Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heating up the Stage to Lady GaGa/Telephone

Angel Daughter Number Four dancing to Telephone by Lady GaGa
When she was about four years old, she would stand up in the middle of our kitchen table and dance!  And there was something about the way that she danced, the way that she used her entire body to express joy, that made me realize that she wasn't just dancing in the way that children usually do.  She was listening to a rhythm that only she could hear, and she was responding to its call.  She was following her soul's desire.
As my daughters were growing up, I observed them very closely.  I wasn't one of those pushy parents who felt the need to enroll my children in every sport/dance/you fill in the blank, type of class.  I allowed them to lead.  I allowed them to try things.  I even allowed them to...wait for it...quit if they decided that the thing that they were trying wasn't something that felt like a comfortable fit.  You see, from my perspective, the only way that we will continue to feel good about trying something out, is if we can stop doing it when and if, we decide that it is not for us.  I wanted my girls to feel free to try something that seemed appealing.  I never wanted them to feel as if trying something meant sticking it out until they decided that they would never try something out again, for fear that they would get stuck doing something that made them absolutely miserable.  I spent too many summers in a day camp that I hated.  Participating in things that I despised.  Being constantly demoralized because I was very small, and couldn't serve the ball over the volleyball net as hard as I tried.  When all I wanted to do was go into the arts and crafts shack and create things.  Or learn to play the guitar.  Or participate in the drama classes.  So I learned an early lesson.  I learned that if you are forced to finish something that you only agreed to try, that you would become somewhat fearful of trying new things.  A difficult cycle to break once it is firmly ingrained in the mind.  But it was a lesson well-learned and it saved my own daughters from having to decide between giving something a whirl, and ending up being stuck.
All of my daughters are exceptionally good at something.  Actually, I truly believe that we are all exceptionally good at something, given the opportunity to discover what that something might be.  And by watching my own children figure out the things that make them feel great, I am learning that it is never too late to begin trying and quitting, if need be.
Angel Daughter Number Four is, amongst many other wonderful things, a dancer.  Angel Daughter Number Three loves fashion. Angel Daughter Number Two is a photographer and an artist.  Angel Daughter Number One is an actor and a singer and a Universal Studios Tour Guide.  These are things that they have all come to on their own.
With lots of encouragement from their father, me, one another, their grandfather.

And when you stay true to whatever song it is that your spirit seems to inherently know the words to, you don't really have to try.
You just do.

The rhythm is somehow familiar.  The movements come easily.  And you suddenly realize that the dance is your own.
And how do you know that this is who you are?  That this is who you were meant to be?  That this is what you are meant to be doing at this moment in time?  You know, because you feel immense, soul-shaking gratitude.
While watching Angel Daughter Number Four perform on the stage to Lady GaGa's song Telephone, I was reminded of the days when she would hop up into the center of the kitchen table and dance her little heart out.  Even then, I recognized something in her that she was too young to recognize in herself.  Something that not only came naturally, but brought her immense joy.  And now, in her movements on the stage, I witness so much strength.  Fortitude.  Follow-through.  There are no quitters in my home.  Each one of my daughters has tried and tried and tried again.

So now I think to myself, what is it that I should try to do?  Write that book?  Take more pictures?  Learn to play the guitar?  What would you do if somebody told you that you could?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Spans of the Soul

*Dana Point, California.  Sunset from San Clemente.  July, 2010.

The sun is setting on another day and I am left to reflect upon what is, what has been, and what will be.  I know that there are many who say that we should live in the moment, live for now, live for today, but what is the moment without the past and present to weigh it against?  Everything melds together like one huge map containing intricate lines and representations of here, there and everywhere.  Yet there is no singular direction, no exact route which leads us towards a life best-lived.  We zig, we zag, we move ahead and then backwards.  We love, we fight, we lose, we win, we laugh, we cry, we scream, we whisper.  So many contradictions, yet without them, we would never transcend or triumph.  We must consider what has been in order to clearly understand what is.  For this moment, without the larger context of all the other moments of our lives, would be almost meaningless.

I sit here in the loving presence of my beloved husband of almost twenty-six years.  I look over at him and our sweet cat, Callie, is curled up in the comfort of his lap, book open to a page that he is reading.  In the background, the television is on silent displaying a baseball game.  The Angels are playing the Texas Rangers(How did I know that?), score 5 to 1.(GO ANGELS!)  Our dogs are busy chewing their Dingo rawhides on the floor beside our bed.  And the ocean rolls with the voices of a million stories.  Stories of today, of yesterday, of tomorrow.  None without the other, without the other, without the other...

*Pelican over the Pacific.

The soul seems to seamlessly fly from one moment to the next, absorbing, discarding, reaching for new heights.  How effortlessly it accepts life as one minute building onto the next, onto the next, all the while evolving into who we will someday become.  Knowing that some moments are exceedingly more important than others yet all are points on the journey.  Yet we don't often realize that a moment is somehow crucial in our development until later on.  Until introspection and reflection.  Until the moment passes and weaves its way into all of the other moments upon moments upon moments.

*Agapantha at sunset.

You are here.  In this moment, at this time, on this day, in this place.  Your soul resonates with all that you have endured and all that you have accomplished.  The moments are points on the map of your life, each one leading from where you have been to where you are to where you will soon be.  All important in the scheme of life, yet without one another, somehow trivial and contrite.

The sun has completely retreated into the horizon leaving behind a dark purplish-pink hue to the sky.  Another day past, another one to come.(God willing.)  The Angels are now beating the Texas Rangers, 6-2.  Tomorrow will bring with it new challenges, new reflections, new points in time.  The soul spans it all.

You are here.  You were there.  You will be someplace else.  The soul does span it all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness/Dear Life

Dear Life,

Summer has always been an interesting time for me.  All of that "before birthday" build-up and then the quiet, bittersweet feeling that lingers behind when the day finally comes and then goes.  It's kind of like that very last slice of chocolate birthday cake with whipped-cream frosting that sits solemnly under wrinkled plastic-wrap inside of the fridge.  You want to eat it but when it's gone, so is the reality of another year behind.  My brother, Rob, only had forty-one of them.  Birthdays.  He should have had more.  Many, many more.  He should have eaten more cake.  Mine and his own.  His birthday was in July, too.  And honestly, Life, I feel like he got ripped-off.   I feel like I was also deprived of the rest of his life, but who am I to determine these things.  So I think about him when I blow out my own candles, and I envision that little black smudge of fading smoke that rises up into the air, as a wish for peace.  Mine and his, everyones.
Last week when Mark and I were walking on the beach searching for sea glass, I came across this leftover bit of ribbon which was tangled in amongst the rocks.  And while we usually pick up small pieces of trash that are left behind on the beach, I couldn't help but leave this one where I found it.  For there are many people who might have needed to see this message which was accidently, on purpose, left between the stones on the beach.  Messages have their own ways of finding the individuals whom they are meant for.  This seemed like a message for many.

Dear Life,

Please always let me take the time to notice the messages.  And the lessons.  And the hellos from the Universe.  We miss so much when we forget to notice.
They say that life is what you make of it.  I fight, with all of my spirit, to live a contented life filled with as much love as I can bring in.  And then, I release it back out.  When I was eighteen years old, I met the love of my life.(But of course, you already knew that.)  We set out to build a marriage filled with joy and adventure and love.  Our quest brought us four incredible angel daughters.  Each one is unique.  Each one is special.  Each one is a product of love.  You certainly trumped my wildest dreams there, Life.
I never could have imagined this beautiful family.  These extraordinary individuals.  Five distinct people that I love more than life(sorry, but true) itself.

Dear Life,

Thank you.
In celebration of my birthday, all four of my angel daughters came home to spend the day with me.  There is nothing that I look forward to more, these days, as they get older and busier and more independent.  We traveled south down to San Diego to a lovely, little town called Solana Beach.  Truly, I love Angel Daughter Number Three's pink high-topped sneakers.  Watching each one of my girls develop their own personal style is something that amuses me.  When they were little, I dressed them all alike.  It was the cutest thing I've ever seen.  Everyday, four little ducklings in matching outfits.  Some people worried that they would never develop their own, individual styles because of my guilty pleasure.  But if there is one thing that you have taught me, Life, it is to follow my own instincts about things.  Not only have they each refined their own personal style, but they are very original in everything that they do.  Angel Daughter Number Four, my youngest daughter, even shaves the hair over one side of her ear.  And she wears it very well!
Now if this baby isn't an original, I do not know who is!

While shopping, my girls spotted this sweet fairy baby.  We all "oohed and cooed" over her which made me very happy because I know that my babies love babies, too!  This ensures that I will someday have grand-babies to love on in the future!  Which, dear Life, is something that I would very much appreciate!
We visited a nursery and discovered a giant cage filled with the most wonderful birds.  Little nests overflowed with the most beautiful doves.  We tried to count how many were in the nest above, but there were babies hiding underneath the babies!
These unusual Quails nest by creating a hollow in the ground and then the babies burrow underneath the parents.  Our whole family sat for at least twenty minutes admiring this cage filled with sweet, chirpy birds.  The doves make that low, melodic cooing sound, the kind that tends to melt your heart.  And the smaller birds chit-chatted in that high-pitched chirpy way.  They were absolutely mesmerizing.

Dear Life,

Please always remind me that there is always time to be mesmerized.  And fascinated.  And to learn something new.
We then made our way over to a lovely Farmer's Market teeming with fresh, organic produce, flowers and handmade trinkets.  We snacked on delicious goat cheese samples and chocolate toffee covered in almond bits.  We purchased some gorgeous yellow cherries which tasted like sunshine, and brought home some tomatoes, baby potatoes and blueberries.
Angel Daughter Number Four rescued a fuzzy, little caterpillar while AD3 giggled and took her picture.

Angel Daughter Number Two, who was having a particularly rough day at first:(, couldn't help but smile after a while.  Sometimes, I will do the silliest things which tend to annoy her, in order to see those adorable dimples.  But I don't give up easily, because seeing my daughters happy is what life is all about.

Dear Life,

Please remind my daughters that sometimes, old boyfriends need to be brought out with the trash where they belong.

Enough said.
Angel Daughter Number One browsed through the jewelry with her youngest sister.  I cannot help but look at my children through a "mother's eyes".  Each one of them fascinates me in a way that enriches my heart and makes me want to capture the moments.  The little moments that often go unnoticed.  The little moments when we are all together and life is good.  Very, very good.
And I can quietly view them through the lens of my camera.  Capturing their innate beauty and sometimes, unconventional distinctiveness.

Dear Life,

Please remind my daughters that feeling confident in their own skin is more important than what anybody else might think of them.  And that following a "trend" makes you exactly that.  A follower.
On the way home, we thankfully sped easily past the border patrol station.  For people who do not live in a state "bordering" another country, you might not be familiar with these interesting little points of contention.  For those of you who do, you can understand the frustration of going from sixty-five miles per hour, down to zero, in order for an officer to peek inside of your car to do a bit of racial profiling.
Thankfully, this racial profiling only occurs at random times of the day, so when you are lucky, you are able to zip right by without barely a second glance.
Enough said, again:)

Once we got past the border patrol station, we drove past the San Onofre nuclear power plant which is  also lovingly known as Dolly Parton by some locals.

Dear Life,

Sometimes even nuclear power plants can be funny in a really silly way.
On July 4, 1776, the forefathers of our country signed a declaration: The Declaration of Independence.
The words, in part, go like this; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.  As do most Americans, I take these words very seriously.  We fought for our ability to lead independent lives.  To create our own paths on this journey.  To pursue our own happiness.  For myself and for those who have come before me, I will lead a happy life.  For my brother, I will continue to pass his legacy down to his daughters and nieces.  For me, I will fight with all of my might to be content.

And I will jump for joy in knowing that I have lived another year on this earth.  Another year loving on the people who I care about.  And another year learning a bit more about how to really live.

Dear Life, Dear America, Dear Me,

Happy Birthday!

                                                              *July 4, 2010-San Clemente Pier Fireworks

Saturday, July 10, 2010

June Gloom in July

Walking through Laguna Beach yesterday afternoon we spotted this "Wanted" poster.  For some reason, June Gloom has stayed long past its welcome this summer and some residents of Southern California are beginning to get very,very antsy.  While our neighbors in the east are dealing with sweltering temperatures, we have been living underneath a blanket of thick, grey cloud cover that has caused our residents to become both cranky and creative.
I did not call the phone number on the poster for fear that I might be asked to rescue some poor soul who  has been locked away inside of their home, suffering desperately from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  But I definitely appreciated the humor behind its sentiment.  And I also love the idea that whomever posted this sign made a lot of people smile(even if only an itty-bitty tiny one) and that by doing so, they might have just brought the sunshine back into the lives of those who stopped to read it.
I sent our dog Micah out to search for the sun since he absolutely LOVES big, shiny balls and he is a master at retrieving them.

Until then, I hope that you are enjoying some warm summer breezes, ice cream cones and a peak at some lost sunshine every now and then!

Friday, July 2, 2010

What Divides Us, But Only If We Let it

*Thanks to the wonderful blog, How to Cope With Pain, for featuring another one of my blog posts on their Pain-Blog Carnival!  I cannot say enough about this very informative and well-written blog which deals with pain in all of its forms.  It is a fabulous resource for anyone who is living with chronic or temporary pain.  It is always listed on my side-bar if you ever need to access it.

Yesterday, I was going through some pictures from Angel Daughter Number Three's high school graduation which we celebrated last week.  It was a wonderful day and I am so very proud of her.  Congratulations, AD3!  I was preparing to write a blog post about the experience when I came across this photo of Angel Daughter Number One, my oldest Angel Niece, and Angel Daughter Number Four sitting on the fence line at graduation.  I was running around down on the huge football field taking pictures of the graduation(Being the only parent down on the field is another story) when I looked up and noticed my family.  I stood approximately one hundred feet away from them, so it was difficult for me to see their facial expressions as I struggled to focus against the sunlight.  I raised my hand to block the sun from my eyes but somehow instinctively, I raised my camera instead.

For the past two years, I have been engaged in a battle to keep my two young nieces in my family's life.  I have written bits and pieces about my fight for these two little girls.  My pain, my struggle, my innate need to stay connected to my deceased brother's children.  It is a feeling that I cannot fully describe, yet it draws me into the same realm as the "mothering instinct" does.  I am fiercely maternal.  This is not something that I say with undo pride or superiority.  It is a trait, such as having hazel eyes or being extraordinarily short in stature.  I just am.  And so, when I came across this photo, a rush of feelings began coursing through my body and my heart broke just a little bit more.  My own two Angel Daughters looking almost desperate to draw their cousin up to the surface.  And my niece. My niece.

I can and will only say enough here so that you will know, so that they will know.  I do this because nothing has been court-mandated.  An "agreement" has been reached.  Nothing binding or legal, but an agreement, none the less.  Meaning that if I am kept from my nieces, there is still the option of going before the family court judge.  And if there is one fear that I found out that my SIL has, it is having to stand before the judge.  Us, no problem.  Everything is on the table.  How much money we make per year, how much medication I take on a daily basis in order to control my chronic pain, and the fact that we own a dog; who was portrayed as a Pit-Bull; but who is nothing more than a lovable mutt.  There were depositions and accusations directed toward me.(Only me, never toward my SIL because that's not how we roll.)  There were demands to remove my husband from the case because he is not a "blood relative".(Um, yeah.  If he were a blood relative, that would mean that I married one of my family members and that would open up a whole new set of problems!)  And the cost for the attorneys was exorbitant.  On both sides.  But whose counting?  On the day that we were scheduled to go to trial, we sat in the courthouse cafeteria with our lawyers when my SIL's attorney began working on us.  And by the third hour and the final "offer", we reached an agreement.  Not everything that we wanted, but a beginning.  We have seen our nieces two times since the agreement was reached.  Once, at their dance recital(So cute!) and then again at AD3's graduation.  We will see them again at the end of this month, once in September, possibly in October and then beginning in November, we will be allowed to see them six times a year, for four hours each time, without their mother present.  This is part of what the battle was about, and this is what we were very reluctantly given.  The issue is that for the past two years, a lot has been said and done to damage the relationship that we had with the children.  And now, in order to repair the damage, we need to have access to the girls AND they need to feel comfortable spending time with us without worrying about the temperature of their mother's mood.  There is a bit more about Mark and I contributing financially to the girls college educations but that is something that we would have done before we were escorted out of our nieces lives for no sane reason.  The situation is still too tightly wound for my taste, but I am a very patient person.  I understand what my options are and I am not at all adverse to using the legal system in order to obtain justice for my nieces.  They deserve to have their daddy's family in their lives.  They deserve to be loved by extended family members.  They deserve our loyalty.

Not surprisingly, both girls were extremely apprehensive when they saw us for the first time, and started out the same way at the graduation.  But we are a difficult group to put off.  My girls especially exude the attitude of "love us, love us, love us", and Mark and I just proceeded lovingly but cautiously.  These two little girls have already had enough trauma in their lives and both Mark and I knew better than to just expect them to greet us the way that they had a year ago when we were last allowed to see them.  Time, pain, and unkind words burden the relationship that we once had with these two little angels.  We have no idea what they have been told.  Only that they were told too much and that they were obviously hurt and nervous and angry.

Looking at this photo of my oldest niece, I could feel everything that she must have gone through over the course of this past year.  I could see the missing in her eyes.  The missing of her daddy, the missing of us, the missing of her old life.  It pained me greatly to think about what she has been through.
But then, I thought about exactly how long it had taken her and my younger niece to begin smiling again once the initial trepidations began to subside.  I thought about the resiliency of children and their innate ability to somehow fight for their right to be happy.  I thought about all of the angles and ways in which what our family did to fight for these children could possibly be portrayed and I came to a fairly simple conclusion.  Somehow, some way, love wins.  And when you have love on your side as a motive, there is little that can argue with that.  Sanely, anyway...

Shortly after coming across the first photo, I came across the second one.  And there was the child who was trying her darnedest to ignore her cousins, her Uncle, and I only minutes before, staring down at me on the football field with something resembling a smile on her face.  A moment captured.  A feeling captured.  A heart mending back together bit by bit.  Hers, mine, ours.
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