Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Storm Before the Calm

California has been a soggy, rain-soaked mess lately.  We have experienced everything from pounding rain to hail stones the size of marbles to tornadoes!  Yes, tornadoes.(Look Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.)  We are experiencing an El Nino year, I am told, which tends to occur around once every five years.  El Nino translates to mean "the boy" which is a reference to The Christ Child.  Typically, El Nino years begin in December around Christmas which is why this weather pattern came to be named after Christ.  Along with the wild weather, there tends to be a more abundant number of fish which is why the fisherman began referring to this weather pattern as El Nino.  With the difficult weather, comes the "gift" of extra fish stocks.

Down at the beach, where I spend over fifty percent of my time now, the roar of Mother Nature hits even harder.  The many moods of nature gush forth in the waves of the ocean.  The sunsets are more vibrant, but so are the storms that blow through.  If it is breezy inland, the winds at the beach clamor in with a force that knocks over our patio furniture and pelts the windows of our home with a shear curtain of fury.  This is life on the edge of a bluff.
Watching the storms from my bedroom window can be both a mesmerizing and frightening experience. For living on the bluffs of the beach can leave us extremely vulnerable to the forces of Mother Nature.  Upon an angry whim, it is possible to lose a portion of our cliffside.  The waves come fast and furious without regard to that which is manmade.  We understand that we leave ourselves open to the intensity of nature, yet we would not have it any other way.  The storms can leave me feeling vulnerable, but they also leave me with a sense of ethereal safety which can cause me to lower my head in a humility that is unlike anything else.  I am humbled and awed by the forces of that which I can and cannot see.  And I accept my place in the pathway of that which occurs around me.  I trust.  I must trust.
I am going through a stormy period of life right now.  It began almost two years ago, when my brother suddenly died at the all too young age of forty-one.  He was a strong and powerful soul who seemed to be able to take charge of a room just by walking into it.  He was funny and mischievous.  He was an attorney who began his professional life as a public defender.  His heart was in the right place.  He felt the need to defend individuals who couldn't afford to defend themselves.  His desire was to fortify the wrongly accused.  He ended up with the sad and frustrating knowledge that the "wrongly accused" were most typically liars and re-offenders, but that only made him want to fight for the innocent more.  He was considering going back to public defending shortly before his death.  He was a father, a husband and a loving uncle to my daughters.  He was a brother to my husband.  He was a son to my parents.(Although admittedly, not always a very good one.)   He was my brother.  It breaks my heart to think that I must live the rest of my life without him to turn to.  The tides in my life took a vicious turn when he passed away.  And there is a little bit of sadness, everyday, that bubbles just below the surface of my heart.
I expected to soar through my life in the company of my husband and our beautiful angel daughters.  But I also expected that my younger brother would always be there, raising his children, living his life and sharing more history with me.  Being "an only child" is my new normal and one that has not been very easy to get used to.  It is a very, very strange feeling.
This weather has exasperated my illness to the point of creating a cycle of nonstop pain.  Even the strongest of medications can only reduce the constant throbbing to a dull, steady ache.  And yet, I am not sure which storm has been more detrimental to my health.  The storms that brews outside, or the ones that have been created by this lawsuit that I have been forced to file in order to keep my nieces, my brother's children, in my life.  My brother's wife is furious at me.  That is the word that she has used with her attorney, as well as with the court appointed mediator whom she refused to enter the room to mediate with.  Furious.  Fury.  Destructive rage bordering on madness.  And all that I have asked to do for almost two years now, is to love her children.  Something that I have done for eleven-plus years.  Something that included her up until she began refusing us access to the children.  Now, we want visitation without her present.  She has created too much pain for her children, for us, and now, for my mother.  I am not sure whether or not the Judge will grant this, but I am praying.  I am doing everything I can to weather the storm.  I am battening down the hatches.(cue Wizard of Oz witch music)  And I am trusting.  Lord knows, I am trusting.
Even during an El Nino year, the sun breaks through the clouds most of the time, and such is the pattern of my life.  I am a naturally happy person.  I look for the breaks in the clouds.  I count my blessings, appreciate the small stuff, etc., etc., etc.  But I am also a realist.  I understand human nature and Mother Nature, even though I have a healthy fear of both.  And I know that even in an El Nino year, there is a very bright side.  Extra fish stocks for the fisherman.  A gift that comes with the storms.
So although I am now "an only child" on this journey called life, I am not alone.  I will not be pulled down by the crashing waves or even the murkiest of waters.  I will swim for my life.  I will take shelter in my husband, my daughters, my father, my pets, my friends.  I will stay afloat and eventually, I will learn how to soar above it all.  Because I know that when I am thrown a life-preserver from wherever it comes, that I will grab hold of it.  And because I trust that there will always be somebody there to throw me one whenever I need it, I can stay afloat.  Even in the most furious of storms...

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Queen of Hearts

Sometimes my daughters glow from the inside out.  This is not something that I get to see on a daily, weekly or even a monthly basis, but when it happens, it's pure unadulterated joy for me.  To observe one of my daughters having a moment, is like having the pieces of a lifetime all fitting together at once.  Everything aligns just right.

A couple of weeks ago, Angel Daughter Number Three came to her father and me to let us know that she had been asked to model in a fashion show at school.  It was a last minute request made by one of the designers who created a fantasy dress for the character The Queen of Hearts from the well-loved tale of Alice in Wonderland.  AD3 wasn't sure about most of the details, but she decided to do it.  As the week went on, she became a little bit undecided about what she had committed to, but she knew that bailing out would not be the answer.  AD3 is somewhat more reserved and has always preferred to be less in the limelight.  She is a creative soul as are all four of my Angel Daughters, but her creativity is a bit quieter.  Angel Daughter Number One is my actor.  She can make you believe that she is a Shakespearean Countess or an old woman who is reviewing her life.  She is pursuing her advocation in the land of lost and found dreams.  Los Angeles.  Angel Daughter Number Two is my photographer.  Her work is beyond the scope of individuals who are twice her age, and yet, she keeps growing.  Angel Daughter Number Four is my dancer.  She is small and sassy.  She uses her body to speak emotions that bubble up from her soul.  And then there is Angel Daughter Number Three.  She is my fashionista.  She can take any article of clothing and turn it into an original look.  She wears her clothes with a flair that makes other people want to run out and get them.  This is why I just knew that she would rock the runway.

And in front of about five hundred people, rock it she did!

She was poised.  She was confident.  She strut her stuff!

She smiled and engaged the crowd with her adorable attitude.  And out of all of the outfits that had been created for this show, AD3s took first place!

She worked the runway and she worked the crowd.  Not everyone is capable of putting their own misgivings aside and working it out!  The dress was wonderfully creative.  The model was fantastic.  Together, they brought the house down.

These are some of the moments that make a momma proud.  The moments when one of my girls stretches herself beyond what she might feel comfortable doing, and makes it look easy.

After the show, AD3 went to change out of her outfit and ran off to grab some dinner with her friends at Chili's.  I guess that glowing from the inside out can make you very, very hungry!

So, my question for you is when is the last time that you felt yourself glowing from the inside?

Friday, January 15, 2010

And You're Gonna Love Me

Becca, our eleven year old Dalmatian/Lab, is not exactly a patient pup.  Each afternoon at four forty-five, she looks at me with wild, bulging eyes and barks.  Incessantly.  It isn't her regular, "There's a stranger lurking" bark.  Nope, that would not be effective enough.  It's her, "If you do not feed me now, I WILL STARVE TO DEATH RIGHT THIS MINUTE" bark.  Very effective.   In the fall when we set the clocks back an hour, she forgets to bark at me for a couple of days, but then, her tummy catches on to the time change thing(silly humans) and we are back on schedule again.

Becca is fairly particular about who she allows into her inner circle.  There are people whom she has known for years who she still looks at with a leery eye.  And regardless of how many times we reintroduce her to them, she barks at them when they first come in.  She would never bite, but she is a pretty vocal gal who is deeply devoted to her people.

Enter Jersey.  Jersey is one of two Cornish Rex kitties that Mark gave me after our twenty-one year old feral cat, Chloe, passed away several years ago.  My heart was broken and Mark knew that bringing new babies into my life would help me to heal.  We usually adopt from shelters or rescue organizations, but after doing some research on cats with exceptional personalities, Mark decided to bring home these fearless little furless furballs.  Callie and Jersey are not your typical cats.  First off, they look a little bit like bats or aliens, with their gigantic ears and eyes.  They have only one layer of fur(most cats have three) and the little fur that they do have is curly and soft like velour.  Cornish Rex cats also have some quirky personality traits.

They are acrobats and clowns, but they also love to be LOVED.  Jersey came into our family thinking that everyone, and that includes Becca, should love him as much as he loves them.  There is no negotiating.  There is no vote.  You simply WILL accept his love!

Jersey does not care if he is rubbing you the wrong way...

As a matter of fact, your moment of complaint gives him the perfect opportunity to clean himself.

Which he does...

Until Becca stops that incessant growling sound.

At which point, the rubbing recommences.

Becca has learned to put up with this irritation.  She has somehow come to understand that Jersey's display of affection is not necessarily a bad thing.  Annoying, yes, but tolerable on some level.

Maybe she realizes that he needs it.  Possibly it is because he knows that she needs it.  In spite of her complaints, Jersey continues to rub away.  There seems to be a symbiotic connection which exists between these two that allows them to sense what the other one might be needing.  And they allow the other one to express and fulfill that need.(However annoying.)

After Jersey struts away, Becca is left to contemplate what just happened.  I have to laugh at the look of annoyance on her face.  I probably look that way to her when she barks her "Feed me!" bark each night. But patience comes in many forms.  With our pets, it might be in the clean-up that comes with pet ownership.  It might come in the form of deciphering the different barks or meows that they use to get our attention.  Or, it might come during the times that one of us needs affection, and looks toward the other one to provide it.

Relationships can be as complicated or as simple as we decide to make them.  Oftentimes, it can be as easy as reading the small cues that others provide for us.  For this Dalmatian/Lab pup and her Cornish Rex buddy, the lesson is fairly simple.  If someone rubs you the wrong way, the true message may get lost in the translation.  Try to view them with a patient eye.  They will either go away, or you will become better friends.  Either way, you will be no worse for the wear in the end!(and you might even like it!)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

To My Twenty Year Old

When I was twenty, the world was quite a different place.  No cellphones, no Internet, no twitter or Facebook or texting.  That was only twenty-seven years ago.  Twenty-seven short years.  Yet I can remember what it was like...The world was quieter then.  Much quieter.

You, my sweet Angel Daughter Number Two, you have grown up with the world and in doing so, you have been enabled with so many new advantages.  You live on your own in one of the nation's most beautiful cities.(although we still pay your bills:))  You attend an art school which is respected throughout the world as the best.  You have a clue, at the very young age of twenty, as to what you are going to be when you "grow-up".   You have familial support, friends, and a huge social network to cheer you on as you go.

But in addition to all of the advantages which you have grown up with, you also have lots of added stresses.  The world is so noisy, these days.  Over-stimulation is everywhere.  There is more pressure to perform and to perform at a level which at one time, in my time, was unheard of.  I mean, who knew that having a 4.0 GPA would no longer place someone at the top of their class in 2010?   Or that it would be necessary to be constantly in-touch, reachable, and available in order to succeed in business?  Or that if your life did not seem busier or more chaotic than someone else's, that you just are not working hard enough?

Oh my dear child, Daddy and I did not choose to raise you this way.  We did our best to instill the values of God, family and friendship into your life.  We fought hard against the pressures of peer pressure.(Yes, adults must deal with that, too.)  There were no team sports for you until high school, so that we would have weekends to spend together as a family.  There was no pressure to work up to somebody else's potential, only your own personal best.  We allowed you to run and play and laugh.  And yet the world, oh how the world has changed...

So as you enter another decade of your life, here is a list of things that I pray you will keep tucked away inside of your heart:

-Love always wins.

-Be courageous and always stand up to evil.

-Turn off the electronic devices when the ringing makes you crazy.  If people cannot get in touch with you in this exact moment, they will try again later.(I promise.)

-Exercise.  This is something that got you through your very active childhood.  You always had the need to move.  So start moving again.  Stretch, run, dance.  The natural release of endorphins will be the gift you receive.

-Let go.  Past relationships are just that.  History.  Don't feel that they must continue to be a part of your story.

-Listen to that small, still, inner-voice that tells you what to do, caution, or be.  It can be one of your truest allies.

-Listen to God, your angels, Uncle Robbie.  They will always be there to guide you if you allow them to.

-Stay creative.  There will be times when it will save your sanity.

-Understand that there are only about eight to ten people in this world who truly have your best interests at heart and treasure them.(Mom, Dad, your sisters, Pop-pop and Rita...)

-Remind yourself on a daily basis how lucky you are to have parents, a grandfather and sisters who take an interest in your life.

-Remain loyal to those few individuals forever.

-Be grateful that you were given a gift.  Never squander it or take it for granted.  Treat it with respect.

-Eat some vegetables:)

-Trust your own intuition.

-Take compliments.

-Don't take life so seriously.  There is plenty of time for that.

-Keep noticing the colors.

-Do not pollute your body with toxins.  Seriously.(see exercise.)

-Respect yourself.

And so my child, as I reflect upon your beautiful soul on your twentieth birthday, I must remind you of how incredibly special you are.  There is a light inside of you which makes others feel good about themselves.  You have the gift of being exceptionally lovely, while also being approachable and warm.  You make others want to know you, and in knowing you, they feel lucky.  That is a gift, sweet girl.  My Father(your Pop-Pop) once told me that I came across as the type of person who "people would always want to carry bags" for.  That is you, too.  Use it for good.  You have so much to look forward to, so much to achieve.

And whatever road you choose to take on this journey, you will always have a little team(and I do mean little, as we are mostly short people:)) to cover your back and lift you up.  Keep your inner light lit.

Happy birthday, Angel Daughter Number Two!!!  I love you.  Dad loves you.  Your sisters love you.  Life is good.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Gift of a Moving Train

While waiting to cross the train tracks the other evening, I stood patiently watching for a train that was not yet in sight.  The signals were there.  The red and white arm which serves as a physical boundary lowered itself right in front of me.  The red flashing lights alternated like a sentinel keeping watch.  And instead of questioning the possibilities, I stood tolerantly waiting for the train to approach.

At first, it approached as several lights in the distance, incandescent beacons illuminating the dusky twilight sky.

The lights pushed their way through the darkening horizon gaining brilliance as they sped their way towards me.  Horn blaring strong and loud.

Closer and closer it came, at first appearing non-threatening and almost toy-like and then...real.

Before I knew it, the train was upon me, rumbling past in a whiz of light, color, smell and sound.

The breeze pushed me back a step or two, but I stood unwavering as the train soared its way past me from wherever it had come, moving on to where it was going.

I felt almost dizzy on my feet, taking a moment to absorb the possibilities of what ignoring the signs of the impending danger might entail.  All of the warnings were there to keep me safe and sound.  Yet, the choice was mine to make.  Take heed of the physical boundary, the flashing lights and the blaring horn, or move forward with reckless abandon.

I watched as the train sped past and then disappeared into the distance.  The arm raised and the lights stopped flashing.  The scent on the breeze turned from metal on metal, back to salt-air and sea.  It was, once again, safe to cross.

Life is, so often, like that.  We are offered harbingers of what is to come, but all too often, we ignore the signals.  Things are placed into our pathway so as to gently, or not so gently, guide us towards safety, and yet, we sometimes refuse to take a moment to evaluate.  We ignore the guidance.  We attribute the dizzying feeling to a bad burrito.  We close off our ears to the blaring horn.  And then we wonder why it hurts so much when the train seems to come out of nowhere and hits us head-on.

In 2010, I will listen more intently to the voice which starts out tolerably gently, rather than waiting until it becomes a roaring train barreling past me(or worse yet, over me!) in a near miss.  I will search for the smaller signs instead of waiting for the flashing lights and sirens to alarm my adrenaline system into a state of panic.  I will pay more attention to the physical boundaries which are seemingly placed in front of me, randomly.

We all have our own emergency alert systems.  God, The Universe, intuition.  Our job is to pay attention to the signs that tell us that the train is coming.  And then to stand back and watch the marvel of it, without getting harmed.
Related Posts with Thumbnails