Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Birthday Girl

And here she is...The one who began the trend of baby girls falling softly from heaven and into my soul.  The one who schooled me on how to be a momma through the toughest fight of my life to birth her from within my swollen body, and then taught me how much I would crave to keep my babies close for the rest of my life.  The one who made me a mother.  And she is beautiful, this one.  From the day she was born, her spirit seemed to contain a quiet wisdom which shone with an inner light that made her different from other children.  She loved to entertain but it wasn't in a showy, look at me sort of way.  It was in a way that drew you out of your own space and your own inner-thoughts and brought you into hers.  It was meant to soothe and create joy.  She empathized with everyone around her and through that empathy she seemed to have the desire to create a magical world for you.  Magical.

She has a voice like an angel, this one.  For many years, she assisted the cantor at our synagogue in singing and chanting liturgy before the congregation at Friday night services and on the High Holy holidays.  Listening to her allowed me to rise above and as close to God as anything I could ever imagine, allowing me to float on the melody of her voice.  She must have been kissed by 10,000 angels before she was born.

She holds a certain grace about her.  She carries herself confidently but without any false pride.  She knows who she is and what she is capable of.  She leaves behind in a room, a wisp of a feeling that she has been there, but somehow the space seems brighter than before.  Maybe it is her beautiful smile.

This is my girl.  My Angel Daughter Number One.  My first child.  When she was little, I used to ask her why, out of all of the mommies in the world, did she choose me.  And her answer was always the same.  "Because you were the only one who was laughing, Momma."  Maybe that is because I knew exactly how much joy having you as my daughter would bring into my life, sweet girl.

Happy 24th birthday, AD1.  May life fold out before you in a way that brings you more laughter than tears, more joy than pain and more love than your heart can contain.  You make your momma proud, so proud.  Thank you for being my child.

A few photos from our Birthday celebration 
AD1 and her lovely college and beyond roommate

AD3 and Jacob(Notice that he is behaving!)

My Angel Daughters

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Greetings From the Funny Farm

When I watch my youngest child dance, I can see glimpses of her inner-most spirit.  This began when she was a tiny, little munchkin carefully following the choreography of her three older sisters as they created routines to entertain their dad and I(and anyone else who would sit long enough to watch).  Angel Daughter Number Four would move her body in the way that a painter uses a paintbrush or a writer uses words, with each movement expressing an emotion.  I sensed then what I am absolutely sure of now.  AD4 was born to dance.  Space is her canvas and she uses it to express her reason for being, the music drawing her out of the confines of her physical body.
Last weekend was AD4's final dance recital for the season.  Her team did very well this year, coming in 12th at the World competition down in Florida.  This was their first time competing at this worldwide event and we were all very proud of the results.   In the routine, the girls portrayed string puppets wearing masks which set them apart from the other teams competing.  AD4 is the "puppet-master" in the center of the group, and although she is small in stature, she makes up for it with stage presence. It is difficult to take your eyes off of her when she dances.
In the photo above, she is hugging her coach and thanking her on behalf of all of the students at the school that she attends.  Her coach relies heavily on her enthusiasm, great work ethic and positive attitude as a motivator for all of her teammates.  Of course being number four out of four daughters has taught her, quite well, on how to be a fantastic cheerleader for the people that she cares about.  Our girls have always been encouraged to support one another in all of their endeavors.
Angel Daughter Number One had to work on the day of AD4's recital, but she has been there for so many of her performances and competitions always cheering and "WHOO-HOO-ing" from the stands.  They love each other so much.
My dad and his wife came out for the recital and afterwards, we went out for dinner.  AD2 and AD3 brought their boyfriends which always makes it even more difficult for me to take a group photograph!  I am constantly having to check for silly faces before I release the shutter on my camera(check out Jacob on the very end of the table), but with my father there, even more trouble ensues.  Observe Angel Daughter Number Four's right hand which is resting in her lap.  Check out the sweet smile she has on her face.  Lovely, yes?  Notice the piece of bread that she is innocently holding in her hand...
I detect trouble...
Suddenly the Italian bread begins to grow wings, mysteriously launching from AD4's fingers into the direction of her beloved grandfather, Pop Pop.

Things I love about this photo:

1. Mark's hand resting on AD4's shoulder.  Wedding ring which connects us for almost 26 years in view.

2. Flying Italian bread.

3. Jacob is still posing at the end of the table.

4. Just another day in the Four Angels Momma familia.  Oy.
Angel Daughter Number Three finally realizes that her boyfriend is adding personality to the "happy family" moment that I am trying to capture.
She pulls his hands away from his face as Angel Daughter Number Two realizes that I am still trying to get everyone to let me take a nice family photo.
I give up when the bread lands in my father's lap.  I swear that it was not me who taught them to treat old people this way.
I will tell you that AD4 will be paid back for this in the very near future.  Pop Pop never forgets...

And because the hostess innocently asked my father if we were celebrating any special events when she was bringing us to our table, Rita received a very unexpected surprise!
A lovely, rambunctious version of Happy Birthday complete with fellow restaurant patrons accompanying.
The thing that made it even more "unexpected" is that Rita's birthday is in December.  Thank goodness, she:

1. is very used to my father's antics.

2.  has a good sense of humor!

We will be heading out to Palm Springs to visit with my dad for Father's Day and to celebrate Angel Daughter Number One's twenty-fourth birthday(Can I possibly have a child who is that old?) this weekend.  We are hoping that all four of our girls will be able to make it out there to visit with their grandparents.  Angel Daughter Number Two scheduled a photo shoot for this weekend but is trying to shuffle things around so that she can meet us.  Angel Daughter Number One is shooting another Groupon commercial on Friday.  She will be playing a "cameo" part in this one, but they called her to ask her to come in for the role.  They said that she was not right for the main part in this one, but that they definitely wanted to include her in the spot.  They also told her that this will lead to more work in the future.  We are so excited for her!  I will definitely post the commercial when it is completed.

In case you might have missed Angel Daughter Number One's first commercial, here it is again:


My internet was sporadic for a few days so I will be catching up with everyone very soon.  I missed you!

Life is mostly good but isn't that what we can really hope for?

Monday, June 13, 2011


Momma Agave plant reaches her stalk high up into the moonlit sky.  She began to flower a couple of weeks back and I keep an eye on her with an almost incorrigible curiosity.  It is as if I should look away, I will somehow miss something.  Something I might never witness again.  As I wrote about several weeks back, these particular plants only flower once every one hundred years or so.  I am awed to be present during this part of the plant's life-cycle because of the infrequency with which it occurs.  It truly is something to witness as these plants remain quietly dormant for most of their lives and then suddenly,  as the silent timing of nature takes hold and a stalk reaches gracefully upwards into the sky, the Agave plant is transformed into something much more ethereal.
There was something about the way in which the moon colored the sky, two nights ago, a cerulean blue, celestial and other-worldly.  Looking up, I traced the lines of the giant stem with my eyes, noticing the way in which each branch, each bud, each flower, stretched mightily for the heavens.
And then I found myself doing the same, fingers clenched together over my head ascending skyward toward the Divine.  What is it that seems to draw our souls upward with a longing that is difficult to describe?  And yet, I believe that you know what I mean as I write this...

*Thank you for your kindness, your prayers, your energy, before, during and after Friday's court hearing.  Turns out, that there is no clear-cut law(actually none that either attorney could find) stating that someone who is not a parent seeking custody or visitation with a child(or children) is responsible to pay attorney's fees to the individual who is being sued, win or lose.  That being said, our case is so unusual that the judge does not want to leave room open for an appeal which could take up tens of thousands more in dollars and two more years in court.  Also, judges do not like to be overturned on appeal.  So, the ordeal continues.  Both attorneys must submit briefs stating their arguments and cite laws that will show that it is, or is not,  legally necessary for me to pay my niece's mother's attorney's fees.  We will then head back to court in July to proceed from there.  From where we are standing now, it does not look as if she has a shot at receiving a penny from us, which is good because we have already suffered and lost too much.  And she is nowhere near being a "poor widow".  She received an enormous worker's comp settlement after suing my brother's employer.  He was not on the job when he died.  It is a wacky world we live in.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Walking down the beach a couple of days ago, Mark and I came upon the remnants of this giant tree which, after spending countless years being battered and tossed around in the immeasurable grasps of the ocean,  was carried back to the shore in yet another form.  Recognizable as to what it once was, but transformed in remarkable ways, this tree, now driftwood, must have spent years, even decades, rumbling around in the tumbling waves being shaped and transformed and smoothed and sharpened into what it is now.  As we approached this giant relic upon the beach, I was enthralled by its stoic presence.  I imagined it as it must have been, a graceful, strong tree rooted deeply in the ground someplace, green leaves swaying with the wind, branches turned up toward the sun, thriving for year upon year.  And then, I marveled at what it now is.  A solid piece of driftwood with trunk and branches and roots, stuck solidly in the sand on this beach in San Clemente.
We are like this, shaped by love and pain, longing and letting go, hope and regret.  We are often swept along in the emotions of life trying our hardest to stand firmly rooted in our deepest beliefs, knowing what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is not.  And yet, we change, we transform, and eventually, we even release, allowing the tides of life to pull us along while remaining some of who we once were, but constantly being reshaped, and smoothed and sharpened into who we now are.
Today we go back to court to so that the judge can rule on the monetary issues pertaining to the case I was forced to bring forth for visitation with my young nieces.  It has been over three years since my beloved brother died, two years since we filed our first motion for visitation and two weeks since we were told by the judge that although he would do things differently if it were up to him, the court could not find the mother of the children "unfit" and for that reason, and that reason alone, the state could not step in and force visitation on a parent who did not want to allow it. 14th amendment rights and all that...  When everything is said and done, I will write more about the decision and my thoughts about The Grandparent's Law(which includes siblings of the deceased), but for now I will only say that with the case that our attorney presented, there was absolutely NO way we could have won this thing.  We were led down a path in which only one result could have occurred according to the judge so now we must just tie up some loose ends and proceed with the next step in this process.

Over the course of the past three years since my brother's death, life became much more complicated than it should have been.  I found out a whole lot about who my family is(my husband, our four daughters, my father and his wife) and who would be willing to tangle the very tender strings of my heart into tight little knots, not caring whether or not they choked the very life out of me in the process causing me to end up in the same place that my beloved brother is.  And. I. Mean. That. Sincerely.  I discovered that there are people whom I considered "family" because my mother and my brother brought them into my life, individuals whom I cared for, defended against one another, entertained in my home, gave specific honors to at my children's Bat-Mitzvahs.  I let them in and I allowed them to be a part of my children's lives.  But, we cannot look back.  And once again, we have been reshaped by the experiences of life.

And as I begin to untangle the roots of my heart, I will keep this giant tree in mind.  I will remain steadfast in my beliefs and I will stand behind my decisions.  Life isn't only about remaining rooted deeply in one place.  It is about accepting the changes, transforming through the pain.  And sometimes, it is about untangling the mess that life can wrap around our souls.

*If you could say a silent prayer or send some positive energy our way as we head into court this afternoon, I would greatly appreciate it.  The thought of having to pay her attorney a dime, would prove that there is NO justice in family court and we have already lost too much.

Friday, June 3, 2011

And The Final Sun Goes Down on May...

There is something about living right on the beach that makes it so much harder to ignore the moments.  Busy, messy, beautiful life still goes on, but somehow the moments take on a greater meaning, each one with a more singular effect. Maybe it is the constant soundtrack of the sea sounds rising, sometimes softly, sometimes more emphatically in the background of whatever else is happening, that brings the attention back into the moment.  Maybe it is the smell of the sea air, or the balmy breeze, or the chime of the train bell as it chugs gently below our bluff.  It could be the way in which the sunlight reflects off of the water(sometimes causing an unexpected tear of unforeseen emotion), or how the color of the sky is a constantly changing hue, or that the clouds might be there one moment and then not be there in the next.  But then, it could be because this place, this small plot of land overlooking the ocean, this coastal jewel, this piece of heaven on earth, is the closest place to home that my soul has ever really known.  Ever known...And yet whatever it is, these moments, these encapsulates of time, these finite pixels of never-ending grandiosity, cause the breath to stop, cause the moments to freeze, cause the attention to be drawn elsewhere.  And whatever was seemingly so important and crucial before, becomes engulfed back into the moment like the sun being drawn slowly down from its highest heights to where it can no longer be seen. Back down into the horizon.  Back down.  Back down...
Soar high into the month of June, my sweet friends.
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