Category Archives: Motherhood

“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?

25 things my mother taught me…

25 things my mother taught me…

1. To save all my receipts from everything

2. To stand up straight and hold my shoulders back

3. How to pluck my eyebrows so that they don’t run together above my nose

4. How to roll a pot of stuffed grape leaves in less than an hour

5. How to iron parts of a shirt in the correct order

6. How to cook without a recipe

7. To love my siblings but never go into business with them

8. To sing Broadway show tunes while cooking

9. That peanut butter on anything is a perfectly acceptable meal

10. To not say bad words (unless you say them in Arabic)

11. How to entertain friends, strangers and angels and make them all feel welcome in your home

12. How to cook for 20 people when only 6 are coming for dinner

13. How to embrace the feminine in the midst of a male dominated household

14. That food is love

15. That I am as Catholic as I am Lebanese

16. To wake up in the morning with a good attitude and smell the coffee no matter how bad the previous day was

17. How to boss someone around the kitchen (♥ Breezy)

18. To pray the rosary when I cannot sleep

19. How to raise sons to be strong, compassionate and loving men

20. How to stretch one pound of meat to feed eight people

21. To sleep in the bed I made for myself  (You’ve made your bed, now lie in it!)

22. How to wrap my babies tightly, hold them closely, and sing to them sweetly

23. How to trust God’s plan even in the most desperate situations

24. That love is stronger than death

My relationship with my mother was complicated until I had my first born son.  After which I realized the most important thing she taught me.  A lesson to last a lifetime.

25. How to be a mother

 

 

 

Master of the Urban Universe

Master of the Urban Universe

“It’s called Technology” says my youngest son, Peter, as he walks me through downloading the app for UBER and showing me how it works.  We are at some groovy cafe in the Marina District of San Francisco having “detox” salads sans the chicken.  “It’s Good Friday” I remark to which my cradle Catholic son snarls “So what?”

I am feeling old.

He thinks I’m out of touch with technology (although I can create a mean excel spreadsheet and share a google doc with the best of them) and my religion is regarded as dated and useless.

As I attempt to keep up with my 6’2″ son forging the steep hill towards his home, Peter gives me last minute instructions on the goldens, Lua and Willow.  “Make sure they know who is boss?  Don’t let them walk you!  Be in charge!”  I listen carefully and nod appropriately like a good student.

When we get home, Peter shows me on line how to get to the Spa International where he and Brianna have so generously made a reservation for me to have a 90 minute massage.  As we discuss different routes and terrain I begin to make a rustic map with pen and paper.  “Mom!  It’s easy!  Fillmore runs parallel to Pierce and is intersected by Green which runs parallel to Union and Chestnut where we just had lunch!”  When he turns his back to rummage through a drawer in the dining room sideboard looking for a parking pass so that I am not towed from the three hour parking two blocks away, I give him a swift but gentle kick in the teezy (that’s butt in Arabic) and tell him “Hey!  I raised three boys!  Don’t ever underestimate the power of your 5 foot 4, 130 pound mother!”

I think he gets the message.  Nonetheless, as he kisses me sweetly goodbye, I set an intention to prove to Peter that THIS suburban, durable, and low maintenance 50 something year old woman can master the urban universe!  Armed with my UBER app, a double dog leash and poop bags, my homemade map and some good walking shoes, I launch.

First matter of affairs is a walk with the girls.  I gather sunglasses, reading glasses, keys to the house, ID, a credit card and kleenex into a little Nicaraguan purse and hook up Lua and Willow on the front porch.  I, of course, inform them that I am the boss.  They listen about as well as I do..

Around the block we go as I recite to myself “Ok we took a left turn and then another left so we’ll take another left and left again on Green and we should be home.”  Easy breezy.  But of course I get distracted wondering what’s down THAT street.  Suddenly I find my self turned around.  Oh Lordy.

Thank goodness the girls know their way home.  At every corner they nudge directions.  I figure we are either heading towards home or to one of their other favorite destinations miles from nowhere.  Fortunately it was the former.

After a quick snack, one for each of us, I anticipate the arrival of my friend, Jennifer, and her daughter Margot, the opportunity ripe for a visit being that they live right around the corner from Peter and Brianna.  Sharing a bottle of fine Italian wine the afternoon slipped by and soon it was time for me to leave for my spa treatment.  One more round the block with the girls and I’m off on foot up and down hills and through the maze of Friday night shoppers and happy hour partiers along Fillmore.

The massage was spectacular!

In a relaxed stupor, I manage to hail the UBER by a simple touch of an app and two minutes later Saba arrives in her Toyota Corolla chariot to whisk me home..  Feeling quite smug that I remembered to write down Peter and Breezy’s address on a post it, disaster is averted.  However, not entirely.

As I was greeted at the front door by my excited granddogs I regaled in my technological success.  I reached for my phone to text Peter that the spa and UBER activity went down without a hitch I clearly realized that my phone was nowhere to be found.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

Now what?

The UBER website gives me my driver’s phone number but without a phone that’s not helpful.  I run outside hoping to find a friendly house with lights on where I can knock on the front door, explain my situation and make the call.  But no one seems to be willing to open their door at 9pm on a Saturday night.  I flag down a sweet high school girl running home from her Lacrosse practice and she is delighted to help me out.  Mission accomplished.  I make contact with Saba and she is on her way back to Green Street with my phone.

It is now 9:30pm and my relaxing 90 minute massage has gone south.  At 10:15pm I am still standing in the middle of the street wondering if I will ever see Saba or my cell phone again.  Then she arrives.

Now exhausted, the girls and I sit down to watch some TV and finish the bottle of wine.  (I finish the bottle of wine.)

So all is well and as far as Peter knows everything went as planned this weekend.  He’ll be home late this evening and by then I will be on the road back to suburbia.  Do you like the picture of the girls and me in this post?  Well, that was snapped by a nice German man right before a little leashless mutt walked by and caused my pups to take quick and dirty flight. Yes, I went down for the count.  But that’s another blog…

Tonight I am going to hobble into the Easter Vigil Mass at the Mission Santa Clara.  I am a little sore but happy.

I mastered the urban universe Rosemarie-style.

Oh.. BTW.  Don’t tell Peter what REALLY happened.

Mums the word.  :)

 

 

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



 

A Plethora of Women

A Plethora of Women

This last weekend I had the opportunity to facilitate a Day of Reflection for AMEN- The Alumni Mothers Extended Network for Bellarmine College Prep, the high school where my three sons attended and thrived.  I was sort of a replacement gig.  Sister Rebecca Shinas, better known as “the rockin’ nun of MySpace”, had some urgent family business to attend to.  So, my friend, Rosemary, had the thought to ask me.

Well of course!  What are the degrees of separation between Sister Rebecca and me?  I do have a Facebook…

Wondering if I was equipped to replace a sister who has devoted her entire life to spirituality and celibacy,  I was hesitant to accept.

I remember when Rosemary called me to ask.  I was standing in my kitchen and as she set up the invitation my head was telling me NO and my heart and intuition were screaming YES!  YOU CAN DO THIS!  BE BRAVE!

After a month of pulling books off my bookshelf and pouring over underlined and highlighted paragraphs, searching through my journals for significant dreams, scanning TED talks for presentations on life after raising a family, and searching the web for 10 ways to find your passion, I had my script and I was armed and ready.. perhaps dangerous.

I met some incredible women and of course the better part of the day was spent with their personal sharing.  One thing I’ve learned from being  Catholic and having to listen to priests talk from the pulpit every week and not being able to raise my hand and add my two cents is that women want to talk!  They want to share, to ask, to unfold their insecurities in a safe place and gain wisdom and strength from other women.  I was fortunate to be the facilitator for this day.  But truly the best material came from the gaggle of courageous and forthright women who attended.

So Amen to all of us!  We are brave.  We are courageous.  We are seeking answers.  We are finding our path.

What fruit will come from this day together is yet to be determined.

In the meantime, I promised to post the resources I referenced for my talk.  Some of them are pretty dated but really.. how much does this wisdom change over the years?

Ban Breathnach, Sarah. Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1995.  Something More. Excavating Your Authentic Self. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1998.

Bolen, Jean Shinoda, M.D.Crossing to Avalon. A Woman’s Midlife Pilgrimage. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994

Bridges, William. The Way of Transition. Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments. New York: Perseus Publishing, 2001.

Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way. A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992.  The Vein of Gold. A Journey to Your Creative Heart. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc, 1996.

McCauley, Lucy; Carlson, Amy G.; and Leo, Jennifer.  A Woman’s Path. Women’s Best Spiritual Travel Writing. San Francisco: Publishers Group West, 2003.

Carter, Cherie-Scott, PhD. If Life is a Game, These are the Rules.  Ten Rules for Being Human. New York: Broadway Books, 1998.

Hendricks, Gay, PhD. A Year of Living Consciously. 365 Daily Inspirations for Creating a Life of Passion and Purpose. San Francisco: Harper/Collins Publishers, 1998.

Hendricks, Gay, PhD. & Hendricks, Kathlyn, PhD. Conscious Loving. The Journey to Co-Commitment. A Way to Be Fully Together Without Giving Up Yourself. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.

Livingston, Gordon, M.D. Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.  Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now. New York: Marlowe & Company, 2004.

Martz, Sandra. The Tie That Binds. A Collection of Writings about Fathers & Daughters, Mothers & Sons. Watsonville, California: Paper-Mache Press, 1992.

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. Gift from the Sea. New York: Random House, 1955 (the original printing)

Rupp, Joyce, OSM.  Praying Our Goodbyes. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1993.

Viorst, Judith. Necessary Losses. The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow. New York: Ballantine Books, 1986.

That wonderful 80 year old therapist who has her office on the Alameda?  Email me and I’ll send you her information.

Sparkly pens- from Target :)

Thank you, ladies, for being such attentive and engaged participants!  Until we meet again..

Amen!

 

Answered Prayer

Answered Prayer


I’m sorta kinda glad that God doesn’t work like a gum ball machine.  Prayer in, answer out.  Automatic and immediate.  Feeding the Silicon Valley habit of getting things instantaneously.  Google this.  Twitter that.  Instagram it!  Now you see it, now you don’t on Snapchat.

I assume that God is more tech savvy than we are.  Yet counterculture in the most innovative manner.  God absolutely answers our prayers but not before we have wiggled and squirmed and hit road blocks and narrow openings of escape and experienced anxiety and fear and dread and hope and love and amazement.

Life giving clues come out of nowhere in places we are not looking. Yet the door we stare at remains closed.
There is the yin and yang of angst and yearnings and decisions wrought with uncertainty.  There are lessons to learn and wisdom to gain.  There are weeks and months of industrious and productive activity followed by feelings of abandonment.   There are moments of sweet victory as well as dead ends- each teaching patience and courage and fortitude.  Creating something anew in us.   A transformed man.  A renewed woman.

And then the answer comes…

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Thank you, God, for answered prayer.

 

 

Something Special

Something Special

When I was the ripe young age of 21 years old and engaged to my college sweetheart, my mother did something rather out of character for her.  She threw an engagement party for us.

Now keep in mind that there was no pinterest in 1978 and no internet for that matter!  I was finishing my college degree and typing my final papers on a typewriter that never quite spit out my monkey mind thoughts as fast as I wanted it to.  My mother’s parties were always the same- no fancy decorations or new recipes.  They usually consisted of the house full of my siblings, their spouses and their children. And even though no “extra” people were invited, we still had to eat in shifts at the dining room table.  The house was always full of chatter and love and the table was always groaning under the weight of homemade Lebanese food and the elbows of my handsome and hungry brothers.

I wouldn’t have changed one thing about that party!  It was just the celebration I craved!  All the love in the world was in that kitchen!

But my mom added a special touch that I will never forget.  From the dining room chandelier she hung a sterling silver baby cup with a curled pink ribbon tied to it.

Now, you must appreciate that in a family of six children, individual artifacts of each child are difficult to identify even if you can find them after twenty something years!  Having been raised “warehouse style” (look it up- it’s Freudian) in a house full of the opposite gender I don’t remember anything really being my personal property except maybe for my dolls and a couple random items from the Avon lady.

But somehow this tiny silver cup floated its way to the top of the old Amelia Earlheart trunk in the garage and my mother had a thought about finding it and displaying it from the chandelier.   Without the guidance of pinterest or advice from friends on Facebook, she gave the party that special touch.  And touched I was.

Indeed, it touched me so deeply that the tiny cup is displayed in my china hutch (her china hutch!) thirty five years later.  The ribbon has faded and the cup has tarnished, yet it is still a beautiful reminder of the occasion and my mother’s intention to do something special for me.

This weekend I am hosting an engagement party for my son, Peter, and his beautiful fiance, Brianna.  I couldn’t have hand picked a more lovely young woman for him.  That same dining room table that now graces my home will be groaning with food.  It has bowed even more with majesty under the elbows of my three handsome and hungry sons.  There will be family and friends and toasts and the fullness of love and good wishes. I’ve hosted many parties in my home but this one will be special.  We  open the door to join with a new family and hail the beginning of Peter and Brianna’s lives together and all the joys and challenges that lie ahead for them.  It will be a profound and meaningful celebration.

And I have been preparing for it for weeks!  Just this evening I was deadheading mums and raking leaves in the back yard.  Tomorrow I will pick up some last minute items.  Saturday, my “helpers” are coming to string lights, set up tables, roll grapeleaves and chop parsley for tabouli.  Sunday morning will be spent arranging flowers and ironing table cloths.  It is all a sweet labor of love.

So shoot me… I want it to be perfect!  I want it to be something that they will remember for years to come.  A celebration full of all the love in the world!

I want it to be something special.

 

 

 

 

Motherless…

Motherless…

I was at the supermarket balancing 6 month old Peter on my hip and purchasing groceries for a Mother’s Day Brunch for a small army, my shopping cart overflowing.  At 30 years old it wasn’t unusual for me to put on a feast for 30-40 people.  Doing take-out was never an option.  “Wow, are you having a party?” the checkout clerk asked.  Of course they always asked me that because, like my mother before me, my grocery cart was always piled high with food.  The more you feed your family, of course, the more you love them!

“Yes.. a Mother’s Day Brunch.  I wonder when it will be my turn to have a Mother’s Day?!” I said somewhat sarcastically and somewhat truthfully.  My Mother’s Day would be spent standing in the kitchen over a hot stove!  (Ha.. doesn’t that sound like something your mother would say?)

Be careful what you wish for.

By the following Mother’s Day my mother had succumbed to her battle with cancer and my mother-in-law had decided to go out of town.  I was to have MY day.

Still grieving the loss of my mom, I was not looking forward to celebrating.  My brother, Ronnie, joined us for brunch at a fancy shmancy hotel that had unlimited delectables and flowing champagne.  I should have felt like a queen.

But when Peter pitched the tenth tater tot from his high chair as my other two sons egged him on and howled uncontrollably, I dissolved into tears.  This was not the Mother’s Day I wanted.  I wanted my mother back.

Gathering children, diaper bags, to-go containers, etc, we made a quick escape and headed for home.  I slept for three hours and my brother, motherless as well, stayed and waited for me to wake up.  I  guess I scared everyone including myself with my emotional outburst in the restaurant.

It’s been 27 years since my sweet mother died and this day still brings back all those memories of her.  It was a significant loss at a very vulnerable time in my life.  I feel a bond with every woman who has lost their mother.  What is it that we know in our tortured wisdom?

We know that without our mother, no matter what type of relationship we had with her- wonderful or complicated- maybe both- there is a loss and an empty place.  We long for the bond we had or maybe the bond we never had with her.  We grieve the unconditional love that only a mother can give.  For everyone else we have to be strong or nurturing or unselfish or understanding.  But for our mom we can just be who we are.  And she will love us anyway.  And we feel an acceptance and a tether that allows us to be in the world with an unshakable foundation.

For those of us who are motherless, the bottom has fallen out and we now take on the responsibility to be a mother for others-  whether we are prepared for the significant task at hand or not.

Today I am thinking about one of our students at Presentation High School who just lost her mother tragically a few short weeks ago.  She is 14 years old.  My heart aches for her.  Her wound will never heal.

And remembering my precious mom, Dorothy, on this special day.