Wednesday, November 30, 2011

All is Well

Have I told you all how much I appreciate your friendship and your kindness and all of the love that you share with me?  Sitting here with a cat on my lap(fighting for the attention of my hands as I try to type sentences that make sense!) and a dog at my feet, I am inundated with a feeling of gratitude not only for those who physically surround me, but also for those who surround me from faraway places.  I cannot tell you how many difficult days you have helped me to tackle.  I am a very, very lucky girl.

We spent the week up in the gorgeous mountains of Lake Arrowhead.  When our Angel Daughters were little, Mark and I decided to purchase a second home up there because we had grown up with snowy winters and wanted our girls to experience a bit of the white stuff.  This home has been a part of our family for fourteen years(so many wonderful memories) yet for the past two years, Mark and I had not been up there at all.  Dance competitions, work schedules and just life in general dominated our weekends and driving the almost two hours made it very difficult.  We used to go up for every Thanksgiving.  My best friend since junior high school who now lives in Las Vegas would meet us up there with her three children and we would share the holiday as one big family.  Well, as the children got older, other obligations disrupted our tradition.  Two of her children got married and went on to have babies.(whom I absolutely adore!)  They needed to remain closer to home so that they could split the holidays with in-laws, etc.  Last year I felt like I needed to be out of town for the holiday so we took the girls up to San Francisco for the week.  We had a lovely time, but some of the girls(you know who you are) complained that I was not making the traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving and that preparing it on another day was not the same thing!  So up the mountain we went with two new boyfriends, one very old boyfriend(Is seven years a long time for a twenty one year old to be in a relationship?) and a sweet girlfriend whose family was going to be tied up with her brother's hockey tournaments all weekend.  Mark took everyone skiing/snowboarding, we ate, we shopped, we laughed, but most of all, we had a really wonderful time.  The higher altitude did take its toll on my body but that was a small price to pay to spend Thanksgiving in the mountains with my husband and our girls.  I have stories to share but those will come later.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, good food and lots of laughter.  I just wanted everyone to know that I am still here, fighting the good fight, living contently in spite of.    Battling the pain while soaking in every single joyful moment possible, trying my best not to give in to the focus that the aches can sometimes overshadow.  I am here.  Once again, thank you for visiting, for checking in on me, for your kind words and your sweet emails, for caring.  I only hope that you know that I feel the same way about you that you do about me.  It truly is my pleasure.  I plan on visiting, catching up and saying hello in the next couple of days.  Until then, just know that you are on my mind and in my heart, always.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Here For Now

Angel Daughter Number One as Peter Pan at Disneyland on Halloween
A little fun because sometimes my mind gets so busy working overtime that I need to find some peace amongst the chaos just to quiet it down.  Nothing in particular other than life continuing on whether I feel well physically, or not, and for the past month the status quo has been well into the or not category.  I hate to focus on my physical pain and most of the time, I am able to push through it to a place in which it becomes nothing more than a dull ache, a nuisance lingering remotely in the recesses of my mind, a gremlin in my brain.  But sometimes, it is very, very hard to live a life in constant physical pain.  And no matter how much I rest, how much strong(almost frighteningly strong) pain medication that I have on board, or how hard I try to push my mind back into a positive place, I begin to feel beat down, beat up, beat period.  I have been here before, and I accept that I will be here again.  The weather has been funky with heat and then rain and then cold and then heat, again.  This is Southern California after all, and although we do not have the changes in seasons that other parts of the country experience, we do get weather.  This time of year is notorious for some pretty extreme changes.  So here I exist.  Until something nudges my physical body into a better place and suddenly I stop to realize that an hour has gone by without any mind distracting, mind numbing pain.  And then another, and then if I am lucky enough, a decent reprieve so that I can take a decent full-body breath.

Tonight, as I was scrolling through photos, some that I took, some that I (a-hem) borrowed from my daughter's Facebook pages and some that they texted to me, I began feeling the joy that can only come from loving so hard that the smiles make your face hurt and that is the kind of pain that I know that we can all use more of.  Please indulge me as I remind myself that these are the most important reasons that I keep on truckin' along when I might feel as if I am running on empty.
For Halloween, Angel Daughter Number Four and her darling friend, Daisy, dressed up as Harjuku girls.  They were absolutely adorable.  The blow-up pirate ship in the background was on our front lawn at our main home on the ranch.(as opposed to our smaller homes on the beach and in the mountains)  The girls are seventeen years old but they wanted to go out trick-or-treating anyway.  Heck, I wanted to go out trick-or-treating!  When they dressed up, they kind of looked like they were around fourteen which is fine with me:)  I only wish that I could keep them that way for a while.
I love this picture of Angel Daughter Number One and Angel Daughter Number Three.  They got up very early in the morning because they wanted to visit the Tim Burton Nightmare Before Halloween exhibit at the LACMA in Los Angeles on the very last day that it was going to be there.  I love it when my daughters make plans to just get together in different combinations.  It reminds me that they do feel connected even when outside of the whole family as a unit.  I have been feeling very disconnected from that type of bond lately because my only brother is gone and I am no longer a part of his children's lives.(for now)  I truly am very blessed to have the family that Mark and I have created together but aside from them, I am pretty alone in the world now.  Yesterday my doctor reminded me that this is the time of the year when people tend to focus on losses and that it really is not quite as jolly as all of the retailers would like for us to believe that it is.  That resonated deeply with me.
I love this picture, too.  I borrowed it from one of my daughter's Facebook pages.  Angel Daughter Number Two and Angel Daughter Number Four found out that a very popular band that they love(Mumford and Sons) was playing at a local store without publicity and for free.  They were not sure if it was a rumor so they decided to meet there anyway along with around fifty other lucky people. The band showed up.  My girls were in the front row only a head-shake away from the lead singers sweat.(very cool and big yuck at them same time)  Sometimes life can really shine upon us when we take a chance to follow a lead that others might not bother to.
Angel Daughter Number Two and Luis, her new marmalade cat, a self-portrait.  She rescued him and now he rescues her from loneliness and a cold lap.
AD3 arrived home from work, one evening, looking content and happy.  The glow was back.  There is nothing more in the world that I could wish for her.  I love the way the shadow from her eyelashes gently kisses her cheek.  She spent around three weeks shaking the mud out of her wings, but she is learning to take flight once again.  I suppose that is what being nineteen is all about.
AD1 is my woman-child at twenty four years old.  Listening to her talk about her own plans, ideals and goals for the future really makes this momma proud.  I do not really spend too much time worrying about this one anymore.  She has proven that her wings work really well.  I am proud of her beyond compare and I just know that life holds wonderful stuff for her.  Watch for her commercial coming out soon!  This one will be on national television so I will let you all know when it comes out.  This way we will all be able to be proud of her at once;)
My baby and her baby, Micah.  This child was born under a cheerful star.  She is filled with warmth and joy and compassion.  She came into this world with a twinkle in her eye and a dance in her step.

When people talk to me about nurture vs. nature, I must admit that I used to believe that the emphasis was on nurture but when I look at my own children, I can see that who they were as babies and as children is a lot like who they are now as young women.  Mark and I are the very same parents with the same values and ideals who are raising four female children in mostly the same way.(I say "mostly" because each child has different needs, strengths and weaknesses.)  Yet our girls are all unique, all special and all different. Some things just are as they are, inherently.

I will try my very best not to draw back into my cocoon of chronic pain.  There are times when I end up here and do not even remember the onset. I try to pinpoint an event or a day when I overdid it, or even something emotionally overloading that burst like an infected cyst into the rest of my body.  I only know that my soul feels broken open and that my body feels beat by the pain, right now, and I want it to stop.  I need for it to stop.  But in the in-between, I will hold myself accountable by doing things as if the pain has subsided.  I will continue to cut myself some slack(fighting with oneself is mostly futile) but I will remind myself that in spite of it all, I have a pretty darn amazing life and that unlike my brother, I am still here to care for the people I care for and to love on the people(and pets) who I love.  When I breathe into that thought, it momentarily soothes my soul enough to get me into the next minute, and then the next one, and then the next one...Until I know that there will be better days ahead. I just have to hang tight for a bit.

With love to all,

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tough Love

Each one of us holds facets of our personalities which can sometimes seem directly oppositional.  For this reason, I am going to clarify that I am a gentle soul who is married to a gentle man and we are raising/have raised gentle children.  One of our dogs is a Rottweiler, Doberman, Pit-Bull who weighs in at over 110 pounds but who is a well-trained ambassador for large dogs and would sooner lick you to death than to harm you.  One of my greatest teachers is His Holiness The Dalai Lama whom we took our four Angel Daughters to see when he was in Orange County on a speaking engagement, several years back.  We did not expect that they would recall the content of his words, so much as the incredible aura that emanated from this gentle human being.  I felt that it was important for our children to observe goodness in one of its purest forms.  And yet all of those things being said, my daughters know that if danger arises, I am the first one to confront it.  Yes, my husband would be on it as well, but he tends to hang back while I spring into action like a rabid dog if someone even looks like they are a threat to one of my family members.  My spirit was brought into this world by a man whose spirit asks no questions.
Recently, Mark and I decided that it was time for another layer of home/self protection.  This was not something that I was at all comfortable with when our girls were much younger but, quite honestly, I believe that the world has become a much more dangerous place in the past decade.  Whereas an alarm system and a dog used to provide enough protection to ease my worries enough so that I could sleep well at night, I have watched as things have become more and more precarious and the criminals have become bolder, more vicious and crimes much more violent.  I sleep with wasp spray next to my bed.  Plain old wasp spray, and seriously people, if you do nothing else to protect yourself from "the bad guys", go out and buy yourself and those you love a can of wasp spray or two.  Wasp spray shoots up to twenty feet and disperses when it hits its target.  It also causes serious pain to whomever is standing on the other end of the room.  This will give you an opportunity to scream and run.  Anyway, along with everything else that we do to be proactive in life, we decided that it was time to learn how to handle and if need ever be, shoot a gun.  Mark has been practicing at the gun range for several weeks now and so, he decided to set up a private lesson for the girls and I.  It was not my first time shooting.  My dad, being a lifetime gun owner, made my brother and I go with him to the shooting range so that he could educate us on gun safety, etc.  He believes, as both Mark and I do, that the only people who should own guns are those who know how seriously and responsibly they should be taken.  Yesterday, our four daughters and I took a two hour gun safety lesson for women while Mark did some target practice.  Now here is the other truth about guns...Not only are they meant to be taken seriously, but,
they can also be a lot of fun to shoot.(once you get past the intimidation factor)  Angel Daughter Number Four was the first one to volunteer to do everything!  That child has moxie!  After an hour in the classroom, our lovely instructors brought us into the shooting range.  We started out shooting with a small rifle.  Not bad for her very first shot!
We all had our own reactions to our first shots, but the look on Angel Daughter Number Two's face is priceless.
She wasn't a bad shot either.  Interestingly enough, she is the only one in our family who is right handed and left-eye dominant.  She always has to be different:)
Angel Daughter Number Three who is our most cautious and reserved child really took to handling the guns immediately.  She was the one who we thought might be the most hesitant about it but not at all.  She cannot wait to go back for more target practice with her dad tomorrow!  They already set up a father/daughter date.  I think it's cute.
Mark came in to check up on all of his girls when we were practicing with the rifle.  We let him take a few shots and he reminded me of The Terminator;)  He loved it because normally, they do not allow "rapid fire" meaning more than one shot at a time, but since we were in a lesson, they allowed us to walk toward the target while taking five shots in quick succession.  It was sort of like what you see in the movies.  Between each shot, we had to reload the barrel while walking forward and keeping aim.  Quite a bit to remember!
Obviously, it was a lot of fun.

Angel Daughter Number One knocked the plywood off of the holder.  She meant to do that.

Okay, she didn't mean to do that.

I was at a bit of a disadvantage since I had a dangling target, but I managed to hit it!  You can see how tense my body was but once the gun went off, I had the same reaction as the rest of my family did.  Lots of laughter at myself and the recoil on this very small rifle.

I adore these people.

Next we moved onto .22 caliber pistols.  My dad says that these are just "toy" guns, but let me say that shooting them felt pretty serious to me.  Mark was so proud of us.  Our instructors told him that they have never had a class that picked up so quickly on safety and did exactly what we were told in order to insure that safety came first.  I told him that that was all those years of my Jewish mothering showing itself in our children.  I knew it would pay off someday.
AD3 preferred something called "The Weaver Stance".  It's more like what you see in the movies, one leg in front of the other and then arms bent a bit.(Charlie's Angels)  She was in-between breaths when Mark took this picture.  We were taught to control our breathing so that the trigger is released at the correct moment.  She picked up on that right away.  I wonder if there is a Zen guide for gun handling.
AD4 chose "The Isosceles Stance" which is exactly what it sounds like.  You hold your body like an isosceles triangle.  This is the most common position that people use when shooting a gun.
This is what I call the "never come between a momma and her cubs stance"; seriously.  Although now the cubs will be able to protect themselves if need be which makes me feel a little bit better about having my children out in this crazy world that we seem to be leaving them.  Sigh...

And because I did not want to make this post all about this...
yet sadly in so many ways, it is, here is a bit of the catalyst.  Very sadly, I do not know too many individuals who have not been the victims of crime in one form or another.  On October 15th, AD3's car was parked and locked in our gated driveway down at our beach home.  Sometime between midnight and seven AM, someone climbed over the locked gate, smashed her car window and stole her laptop computer which was buried under mounds of her clothing, etc.(She is a college student who works two jobs and so, she practically lives out of her car!)  The computer was not at all visible from the outside, but the thief probably figured that it was worth a quick shot that there might be something of value inside of the vehicle.  Pretty brazen.  I guess he hit the jackpot that night.  The officer who came out to take the report told us that they call it a "surf and smash" on this block.(beach reference?)  He was a bit surprised that this individual had the chutzpah to jump the gate and smash the window, though.  There are always cars parked up and down the street that are much more accessible.  After taking the report, the officer sent out somebody from the Crime Scene Investigation unit so that they could dust the car for fingerprints.  This is not something that most police departments bother to do because they do not usually recover the stolen property or catch the criminals, BUT, apparently our police department has had a very good success rate in this area and so they do dust for fingerprints.
The guy from CSI let us know that he discovered some decent prints on the vehicle and that the investigator who would be handling our case would run the prints through the system to see if a name came up that matched them.
Since both Mark and our daughter opened the door of the vehicle without thinking about it, the CSI investigator took Mark's prints just in case they were the ones that came up.  He told us to call in a couple of weeks to find out if a name came up when the prints were submitted and we would let them know if the name matched that of anybody we already know so that we could dismiss them as a suspect.  The CSI investigator also let us know that although this type of theft seems "low-level", these thieves begin by walking up and down the streets looking for unlocked vehicles.  They then become bolder and begin smashing windows to steal a vehicle's contents.  After that, they begin stealing cars.  Next, they break into homes while people are out.  From there, things become much, much scarier.  In the past month, there have been two break-ins on our block(our house is on a very long road) in which someone has been home.  Sleeping.  One person noticed their purse missing the next day, the other was a single woman sleeping on her couch.  She awoke to see the criminal walking around in the shadows and remained still, scared to death, and quiet until he left.  Thank God he left without harming her.  Thank God.  After much discussion, Mark and I decided that it was time for us to take advantage of our second amendment right to bear arms.  It really did not take us a long way to get there.  Nobody will ever be harmed by anyone in this family unless they decide to make the very, very poor decision of entering our home uninvited.  We have taken the necessary precautions to safeguard ourselves and those who we know and love(or even don't love) from accidently being shot because believe me, I am just as concerned, if not more so, about the possibility of hurting someone "by accident".  But please believe this very gentle soul when I say that if someone enters my home uninvited and expects to walk back out again on two legs, that simply will not happen.

Now go out, buy yourself some wasp spray, and keep it in an accessible spot.
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