Category Archives: Graced Moments

Do you believe in New Year’s Resolutions?

Do you believe in New Year’s Resolutions?

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One wouldn’t get in a sailboat without a compass or embark on a grueling scenic hike without a map.

Or would they?

Myself? I have a tendency to get lost.  Lost on a trail.  Lost on the freeway.  Lost in my thoughts.  A good plan keeps me focused and on task.  Goals help me to breakthrough inertia.  A map helps me to reach my destination.

So I plan.  And I plan.  And I journal.  And I plan some more.  And I re-read my old journals to see if life has deposited me somewhere close to where X marks the spot.

How about you?  Do you know where you want to go in 2017?  Do you have a hankering for something different?  Are you ready to change things up and see what sticks?  Or are you plodding along the same path.  Waking up to the same job.  Shopping at Target and getting take out from the Chinese restaurant on the corner.

Benjamin Franklin once said “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.  Winston Churchill said this- “Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”.

In either case, some self reflection seems to be in order as we embark on a new year.

Your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

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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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

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.