Fearfully and wonderfully made…

Fearfully and wonderfully made…

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in the secret of darkness

before I saw the sun

in my mother’s womb

        ~Psalm 139:14

Dear little Boe,

You are a miracle.  A gift.  Someone new to love and long to hold.  A bundle of sweet smells and warm cuddles.  You have us all in awe and wonder.

How beautiful you are.  A blank slate.  A crisp white page to be filled with lovely lyrics.  An empty vessel within which we place all our hopes and dreams.  Your innocence is compelling.  I feel absolution in your presence.

I know that some little parts of you have been etched from my own body.  That in itself is mind blowing.  I look at you and feel such love and connection- and at the same time, a sense of mystery.  Who are you?  Who will you become?  How will I fit into your life?  What will we do together to build our relationship?

Little lovey, the day you were born we all experienced a life changing transition.  Woman and man became mother and father.  Mother and father became grandmother and grandfather.  It may take some time for us to learn our new roles so please be patient with us.

I hear other grandparents brag that they can spoil their grandchildren and then send them home.  All the fun and none of the responsibility.  Then they laugh!  But Boe, I have a little secret for you.

I would do it all again.  The pain of labor, the sleepless nights, the diapers, the desitine, the sticky kisses, the million and one soccer, basketball and little league games, the waiting up for teenagers, the “sex” talks, and the endless and painful letting gos- witnessing three little boys traverse their paths into manhood.

But there would be do-overs.  I would clean less, order more take out, play more games and be more attentive to the ebb and flow of raising a family.  And most of all I would allow myself to enjoy it all.  Not be so stressed and insecure. Not be so hard on myself.  Not compare myself to other moms who appeared to be doing it better.

Little Boe, when your daddy was growing up, I wrote him letters on his birthdays and other occasions so that he would know how my love for him unfolded and developed as he grew up and became a young man.  When he graduated from high school I gave him all those letters.  It was a labor of love.

I want to do that for you, little Boe.  I want you to see what I see in you.  And in those moments when you are feeling insecure or a little blue, I want you to know how much you are loved, fearfully and wonderfully made, and carefully knit together in the secret of your mother’s womb by an even greater Love.

My heart is full.  My life has taken on a new meaning with your birth.  I have so many things I’d like to share with you.  So many songs I want to sing to you.  And I have all the time in the world to listen to you.

Stay sweet, little boy.  Take in all the love you can.  Learn honesty and integrity.  Be generous and kind.

Grow up to be a man for others.

I love you,

Your Sitti

 

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The Mom Void

The Mom Void

It’s Mother’s Day and it seems appropriate that I would be channeling my mother in the kitchen this weekend.  Tabouli, Hummus, Baba Ghannouj- salt, allspice, cinnamon, garlic, tahini, eggplant, and parsley dripped and splashed everywhere!  You can’t make Lebanese food without making a mess, using your hands and taste testing along the way.  The sterile kitchen police would have me under arrest.

My daughter in law is craving Lebanese food for my little Lebanese grandson still nesting just under her heart.  A new little Shaheen boy in the works.  My mom would be beside herself!  Another man to cook for!

I found my place very early in life next to my mother in the kitchen.  I had no choice really.  I just grew up in there with my own apron and stepping stool, stirring the rice pudding, chopping the parsley and washing the dishes.  Sometimes all at the same time.

I never complained.  With a family of eight and so many brothers, it was the only way I could sneak something to eat before the food hit the dinner table. It was also my special time to be with my mom.  To smell her perfume and sing songs with her.  At a very young age, I wanted to be just like her.  She was so loved and admired by everyone.  And she was a fabulous cook.  I think she invented that idiom about the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach..

She always knew just what to do in every situation.  What to cook for every ailment.  How to take care of her family.  She could have written the book on mothering.

I watched her as a young mother wrap up my babies and sing to them.  When my youngest, Peter, was born, I found her playing in the sandbox with Patrick and Robert and their trucks.  “Whose mother is that??” I wondered!  My mother never got dirty.  My mother had her nails and hair done every week and wore heels and hose.  My mother didn’t own a pair of jeans until she turned 50!

As I recuperated from each pregnancy and birth, she cleaned my house and did the laundry and cooked delicious things for us in the kitchen.  I just held my babies and watched.  I wanted to get in there and chop and stir and wash dishes but clearly our roles had changed and I was no longer the little girl helping.  I was the mother. Still learning from her.  Still needing her advice and expertise.  Still wanting to be close to her in the kitchen.

Now on the cusp of being a new grandmother myself, I’m feeling a bit insecure in the transition.  What will my new role be like?  What are the expectations?  Will I know what to do with a new baby?  After all, it’s been 30 years since I had Peter.  Things have changed. Mothers are more enlightened due to the internet.  Information is dispelled easily through a quick Google.  Does anyone call their mother for advice anymore?

The new parenting trends bring natural fibers and toxic free toys.  Gender fluid nurseries and neutral color schemes.  Babies sleep face up instead of face down.  Bumpers are no longer safe in cribs.  There’s something called “sleep training”.

Maybe I will Google “gramma training”.

So I find myself in the kitchen where I feel safe and smug.  I know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Or through his mommy’s stomach.

It’s a start.  The rest will come in time.

As I chop the parsley and squeeze the lemons.  Smash the garlic with the salt just how she taught me.  Mix the Tabouli with my unsterile hands- I haven’t killed anyone yet with my cooking- I feel her standing next to me and I smell her perfume.  I am infused with her wisdom and her strength and her confidence in me.

“You got this, Sissie!  You’re going to be a wonderful Sittie!”

Feeling the Mom void..

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Special Delivery

Special Delivery

 

The tracking number stated that my mini chandeliers had been delivered yesterday to my front porch!  At 8pm last night I looked again…

Front porch, back porch, neighbor’s porch…  no packages.

This morning I pulled up the email to get the customer service phone number and there it was in black and white.  Delivered to my old house on Del Monte Avenue.

Panic set in..   The new owners have sprawled “return to sender” on everything they have received with my name on it- even though I left them my email and phone number in case of said scenario.

I had formed an opinion of “them” as being uncaring and hostile.

I gathered my courage, washed my face, threw on some clothes and got in my car- destination Del Monte Avenue- before I had a moment to change my mind.  I had not been back to my old house since I moved almost a year ago- not even to drive down the street- although I got a quick view in my peripheral vision when I would drive down Llagas Road before my new development created a street with more direct access.

Not even a quarter mile away yet worlds away…  I pulled up in front of the house and jumped out.  I had a handwritten note to leave just in case no one answered the door (which I expected).  It was only 8am and even though I’m usually awake for hours by then, the rest of the world sleeps in.

She answered the door, clad in a bathrobe, mascara smeared and hair in disarray.  She was so kind!  “Oh, they are in the garage!  Let me go and open it!”

In my imagination I walked with her through the sunlit entry and into my cheerful kitchen.  Past the breakfast nook and through the faithful laundry room.  I opened the garage door and then I met this stranger in the driveway.

And it was me.

I asked “Are you enjoying the house?”

She responded “Yes!  I’d love to ask you in but…”

Little did she know that I had already been inside.  And it was lovely.

I have done the grieving and I’m feeling quite content in my new home.  But this has been the graced moment that I have needed to complete my transition.

On this very beautiful Good Friday morning I have received a special delivery.

And I am finally delivered.

The Church of Soul Cycle

The Church of Soul Cycle

We mount our bikes and get ready for a hardy workout.  The room is dim but the stage is elevated and illuminated to spotlight the empty bike from where our instructor, Ian, will be leading our 45 minute session of blood, sweat, tears and redemption. We are warming up, adjusting our seats, and preparing our souls in anticipation.

Enter Ian left stage.  He is ripped and torn and fit as a fiddle with a dashing smile and a charismatic personality.

“Who has not been to Soul Cycle before?”

“Who has not been to MY class?”

He makes a mental note of who might need some extra attention in the room.  He is like a prophet bringing the good news to the flock who long for health and fitness.

And off we go.  The music is pounding.  My daughter in law inserts her ear plugs.  Ah, those thirty something kids! They can’t handle loud music?  Me, on the other hand, after raising three sons with a drum set and other accouterments of a noisy household- including broken windows and baseballs thrown through doors- can find peace at any decibel.

“I know you didn’t come here to just exercise!  You came here to push your limits!  To see what you can do!  To be all that you can!”

Yes, I want what he’s selling! But I glance briefly at my 25 week pregnant daughter in law and say quietly to her not to push yet!  She can’t hear me above the din of the rock music and of course the ear plugs.

“Get rid of any negativity.  People tell you it can’t be done!  You might fail!  They fill you with doubt and cloud your dreams!  Well, I have three words for you!  THREE WORDS!”

I’m thinking “get behind me Satan?”  No, that’s four words…

“STAND YOUR GROUND!  Don’t let people tell you who you are and what you can do!  STAND YOUR GROUND!”

We’re out of the saddles now climbing the imaginary hill of our challenges and struggles.  The room is moving in synchronicity.  Bodies up and down and up and down on cue.  I am pretty sure that if Ian told us to do a flip over our handlebars we would all cooperate.  We are mesmerized by his words and his commands.

“What are you holding on to today?  Let me hold it for you!  Let it go and BE FREE.”

I’m beginning to wonder if there will be a crucifixion at the end of class..

“Look around you.  You don’t know what burdens people have in their lives.  You have no idea what the person next to you is going through today.  Perhaps the biggest challenge of their life!”

I move my sweaty hand and gently touch Breezy’s hand.  I’ve been so cavalier about her being pregnant and having a baby.  Women do it all the time.  But this is her biggest challenge right now!  Pregnancy, nutrition, getting enough rest, knowing when to stop working and start nesting, moving into a new place- maybe even being married to my son, Peter!   Did I raise him to be a good enough husband and father?

We are heading for the climax of the class.  We are sweating and panting and letting it all go and feeling free.

“I want you to leave here with an open heart!  A heart ready to love!”

I’m thinking about how fortunate I am to have this wonderful relationship with my daughter in law.  There is an intimacy that continues to grow between us.  I couldn’t be more delighted with the woman she is and the mother she will soon be.  And I love her as if she were my own daughter.

Cooling down now and stretching.  The lights go on and I realize we are at a spin class- not a revival.

There have been so many changes in my life this past year.  A new home.  A grandson to look forward to.  My new role as a Sittie.  I have considered going back into weekly therapy with my 80 year old guru, Lucia.  But now I’m kind of thinking that all I really need is this quality time with my beautiful daughter in law, Breezy, a positive attitude and an open heart from which to love, and perhaps a weekly visit to the Church of Soul Cycle.

Do I hear an AMEN?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loved!

Loved!

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Today we celebrated Ash Wednesday at Presentation High School.  To non-Catholics, this must be the weirdest cult practice that one has ever experienced!  Being doused with ashes in the shape of a cross and being told to turn from sin and live the gospel.  The scriptures proclaimed at Mass today told us that we are forgiven and loved and invited to be our best selves!  These students certainly look happy, don’t they?

I’m so proud of my Catholic faith.  It has really emerged as a positive force in this troubled world.  Our Pope has taken great pains in living a simple life and rejecting the pomp and circumstances of Vatican City.  We are encouraged, during the season of Lent- the forty days and nights before Easter- to do something positive in our lives rather than give something up.

Be kind.  Serve the poor.  Love your neighbor.

When I was in high school I practiced all the Catholic rituals without understanding them.  These students are doing the same.  They have no idea how this gospel message will come to nest in their souls and take fruit in their lives.  God bless them!  They are beautiful young women with the whole world at their feet.

I pray that they go forth and make a difference.  That they love tenderly and serve with open hearts.  That they become women of God with lives that impact others in a positive way.

I feel so blessed to be able to witness their transformation to womanhood and support them as they look forward to all of life’s blessings.

Amen

Dare Me…

Dare Me…

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Don’t ever tell me that I cannot do something.  It makes my resolve bubble up like saliva around a sweet tart.  I love a good dare.  It gives me a focus and a purpose and a drive.  Dares might just be the only way that I move forward in my life.

But no one dared me to sell my house and move into a townhouse a couple short blocks away.  I can practically see the out- of- control 50 foot curly willow tree from my front porch!  They haven’t cut it down yet even though I disclosed the snapping branches in the escrow papers.   But they did remove the beautiful buttercup blooming Magnolia that Dale planted for me in the front yard three years ago.  And the potted flowers on the front porch that I left behind because they were oh so pretty and I wanted the new owners to enjoy them…  gone now and nothing to replace them.

“It’s not your house anymore” says my wise middle son.

I know, wise middle son.

I found this “Dare” card as I was decorating my new place and I put it in my downstairs bathroom.  The red matches the lovely framed print of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that I purchased at the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence, Italy way back in 2000. The picture hung proudly over the toilet of my red powder room in the house that I no longer own.  I’m quite sure they have repainted THAT room. Who paints a bathroom red??  Right?

As I read this card I see that it has taken on a meaning that is utterly circumstantial and profound in my current state of mind.  Dare to believe in yourself. Dare to trust that you have what it takes to make it happen.  Dare to savor all that life has to offer.

Dare to grasp that your Kansas is within you.   OK.. ouch!

Some people are nomads.  Wherever they can lay their head and set up camp is sufficient.

But some of us are always looking for our Kansas.  Our home.  We click away at our red sparkly designer flats and tell ourselves that there’s no place like it.  There’s no place like home.  And then we find ourselves constantly looking.

For that idyllic home. The one we dream about.  The one that makes us feel secure and safe.

I ask myself.. where is my home?  My parents are deceased.  My children are college educated and gainfully employed.  I’ve given away the sweatshirts, the camping gear, the tents, whiffle bats and balls, beach umbrellas, boogie boards, shelves of required reading for high school students and the magical closet full of suits that my three sons wore with permutations of ties, socks, shirts and shoes.  The paraphernalia of parenthood has been dissolved and distributed.  I am no longer the keeper of things.

Where the hell is my Kansas?

Someone, quick, dare me to find it!

 

 

 

Patty to the Rescue!

Patty to the Rescue!

Patty and Rosemarie at Peter's wedding

This is me and my bestie at my son Peter’s wedding.  The day would not have been complete had she not been there to share this special life event with me and my family.

Patty and I have been friends since we were 14 years old.  We were two Catholic girls from large traditional families thrown into the local public high school.  Somehow we found each other amidst the 700 kids in the class of ’74. Our friendship solidified and took on a more spiritual dimension when we attended late night Catechism classes on Mondays at St. Boniface Parish in Anaheim.

We cleaned up real well for this picture, but you should have seen us this weekend. Crazy hair, workout clothes, minimal makeup.

Patty drove up from Southern California, sensing that I was somewhat disoriented due to moving in to my new place while simultaneously holding down my full time job.  She came to my rescue- arriving on Friday night around midnight and staying until Wednesday morning.

When her feet hit the ground Saturday morning, the dust mop was blazing a trail on my new hardwood floor and pictures were being sorted and transported to appropriate rooms.  Patty made lists of what we needed  from Bed, Bath and Beyond, Walmart, and (our personal favorite) TJMaxx. While out shopping, she scanned shelves for her favorite dish towels.  “You have to have more dish towels and I just LOVE this brand!”  She took it upon herself to interrogate a salesperson at Cosco concerning the pros and cons of a set of pots and pans I was lusting after.

She sat with me and “Allison” from 3-day Blinds while I got a bid for shutters for the entire house. After Allison left, Patty was on the phone calling “her people” to compare price points and swiftly made the determination that the bid was much too high!  Off we went roaming my new neighborhood, looking at peoples’ windows to see who had shutters.  “Those are nice!  Let’s go and ask where they got them!” An hour later we were leaving Annie’s house with full knowledge of the guy who did shutters in her last three homes.  Not only did we get a great window treatment lead, but we made a new friend as well.

Patty promptly scheduled “Ed” to come and measure my windows and give me a bid for shutters while I was at work on Monday with my homemade lunch that she made for me.  When I came home, she presented all the figures and announced that this was the best deal!  She had also made plans for a coffee table that I ordered on line to be returned after measuring my space and seeing that there would be no room for knees and other extremities.  There were detailed notes on who she spoke with, their phone numbers, item numbers and instructions on who to call if the return didn’t appear on my bank statement in a week.

We sorted through all the items in my china cabinet and the sideboard, giving everything a new home and a feeling of stability.  Being that I am the woman with the most tablecloths in the world, I was surprised that my sideboard drawers were only half full. Where were my table cloths?  And where were my sons’ senior pictures that were on the sideboard?  A light bulb went off- I had packed a lot of things in the old black Amelia Earhart chest that hadn’t made it into the house yet.  Off we went to the garage.  “Get something for us to sit on while we go through this trunk!” she instructed.

There we sat for the next hour or so, going through my parents’ old trunk, unearthing not only my tablecloths and sons’ pictures, but also old newspaper clippings of my dad’s race for Mayor of Compton and my mom’s engagement announcement from an Atlanta newspaper.  Pictures of my brothers and I at all stages of growth.  Baby clothes and wedding dresses- mine and my mother’s. We talked about our fears of getting older and needing so much to be supported and loved in our lives.  We cried and laughed and then cried some more.

We agreed that we are both very independent and unusual women.   And that neither of us is likely to go down without a fight.  We both cling to items that bring meaning into our lives.  We both take pride in our homes and do our best to create a haven for those we love.  We both had as our major career path getting married and having a family.

When Patty left on Wednesday morning, I had instructions for the rest of the week and a handful of notes detailing every transaction she had maneuvered in the last five days- along with another homemade lunch she made for me to take to work.

My life has been so dominated by male energy.  My very influential father, five brothers, and three sons.  I’ve had many blessings in my life- and I am grateful.  And this friendship is a gift I find quite profound.

God must have known, when he scripted the story of my life, that I would need a Patty.

 

 

 

Providential…

Providential…

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Occurring at a favorable time.  Opportune.  Involving divine foresight or intervention.

I think both definitions fit perfectly but I am leaning towards the latter.

I am finally in my new home.  It feels somewhat like a new shoe.  Super fabulous looking but in need of some breaking in.

My sons and my daughter in law have all come to share a glass of wine, Chinese food, snacks, coffee and bagels.   My grand-dogs have run through the house, making my cat, Ethel, climb up high on top of the kitchen cupboards just like old times.  I’ve had interesting people in and out buying items from my Craig’s List postings (thank you, Patrick), giving me some nice cash to buy lots of take out so that I can feed the “help” until I get this new kitchen organized.

Yesterday I met the most interesting couple- Sharon and Neil.  They drove from Hayward to get my Pottery Barn chair and a half with the matching ottoman.  Neil is a Marriage and Family Therapist like me and Sharon is a Pastoral Minister, a Buddhist practitioner and a future radio personality.  They were so very compatible, finishing each other’s sentences and taking turns sharing their personal stories with me, my son, Peter, and my daughter in law, Brianna.  Neil and Peter had a common acquaintance. Sharon and I could have talked forever about her work and her experiences ministering to the dying at UCSF.

We contemplated my parents’ dining room furniture and how difficult it was to fit into my new place.  Sharon had so many insights about how objects carry memory and good “karma” so to speak and how passing them on is a blessing to the next owner.  Perhaps I could also make a sort of “hope chest” in the closet under the staircase with the silver and other family heirlooms that I’ve had the pleasure of inheriting over the years.  A future grand-daughter might fall in love with these items.  I felt somewhat of a release from the old and permission to move into the future with not only my earned wisdom but also with fresh ideas and a clean slate.

After Neil and  Sharon left, I experienced my new home with different eyes.  How did these two intriguing and insightful people walk off the street and into my life?  Even if I never see them again (although I have a feeling I will) they have touched something deep inside of me.

New concepts.  New opportunities.  New people traversing my life path and sharing their stories.  This is not just my new home.  This is an opportunity for transformation.

As Peter and Breezy piled the doggies into the car and prepared to head north, and we reviewed our visit with Neil and Sharon, I asked, “Providential. Is that a word?”.  Peter said “I don’t think so, Mom.  You made that up.”

I do sort of make things up sometimes. I embellish and take writer’s liberties.  I’m a good story teller.

But when I got back into the house I Googled “providential” like a good student of vocabulary and there it was.

I couldn’t have made up a better word for the way I was feeling.

 

 

Imminent

Imminent

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Imminent- about to happen, close at hand, forthcoming, in the offing, on the horizon, expected, anticipated, looming…

It’s like waiting for the wedding to begin.  Everyone is giddy with excitement and suspense.  Or waiting for a baby to be born where there’s a conglomeration of anxiety, longing, and hopefulness.

We spend so much time in our lives waiting for something to happen.  My friend, Tom, calls it “waiting energy”.  We wait for the clothes to be dry, for the turkey to be done, for the pudding to set, for the tomato plant to produce for us a bumper crop of sweet fruit.  We wait for someone to “pop the question”.

We wait for the mail to come, for a phone call from a significant other, for the car to warm up, for our guests to arrive, for the guy from Home Depot to deliver the new refrigerator. We wait for the test results, for some good news, for a loved one to pass away from their pain and suffering into relief and peace.

And then we wait for our grieving to end.

I’ve been waiting all summer for my townhouse to be finished.  But it’s really not about the townhouse.

It’s about me.

What is it about “waiting energy” that zaps our lives and renders us immobile, unproductive and frozen in time and space? Why can’t we stop waiting for something to happen and just start living our lives in whatever space we dwell in.

Physical space.  Psychological space. Spiritual space.  Inner space.  Outer space.

What have you put your life on hold for- and why?

 

 

 

 

 

You want how much for that refrigerator??

You want how much for that refrigerator??

French-Door-RefrigeratorsYup.. she’s a beauty.

And everyone knows that food is love and the bigger the frig the more food and the more love!  It would be a huge splurge.  It’s what I love to do.  Entertain.   Make food. Food Is Love.

The stainless steel doesn’t turn me on.  But I’ve been told that it’s time to join the real world and stop being a hippy.  I’m still not sure this refrigerator fits my lifestyle. I really loved my magnetic door white frig with the 100 pictures plastered on it and magnets broadcasting everything from what wine to drink with dinner all the way to the phone number of my favorite appliance guy, Kenny.

I guess those days are over… sigh.

“So, can I have your address?” says the nice man at Lowe’s.”  He’s about the age of my sons and tall and skinny and I’m thinking maybe I’ll invite him over sometime and try to fatten him up.

“Oh..  I don’t have it with me.”  I’m embarrassed that I haven’t memorized my new address yet.

“OK.  You can just call it in with your credit card and we’ll do the transaction over the phone.”  He didn’t seem the least bit suspicious.  “Now when would you like this delivered?”

“Um…  I don’t know.”   Now I’m sounding like a crazy lady.

“I bought a new townhouse (friggin’ 10 months ago) and it’s not done yet.”

“Oh.”  he said with a raised eyebrow.

Yes, OH!  That’s what I say!

Now, I don’t know my address.  I don’t know when I’ll be in my new place.  I don’t know how I’ve survived this transition without going a bit nuts.  But I do know that I’m going to need that big ass frig so that I can have a lot of food and do a bunch of cooking and have people over and show them how much I love them and make my new house into a home so stop asking me all these silly questions and let’s get on with our business, shall we?

I thought to myself…

It’s been said that if you build it they will come.

Maybe if I buy the frig the townhouse will be done.

One can only hope…