Category Archives: Raising Sons

“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?

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.  :)

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Love is hard work.

Love is hard work.

Now that Valentine’s Day is over we can get down to the real business of love.

Love is not always flowers and chocolates or a fine dinner over a bottle of wine.  Rather, these are icing on the cake of love.  The real work of love is behind the scenes.  Subtle yet powerful.   Painful and challenging at times.

Love is saying “I’ll be right there” when you have a million other pressing things on your schedule. Love is the two AM feeding when they are infants, the carpooling to 100 soccer games when they are 10, holding them accountable to a curfew when they are  teenagers, and eventually letting go as they kick and scream for their independence. Love is listening and keeping your mouth shut when you think you have earth shattering advice. Love is being strong and letting someone lean on you. Love is hanging on the phone for hours with a friend who just needs to talk. Love is knowing the difference between supporting and enabling.  Love is forgiving others and releasing obligation. Love is forgiving oneself for mistakes made and roads not taken. Love is keeping vigil at the bedside of a dying parent. Love is holding on to hope in a desperate situation. Love is praying for good news. Love is comforting the grieving. Love is walking to the end of ones’ land every evening and waiting for the prodigal son to return home. Love is holding out a light in the darkness.

Love is swallowing your pride when your pride is getting in the way of loving.

Love is hard work.

 

Out of my comfort zone…

Out of my comfort zone…

Three years ago I was in a friend’s kitchen engaged in a very uncomfortable conversation when he suggested to me  that I “Be brave”.  I was at a crossroad in my life and feeling quite insufficient, insecure, and needy.  I wanted saving.  But on this particular night it was clear that being saved was not going to happen.

I found this card somewhere in some store.  I remember thinking that the whole universe was telling me to “Be Brave”!  “Alright already” I responded and put the card in my home office in clear view.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that I’ve become more attached to my house, my garden, the family silver, my mother’s jewelry.  Does ADT really bring me the peace of mind that I require?  Do my possessions make me feel secure?  Clearly, no.

My sons are great adventurers. Rob spent three years traveling all over the country on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus (www.lennonbus.org), sleeping literally on a shelf and taking occasional showers in hotels in random large cities.  Patrick just came home from five weeks in China, part of his course work for his Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture.  Peter lived in Santiago, Chile for a semester during college and then escaped for five months to India, Vietnam and Thailand when his studies were complete, returning home only when he realized his Visa was going to expire.

Where did they get their courage?  How BRAVE are they?

Can mothers inherit this from their sons?

This summer I agreed to go with six colleagues to Nicaragua to shadow one of our Sisters of Presentation who works as a missionary in Somotillo.  One week didn’t seem long enough to be on a great adventure so I wrote a Professional Growth Grant requesting money ($2000) to tack on two weeks in Antigua, Guatemala in order to do a full immersion Spanish language program, live with a family and work towards Spanish language fluency.  In my typical ADD manner, I didn’t think it through much.  I’m a good writer, very persuasive, yet I didn’t really think that it would be funded.

It was funded.

I made all the arrangements.  I was going to Central America for three weeks.  Two of them would be a solo gig for me.  Alone in a foreign country.  Wow.

“Be Brave, Rosemarie! You can do this!”- I told myself.

My peers were skeptical.  “You’re going alone? Be careful!”

I decided to stop telling people my plans.  Get behind me, Satan.  Don’t rain on my parade.  They just don’t understand my personal journey.  I am totally out of my comfort zone and I need to be.

My sons gave me all the confidence I required.  I think they were even a little bit proud of me.  Their mother was traveling alone in Guatemala while their friends’ moms were going out to lunch and getting mani/pedis.   Peter’s email to me set the theme for my journey.  Vaya con Dios!  Go with God!

I am happy to report that the trip went off without a hitch.  ADT did it’s job protecting the family silver and my mother’s jewelry.  The little neighbor girl across the street kept my kitty, Ethel, alive and happy and tended the garden.  Everything was as it was when I left it.

Except me.  I am different.

I am finally,

assuredly, conclusively, inexorably, irrevocably and beyond a doubt

BRAVE.

Sentimental Journey

Sentimental Journey

When my three sons were little boys we used to play outside on Tedemory Drive in the sunny Southern California weather.  I say we because I was often the mom out there with all the neighborhood kids playing three flies up or kickball or freeze tag or slip and slide.  What appeared to be a noble mother-like thing to do was actually this mother’s excuse to go out and play- re-creating my own childhood days on Halo Drive playing hide and go seek and football in the street, and rollerskating with my best friend Holly Kocher around the block.  I have the scars to show for it. This one from falling out of Mrs. McDaniel’s tree.  That one from roller derby induced road rash.  Back here is where I ripped open my leg falling into rose bushes while trying to catch a baseball.  (BTW- I caught it!)

When my sons became teenagers and I began the “mom taxi” service to San Jose for high school and visits to friends, we would drive from Morgan Hill down Hale Ave where every cyclist in town gravitated to ride.  I would say to my sons “I’d take up biking if it wasn’t for those funny clothes!”

Low and behold!

Empty nest hit.  No more son shuttling.  No more three flies up.  No more “Mom, can you take me…?”

Well, never say never!  Cycling gave me the opportunity to go out and play again!  And what a joy to have the opportunity to wear those funny clothes with my handsome son, Peter.  I guess all those rides down Hale Ave.  piqued his interest as well.

Joining us yesterday were Peter’s beautiful girlfriend, Breezy and my handsome manfriend, Dale.  Together we completed a 100k ride through the wine country with 2000 other cyclists.  Who would’a thought?  Funny clothes and all…

Now don’t just sit there!  Get out and play!

If One Hip Diva can do it, you can too!  :)