modern pioneers putting everything we owned, including our five cats and our dog, into the back of a Dodge Cube van and my little Dodge Omni to set out across the country.  It took us five days.  Five long, adventurous, scary, frustrating, bleary-eyed days to reach The Golden State and to plant our roots in our first California home.  We were young, in love, a little bit scared and a lot a bit unsure about what our future would bring.  But we had enough.  Even with just a little, we had enough because life was beautiful.
And so we celebrate.  We get a kick out of every step, every crazy, unsure step that life has set before us.  Our oldest angel daughter is only a little bit younger than I was when we began our journey.  She is the oldest daughter of two people who took on the "pioneer spirit" and created a mostly wonderful life from nothing.  
Our youngest Angel knows even less about how her parents adventure began, because by the time we had her, we were settled.  Deeply rooted in our pioneer life, far from where we had traveled.

But California is the land of opportunity and so we grabbed as much of the goodness that we could and made a beautiful life for our family.
(Marley is growing, isn't he?)  Our Angels have been afforded opportunities which Mark and I could only have dreamed of.
They love life.  We love life.  
(This is what happens when our fourteen year old Angel gets a hold of my camera.)  And so, because nobody ever told Mark and I that we couldn't do what we did and create what we have, we did, and we do.  Because life is beautiful.  We know this because regardless of the pain that life sometimes throws our way, it doesn't stop us.
We push back as hard as we can.  We remind ourselves that no matter what, we have enough.  We remind ourselves that life is beautiful.
We aren't at all sure where our oldest California native Angel Daughter will head on her journey, but we know that where ever she goes, she will remember that life is beautiful.  She will know that what ever she has at any given stage of life will be enough.
So dream sweet angel(and your lovely college friend, room-mate and our daughter when she is away from her family).  Because we hope that we taught you, and that we continue to teach you, that life is beautiful...
Even when it isn't.(or when your fourteen year old sister chases you around with Mom's camera!)

Friday, August 22, 2008

And the Angels Test their Wings...

I have been living in a bit of denial for the past couple of weeks.  In some ways, I should be prepared for Angel Daughter Number Two's departure to her college nest.  I survived Angel Daughter Number One's first flight.  I have been working up to this for eighteen years.  Eighteen short years.  When she was born, it seemed like forever away, but now, it has arrived far too quickly.  And so she spreads her wings...And she leaps...I watch her take flight drifting gracefully, yet cautiously onto the singular air currents of her own life.
And as she turns back to wave, her apprehension is so apparent.  Our eyes connect.  Our hearts connect.  Our souls connect, and I know that no matter how far she flies, she will always need me, just as I will always need her.  So I drift silently underneath her current, as I do with AD1, to catch her if she flies too low.

This is a mother's job.  This is how we prepare them to fly.  This is how we soar, together.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lady-Bugs and Finding my Way Home

I cannot help it.  I wasn't raised in a home where my brother and I were encouraged to look for something special or miraculous everyday.  I was not born to parents who particularly viewed the world with a sunshiny perspective.  There were no mentions of "rainbows and butterflies", or pretty little platitudes about how blessed we were to have a nice home to live in, with food on the table and clothes on our backs.  There was no talk of God, or a Higher Power, or guardian angels who watched over us guiding us like a loving parent.  There was no mention of prayer except for the couple of days a year when we made it to synagogue, and then it almost confused me.  As a matter of fact, it was not until my dear brother died, six months ago at the young age of forty-one, that I found out that my mother honestly, truly and without hesitation doubts the existence of God at all.
But as a child, I loved Lady-bugs.  I spent many a summer's day gingerly picking them up so that they could explore the surface of my skin, as I patiently rotated my hand in one direction to the next, counting their spots as they crawled.  If I found one in a precarious position or in the swimming pool, I would gently move it to a safer place while speaking to it in a small, quiet voice.  I discovered, at a very young age with very little assistance from anyone else, that yes indeed, Debra, there is a Guiding Force in the universe, and to me, that Force was God.  I couldn't help it.  The Lady-bugs were too perfect to have been created by accident.  Something deep within my soul just knew that.
When our angels were born, Mark and I knew that they needed to grow up in a world where God was a part of the family.  We sent them all to religious school, reinforced what they learned there at home and had them each become a Bat-Mitzvah.  I answered any questions that came up about my beliefs from a very young age, and reminded them that God is accessible.  I wanted them to understand that something as tiny as a Lady-bug or even smaller, like the microscopic aphids that the Lady-bugs feast on, were proof enough that there is a God.  

And so, they grew up knowing, even though I only grew up with the feeling that I wasn't alone.  The feeling that somehow, God was in the Lady-bug.
Watching my littlest angel carefully visit with this Lady-bug, yesterday, reminded me of how crucial it is to understand.  Her fascination and wonderment while examining this tiny creature reminded me that no matter how seemingly insignificant something might seem, it can make all of the difference between believing that it is all meant to be, or deciding that it is all a haphazard accident thrown together by chaos.  The look on AD4's face says that she loves Lady-bugs, too.  It brings me peace to know that my angels don't have to figure it out on their own.  They all know what Mark and I believe.  They can appreciate the Lady-bug as one of God's miracles.

There are so many paths which can lead to God.  May you find the one that brings you the knowledge and the peace to believe that you are not alone.  May you find your way to God in the simplest of miracles.  There are so many...

Thursday, August 14, 2008


As Angel Daughter Number Two gets ready to spread her wings to take her first leap from the nest, she decided she needed a little friend to keep her company.  When I told her that she could not take Jersey, our adorable black and white Cornish Rex kitty, she decided that a frog would be the next best thing.(Don't ask me how she went from "cute and cuddly" to "small and slimy"!)  Being the free-spirited angel that she is, AD2 came home from the pet store with this little reptile.  He is a Veiled Chameleon who she named Marley.  He is very cute now, but they change quite quickly.  They can grow to be eighteen to twenty-four inches long.  And they hiss.  And sometimes bite.  With strong clamping jaws.
Introducing Marley, the newest member of the Four Angel's Momma household, soon to be college student.  I have a feeling we are about to learn the true meaning of the word "Chameleon".

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Moment in Time. A Moment to Keep. A Moment to Dwell on.

I wasn't raised in a family that encouraged the power of positive thinking.  My dad can look past the bigger picture towards what is ultimately going to be fine, but my mother is another story.  Everything is "nag, nag, nag".  "I want what I want when I want it, which happens to be RIGHT NOW."  I suppose this is a small part, a very small part, a tinsy-winsy, itty-bitty little part of why they ended up divorcing.  And as I have explained to my dad over the course of the past several years, when he was ready to really hear it, he was able to divorce himself from my mother and marry someone who is a much better fit.  I, on the other hand, happened to remain irreversibly stuck with the hand that life dealt me.  My recently deceased brother chose a different journey in which he decided to remain estranged from our father, but I know that he had to live with his own demons because of the choice that he made.  They both did.  I couldn't, can't, won't do that with my mother unless I am left with no other choice.  And so far, I feel fairly comfortable with the choices that I have made when it comes to relationships.  I would much rather suffer some discomfort in a relationship, than make an irreversible choice by shutting someone out of my life permanently, whom I view as difficult.  To me, that would be missing the lesson, and Lord help me if I am forced to repeat some of these lessons again, in another place or at another time.  I would much rather complete the course now.

This past week brought with it a couple more "slams", and so, while taking the time to recover my bearings, I decided to take some time to dwell in the positive.  For as much as life tends to slam us, there is always, yes always, something good which can be unearthed.  For me those "somethings" are first and foremost, my husband and our Angel Daughters.  After that comes our dog, our kitties and yes, even our birds.  These are the things that remain steadfast and loyal in my life.

I was clicking through some pictures and came upon these which were taken a bit over a week ago.  Angel Daughter Number Three(my sixteen year old) was really itching to go on a mother/daughter adventure with me, and so we got into the car and began driving.  Having four makes it sometimes difficult to just steal away with only one angel at a time, so that made our outting even more special.  As we drove along, without any particular destination in mind, we turned the radio up loud and sang along to 70's and 80's songs that we both knew.  The more I allowed myself to relax and sing, the more we giggled.  By the time we arrived at our surprise destination, I felt almost like a teenager myself.  Looking at my daughter and how much she was enjoying our trip to "nowhere" allowed me to remember what it felt like to be sixteen, and for a little while, I was sixteen again, just hanging out with a friend!  How fun it was to go back in time with my own child!  We even sat in the parking lot until the song we were listening to was over.  When I turned the car off, I said to AD3, "Now you see what Mom might have been like at your age!  I was fun, too."  AD3 turned to me, smiling, and said, "Mom, you are always fun when you want to be."  A moment in time.  A moment to keep.  A moment to dwell on.

We decided to stop for an impromptu dinner at this interesting little place called The Gypsy Den.  We tasted one another's food and chatted freely about life, friends, and stuff.  The waitress noticed that I was taking pictures and asked if we would like her to take one of us together.  I am very glad that we said yes.  A moment in time.  A moment to keep.  A moment to dwell on.
There were some very interesting places to take pictures and so I convinced AD3, who doesn't usually enjoy having her picture taken, to "model" for me.  We also went shopping and I bought her and my other three angels, some fun stuff.  How joyous it was to think of nothing but food, fun and shopping for a few hours!
We both noticed these colorful, ornate bottles which were on a shelf in the restaurant that we ate at.  It struck me that objects which might look pretty, but quite ordinary alone, really created a beautiful display when grouped together.  It made me realize that each one of my angels, alone, is quite lovely and unique but as a group of four strong sisters, they are a dynamo.  A force to be reckoned with.  Special alone, but stronger when placed in the beautiful light of one another.  Reflecting off of each other in ways which only sisters can do.  I am the singleton, but they, they are sisters.  

And so, as a new week begins, I am choosing to dwell in the positive.  Yes, this has been an incredibly rough year, and yes, it continues to be one in ways that I once could not even fathom, but I am strong.  I have a choice and for now I would rather think about beautiful days with my angels and not funerals, lost nieces, hospital rooms where my father's health is being constantly challenged, and a "clinically depressed" mother who is clinging too tightly.  I am fighting to dwell in the positive, a place that has always felt much more at home to me than the alternative.

May the coming week bring you moments to keep and moments to dwell on.  May you share your own stories of "dwelling in the positive" with those who need to be reminded that there are always two sides to every coin.  We all need to be reminded.  I know that I do.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tiny Treasures or Meditating on a Rocky Beach

Our beach home resides on a bluff which overlooks the rocky beaches of San Clemente, California.  On the days when I feel up to it, Mark and I like to take a walk along the coastline.  There are very few seashells to be found, but the wonderfully organic shapes of the various rocks that can be discovered are endless.  As the waves roll into the shore, you can actually hear the clinking of the rocks as they ride onto the beach with the tide.  The sound is quite hypnotic, especially when mixed with the calls of the Seagulls, and the rising laughter of children as they clammer away from the waves.  The landscape is never the same.  It is an ever-changing slice of nature's magic, transforming moment by moment.

Walking along the shoreline, one day, I discovered something which seemed a bit out of place.  It was a tiny, triangular piece of glass which was translucent green in color.  Its edges were smooth, but its surface was etched from the sand that tumbled around it.  I picked it up, and I was immediately filled with the curiosity of a child.  I needed to know more.  I needed to find more.  And so, my fascination with pure sea glass began.

It is a form of meditation for me.  Walking along the shoreline, searching through the thousands and thousands of rocks, only to discover the one, singular remnant of sea glass which shines brightly among the soft grays, the speckled blacks and the creamy whites.  There is something about searching for something so elusive that calms the mind and soul.
These tiny pieces of glass, survivors of something which began as something much larger, somehow made it to the beach below my feet.  They may have tumbled about for hundreds of years, beginning as a bottle or a radio transmitter, or who knows what else, only to be discovered by me, a small fragment in time.  Mark humors me in my search as he finds his own form of meditation in the ocean waves.  He watches the surfers.  He stops occasionally to pick up the tiniest treasure which I proudly add to my collection.  When he does this, I remind him that "he is the MAN", and we smile knowing that whatever we are in, we are in it together.  And we return home as I banter on about the amazing pieces of treasure we have collected, alone, but together.  He listens.

It is like that, isn't it?  We set out on this journey alone, only to find someone along the way who allows us to meditate and refocus in whatever way might be necessary and then who sometimes joins in along the way.  Allowing enough distance, yet enough closeness to remind both yourself and he or she that they are indeed "the MAN!"  When we join up on this journey, together, it should be in a way that still allows the other person to indulge in quiet meditation, even if that means sometimes humoring one another.  Even if it means something as seemingly insignificant as searching for pieces of sea glass on a rocky beach.

Like many of the things I write, this turned out to be something very different from what it set out to be.  Yet, sometimes allowing the stream of consciousness to move from one thought to another is like dreaming while awake.  It's like not really knowing why you are starting out where you are until you get to the end.

May you discover whatever form of quiet mediation brings you the most peace.  May you take the time to allow yourself to indulge in whatever it is that works for you.  And may you be lucky enough to find someone, along the way, who cares enough to accompany you.  Allowing you to both find the pieces on your own, while also knowing when to hand you a tiny treasure along the way.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Good Sabbath-Shabbat Shalom-Have a Nice Weekend

There are times in our lives when we act and react without taking the time that we need in order to rest and reflect.  In some ways, this can be attributed to the fact that we neglect and forget to focus on the frailties of our humanness.  We are both quite fragile and quite resilient all at the same time.  Yet the idea of being fragile can be very overwhelming and so most of us tend to live our lives in the resiliency realm, where things feel more comfortable...Temporarily.
If we do not honor our need to just be, to just reflect, to take a hot bath, to read a story or to learn something new, then we are ignoring the fact that these are things which we are supposed to do.  
If we do not take the time to refresh our spirits, to reconnect with a Source much bigger than ourselves, then we can never be our best.  There is a time for work, a time to bustle around, and a time to do...
And then; there is  a time to just be.   Allow yourself to breathe in the spirit of the sabbath.  Give yourself permission to rest.

Shabbat Shalom-Welcome the Sabbath.  
May you take the time you need to renew and refresh.

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