Do-overs

Do-overs

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I recently traveled to Pendleton, Oregon via Portland to attend a wedding with my manfriend, Dale.  Driving along the Columbia River, I requested to stop at Multnomah Falls, a place that I hiked often with my little family when we lived in Portland almost 18 years ago.  I was totally unprepared for the flood of emotions I felt as we stood at the base of the falls.

The next morning in our hotel, after engaging in a ruckus round of early morning texts with my siblings- not an unusual exchange and something my son, Patrick, refers to as a Lebanese alarm clock- my brother, Johnnie, who lives in Pullman, Washington, singled me out in communication.

“Did you drive or fly in?” he inquired.

I responded: “We flew into Portland.  Made me sad.  Good memories.”

” Yes.. I bet.”  He replied.

Me: “Don’t you wish you could have some do-overs in life?”

My brother, Johnnie, left the Catholic church years ago for a more fundamental Christian congregation and I quite expected him to come back with a bible verse that might elevate me out of the mundane into the spiritual realm.

But his response surprised me.

“Yes.”  He said simply.

Now I would not bore/shock you with the list of potential do-overs that I have experienced in my life.  Some are huge detours I’ve taken off the main road and some are on a smaller scale yet significant nonetheless.  A few are so private and personal that I don’t even allow them into my conscious awareness, never mind share them with my closest friend.  Most have had far reaching ramifications that were impossible to foresee.

I am going to make a list of those potential do-overs for myself, have a good cry, and then create a ceremonial burning so that I can face the future without regret, remorse and existential angst.  If you decide to make your own list, I’d love to hear how that goes for you.  Hopefully we can be the salve to heal one another’s disappointments in life, missed opportunities and painful mistakes.

 

 

 

Ya’aburnee.. you bury me.

Ya’aburnee.. you bury me.

Sittee and Bobby Blur2

I was quite saddened when I read about Vice President Joe Biden’s 42 year old son, Beau, who just died of a brain tumor. This poor man has been through more trajedy than one could imagine.  First losing his wife and infant daughter in a car accident with his two small sons fighting for their lives.  Then years later having one of them succumb to cancer after not only surviving but also thriving with an enviable life, a successful career as an attorney and a fulfilling marriage with two beautiful young children.

Fate is twisted.

Ya’aburnee means “you bury me” in Arabic.  It means wanting to die before a loved one so as not to have to face the world without him or her in it.

This was the prayer on my mother’s lips when she received the news that my brother, Bobby, at age of 31, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  “Let it be me.  Not you.”

She fought for her third son from the very beginning.  He was born premature weighing only four pounds.  Just big enough to fit in a shoe box.  In school he was the class clown and the ring leader among his friends, often getting into trouble with Sr. Dolores, the principal at St.Philip Neri, in our small town of Compton.  He would lead kids twice his size around the neighborhood, looking for mischief.  He teased  me endlessly about being chubby and offered to pay my membership to Vic Tanny’s Salon.

After nine years of Catholic school Bobby  begged to be set free to attend the local public high school where most of his friends went.  He was a rebel.  A contrarian.  A master of debate.  How he convinced our ultra- Catholic parents to transfer him to public school remains a mystery to us all.

Years later while waiting to be accepted into Law School after earning a degree in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University and a Masters Degree in Political Science at American University, he would bide his time sitting on our couch at home reading through the encyclopedias from volume A through Z.  By now I was taller and not so chubby.  But he would still find things to tease me about.

Bobby went on to become a successful attorney.  He fell in love and married Christine. Together they had a family, Matthew and Katherine.  I’m sure my mother stopped worrying about him at that point.  (If mothers ever stop worrying..)

Until the evening when she got the news of Bobby’s brain tumor.

“Ya’aburnee,” she gasped in fear.

She got her wish.  My brother, Bobby recovered after several years of treatment.  He was healthy and back to work as an attorney, just long enough to be the Executor of my mother’s will after she succumbed to ovarian cancer in October of 1986.

And I imagine she was waiting with open arms at the gates of heaven with St. Peter when the cancer took my brother Bobby’s life in July of 1991.  For a brief moment, they would embrace and she would comfort him.  After which they would move on to join the Communion of Saints, their lives on earth but an ethereal dream.

My father was not so lucky.  He buried my mother.  And then he buried his third son. Dad died of cancer and a broken heart almost exactly a year after my brother died.

All these painful memories come back to me as I read the article about Joe Biden losing first his wife and infant daughter, and then years later, when it looked like life had self corrected, he lost the son he fought so hard to save.

Ya’aburnee.  You bury me.

My new mantra.

Ya’aburnee.

 

 

Betwixt and Between

Betwixt and Between

I ran into the Morgan Hill Safeway last week to pick up some groceries and a woman stopped me in the frozen food section.  I had dashed back to that aisle to pick up some blueberries and was pretty much done with my shopping.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure” I said, thinking she wanted to know where to find the cat food or to inquire about a good hamburger place in town.

“Do you have a blog?  One Hip Diva?”

Stunned, I replied “Yes”.  I had never seen this woman before and clearly she had only seen my picture.

“Where did you go?  In your last entry you were moving out of your house.”

I had to think for a minute.  Where did I go?

I am betwixt and between.  At a midway point.  Neither here nor there.  Most of my “things” are in a storage unit somewhere in Morgan Hill.  There is stuff in Dale’s garage and extra bedroom.  Random objects are at my work in my office.

And I am in a liminal space until my new townhouse is completed in July.

I don’t usually do well with this sort of thing.  I am a planner, a plodder, a tidy woman who likes to keep things in order.  But for some reason I am unexpectedly calm.  This liminal space is defined by Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest who says that Everything Belongs.

It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run…anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing.

Indeed.  It is very unlike me to not want to flee!   But in the betwixt and between there is time to unwind and discover who I am without all the accoutrements and props I’ve accumulated throughout the years.  I’m waiting in the threshold for what’s next.  It’s a creative space that begs to be explored.  I’ve gotten out of my own way.  I’ve let go, moved on, leaped, unhooked and trusted.

How do I explain all this to a woman I don’t even know, yet who knows me pretty intimately through my writing?  Her name is Jill and if I hadn’t gone back to the frozen food section to pick up just one more thing I would never have met her.

Hello, Jill.  And thank you.

 

 

When life seems unpredictable, it’s good to remember that…

When life seems unpredictable, it’s good to remember that…

When I began the process of selling my home several months ago, I asked a Realtor to come over and assess the situation.  We talked marketing and the best time to list and then we walked around my house and he gave me ideas for “staging”.

“The lions on the front porch have to go.  Take those pictures off your refrigerator.  Replace that entrance rug with something more neutral.”

And then he stopped  in his tracks at this framed quote on my wall- “Everything Belongs”.

“That’s nice” he said.

Everything Belongs.  A quote from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who advocates for living simply so that others might simply live.  A reminder to me every time I walked from my  kitchen to the front door that no matter what happens in my life, it all belongs.

This morning I am up early to do some last minute packing.  I am having my coffee on the floor of my office.  No desk.  No chair.  No potted blooming orchid.

The emptiness belongs.

The excitement of the next chapter.  The heartache. The anticipation.  The moist fragrant morning garden.  The anxiety.  The hopefulness.  I take it all with me.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated it most eloquently: “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

The lessons learned in this beautiful home and the woman that I’ve become in the last 17 years- those things can never be left behind.

And tonight when I revisit my beautiful home in my dreams, I will remind myself.   That life changes and the lessons continue and I take it all with me.  And not one experience in life is out of step or out of sync with the other.

And the future is ripe for new experiences, new gardens to plant, new people to meet and new lessons to learn.

And in some unpredictable and unexpected way,  it all belongs.

When you have a garden you have a Future and when you have a Future, you are Alive. ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

When you have a garden you have a Future and when you have a Future, you are Alive. ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

I’m caving.

I’ve been so very strong about selling my house, downsizing, entering a new chapter of my life, blah blah blah…

This morning I worked in my garden.  The wisteria and the jasmine are in full bloom.   There are birds hanging on to branches everywhere and Ethel is stalking a very naive squirrel.  I’m pulling weeds and pruning roses and raking the gravel in the paths.  There are pots of flowers and window boxes that need watering.  I give St. Francis a little cleansing shower as he stands at his post, keeping peace among the wildlife.

I know I should start dis-assembling things in my home.  I need to start packing and getting my head around it all.  But this morning in the garden I am mourning.  Everything is in utter bloom as if to say in the sweetest way they know- goodbye.  And thank you.

Thank you for releasing lady bugs and dousing us with homemade compost.  Thank you for knowing what is a weed and what is a wildflower lest we all get pulled in haste.  Thank you for the great music you play when you are here with us bending and lifting and pulling and gently watering.

And I want to say in return…  Thank you for being there for me when I was stressed or anxious and nothing would sooth me except being outside with you.  And thank you for the beautiful canvas you created for all the great parties we’ve had here.  For my sons’ graduations from high school.  For our annual birthday theme parties.  For engagement parties and wedding showers and the random get togethers with friends and family.  For quiet meditation when I couldn’t sleep at night.

You’ve brought me such peace and tranquility.

And hundreds of plums!  Oh Lordy!  Not to mention all the birds, squirrels, raccoons and random neighborhood cats who came to enjoy your beauty.

I will have another garden.  As much as I bitch and moan about dragging around 20 pound bags of mulch and throwing out my back hoeing stubborn weeds rather than spraying them with roundup, I would not be the woman I am today without you and your unconditional love, your fragrance and your dramatic seasonal whimsy.

You will be the last part of this house that I begin to pack.  Both literally and figuratively.

I will miss my home and its’ cheerful sunlit rooms.  But I will miss you more.

 

Midlife Mischief…

Midlife Mischief…

The day began innocently enough.  Five friends from high school met in San Francisco for fun and sightseeing.  Two of us are currently from the bay area and the other three are visiting from the OC where we all grew up.  We’re a classy bunch.  At one time in our lives we used to elicit looks and howls from handsome men on the street but now we just kind of blend in with the masses of humanity enjoying the beautiful day and weather.  Our best qualities now internalized.  Just when did that happen?

Nonetheless, we think we are pretty hot babes.  (Or at least Perry thought we were.. more about that later…)

After a go around in the Ferry Building and a satisfying lunch (no calorie counting today!) we forge our way up the Embarcadero towards whatever suits our fancies, stopping to have our picture taken and do a little people watching and shopping.  With happy hour fast approaching, we set out to find a friendly bar.   Feeling very urban sophisticated, I suggest we call an UBER and promptly press my handy app.  A Toyota Corolla was on its way and would arrive in 2 minutes.

WAIT!  There’s five of us!  No way.  I quickly cancel and we squeeze into to a nearby cab that’s just barely big enough for the five of us and head to a groovy street for shopping and bars- “Chestnut in the Marina”.  The driver says “oh, that’s only about four blocks away..”   Twenty minutes later, we arrive.  Really?  Four blocks?   Not even.  Sandy would have liked to walk it with her Fit Bit.  The rest of us were content to be driven.

In and out of shops we go, all the while looking for a bar appropriate for our age category and level of sophistication.  The Tipsy Pig looks like fun with its’ 20 and 30 something beautiful people falling out of the windows and doors!  Oh yeah…  we aren’t 20/30 anymore.  Not a bad thing we all agree!!

We settle on the Ristobar with equally beautiful people more in our age category and somewhat more enlightened.  Sitting at the bar, we flirt with our bartenders like old times.  Why not?  We are classy babes from the OC!   I text my son Peter to let him know we are in his neighborhood.  He’s across town with his friend Nathan.

Darn.. the girls really wanted to meet him.

He says “have fun mom and don’t get into trouble!”  He has no idea what trouble his mother can get into with her hot girlfriends…

Now we are hungry for dinner and a little tipsy to boot.    I asked the lady next to me at the bar (who BTW was from Seattle) how to hail an UBER big enough to accommodate the five of us.   I selected UBER XL (or I thought I did) and my phone announced a white Honda Accord was on its way to wisk us off to the Fog City Diner

Boy that was fast.  As soon as we hit the street there it was.  Our white Honda Accord chariot.  We opened all the doors and began to pile in asking the driver if he was sure he could take all five of us!!   Not only was English his second language but I’m guessing the sight of five gorgeous babes climbing into his car was too much to believe!

He was rendered speechless..

Just then.. my phone rang.  The voice on the other end of the phone asked “where are you?  I’m here on the corner of Chestnut and Scott!”

We realized we were in the wrong Honda just as the man tried to explain in his broken English that he was waiting to pick up his wife!  Now stunned and embarrassed, we quickly evacuated white Honda Accord #1 and proceeded to jump into white Honda Accord #2, all the while laughing and gasping for breath.  Of course our UBER driver got to hear the entire story.  He was somewhat entertained.

Still greatly amused at ourselves, we arrive at the Fog City Diner where we are promptly seated.  The mood of our group was quickly picked up by our intuitive waiter, Perry, who asked “Are you ladies ready for an adventure?” at which we dissolved into uncontrollable laughter once again. Perry volunteered to order the entire feast for us including the wine.  We accepted the offer and the unsolicited flirtation.

Obviously he recognizes our inner hotness.

As a part of his fantasy, he renamed us all.   Dawn was Penelope.  Linda was Gwen.  Sandy was Maria.  Lisa was Susan.  I was Betty Ford.

Ok enough!  I ONLY had one Lemon Drop at the Ristobar!  My girlfriends had my back and begged for a more exotic name for me.  Sensing a potential post-menopausal riot, Perry renamed me Annalise.

The parade of food began..  Grilled Local Calamari, Hand Cut Furikake Fries, Lacopi Farm Brussel Sprouts, Caeser Salad, McFarland Springs Trout, Wagyu Flank Steak Fries, Short Rib Kim Chi Tacos, and two bottles of very expensive wine, after which we had two desserts (by then we didn’t care what we were eating..).  I asked for some table bread half way through the parade but Perry said NO it will ruin your appetite.  ( I don’t think he liked me..)

As the feast drew to a close, we asked Perry what his story was.  What’s a handsome middle aged man doing in the city waiting tables?  We heard his entire life story. Wife accused him of being abusive.  Turned his three beautiful daughters against him.  Yadadada…

Well, with age comes wisdom and these babes recognize a shmoozer when they see one!  Nonetheless, we leave a significant tip commensurite with the entertainment and attention he provided and then cozied up with Perry for one last photo.

Hoofing it back to the Bart station, we recapped the day’s mischief, feeling quite proud of ourselves for throwing caution to the wind.. just like old times!  Five hot babes from the OC doing the City!

BTW, this might have been one of those “you had to be there” stories. So if you’d like to leave a comment on this blog with your email we will invite you next time pending an UBER big enough and a driver brave enough.  Until then, let’s raise a glass to midlife mischief!

 

 

Street of Dreams

Street of Dreams

 

 

My neighbor around the corner used to walk her little boys by my house with their big wheels.  We would chat sometimes and she mostly complained about the people who lived behind her who were constantly annoyed by the noise wafting from her back yard when her family and friends were in the pool or just out BBQing.   And she always punctuate the conversation with “But I will never move!  This is my dream house!”

Imagine my surprise when a couple months ago, her sons now graduated from high school, I spotted a big fat For Sale sign on her property.  Now they are gone- to where I have no idea.  Since her sons were old enough to travel the neighborhood independently, our only communication was a wave as I drove by her house.  She was usually outside meticulously manicuring her yard and garden and/or washing down the entire street in front of her house in her bathrobe.

When doing therapy with children, a very common assessment tool is called “House, Tree, Person”.  The child is asked to draw all three on a blank piece of paper and the idea behind this is that they will “project” into the drawing aspects of their inner world.  I’ve always loved doing this with my little clients, allowing both of us to relax and get to know each other.  (And of course, I love any opportunity to color with my set of 64 Crayola Crayons-Burnt Umber and Brick Red being my favorites..)

In my quest to “let go” in 2015, I threw away all my notes and paraphenalia from graduate school, including my very first House, Tree, Person drawing.  But it doesn’t really matter.  Every one I’ve ever drawn looks just like this one.  I did this the other day sitting at my kitchen table.  You might ask if this is my “dream house”.   Not really.   I think I’m the only woman on earth who has never longed for her “dream house”.

Rather, I have many houses that I dream about.

Shortly after we moved from sunny California to Portland Oregon, my son Patrick, then 9 years old,  had a vivid dream about our family home we had sadly left behind.  He was outside playing with his brothers and the neighborhood kids with squirt guns.  Out of water, he attempted to charge into the kitchen for a refill but found the front door locked.  A stranger opened it and promptly announced “you don’t live here any more”.

Pausing here for a brief meltdown.

I grew up on Halo Drive in Compton, California.  I had my babies on Tedemory Drive in Whittier.  I sent my first son to high school from SE 31st Street in Portland, Oregon.  And I launched all three of them into adulthood from my current home on Del Monte Avenue.   Each house was a “dream house” to me because the people I loved the most made it just that.  And in each house, a part of me was projected on to the walls and floors and empty spaces as my own personality and inner being grew and developed, magically displayed like a crayon drawing on a clean white piece of linen paper.

I’m moving, downsizing, cleaning, sorting and putting up for sale once again a house I will someday dream about.  I’m feeling both excited and sad and several other emotions in between. But I am holding the tension of the opposites deep within as I go through this process.   It’s time to make a change, to grow in a new direction, to take a chance, to redirect the energy in my life.   It will be a bittersweet journey.

I will take this home with me.  Every house I’ve ever lived in has taken up permanent residence in my heart and soul, carefully placed on my own personal Street of Dreams.

And I can revisit them any time I like.

 

New Year, New Intentions

New Year, New Intentions

Many years ago, I attended a funeral with my then husband, for one of his co-workers.  The gregarious and well respected engineer died relatively young leaving a wife and two small children.  I don’t remember how he died but I do recall how sad the service was and how irritated I was as the priest continued to encourage the congregation to “Let Go and Let God”!

I didn’t think for one minute that this man’s wife and family were ready to swallow that message.  Their grief was palpable and there would be difficult days and nights to get through before they could possibly “let go” and find peace with their loved one’s death.  I cried the entire way home from that funeral feeling that life was so unfair and random and unpredictable.  Vestiges of my own personal losses came up out of nowhere.  Letting go was the last thing I wanted to do.

I found this card in a box with other momentoes that I have saved through the years.  It was given to me after the death of my father more than 20 years ago with a heartfelt message from two dear friends from church, Mark and Margaret.   So timely that the message should find its way into my hands, asking to be reconsidered.

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.  I’m ready to hear this message.    This is my intention for 2015.

I am a saver of old cards, of my parents things, of photographs, of memories.  I have trouble opening my hands and letting things sift through, only keeping what is most important.  I cling to old ideas and patterns and struggle with transition and change.  But some old ways do not serve me anymore.  I am choosing to change the energy in my life and counting on God to help me take the leap to the new and unexpected.

Last night I had a dream about seeing our old next door neighbors from our first home in Whittier. (Previous neighbors!   Kenn and Lynda- you guys aren’t old yet!)  I felt that tinge of sadness and nostalgia that one feels when they revisit the past and remember good times and feel a sense of loss.

I am girding myself for said emotions.

Here’s to a new year.  A year of exciting discovery and potential nostalgia and sadness.

The student is ready.

 

 

 

 

Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

Anyone familiar with the Shaheen family knows that it is a male dominated clan.  My dad is one of five brothers.  My parents had five sons.  I have three sons.   Four of my brothers all have at least one or two sons.  One of my brothers married a man!  Gee whiz!

Females are a rarity.   And we stick together.

We are not the perfect family by any stretch of the imagination.  We’ve been through some tough things and have come out on the other side, strong in the broken places.  Each of us has a story to tell about the Shaheen men we have lived with, supported, nurtured and loved unconditionally.

I have learned so much about life from these brave women.  They have inspired me.  They have taken me shopping.  They have given me wardrobe and home decorating advice.  They have buoyed me up in times of despair and sadness.   They are the bonuses of my life.

Katie, Mojgan, Susan, Catherine, Christine, Adrienne, Adele, Aimee and Elizabeth.  We are missing Charise, Annamarie, Katy, Sarah, Jessica and my new daughter-in-law Brianna.  God willing, next year we will all be together for this picture.  It will be the best Christmas ever.

I am very grateful for these women.  They bring so many unique gifts and charisms to the Shaheen family.  My life would be very one dimensional without their strength and femininity, compassion and nurturing.  Not to mention our  collective cooking skills!

We no doubt have challenges ahead as every family does.  But we will navigate both the good times and the difficult times as they come.  We are sisters and friends.  We are united by our shared history.

We are strong together.

 

 

Sleepless in Morgan Hill

Sleepless in Morgan Hill

You name it, I’ve tried it.

I cannot seem to get a good night’s sleep.

This isn’t anything new.  I’ve always been somewhat of an insomniac.  It runs in my family.

At work yesterday one of my colleagues suggested a sleep mask.  That in combination with the “Best Rest Formula” from my chiropractor got me to sleep at 8:30 pm but after the stroke of 11:30 pm, I was up practically every hour.

I’m somewhat tired (no pun intended) of everyone’s advice.  Of course I have solicited it so I shouldn’t complain.

Yesterday at The Dailey Method in Morgan Hill, where I’ve developed quite a few forty and fifty something friends in the same sleep deprived state, I got some interesting data.  (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.)  Janet takes Trazodone but only on the weekends because it makes her too groggy during the work week.  Annie takes Ambien but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays  so as not to get addicted.   I tried Ambien for a few weeks.  My niece was living with me at the time and one evening I was making dinner and found her peanut butter in the freezer.

“Sarah, why is your peanut butter in the freezer?”  One look of disbelief from her and it all came back to me.  It had been my midnight snack.

“Are you worried about something?”  People ask.   Actually, I am currently in a good space.  But who doesn’t worry about something?

Am I going to get Ebola?  What is going to happen when we get rid of all our books and paper and “the enemy” absconds with our internet?  Why are girls at school melting down and having panic attacks in my office?  Am I going to get to work on time with all this traffic?  Will the Giants win the World Series?  :)

Yesterday, at a stop light, I looked to my right and to my left at the people in the cars waiting for the light to change.  They all looked pretty stressed out.  The man to my right was running his hand through his hair like he’d had the day from hell.  The lady on my left had a car full of unruly kids.

WE ARE ALL STRESSED OUT!  But most people sleep anyway.  Not me.

I save things for myself to do in the middle of the night.  Empty the dishwasher.  Fold clothes. Look through junk mail.

Sometimes I go into my closet and choose three things for the “to go” bag.  I finally got rid of this really slinky red dress that I was sure I was going to wear again someday.  No worries. I’ll see it again on a Morgan Hill Goodwill shopper.

Sometimes I go on Facebook but other insomniacs try to message me.  I’m awake, I say, but not in the mood for a conversation.  Some guy I dated in college likes to chat after his full day as an airplane pilot for Southwest Airlines.  He’s lonely somewhere in a hotel.  There are lonely insomniacs everywhere.  The middle of the night is a lonely place.

Today I am off to Home Depot to investigate black-out shades for my bedroom.  I’ve downloaded a white noise app for my phone and have purchased a bottle of lavender lotion for aromatherapy benefits.  I’ll try this trifecta tonight and let you know how it goes.

If you have any ideas, feel free to amuse me.

And if this blog seems a bit rambling and random, forgive me.

I am sleepless in Morgan Hill.