Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Mother's Job

I am getting ready to let go, yet again. Angel Daughter Number One graduated from college in May, adding a numerous number of feathers to her wings. We were lucky enough to have her home for the summer, but now, leases have been signed, boxes are being packed and days are being counted.(For more freedom by her. For less available hugs and kisses for me.)

This time is different. I am not setting forth into the world, a child. I am opening the door and waving good-bye to a woman. A beautiful young woman who must begin her own life, independent of me. Not that I am going anywhere. For as long as I live, I will always be home to four lovely souls.
But for now, I will allow myself to get lost in this face. In these eyes. I will focus on these lips when she speaks to me. Because she is the one who made me into a mother. And although the changes become much more subtle throughout the adult years, I will memorize her face as I did when she was a newborn into a baby into a toddler into a child into a teenager... Because there are certain subtleties that only a mother's mind can record, which cannot be captured anyplace else.

Fly, Angel, fly...It's time to defy gravity.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Duality, Pain and Strength

I am trying. I am trying. I am trying. And the harder that I try, the more the confusion whirls throughout my mind like a seaside carnival ride on a sizzling summer afternoon. The sensation of possibility allows me to experience a certain ethereal freedom, but then the ride comes to an abrupt stop. The warm breeze ceases. And I am back to where I began...Trying, trying, trying.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with somebody about the duality of one of my most dominant personality traits. I do not give up on those I love. Call it loyalty, allegiance, stupidity or the faithfulness of an old, stubborn dog. I will piece together the shrapnel of a relationship until there is barely anything worth saving. But if there is anything worth fighting for, I will remain high up on that hill of hope. This is one of the spiritual reasons for my chronic illness. I am not saying that physical illness is not physical. Nope. Never. Absolutely not. What I am conceding is that every, and I mean every illness, from a simple headache to cancer, contains a spiritual component. The soul is connected to the mind is connected to the body. Each one affects the other. So, in many ways, my undying loyalty is detrimental to my own health. I have come to understand this very, very well.

The other side of that very sharp sword is this. I do not give up on those I love. I do not take the easy road. I often remain loyal long after others would run in another direction, screaming as if their hair were on fire. I will stand strong. This makes me someone worth knowing. It may be detrimental to my physical health, but herein lies the duality. This is one of the qualities that gives me the ability to look at myself in the mirror every single day of my life.
At the moment, I am once again being challenged spiritually, emotionally and physically from more than one corner of my life(in turn, so are my four Angel Daughters and my husband). And since I am still lacking the wings in which to rise high above it all, I am being forced to decide if this is the hill that I would figuratively choose to die on. In one instance, the answer is quite complicated. In the other, there is no alternative option other than to give up and give in. I have already established that this is not my style. I must try.

So I stand here from my vantage point up on the hill, and the view is definitely somewhat overwhelming. But I can gather so much strength from those who love me, from what I feel but cannot see, and from you. From my perspective, that makes it feel as if there is an entire army standing behind me waiting to charge if needed.

May the beginning of autumn bring with it many exciting possibilities for whatever it is that you would like to achieve in your life. May the change of seasons energize you by adding newer and more vibrant colors into your tapestry. And may it allow you to settle into a cozier version of yourself.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

May You be Inscribed and Sealed For a Good Year

A Mourning Dove gazes at me through my bedroom window, and all that I can think of is that this gentle creature, this graceful winged-angel, this sentient being, is somehow staring right down into the very core of my soul. And that everything on the outside, the clothes that I wear, the countenance on my face, the facade with which I portray, is absolutely and utterly transparent. With nowhere to hide, I delve inward. I search down into farthermost crevasses of my being. I question my reasons for doing the things that I do. I cross-examine the most confusing parts of my own psyche. I allow no mercy.
For Jewish people around the world, today is known as Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. The Hebrew calendar begins with this month which is also known as Tishrei.(If you lived in Israel, Tishrei would be the name of this month.) It is also believed to be the month during which God created the world, hence another way to view Rosh Hashanah is as the birthday of the world. For Jews, today marks the beginning of the most important time of the year, known as The Days of Awe. This ten day period closes with Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. It is said that on Rosh Hashanah, God performs a sort of life review and inscribes individual names into the Book of Life for another year. At the conclusion of this ten day period, on Yom Kippur, God then seals the Book. Whereas Rosh Hashanah is a day of celebration, Yom Kippur is a very solum day filled with introspective study and humble prayers for forgiveness. For most Jews, albeit religious or more secular, this time of year is a time of serious contemplation and self-evaluation. It is a time to review the way that one has conducted their life throughout the previous year, and to repair any damages that might have been purposely or inadvertently done.

Because of my health problems, I was unable to make it to synagogue with the rest of my family today. I spent a good part of the day in quiet contemplation, resting, reading and appreciating my surroundings. About a month ago, Mark and I attended a street fair in San Clemente. As we walked past the booth housing these paintings, we were both drawn in by something ethereal about them. From the outside of the booth, these works of art just looked like interesting portrayals of trees and angels, but as we got closer to the images, we noticed the Hebrew words which were placed quite subtly in the backgrounds of some of them.
And when the artist, Danny Hughes, came over to talk with us, we realized that there was indeed something very special about these beautiful works. Danny studies a branch of Judaism known as Kabbalah which emphasizes the more mystical side of Judaism. Kabbalah delves more deeply into the relationship between God and man, and how that relationship creates a very deep connection. The piece that both Mark and I chose for our home is called "Believe". It is a mixed media piece which actually incorporates old bible pages from the late 1800's into its theme. Danny was given permission by a rabbi to use these pages in his works because the bibles that they were contained in were falling apart and no longer salvageable. Oftentimes, old bibles are burned because they cannot be thrown away or destroyed.
Today, I spent some time alone with this work of art. I traced the words with my fingers. I photographed it from different angles. I strained my eyes to read some of the words buried beneath layers of paint and surfboard shellac(Yes, Danny uses surfboard shellac), and I thought about the words that Danny inscribed on the back of this piece. "Know that whatever you can see...Can be. DO NOT STOP REACHING FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN. Fear is not an option."

As I considered my own life throughout the course of the past year, I knew that I wasn't alone. I thought about my own actions and reactions. My challenges, my hopes and my hesitations. My mistakes and my triumphs. The things I hope to forgive and the things that I hope to be forgiven for. I asked to be judged wholly, fairly and without fear. But unlike the way in which I often harshly judge myself, I know that God will judge me with more than just a modicum of mercy. Because like the Morning Dove, God can view me with a much gentler eye. For He knows, by looking into the depths of my soul, that I am not out to do harm, but only good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Glaciers in the Mist

I am pulled from the warmth of my bed by something that is much like the feeling of a child who has waited for the first snowy day of winter to finally arrive. I peer at the clock through one barely opened eye. 5:30 AM. Oy. What am I doing? In my light-weight tee-shirt and pajama pants, I quietly slip into my jacket. With nothing else but socks on my feet, I tip-toe past the others who are soundly sleeping in the room and gingerly open the slider which leads to the outside veranda. The cold air bites at my exposed ears and cheeks, but I impatiently ignore its bidding for me to return to the warmth of my bed. Warmth of my husband. I am where I am meant to be.

As we slowly lumber across the frigid waters, it is eerily quiet. There is a sense, in this place, that any added sound would be unnatural. I take a moment to slip back into the room to defrost for a bit. The air is still filled with the sounds of peaceful sleep. Deep, rhythmic breathing without any stirring. Once again, I head back outside.

It is then that I look out into the dusk of the early morning and I see them. Actually, first I smell them. A crisp, icy, scent bombards my senses and I realize that I have been awakened to something very primitive, something that connects me to the earth on a very soulful level. In the water, below me, there are huge chunks of ice. Frozen pieces of history floating effortlessly in a bay which now reaches the depths of 1000 feet plus. We have entered the glaciers of Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska.
Tiny seabirds rest upon these fallen chunks of glacier, which can sometimes be as large as three city buses. But from my vantage point on the ship, these wondrous pieces of ice appear to be gracefully floating sculptures. Naturalist, John Muir, explored this area comparing its beauty and grandeur to that of Yosemite National Park. He also used the story of the strikingly similar topography in both of these areas to prove that Yosemite was, indeed, created by glaciers.
An hour must have passed by now, or has it? Light rain begins to fall from the sky, but I am too enchanted by these otherworldly surroundings to go inside. I pull my tee-shirt out from the back of my jacket and cover my ears and cheeks. I do a little dance around the deck trying to encourage my body to create its own heat supply. I don't want to miss a thing. I consider waking the rest of my pack, but I know that the alarm will soon go off for them and something about what I am experiencing needs to be done alone.
We drift into an area covered in rain forest. Hundreds of waterfalls plunge from the mountains into the frozen water below.
Water, in all of its forms, overtakes my senses.
Once again, the mist descends. But then, there is a blue-tinged crevasse in between the mountains. Glaciers. Majestic. Supernatural. Ancient. I hold my breath as if breathing will disturb what I am feeling inside. Here, right here on this spot, I feel Him. As if on cue, God breezes right through my body and causes me to catch my breath. Don't leave, I pray, and He doesn't.
I feel even quieter now as a tear rolls down my cheek. I am so small.

So very, very small.
I hear the beginnings of stirring behind me. The slider opens and then closes. I hear laughter and then Mark comes out and snaps a picture of me. It is only then that I realize what I must look like. Wet socks on my feet. Striped baby-blue and white pajama pants. Black jacket. Grey tee-shirt pulled up over my head. I try to explain, but the words don't seem to be enough. I point out toward the glaciers. Mark stands behind me, pulling me in close for warmth. Our breath takes on a similar rhythm. Our four Angel daughters begin to emerge from slumber, one at a time. Faces sleepy from dreaming, they peer out on the glaciers, one by one.

All of a sudden, there is a clamor to get dressed. Excitement takes over like it does on the first snowy day of winter. An urgent fatigue begins to settle down over my body and I step back inside. The clock says 7:30 AM. I have been standing out in the cold, in my stocking feet for two hours. Mark and the girls get dressed and head out to view the glaciers from the bow of the ship. I kiss them all good-bye and they tuck me back into bed. The door closes behind them and I am once again struck by the warmth that overcomes me. As I snuggle into the blankets, I whisper words of thanksgiving into the universe. I pray that God will watch over my husband, our daughters, my family and friends and thank Him for awakening me on this cold, August, Alaska day. And as I descend into sleep the words, You are not so small, scroll through the mist between consciousness and sleep.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


This man. This man who felt like home from the moment I met him. This man who grabbed ahold of my heart and would not let go. This man, whose eyes I looked into at the very young age of eighteen and immediately recognized my future. This handsome, loyal, honest, more than hard-working, funny, dedicated, testosterone-driven, adorable, decent man is my husband of twenty-five years.
And I have to take this opportunity, on the eve of our twenty-fifth anniversary and on the event of my 201st post, to say thank you.

And to mention a few of the more than a million reasons why we are where we are, today.

-Saying hello to me on the hill by the Carrier Dome.

-Knowing that you were there by seeing your dorm room light go on from my dorm room.

-Taking me to the top of a ski slope in Spring to tell me that you loved me.

-Dancing at Bugsy's and Poets.

-Eating Toasted Honey Buns with vanilla ice cream at Cosmos.


-Burnt Hamburgers

-Camping with Whitney.

-Springsteen concert in Saratoga Springs when he played, Who'll Stop the Rain and then he waved to us.

-Working at the library together.

-The little notes I wrote to you in the Syracuse paper that you kept in your wallet.(You still have them.)

-Knowing that my dad liked you.

-That you knew my grandfather.

-Long walks in Santa Ana.

-The smell of orange trees.

-Buying our first home in Laguna Niguel.

-Speeding in the red corvette when I was in labor with AD1. You were so excited to be able to speed for a reason!

-Becoming parents for the first time.

-Buying our second home in Laguna Hills.

-Giving birth to AD2 and noticing that she was born with a rat-tail!

-Never cutting that rat-tail.

-The way that you treated my grandma.

-The way that my grandma ADORED you!

-Putting up with my mother.



-The Best-Man speech that you gave at Tony's first wedding.

-Angel Daughter Number Three on a very rainy day. Her deep belly-laugh.

-Chipmunk crawling up AD1's leg.

-The way that you loved my brother.

-Being pregnant, and pregnant, and pregnant, and pregnant AGAIN, and loving every minute of it.

-You putting your mouth up against my stretched belly to talk to our babies.

-The birth of AD4, our little surprise:)

-The way that our daughters all fell asleep on your chest when they were babies.

-The way that you allowed them to sit high up on your shoulders wherever we went.

-The way that AD4 would hold onto your ears.

-People asking if they are all ours.

-You showing up at all school activities and then going back to work.

-Moving to Ladera.

-Taking over the physical stuff when I became sick.

-Never complaining about my illness.

-Enjoying AD1's plays and choir performances, AD2's cheerleading, AD3's track and field competitions, and AD4's dance competitions.

-Whitney, Elijah, Becca, Mica, Cleo, Coury, Dusty, Sammy, Chloe, Harley, Jasmine, Arnie, Max Callie, Jersey, Momma and Rex!

-Hearing you come in the door everyday.

-The way that you schlep the girls wherever and whenever they need to go someplace.

-You always being there whenever we need you.

-Sea glass hunting.

-Loving you more after twenty-five years than I did on the day that I wore the white, puffy, princess dress and became your wife.
To our past, to our now and to our future.

Happy 25th, my love.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Introducing Angel Father Number One, More Musings from the Loveboat

This man, this debonair, dynamic, doting(on his four Angel granddaughters), impervious to Kryptonite, story-weaver of a man, is my dad(thanks for asking, Peggy!). If you are lucky enough to become of interest to him, he will serve as a mentor. Someone who will impart his seventy years of experience and wisdom in a way that very few are able to do. He is, by far, one of the most interesting and intelligent individuals that I have ever met.
He is also one of the silliest.
Which is a quality that has been passed down to another generation.
And is proving itself to be an extremely dominant gene...especially when it comes to Angel Daughter Number Four.(the one waaaaaay down there on the end with the impish grin)
This is Underwear Man. I am not exactly sure why, but there was a point during the Salute to the Cinema show that we went to see on the cruise, when a bunch of people in their underwear began dancing around the stage while others climbed up and hung from, what appeared to be, dangling bed sheets. Not exactly sure what movie they were trying to depict, but I pray it is one that my children have not seen.
Angel Daughter Number Three, Angel Daughter Number Two, my adorable husband, Angel Father and me.(I promise that I will post pictures of the beautiful Alaskan wilderness, very soon!)
If you have ever been on a cruise ship, then you will understand when I say that the cabins are teeny-tiny small. We had two cabins and we were still tripping over each other. Angel Daughter Number Four and AD2 humored me by allowing me to take yet another picture.
While playing Blackjack one night, I had the good fortune of meeting two very handsome young men. Ben and Chris(pictured above) sat down at a table I was playing at with AD1, AD2 and AR1(Angel Rita, my step-mom). When they first sat down and introduced themselves, it appeared that they had been good friends for years. We came to find out that they had just met on the cruise. It wasn't long before AD1 and AD2 became friends with Ben and Chris and the four of them became a little "pack". Both men were traveling with their lovely families, but I think that they were all relieved to find friends who were closer to their own ages. The four of them got together night after night, until Chris and AD2 gave into the spark which was apparent between them and began a bit of a "shipboard romance". It turns out that Chris only lives about an hour and a half away from AD2, so they will be seeing how things go onshore. He is a very talented young man who has a blog and is a very good writer. He is very polite, expressive and funny. I know that AD2 and Chris have plans to see each other very soon. Could our Alaska cruise soon be remembered as The Loveboat? Stranger things have happened...

I am back at home. Back by my sea. Back where my spirit feels most connected. But having new memories to share and enjoy, new stories to tell, new friends to bring into the circle...those are always very good things.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sailing the Seas to Alaska

Several months ago, my Angel Father Number One(as he now insists on being referred to), turned the corner to being seventy years old. It has been decades and decades since we went on a "family" vacation.(I was about thirteen years old and my was brother nine, at the time. My mother insisted on spending the afternoon in the tiny bathroom on The Maid of the Midst, instead of experiencing Niagra Falls, as to prevent her hair from getting wet. Oh, the horror.) So, when my step-mom brought up the idea of taking a family vacation, the idea sounded quite intriguing. Mark and I like to take the girls on vacation when we can. We know that it is only a very short jaunt to the time when each one of them will have lives of their own, and arranging a time when we will all be available at the same time will be increasingly more difficult. We have always prided ourselves on the idea of raising our daughters with value and respect for our family as a unit. For these reasons, and many others, we decided that a cruise to Alaska would be a nice way to create some new family memories with my dad(Excuse me, AF1) and my step-mom, Rita.

We decided on a cruise because it is a fairly easy way to travel to several different points without having to pack and then unpack, over and over again. We decided on Alaska, mostly for convenience. Mark and I had taken our Angel daughters to Anchorage, several years ago and we really enjoyed being able to experience the glaciers on land. The wildlife there was absolutely breathtaking. While taking a hike through the Anchorage wilderness, we were forced to wait and be still for over twenty minutes while a gigantic Moose grazed and grunted lazily on the footpath. There is nothing like having to remain still while allowing the rhythm of nature to take its course. It certainly puts life into a different perspective. Viewing Alaska from a cruise ship is a very incongruent and limited way to experience such a vast land of beauty. We did get off of the ship in different ports, but were only able to see what the cruise lines wanted us to see in the constrained periods of time which we were allowed. That being said, we had a very nice time spending some time together as a family.
The beginning of our trip started with a plane flight up to the dynamic city of Seattle. We were all filled with happy expectance, as we boarded the airplane for the two and a half hour flight.
Angel Daughter Number One and Angel Daughter Number Three settled into the seats across from Mark's and mine.
After about an hour, Angel Daughter Number Two and Angel Daughter Number Four fell asleep behind us. I just love the way that my children look when they are sleeping. So...Well, so angelic ;).
Once again, I took in the distinct context of observing the earth from the air. Here is one of the several volcanos which reached up beyond the vistas to greet us. Fascinating.
Descending into Seattle from the sky.
Once we arrived in Seattle and settled into the hotel for the night, AD1 was able to catch up with her beloved roommate from college. Theresa is like another Angel daughter to us. She drove four hours from Portland to see us. I am so glad that the girls got to spend some time together and that I was able to give Theresa a big hug.(She is a wonderful hugger!)
Seattle is such a diverse city. You can see the Space Needle off in the distance. If you can catch the city on a clear and sunny day, the mood of the city boarders on giggly. People there are so energized by the sun. Seattle is a wonderful place with a fabulous farmer's market. We had an extra day on the tail-end of our trip, so I was able to spend an afternoon enjoying all of the local splendor. I will share some photos of the farmer's market in another post.
Angel Daughters three, four and two(from left to right) arriving at the port in Seattle. It was our first journey on a such huge ship, so the girls were quite excited. Angel Daughter Number Three does not really like having her picture taken. I am not sure why, as she is such a beautiful girl, both inside and out. Hence the sourpuss...
After embarking onto the ship, we met up with Angel Father Number One and Angel Rita. We then went up to the very top floor of the boat to watch as we shipped-off to sea! We seemed to be on the side of the ship that was windward, so it took a lot of begging to get a photo of the girls as we sailed out of port. Angel Daughter Number Three had to use one hand to hold down her skirt(No Marilyn Monroe shots here), and the other to hold her sweater closed.(She gets cold!) I guess that left no hands to brush the hair from blowing into her eyes.
From the bow of the ship, I watched as we made our way out into the open ocean. The sky and sea seemed to share the same cerulean color as we embarked upon our journey. It's interesting how each day offers us the same opportunities to start out with that wonderful feeling of unbridled optimism and yet, we do not often take advantage of the tangibility that we are offered. I have to say that going on a trip, whether it be long or short, gives us the fortuity to look forward to the unexpected in a very good way. What if we took a little bit of that into each day along with us? Even the seemingly ordinary ones.

I will definitely condense certain days of our trip into shorter snippets. We spent at least a few days at sea without a lot of activity. I would say that all in all, our trip was filled with mostly good stuff(ex-boyfriend drama followed us from land that never should have) and that Angel Father Number One learned a whole lot more about his granddaughters than he thought he knew, but really did not. I suppose that is why spending time together as a family or with the closest of our friends(the ones who are like family), is such an important thing. Shouldn't we all know more about the people we love the most?

I am so glad to be back at home. And thank you for the lovely comments that you left for me in my absence. Your kind words mean so. I have missed catching up with everyone. I promise to stop by to say hello in the next few days.
Related Posts with Thumbnails