Category Archives: Unconditional Love

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.

 

Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

Anyone familiar with the Shaheen family knows that it is a male dominated clan.  My dad is one of five brothers.  My parents had five sons.  I have three sons.   Four of my brothers all have at least one or two sons.  One of my brothers married a man!  Gee whiz!

Females are a rarity.   And we stick together.

We are not the perfect family by any stretch of the imagination.  We’ve been through some tough things and have come out on the other side, strong in the broken places.  Each of us has a story to tell about the Shaheen men we have lived with, supported, nurtured and loved unconditionally.

I have learned so much about life from these brave women.  They have inspired me.  They have taken me shopping.  They have given me wardrobe and home decorating advice.  They have buoyed me up in times of despair and sadness.   They are the bonuses of my life.

Katie, Mojgan, Susan, Catherine, Christine, Adrienne, Adele, Aimee and Elizabeth.  We are missing Charise, Annamarie, Katy, Sarah, Jessica and my new daughter-in-law Brianna.  God willing, next year we will all be together for this picture.  It will be the best Christmas ever.

I am very grateful for these women.  They bring so many unique gifts and charisms to the Shaheen family.  My life would be very one dimensional without their strength and femininity, compassion and nurturing.  Not to mention our  collective cooking skills!

We no doubt have challenges ahead as every family does.  But we will navigate both the good times and the difficult times as they come.  We are sisters and friends.  We are united by our shared history.

We are strong together.

 

 

“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.

25 Things I Learned from my Dad…

25 Things I Learned from my Dad…

1. How to swim in the ocean.

2. To always take my vitamins.

3. How to use a thesaurus to improve my writing.

4. Army songs… (I left, I left, I left my wife and a 15 kids, over there, over there…)

5. That a freshly showered man in a nice suit is something to behold.

6. To smile often because I’m pretty when I smile.

7. That daily exercise is an important part of keeping fit.

8. To honor my mother.

9. That it’s perfectly acceptable to break out in song wherever and whenever.

10. The gift of hospitality.

11. To always be optimistic, dash negativity, visualize the life you desire.

12. The fine art of networking.

13. How to underline meaningful sentences in my personal books and read them again and again.

14. That everyone I meet is a potential friend.

15. That I am actually a princess.  (Didn’t you know?)

16. That fresh figs are God’s most perfect food.

17. How to write a love letter.

18. That people make mistakes and need forgiveness.

19. That real men cry.

20. Passion

21. How to let a man lead on the dance floor.

22. That ” it is what it is” and “that’s a crock of bull”!

23. To say I love you always and often.

24. To never give up.

I had a different relationship with my dad than my five older brothers had.  I’m sure their blog about Edmund Francis Shaheen Sr. would be quite different.

Therefore the twenty fifth thing I learned from my dad..

25. There is no denying the special bond  between a father and his little girl.

 

Love you and miss you, Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

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!