Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Madly, Wildly, Fiercely

*I just signed up for Skywatch because I have seen so many beautiful pictures from there.  I am not sure, yet, what it entails, so I will be jumping in to get my feet wet!

*Angel Daughter Number One and Angel Daughter Number Four

I have all of the strength that I need in this moment because I have been successful in love.  I know this because I can observe it in my children as they playfully hang on one another during candid but expressive moments.  I know this because I can catch them loving on each other even when they think no one else is looking.
I believe this because my absolute love for them, and for my husband, is mirrored in the love that they share with each other.
I honor this because although I know I was loved as a child, there were very few expressions of that love for me to draw from, yet I was able to grow into a woman who can love freely and without hesitation.
*Angel Daughter Number Three

And even during an "alone" moment, I am able to witness this in my own children as I watch them turn their own faces toward the sun.
This past weekend, we traveled out to Palm Springs to spend some time with my dad.  Like most of California, Palm Springs is beautiful.  It is a desert environment which means that summer arrives much earlier than it does in most places.  It was hot and dry and colorful.  After spending over three hours sitting in on a deposition, last Thursday, there was a lot on my often, overactive, mind.  I spent hours listening to someone trying her hardest to make me out to be a raving lunatic.(I could almost feel the foam forming in the corners of my mouth while a maniacal smile formed slowly across my lips.  Almost.)  And while it is very difficult not to take that kind of thing seriously, my father reminded me of something that I had almost forgotten to remember.  He told me that nothing that she said, or continues to say about me, matters at all.  Nothing.
I spent a lot of time thinking about darkness and light.  I thought about love and hate.  I contemplated the muddled line which exists exactly in between each of these different ends of the spectrum and what it is that can send us over from one side to the other.  I thought about how this little sprite of a woman is capable of facing off against a six foot tall, mean-spirited man(her attorney) and his very sad, sad client.  I thought about the strength that it took for me to sit there while listening to such deplorable nastiness, but how I did so with grace and humor.  And I realized that there is nothing that she can take from me.  There is nothing that she can attribute to me.  There is nothing that she can do to me.  I still have my brother(although there is a spiritual boundary between us now) and whether it be in a month, or in five years, I will have my precious nieces in my life again someday.
Yesterday, before we left for the long drive home, I took a walk by myself.(I brought my camera along so that I could share the beauty of the environment with you!)
As I walked along the flower-lined pathways, I felt a sense of peace...

And the overwhelming feeling of loving and being loved.
As I passed by this beautifully adorned gate, I thought about doors and going through doors and discovering what is on the other side.  I thought about how we do that each time we make some sort of a decision.  I had a discussion with God. I wanted to check in with Him to find out how I was doing.
And then I found myself standing in front of this gorgeous stairway going up.(or down, depending upon your vantage point)  I thought about how easily I could have just meandered my way right past it, but how it caught me in my steps.  I thought about pathways which look as if they could go on forever, but how each one ends up someplace.  I thought about love and pain and the suffering that each of us experiences throughout a lifetime.  None of us gets by unscathed.  But if we are lucky, and we keep our hearts open to the possibilities, the love is what will keep us strong.

Love is what gives us unfounded strength.  It allows us to venture into areas that seem almost scary at first.  It is what carries us through the tough times.  It is what sustains us through the pain.  And in the end, after everything is said and done, love is what wins.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.  Nothing would be as it is, because everything would be as it isn't.  And contrary wise, what is wouldn't be.  And what it wouldn't be, it would.  You see?
-Alice, from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

When you do the right thing and you stand strongly behind your own beliefs and convictions, it can oftentimes cause other people to do the very wrong thing.  I have always taught my angel daughters that doing the right thing does not always feel good.  As a matter of fact, there are times when just doing the wrong thing would be so much simpler.  But I cannot live my life doing the wrong thing.  I will and I must stand up for what is good and right and just.  So I will move forward and continue to take the occasional foot jutting out to try to trip me in my path.  And sometimes as I stumble, all of the breath from inside me is momentarily knocked out of my chest, and the endless chasm is filled with pain and deep sadness.  Then I recover.

This little note came tucked inside of a wedding invitation that was addressed to my four daughters by first names only.  Obviously, I was meant to open the invitation because the note is inscribed to Mark and myself.  The invitation was specifically sent with the intention of excluding Mark and myself.  Very clear.  The whole thing sent to cause pain?  Alleviate guilt?  The note was not signed, which I found oddly confusing, but I knew that it was from someone whom I once considered my step-nephew(whom I have known for twenty-four years) and his fiance(whom I have known for over seven years).  Somehow, they have become involved in something that they neither understand nor, do they have any business being a part of.  My battle to keep my nieces, my deceased brother's children, in my life.  These people love us and miss us, and hope that someday we will be able to forgive them, yet this is how they have supported us since my only brother died.  Why does this cause my Jewish soul to think back to the nazis and the Germans who did not agree with what was happening, but who turned their backs on individuals who they once lived so closely with that they might have considered one another family?  I used to wonder how people could blatantly turn their backs while pretending not to see evil,  but throughout my life, the idea has become clearer and clearer.  Bullies win if, and I am emphasizing a huge if here, nobody stands strong enough against them.  Core values and ethics cannot be held onto only when situations are easy or convenient.  They must be upheld when put to the task.  This is why I am suing for visitation with my nieces.  This is why I can take the hits and stand back up.  This is why I have subjected myself to legal harassment(bordering on illegal) and have continued on.  Nobody would have faulted me for fading slowly into the background of my niece's lives.  Nobody would have questioned it if I allowed myself to be bullied away from loving those children.  Nobody but myself, and in their hearts, my daughters, and eventually, my nieces.  Those are the eyes that I would have someday had to look into while explaining why it was just too difficult for me to stand strong.  And even they would have understood.  But, they really would not have.

The thing about doing what is right, is that you don't have to look back someday on what you should have done  And why you didn't do it.  And most times, from my own experience anyway, the individuals who faulted you for doing what was right, come back asking for forgiveness.  Because even they will eventually get it.  But sadly, it might just be too late.

*My daughters will not be attending the wedding.  Not because we asked them not to, because we would never have done that, but because at twenty-two, twenty, eighteen and sixteen, they do understand what it means to stand behind their own convictions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mi Familia

This little angel girl celebrated her second birthday this past weekend.  She is the granddaughter of one of my oldest and dearest friends.  And since our children have always called her and her husband, Aunt Donna and Uncle Keith, and their children have always called us Auntie Deb and Uncle Mark, that makes me a great-auntie!  This is a job that I take very seriously, so when I received an email from Donna inviting us to celebrate great-angel niece number one's second birthday at Disneyland, I rounded up my crew of angels and off we went!  Since we live a state away, we don't always get to see each other as much as we would like to, but several times a year, this very loud, very rambunctious group joins forces to share as much joy and love as we can muster.  Great-Angel Niece Number One is the latest addition to our boisterous bunch!

The cutest thing was that as soon as the cake with the candles arrived and the Birthday song had been sung, Great-Angel Niece Number One knew just what to do.  She took a deep breath and blew...
And blew...
Until the two little candles on her cake went out.  The look on her adorable face...Priceless.
Jasmine stopped by to sign G-ANiece1's little autograph book.
Then they posed for a picture together.  Aren't they beautiful?!?!?
Dale of Chip and Dale stopped by to say hello.  Angel Daughter Number One patiently posed for a picture for her momma, as Joey poked fun at her.  Goofy got revenge on him later by marrying him to his new girlfriend.
Great-Angel Niece Number One's mommy and daddy had the best time.  I still cannot believe that they are parents.  The time, oh, where does the time go?
Angel Daughter Number Three posed demurely for a picture with Aladdin.  Too cute!
Goofy was the star.  He made us all laugh with his silly antics.  Here are three of my angel daughters with Goofy.  Unfortunately, AD2 was too busy at school, so she was not able to join us:(  We missed her very much.
Donna and Keith have been gracious enough to open their home and their hearts to foster children.  Lina, this beautiful little sweetie is two years old.  She has been with them for a couple of months and will hopefully be reunified with her own momma within the next six months.  AD1 really took to her.  They spent a lot of time playing and snuggling with each other.  I just know that whenever AD1 becomes a mommy, she will be such a great one.(But we can wait a few years for that:))
AD4 and GAN1 love playing with each other.  When GAN1 was born, AD4 just loved to sit and hold her.
Here are most of the girls, and Minnie Mouse.(AD4 is missing from the picture.)  There were several different cameras going at the same time which explains why we are looking in different directions.  On the left are Donna(middle), her two daughters and Great-Angel Niece Number One.(Her mommy is on the left.)  Next to Minnie is Donna's son's girlfriend, Angel Daughter Number Three, Me, AD1 and baby Lina.  We had a wonderful visit and I cannot wait to see them again in a month for their second daughter's wedding!
Last night, I made dinner for my family and a couple of AD2's old high school friends who I adore.  AD3 and her boyfriend, Jacob, usually make funny faces at me when I try to take their picture.  I can tell that Jacob really wants to make a face at me here, but he is being a good boy!
We had a really nice time with these silly kids!  I love a noisy dinner table with lots of laughter and conversation.  The more friends, the better.
Angel Daughter Number Two made it down from Pasadena for dinner.  These guys have been friends for years.  Chelsea is such a sweet girl.  Blake and AD2 have been very good friends since middle school.  Last night he told us that he signed up for The Navy Seals and will be leaving in September for Chicago to begin his training.  He is signed up for six years.  I pray for his safety and his strength.  He is such a wonderful young man and we will miss him very much.  So many brave young men and women volunteer to serve our country.  Two others that I know are Nessie's son, Michael and Hallie's son, CJ.  Their service and dedication to this country should be admired and appreciated.
After dinner, the kids played with our giant pup, Micah, on the floor.  He truly is a gentle boy.  There is nothing that he likes better than to be the center of attention.  He LOVES his people so much that you can just see it in his expressive eyes.  People say that he was very lucky to be rescued and adopted by our family, but WE are the lucky ones to have him as a part of our pack.  He is such a good boy.

As I sit here reflecting on the lovely weekend that we had and how much I love all of these people, I am reminded that the word "family" does not always have to mean those who are connected by a bloodline. For me, it has come to include people whom I have grown to love over the years.  People who are there for the good times and the bad.  In sickness and in health...Hey, that's sort of like a marriage.  We can choose the person who we would like to spend the rest of our life with and they become family to us.  To me, I chose my own sister when I was twelve years old.  She is not my sister by birth, but my sister by choice and through it all, Donna, her husband Keith(who I have also known since high school) and her children and grandchildren ARE family to us.  Donna and I grew up together and now we will grow old together.  And as the sun sets on this beautiful day, my heart is filled with the knowing...

Monday, March 8, 2010


As I gazed out upon the Pacific ocean this morning, I caught sight of one of the tall ships which sail out of Dana Point harbor.   These incredible examples of floating history sail across the horizon like ghost ships from another era.  They are replicas built in the tradition of those from the past, but when they drift by, it is impossible not to be drawn backwards in time, revisiting another instant, another century.
As I watched this majestic vessel head first in one direction and then, the other, I was struck by the vast perception of how quickly the world has changed.  Yet how hundreds of years ago, someone must have stood in the same exact spot where I am standing right now, watching a tall ship voyage past with the same feeling of awe and wanderlust that I am experiencing.  And for an instant, I felt momentarily connected over the span of time, to someone I have never known, but whose spirit I could feel as if they were standing there beside me.

We are all intrinsically connected.
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