Thursday, November 15, 2012

I am Safe

                                                                        *sunset over the Pacific, November 14, 2012

I am feeling strangely ensconced within a deep cocoon of security today, as if I am being gently cradled in a place where I am safe and warm and nothing amiss can touch me or the ones that I love.  This is a feeling that I welcome.  I am allowing it to wash over my soul like a soothing stream of warmth.  It emanates from my heart, it radiates outward.  I feel it everywhere as it lavishes from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head.  I am not at all sure what brought this on as today is just an ordinary day but I so badly want to hold onto this feeling.  I want to somehow transmit it to the people that I love.  To you.  And yet, after the past couple of months that I have had, I do know that discourse often bubbles like a thermal geyser just below the grounds surface, ready to erupt without a moments notice.  I am no pollyanna.  I readily acknowledge that even as I sit here bathed in a soothingly soft blanket of comfort that there is trouble in the world and sadness and pain but in this moment, I am feeling shielded from that, and I am grateful, so grateful.  
Happy one week until Thanksgiving.  May you, too,  feel the blessings in your life.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All is Well

*You might want to grab a cup of coffee because this is a long one:)

So I was just reading a blog in which the "writer" proselytized that the reason that Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc over sixteen states across the East Coast is because, wait for it, wait for it...the people who reside in those sixteen states somehow deserved to be bashed by a megastorm of epic proportions.      According to this woman(who is raising eight children with epic stupidity and bigotry), it is the fault of the gays and the damn liberals and the Obama supporters and the non-Christians and anyone else who might not agree with her- I mean-the only religious doctrine that should exist in this country.  I am mostly non-political.  I believe that gay people should have the same rights as straight people.  I actually supported neither candidate in this past election.  I am moderately liberal on some issues and moderately conservative on others.  I have been married to the same man, with whom I have birthed four daughters, for over twenty-eight years.  I am Jewish.  I am a born and bred New Yorker who has raised her children(quite well, I might add) for their entire lives on the West Coast of this great nation.  Which is why, if I were to follow the logic according to the "gospel" of this woman and others like her, God probably decided to track me down in Southern California to create a little Hurricane Sandy in the lives of the people who are closest to me? Since He was already ticked off enough to completely batter the worlds of countless East Coasters(many of whom are God-loving Christians like herself) why not do a bit of picking and choosing on the West Coast at the same time just to prove that we(the people who do not believe what she believes) have also so offended God that He is going to pummel us all into subservient submission(to heck with free-will).  I am losing patience with this idiotic line of thinking.  My mother-in-law sent me a fictional book to read several months ago that meandered down this same, exact road and as much as I love her, I nearly conducted a good, old-fashioned book burning ceremony in my own backyard.  I forgave her for truly believing the bull-shit that was written inside of that book as anything but fiction, but this particular blogger who took it upon herself to tell hurting people that Hurricane Sandy came crashing down on them because GOD IS ANGRY AT THEM made my heart sink down into the pits of my stomach.  Yes, there is a lot of hurtful crap that is written on the Internet and yes, this woman has the right to believe anything that she darn-well pleases, but to use her blog as an instrument of hate, to stick her proverbial tongue out at the poor people who were so devastated in the path of this monstrous storm while saying "Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!" gross, just gross.  So, to stand in unity with my East Coast friends and family members(incidentally this includes my mother-in-law who lives on the Jersey Shore) I am posting a sampling of the crap sandwich which has been dealt out to our family over the course of the past five weeks with a bit of a different perspective on crap sandwiches.

Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis probably already knows that my dad, my touchstone, recently suffered a heart attack which was followed by quadruple bypass surgery.  My dad has made many strides in his recovery and is doing so much better now.  His recovery, and not the episode which led up to it, is what I attribute to God.  As I explained in my previous post, I believe that my father was given a second chance at life because his work on this earth is not yet complete.  That being said, I do not believe that my father's heart attack was caused by God.  Heart attacks are acts of nature, just as hurricanes or earthquakes or tornadoes are.

The heart attack seemed to just be the tipping point for us.  The vehicle in the photograph above used to belong to Angel Daughter Number Two.  I say that it used to belong to her, because some brainless schmuck chose to get behind the wheel of a car drunk, and then proceeded to plow into the front of my daughter's car head-on, very late one night a couple of weeks ago.  She sensed him coming but it was too late.  He hit her in such a way that her car uncontrollably spun around a full 360 degrees deploying the airbags and leaving her stunned and in pain as she tried to put together the pieces of what had just happened.  From out of nowhere, a young man on a bicycle ran to her aid helping her out of the vehicle and retrieving her cellphone from inside so that she could call for help.  When AD2's boyfriend arrived on the scene, the driver admitted to him that he had been drinking.  The drunk remained on the scene for several minutes until AD2 noticed him limping across the road and then, out of sight, leaving nothing but his vehicle behind.
That was the same week that I arrived home after spending eight days out in Palm Springs.  Mark met me out there(two hours away from home) for the weekend after my dad was released from ICU leaving our two youngest Angel Daughters in charge of the farm.  On Saturday night, Angel Daughter Number Four called and mentioned that our dog, Micah, was limping after she had taken him to play with her boyfriend's dogs for the afternoon.  When we spoke to her on Sunday, she said he was still limping but seemed to be doing better so we didn't think too much about it.  When I arrived home at around 10:30 Sunday night, the dog was not limping.  He was dragging his leg behind him and yelping anytime that we touched it to look at it.
*Notice my suitcase still yet to be unpacked in the background.

By Tuesday, Micah was in surgery to replace his torn ACL with metal pins.

And somewhere in the midst of all of this, my husband managed to fracture his wrist in two places.

And you know what my mantra was for the entire time that all of this was taking place?  It can always be worse.  There was nothing facetious about this.  No sarcasm.  No blaming God.  No believing that the Lord had been particularly harsh on my family as a way to "punish" us for my gay-loving, non-Christian, Jewish, moderately liberal, moderately conservative views.  

It was my choice and my belief to focus on where I know God is in all of this.  It is for the same reason that I know that God did not bring Hurricane Sandy down on the lives of all of the people who live in the sixteen states that were affected by such a mega force of nature to punish them.  Because no matter how bad things might seem, they can always be worse.  And no matter how difficult the storms that we must face might seem at the time that they are happening, there are always angels, even human beings with invisible wings or bicycles who will swoop in to help or to rescue or to lend a hand.  No, crazy woman who had the audacity to write that God used the tragedy of a megastorm to punish whomever happened to reside in its way, God did not create the hurricane in order to express His anger. 

A hurricane is an act of nature.

A heart attack is an act of nature.

A broken wrist or a torn ACL, both acts of nature.

A drunk driver barreling down the road without concern for anyone but his own need to get where he is going impaired out of his mind, that is an unfortunate and evil act of free-will.

But a surgeon who can repair a badly damaged heart and save a life, 
millions of people coming together to support those who were traumatized and damaged and devastated  by a storm,
people putting their own lives at risk with barely a thought for their own safety in order to rescue others,
a veterinary surgeon who can replace the ACL of a dog with staples and pins so that he can run again,
a stranger on a bicycle who stops in the middle of the night to come to the aid of someone else's daughter,
that is where God is.

The photo above is of AD2 and Micah, now.  They are both still dealing with the after effects of what they have been through, but they are healing and safe and alive.  The little red car in the photo is AD2's new Prius Hybrid.  The insurance company declared her other car totaled after the accident and sent her a check almost immediately.  There is an investigator assigned to her case and he is going to find the driver of the vehicle that could have killed my daughter.  Things can definitely always be worse.

Through it all, there are always wonderful moments intertwined with the difficult ones.  Here are just a few.  These are the moments that remind me of where God is in the mix.

Angel Daughter Number Four, our tiny dancer, asked me to come observe as she taught some dance classes.  As I sat there observing, several of the parents who were also observing their own students began talking about what an incredible teacher AD4 is.  They did not realize that I was there to watch her and that I am her momma.  I just sat there and smiled.
Halloween 2012.  Angel Daughter Number Three dressed up as one of the characters from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Once she got the full face make-up done, she looked amazing!
Angel Daughter Number One likes to ham it up for me when I have the camera because she knows that it will make me go away faster.  That being said, I adore this child.
Angel Daughter Number Two did a photo shoot at our house last weekend.  It was so much fun to watch her work.  Our house was buzzing with energy as the make-up artist, stylist, models and their boyfriends busily worked together to create some gorgeous images.

I will definitely post some of the finished products here soon.  Such a fantastic group of young people.  Watching AD2 orchestrate everything made me a very proud momma.
Last week, we had a Disney Day as a family.  I think this photo pretty much sums up what kind of a day that was.  It is not as often as I would like that we can get together for an entire day to be together as a family now, but when we do, I am nothing but grateful.

My prayers go out to the many people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.  May you find strength in each other.  May you find healing in the rebuilding of your lives, and may you find peace in the moments that remind you that things can always be worse.  Oh yes, they can.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Second Chances

My dad and I

Can I write candidly about this without completely hurting someone's feelings?  The heart can be a very delicate organ at times like these.  I am not sure that I can but I will try to anyway.  It is, after all, as much of a part of my story as anyone else's.  As I sat there staring down at the hands that had just held my father's temporarily non-beating heart, all I could think about was second chances.  Second..thump-thump..chances.  Second..thump-thump..chances.  Second..thump-thump..chances.  The heart surgeon's words were little more than rubbery sounding background noises as my own heart beat wildly against the words "second chances" and my eyes focused on those hands.  Something tells me that I could pick that doctor out of a lineup based solely upon the appearance of his long, lean fingers.  His gold wedding band slightly embedded in the skin of his ring finger, his short well-manicured nails.  But his face, probably not his face.  I was not paying any attention to his face or even his words, for that matter.  It was his hands that captured my full attention and all I was capable of doing in that moment was memorizing them, not necessarily on purpose, but because they had held something that I was born out of, something that has held me since the moment I was even considered.  My father's heart newly quadruply bypassed and cleared of as much plaque as humanly possible and then placed gingerly back inside of his chest to hopefully, prayerfully beat for another day.  Second chances.

Almost two weeks ago, my dad suffered a "minor" heart attack.  A heart attack, ironically, that ended up saving his life because when the doctors performed an angiogram they discovered that my father needed to have quadruple bypass surgery in order for his heart to continue pumping.  At first, I was numb, and then I was scared to death that I might lose him but finally, I prayed.  I pleaded, I bargained, I rationalized, I cajoled, I bartered until finally, something quieted the voice inside of my busy, whirling mind demanding that I stop.  And when I stopped, when I took a breath, when I listened, I heard a voice, presumably what I immediately assumed was The voice of God and that voice calmly yet firmly said, "If I wanted to take him now, Debra, he would no longer be here."  It was in that moment that I knew that my dad was being given a second chance.  It was then that I began to believe that he would make it through the very difficult surgery and recovery.  But it was also then that I understood that beyond all of that, there would be no guarantees.  It might not have been my father's time but a second chance will definitely require some significant lifestyle changes.  One of his doctors straight out told me that if my father does not change his ways, he will die.  I appreciate people who do not skirt around the truth.  I am a sensitive soul but surprisingly tough as nails and I do not like surprises, especially since my little brother dropped dead on us only four short years ago without any warning.

Here is where things get somewhat dicey.  My father was released from the hospital yesterday and although he is regaining his physical strength daily, he still will not speak to anyone on the telephone.  This includes me.  I am not sure if this is a rational or an irrational decision for he is back to running his business via email but he has absolutely no desire to speak to or see anybody right now.  My step-mother texted me to tell me that my father is repeating the words, "NO VISITORS" like a mantra.(insinuating that this also includes me)  This does not surprise me because when I arrived at the ICU to spend some time with my dad the day after his surgery, there was a handwritten note next to his room number on the checkin sheet that specifically stated that "only wife and sister-in-law" were allowed to visit him.  Sister-in-law...Not wife and daughter, but wife and sister-in-law.  They did end up letting me in after speaking with my dad's nurse but I will not even venture to guess what the hell that was about.  And my step-mother, whom I have known since I was sixteen years old and who readily admits that she has been with my father for over forty years(which would have made me ten and my brother four and my father a very married man), professes to love me.  I am too exhausted to even try to muddle through the feelings of another woman who somehow believes that a close relationship between her husband and his daughter somehow diminishes a man's ability to love his wife, first and foremost.  I have lived out that story for my entire life with my own mother and frankly, it truly bores the hell out of me now.  My dad lives two hours away from me and unlike the first eight days of this episode, I cannot completely drop my own life and spend my days waiting around in a hotel room for the couple of hours that I can spend with my father each day.  Of course, immediately after his heart attack and surgery and for the days until he was placed into the transitional care unit, there was no place else on earth that I would have even considered being, but I cannot continually put my own life on hold.  So, I wait.  And pray more.  And I will email him later because I know that he will respond to that, however briefly.  And then, in a week or so, Mark and I will take the drive out to Palm Springs whether he likes it or not because truthfully, it isn't really all about him, or my step-mother, or what he says that he does not want because I am his daughter, his only child.  I know the possibility that we could have lost him was real.  I know that the possibility that we could still lose him is also real but getting a bit more remote with every passing day.  I do not know what his plans are but I have some very nagging feelings in the center of my gut about that.

This is about second chances.  This is about decisions and beliefs and choices.  He can stay after living what he has been through, or, he can go...soon.  I think I already know what God's feelings about that are.  I know what my feelings are.  Mark's feelings. All of our Angel Daughter's feelings.  I still need my father.  In my heart, I am still a small child who believes that her daddy will always be the strong, brilliant, vibrant man who has all of the answers.(well, most of them, anyway)  But I am also a woman who knows that second chances come with both responsibility and a price.  So here we stand.  No bullshit, I will stand by my father in whatever he decides.  I will not nag him, berate him, badger him or judge him.  I will only hope and continue my conversation with God because sometimes, that is the only thing that is within our power to do.

I hope that you are all well and that life is good:)  I have some catching up to do and I promise to update again very, very soon.  Thank you for checking in on us and for sticking with me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reconnect, Repair, Renew

Rosh Hashanah literally means "the head of the year".  In Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah marks the completion of the creation of the world and is looked upon as a time to begin anew, to forgive and to be forgiven.  It is now 5773 according to the Jewish calendar which follows the lunar calendar(our regular calendar follows the solar cycle) and even if you do not believe that the world has only existed for 5773 years, this is a time for great self-evaluation and contemplation.  It is a time of gratitude for God and a time of deep introspection and study.  It is a time for celebration and a time to ask for forgiveness(from God, from ourselves, from others).  It is a time of prayer and a time of Tzedakah(charity).  It is the time when it is said that God opens up the book of life in order to determine who shall live and who shall die. It is a time when we are expected to repent, to return to God, and to return to our highest selves.  It is a time for second chances(or third, or fourth, or even ninety-ninth) as long as we take responsibility for our own actions.  It is not a time for feeling guilty about our past indiscretions but rather a time to right our own wrongs.  And as daunting as all of this might seem, it is really a gift because when done correctly, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur(the ten days known as "The days of Awe") may not only be spiritually cleansing but also emotionally healing for ourselves and for others, as well.

As I sit here contemplating the year that has been, the "me" that has been, the "we" that has been over the course of the past year, it feels a little bit odd if not somewhat mis-placed because this Rosh Hashanah somehow snuck up on me.  I can definitely blame this on so many things.  The fact that I turned 50 this past summer, the fact that our youngest Angel Daughter turned eighteen and graduated from high school, that our oldest turned twenty-five, the fact that our devoted and beloved rabbi(our rabbi for well-over twenty plus years) passed away, the fact that it has been unusually and repressively hot and humid for the past two months making it feel as if no time has passed at all.  And yet, here it is.  Here I am.
As I watched a train passing below our home on the tracks that skirt the shoreline of the coast on the evening of the first day of the new year, I thought about how quickly things, life-cycle events, days, weeks, years can pass before we even realize that they are upon us.
There are times when we do not even feel the changes as they happen, and then suddenly, here they are, right in front of our eyes as if they magically appeared out of nowhere, blazingly obvious in both sight and sound but leaving us feeling somewhat dumbfounded by their unexpected arrival.
And yet, we knew that they were coming.  Barrelling down the tracks like a well-timed train, slowing down for nothing.

As I consider the things that I must do in order to become a better person, I intend on using the next week or so to look within and to dig as deeply as my courage will allow in order to come to terms with the things that will make me a finer human being.  What can I do to make the lives of those who I love and care about just a little bit better each day?  Are my actions aligned with my core values on a daily basis?  Are there things that I could work on in order to become a more productive and positive individual?  It is said that on Rosh Hashanah, the world goes back to the moment of creation and begins anew.  I like to believe that we all have that chance, too.

May I take this moment to ask for forgiveness of anyone whom I may have hurt overtly or unintentionally over the course of this past year.  May I find forgiveness in my heart for those who have hurt me, either intentionally or without knowing, and may I find a way to leave any hurt behind.  May I do better, be kinder and love harder than I ever have before.  May I always remember to show gratitude for God and for all of the wonderful people that He has so graciously surrounded me with.

L'shanah tovah to everyone.  Happy new year.  May God inscribe and seal you and all of the people who you love in The Book of Life for another good and sweet year.  And may it be a good one for all of you...From my lips to God's ears.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thawing Out

I am good.  I have not melted, nor imploded, nor run off to some exotic island in the South Pacific where life is absolutely perfect and there are handsome, young, sun-kissed natives fulfilling my every frivolous desire.  And although for the past three or so weeks, I have spent most of my time in what I call my "mom cave"(our air-conditioned bedroom which has been the only tolerable space in our home because people in San Clemente do not believe in installing central air) yesterday and today have been much nicer days with much less heat and humidity.  Yes friends, global warming has finally made its way to the west coast which means that no place is safe from the clutches of intolerable heat anymore.  We are all doomed to a life filled with cases of deodorant, indoor activities and whining.  Build a bunker that has air conditioning and stock it with lots of canned goods.

As I sit here thinking about where the summer has gone and how I am actually very glad that it is almost gone, I am also a bit sad about how quickly the time just whizzes by.  My girls are no longer children.  Our pets are getting older, especially my beloved dog Becca who is now living with kidney failure at the age of nearly fourteen.  My parents are both in their seventies.  I just turned 50.  Life happens whether we decide to participate in it or not and quite honestly, for the past four years since my brother died, I have felt as if time stood frozen solid in too many aspects.  The clock kept ticking but I somehow became ensconced in the shock and the pain and the grief of losing someone who was such an important presence in my life since the time that I was four years old.  And then, so many people betrayed many people.  People who I truly believed cared about me and loved me.  And the bite from those betrayals, the bone-crushing throb that occurs after the jaws clamp down on an unsuspecting heart, it can come up at times when I am least expecting it.  A word, a smell, a story, a picture and my heart begins aching again...thumping, thumping, thumping.  Betrayal is one of the few things in life that we cannot do anything to prevent.  We go into relationships trusting that others are not going to use those relationships to bring pain and sadness into our lives.  It happens, though.  And along with the death of my brother, my only sibling, these people turned on me as if I was somehow to blame for the loss or as if I was only the sister, which somehow meant that the loss should have been less for me? My mother, my "step-father", my "step-brother" Marc, his wife Sheri, their son my "nephew" Eric and his now wife, Rachel.  And almost worst of all in such a deeply hurtful way that makes me feel nothing but sorrow when I think of what my brother must have had to live with, my sister-in-law Allyson.  Naming names and taking numbers now but I am not exactly sure why I have reached this point at this particular time.  I suppose all things come with time.

I am at a point in my life in which I want to heal.  I am craving healing.  My brother would want me to.  My husband and my daughters and my father want me to.  My friends want me to.  My therapist who is really just a friend who I pay by the hour, wants me to.  And although I am not really sure where to begin, this unrelenting heat that we have been experiencing is beginning to thaw my soul.  I am taking small steps towards reaching out to the world again.  Small, little baby steps toward not believing that anyone I allow in will someday betray me.  I know that that is not true, that people will inevitably betray me, I just need to begin to believe it again.  The wound runs so terribly deep.  I have to remind myself that the individuals who thought little of betraying me were individuals who were presented into my life by other people.  My mother's marital family of choice, not mine.  My brother's wife of choice, never mine.  I accepted these people as my own.  I did not have to.  I could have kept a polite distance.  They became my childrens' people, too.  Maybe that is part of what hurts so much.  Hurt me, but stay away from my children.  I must always remember that they were someone else's people.  So, as another autumn comes into view, I am thinking about what is next.  I am actually calling the people who say, "Give me a call, sometime!", and I am opening myself up to the possibilities.  I am feeling restless which I think might be a very good sign.  I am no longer comfortable just cocooning into a place that feels safe, a place where they cannot hurt me.  I want my heart to thaw.

If you are still reading at this point and you do not think that I am seriously broken, thank you.  Would you mind saying a prayer, or, if you are not the praying type, sending a bit of good energy out into the Universe for me?  And I will do the same for you because when it comes down to it, we are all really just souls journeying through this world in order to find our way to love.  It is as simple as that.

I am good.  Truly, I am.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Angel Daughter Number Four with a smile almost as large as her own.

When I was in High School, my father set up a darkroom for me in the recesses of our haunted basement, handed me a Nikon camera(always our family camera of choice), and told me "Go to it, Kid."  Equipped with my telephoto lens, I set out to photograph one of my favorite species at the time.  High School football players.  Having dated several of them, they didn't think anything of having me hang around the perimeter of the field while shooting random photos.  When I realized that there was a premium amongst players and their families for action photos of football players doing what they do, I began charging sixty cents a print and developing the photos in our basement.  I was always torn between doing what I loved and spending time in that dark, dank basement that I swear was built upon some ancient burial plot, but that is a different story for a different day.  I would run down the stairs and straight into my darkroom where I would promptly slam the door behind me.(as if doors keep creepy things from going through walls)  I can still smell the pungent odor of developer that permeated the air in my little, dimly-lit space.  I used to get lost in the creative work of darkness and negatives and paper dipped in liquids.  It was almost other-worldly for me as I waited for seemingly nothing to appear into something.

I suppose that my father instilled the love of photography in me and then, into Angel Daughter Number Two.  When I was a child, he was always chasing me around to pose for one picture or another.  It seemed kind of annoying at the time.  Not too many children like to stand still for as long as it takes to snap a few photos(especially my own, STILL!), but it did not take long for me to realize the benefit of having many childhood/family photos and I quickly learned to appreciate the keepsaking of a memory.
Digital cameras did not come along until my Angel Daughters were a bit older and so, most of their childhood photos are on paper which definitely has its benefits.  I have boxes upon boxes upon boxes of their childhood photos and sometimes we go through them, giggling, oohing and ahhhing, or just passing them back and forth quietly misty-eyed from the moments that went by way too fast.  I am glad for those printed photos.  I cherish each and every single one of them.  They are the first things that I would grab if God forbid, there was an emergency.  But I am also glad now for the capability to shoot seemingly frivolous digital photos of colorful, homegrown tomatoes because I might not have if I was shooting with film and there is something to be said for snapping a picture just because the beauty of the moment moves you.  Lately, I have been playing around with Instagram and I love it.  It allows me to take a picture on a moments whim and then tweak it or not which I am doing less and less of, the tweaking I mean.  I always have my phone with me which almost allows me to feel secure enough not to always lug my heavier Nikon along.  I did say almost, family.

Here are some photos that I took with my camera which also happens to also be a communication device. Small details...
Angel Daughter Number Three getting ready to leave for work in the wonderful shirt that she made with her own little hands in Sewing class.  I love that she is learning to create clothing with her hands.(One of Angella's recent posts reminded me of how precious this will someday be.)  Yesterday AD3 made an adorable pair of shorts that I will take a picture of her wearing the next time she puts them on.  She is such a fashion maven!
An instashot of Angel Daughter Number Two and me.  Since her arms are longer than mine, she got to hold the camera, I mean phone, I mean...Oh, whatever.
Louis, the adorable marmalade kitty and my nighttime cuddle buddy.  I am going to be sad if Angel Daughter Number Two really decides to take him back.  Just saying...After all, I am almost an empty-nester these days.
This is the main drag through our little town and I never really looked at it until the day that I took this picture.  This sort of epitomizes the feel of what it is like to live in San Clemente.  Palm trees, sunshine and ocean on the horizon no matter where you look.  Heaven.
Our front yard.  That is the city of Dana Point is in the distance, another wonderful costal town down here in Southern California.

Baby roses in a Jadite pitcher on our kitchen table.  Another one of the simple things that can elevate  life to the extraordinary.  It's all in the details, my friends.
Sunsplash on our faces.  Angel Daughter Number Four, my sunshine, and her momma.

Recently, I fell in love with succulents and when I found some that blossom in colors, I was hooked for good.  This one kind of reminds me of the man-eating plant from Little Shop of Horrors.  Good thing it is actually really small.
Angel Daughter Number One and her momma.  I love her smile.  Once again, she is the one holding the camera because, well you know.
Callie is our only female feline which is why the three males fight.(and yes, they are all spayed and neutered.  I guess they still somehow know what they should be doing if they could.)  She causes so much trouble and doesn't even realize it.  I suppose it does not matter the species.  Women have been causing men to battle since the beginning of time.
Happy, happy, or as my husband says, happy wife, happy life!

And finally, Micah, our handsome boy.  Those eyes allow him to get away with quite a bit sometimes.

Interestingly enough, I have been thinking about purchasing a film camera to play around with aside from my digital cameras and my iPhone.  AD2 has been encouraging me to do this.  There is something about the process of shooting with film.  Although we do not have the room for a darkroom right now, there might be room for one in the future.(Hopefully, the next one won't come with any uninvited guests.)  Something about feeling like my girls are now grown-ups is also causing me to feel more generous with not only my words, but also my photo-taking moments.  It is like I am looking for something to nurture that begins within and then metamorphoses its way out into the world for others to share.  A standalone body of work that is not breathing, per say.  I am starting to believe, really believe, that indulging ourselves with the things which make us feel good and useful and like we are utilizing the gifts that we were given is not only important, but necessary.  Very, very necessary.  And maybe not so indulgent after all.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Essence of a Found Hometown

San Clemente, California.  A patriotic little enclave in Southern California which has captured my heart and nourishes my spirit in a way that no other place ever has.  Living here has been like coming home after wandering through, for much of my life.  When I think about finally arriving here via a very long and winding road beginning with my original birthplace of Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, it feels as if we were meant to end up here, that we were somehow led here, and yet, it is a place that spent very little time on my radar during our first twenty-three years here in Southern California.  Mark and I have always lived with the feeling that we are being guided.  We always seem to end up in the right place at the right time.  And so, as we get ready to complete the packing and the moving from our Ladera house which has been home for almost twelve years, it is a good thing to know that we are not only moving, but coming home. 
This beach is known as T-Street.  It is very popular with locals and tourists, alike.  The beach is fairly flat and there are playgrounds for the children which makes it a fantastic spot for families.  We really like taking our pup, Micah, for walks along the San Clemente Beach Trail which spans approximately five miles long but allows you to pop on or off at various spots along the way.
I really enjoy bringing my camera with me whenever we go for a walk because the subjects down here are endless!
There is a restaurant at the foot of the pier that offers a gorgeous view of the Pacific and incredible sunsets.  Care to join me for lunch?

When this lifeguard came bounding down the pier with a very purposeful look in his eyes, I asked him how his day was going.  He told me that he was getting very tired because he had made nine rescues that day!  Sheesh!  I told him that he would sleep very well that night.

The older gentleman to the right was fishing with his son and grandson.  I noticed them because the grandson was being very sweet and gentle with his grandfather.

How incredibly lucky these two souls are to have each other.  Grandparents are extremely important in the lives of their grandchildren.  I see this relationship between my four daughters and their grandparents.  I have always encouraged my girls to spend time with their grandparents.  I have always said that my mother makes a much better grandmother than she ever did a mother.  I am very glad for that as my girls deserve to be treated like they are the most wonderful things since sliced challah;)
We are so lucky to be able to watch the flocks of Pelicans flying over our bluff during the summer months.  They are the most magnificent birds with huge wingspans and beautifully graceful flight.  This was the first time that we got to observe a Pelican up close.  He was hanging out at the end of the pier where people like to drop their fishing lines into the ocean.  It has become a learned behavior for them to beg for food but it is very important not to feed them because they are only supposed to eat certain things.  They are very good at pretending that they are starving to death so that someone will toss them a hand-out.  Quite an amazing adapted trait these birds have learned!  It is actually against the law to feed them but most people do not know that.  This guy just hung around staring at everyone with that "I'm cute and hungry" look in his eyes.  Stinker!
These bungalows are perched just above the beach overlooking the ocean.  I have never been inside of them, but I would imagine that the views alone, are the reason that people would stay here.
Some of the older architecture in our neighborhood is stunning.  I spotted this beautiful gate on this stucco home when Mark and I were taking Micah and Becca for a walk the other day.  There is always something wonderful to discover when we go out for walks;
Like the Neighborhood Watch for the Bird Sanctuary.

Or the constant color that makes San Clemente so vibrant and breathtaking.

Thank you for joining me on my little tour of this beautiful town.  It is definitely a place that is worth visiting and who knows?  Maybe, just maybe, you will find out that it is destined to end up being your hometown, too;)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Breeze Makes me Feel Fine

Sweet days of summer the Jasmine's in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune.

For me, July is a month of dichotomies.  My birthday, my brother's should be birthday.  Busy days during which my Angel Daughters used to be off from school and ready for play.  Quiet days during which I spend time daydreaming about what should come next for me.  I am at a precipice in my life.  Standing between the end of what once was, teetering on the edge of what soon will be.  And the scary thing is I cannot, for the life of me, seem to hear my own voice.  I am not exactly sure where and when I became so good at squelching my own voice.  How far back does this go?  Would I even recognize it now if I did, indeed, hear it?
The end of July used to mark the halfway point between play days and back-to-school supplies.  Fresh crayons and pristine packages of neatly stacked, college-ruled notebook paper.  Thick Crayola markers in colors that outlined the pictures of life throughout my days.  Newly sharpened pencils and new classrooms to explore.  And children.  Lots and lots of children.  My children.
July is quickly coming to an end as the dog days of summer melt hazily into the month of August.  I look at my children through different eyes now and although their colors are still incredibly young and vibrant, I am longing for a reason to purchase the Crayola eight pack of thick markers, a Hello Kitty lunchbox and a back to school outfit or two for each one of my girls.
Angel Daughter Number Four's recent graduation from High School brought with it a newfound longing, a straining, to hear the sound of my own voice.  To receive an epiphany or that booming voice of God or even the tinkling of whisper-soft angel voices.  Hell, even the mechanical female voice from a GPS system would be something at this point.  But I am having trouble deciphering it all, hearing it all, making sense of it all.
Because between Angel Daughter Number One and Angel Daughter Number Four, were also Angel Daughters Number Two and Three and I was a very busy, very fulfilled, very satisfied momma.
Mark and I raised them, but a lot of the raising was up to me because they were the future that I knew would be when I closed my own sleepy child eyes at night.  Every.  Single.  One.  Of.  Them.  And then I went to college, found the perfect man for me within two months of arriving there, graduated, married, moved to California from New York and before we knew it, they came.  One childhood dream after another, after another, after another.  And I suppose that somewhere along the path of raising our girls, I got very, very busy and became very, very immersed in the job of doing what I had always dreamed of growing up to do and other voices became louder than my own.  Until somewhere along the way, I forgot to think about what I would be good at doing not only when I grew up, but also, when they grew up and I somehow lost track of the sound of my own voice.

Around our Ladera home in which we spent the final eleven years of our children's growing years, there was jasmine that we planted along our fence line that bloomed every summer and smelled like heaven.  Recently, we sold that home to another family and we are now in escrow and we are putting that home into boxes because we are living in our ocean home which was never really supposed to be our "primary" home.  Yet with the girls moving up and out and on, Mark and I decided that our Ladera home was much too large for the size of our dwindling household and, well, not on the beach which is where we now feel most at home.  And as we move away from the aroma of summer jasmine down to a place that carries the essence of sea spray and honeysuckle and saltwater, I am experiencing this deep-seated beseeching need to hear my own voice again.  To find my own words.  To discover, for myself, what comes after jasmine.  And even though I know for sure that my children will always be my own, not only is it time for them to find their own way in this world, but it is also time for me to once again, find mine.

And I come home from a hard day's work
And you're waitin' there
Not a care in the world.

See the smile awaitin' in the kitchen
Through cookin' and the plates for two
Feel the arms that reach out to hold me
In the evening when the day's through

Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind
-Seals and Crofts

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