Monday, October 7, 2013

As We Grow

Another summer has made its way through the ever-quickening calendar of my life and I am taking some time to reflect upon the moments that still remain ethereally suspended within my mind and soul.  It is strange for me this year.  Strange because the important string of Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), Yom Kippur (a time for atonement and forgiveness), Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacles) and Simchat Torah (the joyous celebration of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, and the rejoicing over the completion and new beginning of the weekly Torah readings) all essentially took place at the end of summer, when they typically occur in early autumn.  Sitting here with all of these significant holidays now in the past is making me feel as if I missed something and I am not quite sure what it is.  A good comparison might be if Christmas was to fall on Thanksgiving this year (which Chanukah will) and then when December twenty-fifth rolled around, the day was treated as just another day in winter, Santa sunning his tootsies in the Bahamas, Rudolph using his vacation time to visit with his cousins in the Alps ...It would leave you feeling quite a bit discombobulated, like you forgot something important even though everything on your list was already done.  Still, all is as it should be whether it feels like it or not.  Autumn has arrived, summer has passed (although the heat is still in the process of wearing out its welcome!), and all of my Angel Daughters are busy living their own lives while I am still trying to figure out where it is that I fit in.  There are so many things that nobody ever teaches us about being a mother, but I have found that one of the most poignant things is how to start up where we left off, after the children are mostly raised up.
And so, when the weather is permissive and not too hot or humid, I spend some time outside in our garden raising up flowers and plants and tomatoes and pumpkins.
And caterpillars who feast upon the Milkweed that Mark so lovingly planted for me this year.  The caterpillars who then, so much like my own daughters, spend some time suspended safely and freely in the Chrysalis stage.

Impermanent and changing seemingly before my eyes, into beings that I can sometimes barely recognize but that I know oh so well.

Until, there they are, fluttering with perfectly formed wings before me.  Flitting past my face every now and again as I stand outside watching, observing, hoping, praying and daydreaming.  More beautiful and vibrant than ever before but ready to fly off on their own leaving me to wonder how it all happened.  When it all happened.  And yet I know because if I shut my eyes tightly, I can go back to the so many moments in between, when it all happened and I can remember...

Back in June, Mark and I planted five varieties of tomatoes in clay pots on our patio.  We have done this before with fairly mixed results.  Last summer, we had no success as the plants succumbed to a fungus that overtook the tender leaves and prevented the flowers from budding into fruit.  This year, I decided to do a bit of research in order to discover some more disease resistant varieties and Mark made sure to nourish them with Miracle Grow every week.  I expended some of my restlessness gently removing any sick looking leaves off of each plant daily.  We have been well-rewarded for our attention to the smaller things, this year.
Other than this four inch Jurassic looking pest known as the Tomato Hornworm or the Tobacco Hornworm(the ones that I discovered on our plants were Tobacco Hornworms, YUCK!!!), we ended up with bushels and bushels of wonderful, organic tomatoes this year.  At first, I thought these caterpillars were just another possible variety of butterfly but upon closer inspection and a quick check on the Internet, we discovered that these little beasts were out to completely ravage our tomato plants and so they had to go!  I truly hate to kill anything but these little monsters would have killed our tomato plants and so Mark took care of the dirty work for me.  Yet another reason why I completely adore my husband.  Still, I did spend quite some time watching and photographing these little dudes as I had never seen one before and I found them quite fascinating in a gross sort of way.  And after eradicating these little buggers(I found two of them on the same plant), we were rewarded with healthy, bountiful tomato plants which have provided us with delicious tomatoes every single night for over a month now.  Regardless of what we are having for dinner each night, I slice up a melange of several tomatoes and we enjoy them.  We have also shared them with our neighbors(I had to leave them a note saying that if they did not want anymore tomatoes, to please let me know!), my doctors and our friends.  Quite the fabulous treat fresh tomatoes are!  To me, they taste like sunshine.

A couple of months ago, we also planted one pumpkin plant just to see what might happen.  The vine wrapped around our yard with elephant ear sized leaves and the bees did their jobs pollinating the flowers as they grew.  We had several pumpkins that began to grow but did not survive for a variety of reasons, but then, there was this one which proudly sits curing on our patio right now.  I will post another photo of it off of the vine soon.  The color is a vibrant orange and the size is very nice.(12.8 pounds!)  It makes me happy just knowing that it came from our garden.  There is another one that is doing quite well on the vine right now but I do not think that it will be ready for Halloween.  That is okay because Thanksgiving will be coming up soon enough and it tickles me to watch it grow and mature.  I am finding that gardening and taking care of our seven pets as well as the wild birds and squirrels, helps to fill the void of not being as needed by my Angel Daughters quite so much anymore.  And although the gardening is a fairly new interest that has only evolved over the past several years, it is a satisfying way for Mark and I to spend some time together, enjoying the ocean, working side by side, and producing something that we can enjoy and share with each other and with others.  Funny how our neighbors smile just a little bit brighter when they greet us since we have been sharing our tomatoes with them.  Such a simple thing and yet, it really is all about the simple things, isn't it?
The Angels are all doing quite well since I last posted back in June.  I did not set out to take such a long hiatus from blogging.  It's just that every time I thought about it or sat down to begin writing, I seemed to draw a blank.  Writing has always been one of my favorite ways to work out my own thoughts so it has been disconcerting for me to not be able to express myself through the written word and through this blog which I consider my little corner of the world.  This is something that I feel like I need to explore more because in the future, I would love to be able to complete a book that I would eventually be able to share.  Sometimes I feel as if the words become "stuck" and my mind tends to freeze when I sit down to write.  To me, it feels like fear, yet I am not sure what I am fearful of.  This is one of the things that I hope to work on in the coming year.  Maybe there is a chakra or something that is blocked within my soul.  I do know that the physical feeling occurs right in the center of my heart and extends down into the upper left side of my stomach.  It is an anxious sensation and once it hits, I have a difficult time moving past it.  Most of the time, I just go on to something else because it feels futile when I do not understand its origination to begin with.  I always feel much lighter after writing.  It is kind of like putting the words into a helium balloon and just setting them free into the universe. It is a very positive experience for me and yet, this stagnating fear... Definitely something worth exploring but I don't even know how or where to begin.  Anybody else dealing with this kind of thing?  I would love to know what you might wrestle with and how you manage to move past the fear.  Please feel free to share in the comments or email me if you have had any success in this area.  It really helps to hear from others who have been through, or might be going through the same thing.

In the photo above, my dad is standing in for Angel Daughter Number Four which is why he is squatting down.  It is his sense of humor which I cannot apologize for because I definitely inherited it.  I get him but I can always spot the poor individuals who just don't.  They usually aren't sure if he is kidding or being serious.  Then they look over at me.  The blank stares tend to give it away.  Sometimes I try to explain but it is usually futile because, well, he is my dad, and it is sort of hard to explain...

At the end of August, Angel Daughter Number Three began a new leg on the journey of her life.  Earlier in the year, she completed her AA degree from the local community college and was accepted to a University which is nine hours away in order to complete her Bachelor's degree.  This is something that I knew was coming for a long time, but still, having one of my children farther than a simple one or two hour car ride away has been an adjustment.  Especially this daughter because she has always preferred to stick closer to the nest which I also enjoyed.  I do know that this is the right time and the right place for her to spread her wings in order to fly a bit further from home.  The knowing does make it a bit easier, but I do miss the heck out of her.  Not only is she my daughter, but over the past couple of years, our relationship has also very naturally metamorphosed into a dear friendship which I love.  AD3 has gone through a lot over the past few years, but she has used those experiences to grow and mature and transform into an incredible young woman.  Obviously, we all grow and transform at different rates which is part of what made it so special to witness AD3's transition from adolescent to young adult.  She has done so with grace and beauty.

She needed to drive her car up to school, so the rest of us(minus AD2 because she had to be in Las Vegas for a business convention) all flew up to help her get settled in.

We brought the boyfriends who are also the brothers.  I still get such a kick out of that.  AD3's boyfriend was also turning twenty one that weekend, so we had a lot to celebrate!  I took this photo after mostly everything was unloaded into AD3's dorm room.  Everybody was hot and tired but they all did a great job.  The really nice thing about her dorm room is that she has her own bathroom!  No trekking down the hallway in the middle of the night or taking showers in those stinky little stalls with who knows what kind of yuck on the floor!  She has three dorm mates who she shares a kitchen and a living area with, but it is a very nice setup.  Even the furniture that the school supplies is cute!
There was lots of love...

And lots of sisterly giggles.  Lots of climbing up brick walls...

Hugs with daddy...

Smooches with the boyfriends;)

And of course, tears...

But mainly there was love and joy and lots of I'll see you soons which are all a part of the journey.  All part of taking flight.  All a part of our family history.

Our neighbors have half-jokingly decided that the Coastal Commission should declare our front yard a butterfly sanctuary as there have never, ever been so many butterflies metamorphosing on these bluffs before and our neighbors have lived here for twenty years plus.  Maybe it's the extra attention and love and care that Mark and I have directed into making our home an even more extraordinary and magical place.  Maybe it is the tomatoes and the roses and the pumpkins and the squirrels and the birds who are always welcome.  But it's definitely the butterflies.  The human ones who have transitioned into lovely winged angels who flew through the past twenty six years of our lives but still return for a good meal, a loving hug and some family history, past, present and future.  Or, maybe it is the Monarchs who I have been told will also return from year to year, to feast upon the imprinted cellular memory of the actual  Milkweed that they adore, to suspend themselves in time as they transition from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly and then deposit their eggs to begin the magical process over and over and over again.

Ah, the tender, lingering sweetness of it all.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Ties That Bind

It is June.  June is the month of my oldest daughter's birthday.  June brings summer and June Gloom and eventually, July, which is the month of my birthday and my brother's birthday and some unexplained and mostly unexplored anxiety which I do believe that I must take some time to understand this year.  My favorite grandmother passed away on my birthday several years ago, but I do not believe that that has anything at all to do with my "July anxiety" because it seemed to have started well before her death.  Sometimes, I think that my grandma's passing on my birthday was sort of a Universal pox on my irrational anxiety.  Like "Here.  If you are going to be all weird about your birthday and stuff, we will add something else, something more concrete that will make it even more burdensome for you."  Or, "You really aren't that important, Debra, so do not believe that other people celebrating the fact that you are still here to be celebrated means anything more than that you are just another year older."  Silly, I know.  And the interesting thing is that I love life, I really do.  And I understand that in order to continue having a life to love, I must also have birthdays to grow older on.  Like my grandmother always told me, if you want to live, you have to get old.  And it isn't necessarily the growing older part of my birthday that bothers me.  I do not mind that at all.  There are many benefits to growing older and wiser and more comfortable in one's own skin.  But while I am contemplating this, I must ask if there is anyone else out there who shares in this birthday anxiety?  I witness other people getting very excited about their own birthdays and I do, too, but it makes me wonder where my own apprehension might have come from.

So here we all are in the month of June.  Angel Daughter Number One will be turning twenty-six at the end of this month which is almost hard for me to fathom as in my own mind, she is still a very young woman.  Truthfully, I am finally coming to the conclusion that this child of mine is finished being a child.  This has been a somewhat difficult concept for me to grasp as she has always been so easy to mother which makes it even easier for me to continue doing so.(She is a pretty good sport about it.)    But she does not really need me to do that part of the job anymore.  I mean, I know that she will always need me to be her momma, but as far as the unasked-for advice, etc., etc., I would rather not sound like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons.  I am learning to back off.  I am learning that when she needs me, she will come to me.  I am learning that AD1 is pretty much cooked.  I definitely cannot complain. Look at my girl, she is self-assured, considerate, compassionate and beautiful.  As her momma, there is nothing that I could wish for her to be that she is not already in the process of achieving.  It is a little bit frightening to know that I am on my way out of a job that I have so loved doing for twenty-six years, but this is the truth whether I want it to happen or not so I might as well enjoy the process.
So I move on to Angel Daughter Number Two...My wild child, per say.  The one who can cause my heart to pound wildly in the middle of the night without logical reason, but just because I know.  And yet, she always seems to figure her way out of the dilemmas that are sometimes self-created and sometimes, not.  This child is twenty-three years old and although she will tell you that she has been "on her own" since she was eighteen, that is so not true.  She flies freely under the very watchful eyes of her parents and her extremely proud, extremely supportive grandfather even when she sometimes flaps her wings like a wayward bird whose wings have been temporarily clipped by her own impulsive actions from time to time.  I cannot say that this one is fully cooked yet, but I do have to watch the way that I respond to the manner in which she approaches the world.  It it very different, not bad, just different and unusual.  She is, after all, a creative soul and creative souls can have a very different way of approaching life.  AD2 is a free-spirit who views the world from a distinctive and much further elevated perch.(If she can get there, it is definitely worth the effort of the climb!)  I often find myself observing this child in the way that I would view a very beautiful, rare bird that loves the idea of self-survivial but needs the security of others to occasionally feather her nest(and fill her refrigerator).  She wants, so badly, to do things on her own, but she just isn't as ready as she sometimes believes that she is.(Sir, I was born ready!)  It is all good, though.  I know that AD2 is absolutely capable of amazing things, things that other twenty-three year olds could not even imagine achieving.  Being her momma is something that I know that I was meant to do, so I will do it in whatever way she needs me to for however long it takes.  Nothing could make me prouder or happier.
Angel Daughter Number Three just completed her AA degree from a community college, received her first "A" in math, ever, and will be moving on to attend a college that is nine hours away in August to complete her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology.(Just like her momma:))  In some ways, AD3 is our late bloomer, but she is also very thorough in making sure that she is comfortable with one step in life before she moves on to the next one.  It is going to be very difficult when she leaves, I am fully aware of that and I know that I will come down with another case of "empty-nest syndrome" when she goes.    She has been dating Zach for a couple of months now.  He is the brother of AD1's boyfriend, Matt.  They fell pretty fast and quick when they met and have been inseparable ever since.  I'm not exactly sure how the Universe is going to work this one out come August, but it is all part of the major scheme so I am confident that if they want it to work, it will.  Mark and I both really like Matt and Zach so if things are somehow meant to be, we would not complain.  Life has a funny way of working things out, so we shall see what happens in the future.
Angel Daughter Number Four...What can I say about this little bundle of teenage energy.  She is like a whirlwind of enthusiasm and kinetic chatter that bounces from moment to moment, place to place, leaving people smiling from ear to ear in her path.  And although she is in the midst of her final year as a teenager, she is finally now going through a somewhat rebellious stage.  I should have known that it was coming.  It is normal and healthy and necessary.  I was just sort of hoping that we could just skip that portion of the process with this mostly happy, mostly agreeable little soul.  AD4 is still dancing up a storm, going to college, and working while also keeping up with her full social calendar.  Her ability to bring people joy through the art of dance is mesmerizing and I am so proud of her confidence and skill.  I only hope that she takes full advantage of the natural ability that has been given to her so that she does not look back with any regret.  She truly is that good.

The love of my life.  This man whom I have spent the past thirty-three years of my life with.  We have been together since we were freshmen in college and have been married for almost twenty-nine years.  We continue to build a life together that is both joy filled and upbeat.  Yes, we definitely share in the difficulties that being alive throws at everyone, but we choose to deal with them in a way that allows us to keep the bright side mostly in tact.  We try to remember that we are always in this together and we do our very best to work as a team.  Most importantly, we remain deeply in love with one another and that is something that sustains us through even the heaviest of storms.

Even as we watch our four children walking into their own futures, we steadfastly remain two people who will share in ours together and in that, we both find deep comfort.

The pelicans have been returning to San Clemente, and with them, another season has passed and another June has arrived.  Watching my children leave and return and leave and return and then, eventually leave without returning alone, has been a process for me.  It has been a process filled with the bittersweet proclivity of both transformation and also, displacement.  I am excited about what is to come for them, but I am scared about where it will leave me in my newest phase of life.  Who will I be when I am no longer known as my children's mother?  Where will my own purpose lie when the most important job that I could ever conceive of in my life is mostly finished?  How do I discover who I will now become?  I have so much to learn and for the first time in my entire life, I am feeling a little bit lost.    I always knew what would come next...College, job and marriage, children...Now, I am just not that sure.  I've never had a role model to guide me.  No other woman to look to as an example of how it is all done gracefully, at least not one whom I know personally.  It's a bit disconcerting.  I know that I can rely on the support, love and encouragement of my husband and our daughters.  I know that they will cheer me on in whatever direction I choose to fly.  But where do I even begin...I have most of the tools, but I still need a compass, and a map, and a GPS, for that matter.

Happy June!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Spite of it All

I think that my last post might have left the impression that I am in a bad place which could not be much farther from the truth of my life.  I might have been too close to the actual moment when I wrote that particular blog post, but the inner turmoil that accompanied the experience lasted for a fairly short time, most especially after I decided to post what I wrote instead of hiding it away someplace which is what I have done in the past.  My mother is who she is and I am who I am.  I accepted this a very long time ago.  I try not to fight the facts.  I try to get along with her except when I just can't.  And I try very hard not to burden myself with guilty feelings that are mostly invalid.  My relationship with my mother is a constant work in progress and I know that if I do not figure it out during this lifetime, I will most certainly have to deal with it again at some other time in some other place and that is something that I just cannot put myself through if at all avoidable.  I have also come to the conclusion that it does not help my body to heal when I try to shove the emotions that my mother often elicits in me back down into my gut because they almost certainly rise back up to my heart after a period of time and this is when I seem to become depressed for no apparent reason.  Then I must dig and dig until I unearth the issue that is really bothering me when acknowledging it right away might have actually made things so much less complicated.  And complicated it will always be.  If it's not one thing, it's your mother...

My life is really good.  I have been forced to face some pretty tough stuff this time around, but really, who hasn't?  We all have our own stuff, some of it harder than the rest, but it is ours to learn from.  If we can accept the lessons, if we can notice when the same issues seem to reappear, if we can absorb the knowledge in spite of the frustration and the pain, then, and only then, do I believe that we get to move on. I want to move on.  I want to grow and transform and evolve.  I try to pay attention so that I can do this.  When the same lesson seems to reappear in varying forms, over and over again, I believe that there is more to be learned from it.  I do not say to myself, "Oh no, not again."  That would be futile and quite a waste of time.(Albeit, quite tempting!)  I do often wonder, "Why this time?" and then I try to figure out another piece of the equation.  I also know that I cannot change my mother.  I  know that the likelihood of my teaching her anything carries fairly dismal odds.  And sometimes I have to think that maybe this is more about my mother, at this point, than it is about myself.  Maybe I have gotten some of it.  Maybe she has not.  When we are placed in certain relationships throughout our lives, especially one like the parent/child relationship which is one of the closest physical bonds that there is, the job is both to teach and to learn. Lord knows how much my own four daughters have already taught me over the course of the past twenty-five years.  If these same lessons keep appearing and reappearing with my own mother, maybe it is because at seventy-one years old, she still has something very important to learn and I am just the teacher.  For now, I am at peace.  It is very easy for me to love my mother from afar.  Mother's Day is coming up which will, once again, open up all sorts of windows and doors and cracks in my walls but I am allowing myself a breather.  I check in with her by text a couple of times a week which helps to alleviate any sense of obligation on my part.  Mark writes out and mails her check at the end of every month.  I am not dwelling.  I am not beating myself up.  I am not allowing this to eat away at me from the inside out.(Thank you, dear Angella, for bringing to light the cat eating my turtle's leg meaning from my dream.  It makes so much sense to me now!)  I am enjoying my husband and our girls and my father which is far more important to me than the parts of my life that have not yet worked out the way that I would like for them to.
A couple of weeks ago, we went out to Palm Springs to celebrate my dad's seventy-fourth birthday.  I am glad that he is not seventy-three anymore.  My grandfather died when he was seventy-three and for some reason, my father was burdened by the thought that he would pass away at that age, as well.  He obviously had a major scare not too long ago, but he is still here.  We are all more than grateful for that.  I know that I can no longer pretend that my dad is always going to be here, but at least I know that he is here with us for now.  That is something worth celebrating.
Even though he still bites...Just cannot help himself!

Angel Daughter Number Three and Angel Daughter Number Four took the opportunity to have an impromptu dance with their grandfather in the middle of the bowling alley.  It's how they roll, and face it, the man loves to be surrounded by beautiful women.

Angel Daughter Number One is such a gorgeous young woman now.  She brought her boyfriend Matt out to Palm Springs to celebrate with us.  We really like him.  He is a very bright young man who comes from a lovely family.  He is working on his doctorate right now so the next year is going to be pretty hellish for him but if they survive this year together, who knows what might happen:)  Matt has a younger brother, Zach, who may or may not be dating AD3 right now!  They met at Mathew's family seder which we attended, and they took a liking to one another right away.  It's only too bad that there aren't two more brothers in their family.  I'm just saying...
We had dinner at Arnold Palmer's restaurant in Palm Springs.  Lots of golf memorabilia and good food.  No Arnold, though.
My husband is my rock and my touchstone.  He keeps me grounded.  He knows when I need to be left alone and when I need to be spoiled a little bit.  He makes me breakfast in bed almost everyday of the week.(oatmeal and orange juice with my vitamins on the side)  I guess after thirty-three years together, we know each other pretty well.  Sometimes he worries about wrinkles and thinning hair(his, not mine), but I really do not mind one bit.  I think he is the most handsome guy alive and I've met Rob Lowe up close and in person;)  I would still go home with my man every single time.  My life is good, not perfect, but good.  And that is exactly how I like it.

Monday, April 1, 2013


The desert of Palm Springs, CA
I've taken a step toward healing my soul, once again, but in doing so I have also set off a barrage of very troublesome dreams from which I wake up thanking God that they were not real.  And although I know where I should stand on this and I know that I am standing on the precisely correct mountaintop, I have taken a step back down from this very same vantage point many, many times before heading right back to where I just came.  You know that story, one step up and two steps back...Hence the nightmarish dreams.  Sometimes I wake up and I am arguing with my mother and what ultimately wakes me is the sound of my own voice projecting out loud that I need for her to just leave me alone.  The last real life conversation that I had with her about three weeks ago, ended with me firmly explaining that while I would be giving her the $1803.00 that she needs to fix her teeth this time(on top of the monthly amount that we send her to help pay for her rent), I was not at all happy about it and that I will never be happy about having to do something which stems from someone not taking personal responsibility for their own life, especially when it ends up costing my family a large sum of money.  My point being, it seems,  that it is perfectly fine when your crappy decisions end up costing you money that should never have had to be spent(although I do not believe that is very cool, either, but so be it), but when those crappy decisions that I had nothing to do with, end up costing me money, I have every right to tell you so and then some.  I am tired.  I am tired from having spent most of my life mothering my very own mother.  I am tired of her ranting and her immaturity and her selfishness and her "poor me" attitude and her betrayal and her "it's never my fault" and her expectations which come with no self-expectation and her guilt and her lack of shame. (This includes her nutty husband.)  Last night, I dreamt that I was driving along serenely on a beautiful day, until I got to a spot in the road where there was a sudden, major rush of water and I had to jamb on my brakes within inches so as not to be swept away.  I had pets in the car(big surprise there) and my cat decided to eat one of my turtles legs.(I do not own a turtle.)  It was pure chaos and panic that sent me into a place of subconscious weirdness and left me feeling very troubled when I woke up.  I do understand the psychological catalyst for these dreams which can make them even more frustrating because the understanding in no way prevents them from occurring.  It can be maddening at times.

For now, I am taking a break from my mother.  I have put her into time-out.  The rational, loving, compassionate, wouldn't hurt a fly part of me regularly tromps on my own conscience for this reminding me that I am the only biological child that she has left in this world and how terrible it is for a mother to not be able to have an ongoing relationship with her only daughter.  I have used this particular excuse for the past five plus years since my brother died and it often works sending me back into the pit of relationship/boundary hell that I have grown far too accustomed to over the entire course of my life.  The other rational, logical, self-protective part of me who has had it up to here and then some, says no more.  I do not want to be swept away in a sudden flash flood of someone else's drama, albeit my own mother's.  I do not want to drown.  I do not want my cat to eat my turtle's leg.  There is this thing about divorce that has always bothered me and although my dad reminded me when I was growing up that nothing in life is fair, this one truly seems particularly lopsided.  When two people(or a good 55-60% of the married population depending upon where you find your data) decide to get divorced and there are children involved, those two people get to make a fairly clean break of it once all of the finances and emotional bullshit are completely hacked up, but the children are the children for life.  So, as my dad has no more responsibility toward my mother than he does for a stranger on the street (They have been divorced for over 30+ years), I am stuck with her for life.  Yup, not fair.  And yet, how does one completely wall themselves off from the person who gave them life?  I have allowed my mother to be a huge part of my daughters' lives.  Not only that, I encouraged it.  I wanted a mother and my children were a very good distraction for her mostly selfish behaviors.  I offered my daughters up as the sacrificial lambs in hopes that it would make something within her click and she would magically become the mother that I always needed her to be.  She was a much better grandmother than she ever was a mother which is why I have put up with a good portion of the BS over the years.  My girls love her and she loves them and I think that is a very good thing.  Heck, I love her.  But I do not like her, not now anyway and I have a physically visceral response to having to deal with her.  It is unhealthy.  It borders on self-abuse because I know that my blood pressure is going to spike and my breathing is going to become shallow whenever I speak to her but she expects me to even though I have told her this.  In other words, it was good for me, doesn't matter how it was for you.  I do know that when I wall myself off from my mother, I suffer from far less depression.  I live in a much calmer space.  I treat myself better.  My mother does not even know where we live at this point because for a long time, our beach home was only our second home and it felt good to have a place where I could conceivably hide from reality for a bit.  She nagged and bugged me about it, and now, I just do not want to tell her.  This probably has something to do with the defiant little child in me, but it also brings me some satisfaction and allows me to feel as if there is a physical boundary that she cannot cross.(Although her husband tauntingly told Mark that they found out where we live, so who knows.)  Mark did tell them that if they do show up at our gate, we will not be allowing them in.

A couple of nights ago began the holiday of Passover which celebrates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  Under the leadership of Moses, the Jewish people were finally led across a miraculously parted sea and through the desert to the land of milk, honey and freedom from the oppression which they had lived with for far, far too long.  Moses never actually entered Israel.  He and the generations of slaves who traveled upon this journey along with him, had to remain in the desert until all of the slave generations had passed on. God did not want His people to bring the mentality of slavery along with them into freedom because that would mean that they would never truly be freed from the shackles of oppression that were still very much alive inside of their own minds.  He wanted His people to have a fresh start.  He wanted them not only to be physically free, but mentally and spiritually free, as well.  Sometimes, I tell Mark that I do not believe that I will truly be free from the guilt and the expectations and the obligations that I feel for my mother until she indeed, passes away.  This is in no way a wish for my mother to die.  I know that regardless of everything, I will be very sad when that day does arrive for many complicated reasons, and as I said before, I do love her.  I also know that so much of her behavior is dictated by the relationship that she had with her own mother (There I go making excuses again, but it is true) and that she is probably incapable of changing during this lifetime which is also why I have cut her so much slack.  But in so many ways, in order for me to be free from the suffocating oppression that I often feel from my mother, I must also be willing to make an exodus with which I can better exist.  I have been working on this for most of my life.  I do not know whether our earthly relationship will end in a more peaceful place or if my exodus will remain incomplete.  What I do know is that my mother takes far too much out of me and that each time we have a falling out of sorts, she chips away a little bit more of the part of me that is reluctant to construct a permanent wall.

I sit here, contemplating Moses' exodus from Egypt.  I consider my people's need to break away from the confines of Pharaoh's harsh rule and as I do, I look out at the massive expanse of ocean which sits just below my home.  I think about the gated entry and my mysterious address and all that I have subconsciously and consciously done to free myself from the unrealistic demands that my own mother has placed upon me throughout the years and I wonder, if not now, then when?  If not now, then when will I allow myself to journey away from the chains which have bound me to a woman who is all expectation and so little give.  When will it be enough?  When do I choose to allow myself to be freed from the demands and commands that cause me so much pain despite whether or not I am speaking to my mother or not at any given moment?  When will I allow myself some peace?  And how?  How do I allow myself to keep a firm boundary in place while still holding tight to the commandment which commands that I honor my parent?  And what does honor entail?  The financial piece of things will, more than likely, remain unless Mark and I experience our own financial hardship because we always agreed that we would see to it that all of our parents would always have a roof over their heads and food on their tables but that never included their medical or dental bills so that line has already been crossed.  Too many lines have been crossed.  I often wonder if God will somehow allow me to cross my own desert back to a place of health if I learn to honor myself or, if like Moses, I will be destined to die just outside of the land of milk and honey in order to allow future generations to live more freely.  I have so many questions and very few answers.

My prayer for you during this Passover/Easter season is that whatever exodus you might be working on, that you will do so with both guidance and clarity.  That you will be led by both internal and external longings which will sooner, than later, bring you to a place of strong serenity and peace.  May you find strength, growth and renewal upon your journey and to my Jewish friends who figuratively are sitting with me around the seder table this year, may I say, next year in Jerusalem.  I believe I have found new meaning in that phrase this year.  And to that may we all say, Amen.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Tribute For my Brother

Is it by accident or by fate that we end up where we are, sometimes getting lost in the possibilities of the roads that we have not taken along the way.  Thinking back to when, to where, to how we have come to settle upon the small plot of earth which we inhabit now, it is not always clear.  What brought us here to this place that we consider home?  The seemingly small or large life events that moved us to the point at which we now reside could have been earth shattering, or, they could have barely made a quiet rumble underneath the soles of our feet.  I know that the string of events which led us to this point on a bluff overlooking the Pacific ocean was part my own spiritual earthquake, so to speak.  They say that you should never make any life changes or major purchases or important decisions following the death of a loved one but we did, and by doing so, we followed our someday dreams to the place that we now call home.  
We were led here by the very sudden passing of my younger brother.  My only sibling.  The only other person in the world who knew the punchline of my childhood anecdotes and jokes.  The sudden end of my brother's life was like the abrupt ending of a long conversation that was only just beginning.  Stunted, hastily cut short, truncated by an early exit.  It made us think.  A lot.  It made us wonder if "someday" was too presumptuous and too far away in pursuing some of our dreams with a major one being a home near the beach.  And so, we did the one thing that we were told not to do in the months following my brother's death.  We decided that it was time to purchase another home near the beach.  We dove in head first without doing a lot of thinking(we might have thought ourselves out of it) or searching.  We opened the gate which led to the front yard of this place and knew that we had found it. Over the course of the past five years, I slowly began spending more and more of my time here.  I didn't want to leave.  We had a beautiful, large home that our daughters had spent over a decade of their lives growing up in, but after my brother died, it no longer felt like home to me.  Something about the peaceful call of the ocean was drawing me away from there.  I needed to be here.  

We never purchased this place as an intended full-time home.  I'm not sure why that was, and honestly, I do not really dwell on it.  With all of our children and pets, it is not really as large as what we have become used to over the years, but we do know that as our youngest two Angel Daughters get ready to fly off on their own, we will have more space than we need in the future.  We sold our large home last summer after our youngest daughter graduated from high school, and moved everyone down here for good.  I can feel my brother's presence, support and encouragement for our decision.  He has a favorite light upstairs that he has become quite adept at turning on and off at very appropriate moments and he visits us quite often even though he was never here in life.  I know that if he were physically here, he would definitely approve, yet I also know that if he were still here, we would probably be living someplace else.  It's one of those odd juxtapositions in life that needed a certain number of events to occur in order for the equation to work out as it did.  Would I prefer to have my brother still here and for us to live someplace else?  Absolutely.  Am I glad that his death lit a spark under our spirits which allowed us to make the choice that we did?  Absolutely, which is why I believe that there really are no absolutes in life, strangely so.  

Just after the five year yahrzeit(anniversary) of my brother's death a couple of weeks ago, Mark and I were in the car and it suddenly came over me that it was time to visit my brother's gravesite for the first time since his funeral.  I have considered going many, many times over the course of the past five years, but obviously, something(or many somethings) were holding me back from doing so because the thought would come and then just as quickly, go.  Mark said it was probably because I was not ready.  Maybe it was because my heart was still too tender, maybe it was because I knew what had(or had not) been inscribed upon his very simple tombstone.  The thought of my brother only being remembered as a "Beloved Husband and Father" and nothing else, is something that still stings me to the core, but I know very differently.  The sting is becoming easier to tolerate.  We located Rob's gravesite and placed three stones on top of his tombstone.  One for me, one for Mark, and one for our girls.  In Judaism, we place stones on the graves of our loved ones instead of flowers.  This is something that has been done for centuries as it is a constant way to keep building a memorial to the person that is more permanent than flowers.  When we arrived, there were no rocks on my brother's tombstone which seemed to break my heart more than anything.  It was the five year anniversary of his death and my sister-in-law had not bothered to bring his children to pay their respects.  Ouch.  I do know that others have been there in the interim since his burial and it is my belief that other mourners sometimes remove stones from other graves(as completely tacky and disrespectful as that is) because the cemetery does not leave loose stones just lying around on the grass.  It is customary to bring your own rocks, and not everyone thinks about that so whose going to tell if they "borrow" a stone from someone else's grave.  That being said, it struck me hard to view my brother's stoneless tombstone.  I knelt down to clean some of the dirt and bird poop from his headstone and then I looked up towards the sky and laughed through my tears.  Right above Rob's tombstone, there is a large tree with branches that hang directly over his site.  Something tells me that bird poop is not an unusual occurrence in this part of the cemetery.  I know that it will be much easier for me to return to the cemetery in the future and although I do not believe that it is where Robert's soul resides, it is where his body remains at rest and therefore, I will go back.  Robert Mark Sherman was my little brother and the sharer of my history.  He became a brother to my husband.  He was a son.  He was the most beloved uncle to my four daughters.  He was a storyteller and a comedian, oh what a comedian!  He could have me laughing until I could no longer catch my breath.  He was a loyal friend.  He wanted to make the world a better place by assisting the downtrodden.  He was a brilliant attorney who made very average grades in high school but when it came to passing the State Bar exam, he did so with flying colors on his very first try.  He was so much to so many.  His life was cut way too short by a failing heart which may or may not have been broken beyond what he could tolerate any longer.  

I often think about my brother when I gaze out at the rolling Pacific ocean, but most especially at night when the skies are clear and the stars are at their brightest.  Something about the constellation Orion brings me to immediate thoughts of my brother because I believe, that for some reason, he is probably  viewing it too, just from a different angle in the universe.  I am home, for now, and he is home, for now, and somehow I believe that someday we will see one another again in a different place.  And if nothing else positive came out of his sudden passing, I do hope that he knows that because of our sad loss, we learned to take the "somedays" more seriously in the now and that the love that we had and still have for his beautiful life was something which led us home.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


So last I left you, life was moving along in a much better direction.  My dad was healing from his sudden heart attack/quadruple bypass surgery and I was feeling much more hopeful about his prognosis.  Life was feeling much less chaotic but I think I needed to take some time to draw a breath from thinking.  A good long breath.  I did not fully realize it at the time but I have always known it, this blog is a place for me to contemplate and to sort out my thoughts in a very concrete way.  Putting my words down in a place that felt comfortable and safe was a way for me to decompress and yet, I felt overwhelmed by trying to make sense of things after my dad's brush with mortality.  The words felt extremely jumbled and frankly, the thoughts that came along with them were very, very, very frightening.  I did not want to be in the here and now.  I did not want to be in that moment.  I wanted to be six or eight or ten months down the line at a time when the outcome would be much clearer and so, I shut down for a while without knowing that I was going to do so.  I realized about a week or so ago, that not living in the moment was slowly beginning to wear upon my soul.  Being in the past or in the future felt like a safer place to be, temporarily, for the sake of self-preservation and sanity, but eventually, we all need to come back to where we are.  Here.  And so, I made a conscious decision to return to the moment.  I talked to my husband, Mark, about it.  Because sometimes when we say the words out loud to someone who is willing to really listen, they seem to become unclouded and more understandable to ourselves.  And with those conversations, thoughts of writing began to slowly seep back into the forefront of my mind and this blog began to whisper out to me in a very healthy way.  For a while, I was receiving emails from some of my blogging friends asking me how I was doing and when I might be writing again.  Some people even requested for me to write again.  If you were one of those lovely people, thank you so much.  My deepest gratitude is with you.  Each note brought me closer to coming back.  Each friendly reminder of you made me understand that this is not only about me.  It is also about us, coming together to make sense of the world.  Supporting one another with nothing more than words and kindness.  And to those of you who sent me silent prayers of concern, I felt those also.  I stored them inside of my heart knowing  that you, too, would be here once I returned and it helped me to find my way back.  Every kindness was a part of the compass.  So here I am.

It is only fair to begin by sharing some of what has been over the course of the past several months so that I can get to where is now.  My four Angel Daughters are all doing well as they continue to evolve and grow into the incredible young women that they are.  I cannot even tell you how very lucky I feel to be their momma.  They are kind, loving, bright, unique, compassionate, beautiful, creative, effervescent souls finding their way in the world experiencing both the bumps and the beauty of the road.
Angel Daughter Number One is twenty-five years old now.(actually closer to twenty-six!)  It is sometimes difficult for me to remember that she truly is a self-sufficient young woman, and not my child to shelter from the world.  I am learning.  She is pretty good about being Angel Daughter Number "One" and allowing me to "practice" on her.  I know that there are times when she still rolls her eyes at me but for the most part, she humors me by letting me have my say and then politely expresses her own thoughts on things.  She is doing her very best to achieve her dreams as she auditions frequently for commercials(receiving many, many callbacks!) while subsidizing her income as a tour guide at Universal Studios, working for a catering company which caters mainly to the very rich and very famous in Los Angeles, Christmas caroling throughout the holidays(Which is where we were when the photo above was taken, she was on break.), volunteering as a Big Sister to a sweet teenage girl, and taking classes to continue her theatrical education.  She recently completed some spots for MGM, Kia and Comcast.  Her goal for 2013 is to book a national television commercial.  I know that she can do it!  I will let you know when and where to watch it once she has fulfilled this goal.
Angel Daughter Number Two celebrated her twenty-third birthday in early January.  We took her to a Tappan house with some of her friends, our family, and my mother and step-father to celebrate.  January starts the "Birthday" season for our family as my three youngest daughters have birthdays in January, February, and March, consecutively.  My dad's birthday is then in April, we don't have any in May, and then AD1's birthday is in June.  It is nice because there is always someone to celebrate!  AD2 is living in Los Angeles now, trying to find work as a photographer which is a highly competitive field.  She is working on figuring out her place in the world,  and we all know that it is not always an easy place to be.  It is difficult to watch her struggle but I know that she will eventually find her way.  It is just going to take her some time.  Her work has already been featured in some top magazines and she recently completed a shoot for one of the gossip magazines with one of the "Teen Moms".  She just returned from a huge fashion industry conference in Las Vegas where she made some very good contacts.  I think her biggest issue is that she still needs guidance but is not always willing to take it.  I guess the one thing that can be said for doing it "her way" is that she will gain a lot of wisdom in the process.  She is surrounded by loving people who are more than willing to guide her, trouble is, that she can be very stubborn at times. She likes to have the ability to make her own mistakes.  So, her father, grandfather, and I support her in whatever ways that we feel comfortable doing and then, we give her the leverage to make her own mistakes so that she understands that they are her own.  She is such a delightful, charming, and talented young lady and people really take to her.  She is a Capricorn whose mascot is the goat.  Goats like to climb to the top of the mountain where the view is the very best and the air is fresh and clean.  Like goats, Capricorns like to climb to the top of their chosen field so that they can reap the lofty benefits of success.  AD2 has the tenaciousness to succeed in her chosen field.  She just needs to learn from the fact that she can benefit from the mistakes that others have made before her.  If not, life is going to sting just a little bit more than it might actually have to.  It is really up to her and I will be here to catch her no matter how many bumps and bruises that she takes along the way.
We celebrated Angel Daughter Number Four's nineteenth birthday in the beginning of February.  Hard to believe that this is her last year of being a "teenager" and my last year of being the mom of a teenager!  I have been doing this for so long that I can hardly remember what it was like before we entered the years of changing/raging hormones, first loves, and the battles for independence.  I actually think that it will be quite a relief to know that all four of my girls have made it safely past the teenage years once AD4 hits twenty.  I have loved something about every stage of parenting so far, but I must admit that being the momma of four teenage daughters at once, managed to bring out a few more grey hairs than I was prepared for.  I suppose that is the price that I have paid for enjoying the joys of having a large family.  I would not change the experience for anything in the world.  Anyway, AD4 is still dancing her way into people's hearts, going to community college(for now), teaching dance classes to little ones through teens, and transforming into a beautiful young woman.
Angel Daughter Number Three will be twenty-one in March.  In some ways, I think I have seen the biggest changes in her over the course of the past year.  She is attending community college but will have completed her AA degree in the spring.  We are waiting to hear from several universities that she applied to so that she can complete her Bachelors degree in the next couple of years.  Everyday she comes home and asks whether or not anything has arrived for her in the mail so I know that she is ready.  She has worked at the same jewelry store for the past four years.  It has become like a second little family to her and she has learned so much from working there.  It took her a long time to heal after the break-up between her and her boyfriend of two and a half years, but she has evolved into a much more self-assured and confident young lady since then.  She is getting ready to choose a university and then move out of our home which for some reason, will be the most difficult one for me so far.  I am very excited for her.  AD3 does not do anything unless she is ready to do it and so, I know that the time for her to leave the nest is growing quite near.  Still, there is something very bittersweet about knowing that one of my youngest Angels will soon be spreading her wings.  However, in my heart, I know that she will soar.
Since I was last here, not only have we celebrated birthdays, but we have also celebrated births.  This gorgeous little man is Hudson.  He is the grandson of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Donna.  I have known Donna since I was twelve and her husband, Keith, since I was sixteen.  When Mark and I moved to California many moons ago, we never thought that we would get the chance to raise our children together as we had planned to do as kids.  That was until Donna and Keith decided to move their family out to Las Vegas over a decade ago!  Since then, we have made a point of it to get together as often as possible.  We have shared births and deaths.  With each passing year, our friendship becomes even more important to me.  Donna has four grandbabies now and I consider each one to be my grand-neice or grand-nephew.  Her children are my nieces and nephews and my daughters are her nieces.  Chosen family.  I am very blessed to have them.
 These were taken at Disneyland celebrating Scarlett's second birthday.  Aubri is the oldest.  She is such a bright little girl and I love her so much.  Little Scarlett is Hudson's older sister.
Scarlett adores all of my girls.  Angel Daughter Number Three says that she is not a huge fan of small children, but look at her with Scarlett.  She is absolutely smitten!
Scarlett and AD2.  Can you just see the love between them?  It makes me so happy to see my children interacting with Donna's grand babies.  We have come so far together.
Last month, Mark and I took the girls to their second Springsteen concert.  For those of you who are Springsteen fans, you might recognize Little Steven, Bruce's second hand man.  For those of you who watched the HBO series, The Sopranos, you might know him as Silvio Dante. We just know him as awesome!  We made a donation to his organization which raises money for music programs in school and in return, we received floor tickets to a couple of Springsteen concerts.  We cannot wait for them to come around again so that we can see them for the 22nd time!!!  BRUUUUUUUCE!!!!

Sorry, I lost my mind for a moment there.  While we were waiting for the concert to begin, we ran into this gorgeous hunk of a man, I mean, Rob Lowe.  He was standing right behind AD4 and I looked at her and mouthed the words, "Rob Lowe is standing right behind you!"  AD4 yelled out, "Who???"  and again I mouthed, "Rob Lowe" to which she turned around to look at him and her mouth dropped.  She then said to me, "I don't know who Rob Lowe is, but he sure is handsome!"  I must admit that he was a really nice guy.  Very down-to-earth and very friendly.  When Mark introduced him to our four daughters, he slapped him on the back and wished him good luck.
Rob's younger brother, Chad Lowe, was also at the concert.  At one point when we were chatting with them, Mark asked Chad if he was also in the acting business.  He chuckled and said yes.  We later found out that he has been the winner of a Grammy and that he is a regular on the TV series, Pretty Little Liars"!  Boy, did we feel silly.  I do not think that Chad was insulted at all because he ended up hanging out with Mark and I for most of the concert.  He was even nicer than Rob.  Rob wandered off for a major part of the show and so Chad just stuck with us.  There was nothing pretentious about him.  He told us about his newborn baby daughter and his three year girl.  We had a great time just hanging out with another serious Bruce fan.
The man is sixty-two years old and he crowd surfs!!  He crowd surfs!  Enough said...

The love of my life with the loves of our lives.

This is Angel Daughter Number One and her boyfriend, Matt.  We met him for the first time a couple of weeks ago and he definitely seems like a keeper.  They went to college together but never dated when they were there.  They reconnected recently and began dating several months ago.  He is going to be completing his internship for his PHD over the course of the next year and then he will be a doctor.  Not an MD, but a PHD which is even better because they do not have the crazy hours!  I am rooting for them.  They make a very sweet couple.  As long as my Angels are happy, I am happy:)
Becca-Lynn October 21, 1998-December 29, 2012

And finally, very sadly, I said good-bye to my beloved fourteen year old best friend, Becca, at the end of December.  She was doing well until she wasn't and she began to go downhill very quickly towards the end.  It was one of the hardest and saddest decisions that I have ever had to make, but she went very peacefully in our home, on her own bed.  We had a vet come to our house so that Becca would not have to experience the stress of being brought to the vet's office which she hated.  The vet was extremely gentle and Becca fell asleep looking into my eyes.  She was such an amazing dog and a very loyal friend and companion.  She stood by me at times when I might have withered away without her love.  I am so grateful for the time that we had together and I will miss her for the rest of my life.
These are some of the moments which have passed during my absence.  Life is always filled with moments that make us want to run away and moments that make us want to stay for awhile.  It is up to us to remain present during all of these times because they are all valuable.  They are all teaching moments, and they truly are all we have in the end.

Thank you for sticking with me and for spending the time to walk for awhile on this road along side of me.  I look forward to reconnecting with you and to catching up with the many moments that I have missed in your lives.  There is a time for everything in our lives, and for me, it is time to return to the moment.  To the now, to here, to life. L'Chaim.
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