Category Archives: Graced Moments

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.

 

 

 

 

“Baby, love never felt so good!” ~ Michael Jackson

“Baby, love never felt so good!” ~ Michael Jackson
These two… 

 

He leaves her little notes around the house, in the silverware drawer, on the bathroom mirror, in her favorite coffee cup.  She makes sure he eats healthily, supports his dreams and believes in his goodness and integrity.

 

He is strength and tenderness.  She is courage and grace.

They complement each other.

And three short weeks ago, Peter and Brianna committed to a life together as husband and wife.

 

There’s something very contagious about young love.

It draws us in and mesmerizes.  It holds us spellbound.  It makes one want to try a new recipe for dinner or say hello to a stranger on the street, be a better person, sing in the shower, color a picture with crayons.

 

Peter and Brianna make me optimistic about the future of our world.  We pass the baton to our children and find such satisfaction in seeing how easily they grab hold of it and run with confidence, taking with them all our hopes and dreams invested.

I wonder if we really know our children fully until we observe them navigating the major milestones of life- making their way in a career, establishing a community of friends and colleagues, taking on the challenges of marriage and all the joys and responsibilities that go along with it.

 

After years of mothering and guiding and teachable moments, the tables have turned.  I am a witness to my children’s journeys.

 

I am being taught

about joy

about life

about love..

 

And baby, THIS love never felt so good!

 

Mandatory Pre-wedding Mother/Son Breakfast

Mandatory Pre-wedding Mother/Son Breakfast

It’s all the rage.  Right up there with pre-marriage counseling.  And I invented it.

Peter is my first son down the aisle. The first one to get the pep talk and the unsolicited advice about marriage and women and everything he’s ever wanted to know about life but didn’t know he didn’t know!

On my way up highway 101 to our meeting place- Stack’s in Burlingame, I contemplate my speech. I have resisted the urge to bring index cards with notes. Isn’t this wisdom encapsulated within? Aren’t these things I know by heart?

Oh, now I know what that means… To know something by heart.

I’m listening to NPR and they are coincidentally interviewing Raffi, singer songwriter of songs for children. Songs that teach them about world peace and brushing your teeth and loving your family. Songs that Peter and I sang “by heart” while putting puzzles together on the living room hard wood floor, anxiously waiting for his brothers to come home from school. Synchronicity. My world is lining up to herald the beginning of a new way of life. Passing the baton so to speak. A married son. A new daughter. A new branch of the family systems map.

All those good Raffi lyrics imbedded in the heart and soul of my youngest son. Incubating. Shake your sillys out! Rise and shine and show your love all around the world! One light one sun, one sun lighting everyone.

I get to the restaurant before Peter and pick the best table near a window. I love light when I eat out. I see him enter and I wave (like a mother..). He looks taller. Can you continue to grow in your late 20’s? He walks with such confidence and grace. Comfortable in his own skin. So very unaware of the stir he creates when he enters a room.

Clear sea green eyes. Beautiful olive complexion. A heart of gold.

I only have two hours on the parking meter. Will that be enough time, I wonder? I have so much to say! I need two breakfasts! Or maybe another week! Time has run out.

My mother told me that before each of my brothers got married she bought them pajamas and told them not to discuss money on their honeymoon. My mother told me before I got married- she was ahead of her time- to never depend on a man to support you! That seemed harsh at the time and I told her so. And we argued. But I understand her words now and have not forgotten them.

I took them to heart.

It occurs to me that Peter is going to remember everything I say this morning.

One hour and 45 minutes later- eggs, cheese, bagels, coffee, orange juice, fruit, potatoes, and a connection that is fierce between a mother and her son, we conclude. There’s more to say, no doubt. The love is palpable. We take a selfie, hug, and go on about our days.

I am exhausted and come home to take a nap.

When I wake up I realize that it isn’t just about what I said this morning. It’s about the years and years of love and modeling good behavior and love and tender instruction and love and singing and dancing together and love and listening late at night and love and respecting others and playing fair and world peace and making your bed and shaking your sillys out.

We covered all that in the last 28 years. Peter’s good to go.

All things considered, I’m hoping my other two sons wait for a bit to get married until I’ve recuperated from this mandatory event. I pray that Rob and Patrick know all this by heart and that our breakfast will be just a recapitulation of years and years of Raffi songs, loving your family, doing your chores and one sun shining on everyone.

One love, one heart
One heart warming everyone
One hope, one joy
One love filling everyone.

The Keeper of Things

The Keeper of Things

 

My oldest son texted me during dinner last night.  “Hi Mom! I’m going to swing by your house tonight after my final if that’s ok.  Need to grab some of my camping stuff.”

I am quietly thrilled.  I am the keeper of things.

He arrives as I finish up the dishes and wipe the kitchen counters.  I hug my first born son- life changer, trail blazer, heart breaker, 33 years of connection, love, and journey together infused in an embrace.

We walk the time line through the laundry room and into the garage where the archives of family life line the walls-  boxes labeled “Patrick’s GI Joes”, “brio train”, “Christmas decorations”, “dress up clothes”, the wooden toy horse made by Grampa Healy, a shelf crammed with size 13 crocs.  We rest our eyes on the row of sleeping bags and tents above the work bench and the requisite green plastic tubs that hold the treasures of camping trips of yore- plastic table cloths autographed and decorated by camping buddies, liquid dish soap, camping stoves, a variety of pots and pans, lanterns, plastic forks and spoons, make shift coffee makers, propane tanks, camping games.

I am the keeper of things.  I have worked over- time trying to keep life consistent and predictable for my three sons through two major relocations, new schools, new friends, various homes, their parents’ divorce, the transition to college and eventually to adulthood and the fast and furious challenge of living in the Silicon Valley.  I have housed their baseball cards and dress suits, amplifiers and cast off instruments, baseball mits, autographed baseballs, baseball hats, high school yearbooks, art projects, stuffed animals, and boomerang plants.  Cartons of camping gear tucked high on garage shelves.  More sleeping bags and tents than one family could possibly utilize. The family pictures.  I have intentionally rooted myself so that they could be free to explore and take risks and chances in the world yet still find their way back to a touchstone of familiarity and an infusion of security.

I look at my handsome 33 year old son in the soft light of a bare energy efficient bulb.  He’s quite a man.  A full time job at Facebook, a new car, a flat in Palo Alto.  He phones his 31 year old brother, Patrick, to make sure he’s not forgetting anything they might need.  They discuss Nate and Chris and Todd and Sam and the things that they agreed to bring for the camping trip.  Good friends from high school. Solid friends. Rooted friendships.

We hug goodbye and share an “I love you”.  He drives away in his sleek dependable Subaru- the temperamental yet utterly faithful Volvo thankfully a remnant of the past.

I linger in the garage contemplating my youngest son Peter’s pending wedding this summer and Patrick’s journey through grad school in Denver to his current professional life in Santa Clara.

They are rooted.  They have wings.

How much longer will I need to be the keeper of things?

Blessed

Blessed

Hail Mary, full of grace

At a Lenten overnight retreat with 65 adolescent girls.

The Lord is with thee

Yoga pants, push up bras, still trying to make sense of their bodies and their souls, clear skinned and broken complexioned, immature and seeking- all seen and heard and embraced by a higher power.

Blessed are you among women

You are precious and perfect in God’s eyes, a temple of the Holy Spirit, hope for the world.  Don’t ever underestimate what lies yet dormant within you.  You are destined for goodness and prosperity.

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus

Co-creators with God, the capacity to bring forth life both literally and figuratively.  Nurturer, dreamer, lover, sanctuary.  You have so much to give.  I wish you could see what I see when I look at you.

Holy Mary, mother of God

Look within yourself for inspiration and strength.  Look outside yourself and see your journey unfold.  Reach out and make a holy connection with all of human kind.   You are never alone in this world.

Pray for us sinners

Let Mary be your spiritual mother.  Let her life and her sacrifice inform your every decision.  You are loved and forgiven.  Again and again and again.

Now and at the hour of our death

Live like there is no tomorrow.  Take joy in this day.  Be the woman you are destined to be.  Start now.  Don’t dilly dally.  Your life is precious and you are already on the path.  Be kind.  Be in solidarity with the poor and the poor in spirit.  Be the womb that gives forth life.

Be a woman of God.

Amen



 

The Plight of the Green Thumb

The Plight of the Green Thumb

Last Sunday as I opened the window over my kitchen sink to let in the warm spring air I turned around and noticed this beautiful healthy poinsettia sitting quite proudly on the island,  definitely out of place. Who keeps a $7 poinsettia alive not only through the Christmas season but way into March??  Ah.. the challenges of having a green thumb.

My home is beginning to look like a nursery.  Give me a plant?  You can bet it will be twice the size next time you come over.  My indoor plants take all the love and attention I can muster.  I often give them baths in my bathtub or kitchen sink so that they can luxuriate in a cocktail of plentiful filtered water and the morning’s left over coffee.  I swear they are smiling as they absorb the nutrients and attention!  (Maybe it’s the cocktail I’m drinking.. ?)

Most people worry about having boomerang children in midlife.  I’m happy to say that my three sons are living on their own and thriving.  No, rather, I have boomerang houseplants.  Let me explain…

My two oldest sons lived together during and after college for several years.  When Patrick left for Denver to attend graduate school, he divided his house plants between Rob and me for safe keeping.  I was happy to house and nurture almost 10 plants for Patrick during the three years he was gone.  In the meantime, Rob moved home for a short time, bringing all of his plants plus Patrick’s. I worked overtime to absorb the extra greenery.  Eight months later, Rob moved out, taking only his favorite plant- a remnant of a long lost lover- and leaving the rest with me.

Do the math!  My plants plus Patrick’s plants plus Robert’s plants and Patrick’s plants minus one plant.  Yikes!  My photosynthesis runneth over!

Low and behold, Patrick finished graduate school and moved back to San Jose.  When I asked him about reclaiming his plants, he said “Don’t worry Mom! I’ll just buy some new ones!”  Oh Lordy!  However, once settled in his new digs, he came over to collect his bounty.  Among them the beautiful Japanese Maple I gave him for his college graduation, a prolific rose colored geranium, and, to my dismay, a delicate fern that I had repotted in a lovely french blue pot that went perfectly with the decor in my guest room.  ( …most likely payback for me letting his homegrown-from-a-pit avocado tree freeze to death in my back yard winter of 2013.)

However, Patrick was generous enough to leave me a cactus that had grown arms, boobs and hair since he left  (“she clearly loves it here, Mom!”) and a stately coffee tree that adorns the landing of my staircase.  I am also housing a fugitive ficus tree stolen in a drunken dare by both sons and their friends off a porch in Berkeley a la college years.  Believe me, if I knew whose it was I would return it!  But until then it will grace the corner of my living room reaching almost to the ceiling.

I repotted several plants last weekend, among them a Bleeding Heart that I actually purchased myself several years ago.

That’s me.. a bleeding heart.  A hostel for a feral cat and closets full of men’s suits and baseball cards.  My home is a revolving door to children, friends, and homeless plants.  I am honored.

Be green, dear thumb.  Be green.

 

 

One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

At the end of the last school year as we scurried about preparing for graduation I found this lovely Buddha in the highly polished North Hall, dangerously close to a large trash can.  I took a photo with my phone and promptly sent it to our resident art teacher to see if she knew whose it was.  “Yes of course.  That’s Sophie’s Buddha!”

The email exchange went something like this…

Subject: your Buddha

Hi Sophie, I’m not sure if you intended to throw your Buddha away but I found him near the trash cans in the North Hall.  If you don’t want him, I will buy him from you! That will make you a professional sculptress!!

Subject: RE: your Buddha

Hi Mrs. Healy!  I think my Buddha would love to live with you!  Happy summer!  :)  Sophie

I was secretly delighted! He’s mine now!  I loved the beautiful open and upturned hands and the amethest stone in his forehead.  Why didn’t she want him, I wondered?   Maybe her mom wanted him.  Should I have suggested that?

I took him home and found a place for him under my blossoming Santa Rosa plum tree.  Narcissus grew around him.  Plums dumped their juicy essence on his head.  Yet, every time I ventured out to my garden he was there in all his peace and tranquility.  I continued to ask myself.. why didn’t she want this masterpiece?

Months later, still pondering…  I asked the art teacher, Mrs. Ford: “Did she get a bad grade on it?  Is that why she didn’t want it?”  Her response… “I don’t remember!!”  Note to self.. never ask an art teacher for facts and data.

I’m left to speculate.  Did someone tell her it wasn’t a good project?  Did she get a poor grade on it?  Who grades what we produce out of our souls and our essence?  What talents have we abandoned because someone said “not good enough”?

Sophie’s trash..

My treasure.