Breathe

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I have had the grandkids (and our daughter) with us for almost two weeks. I have come to the conclusion that two and three year-olds fight, scrap, say “NO” and pout almost as well as our politicians; so Grandma is taking a break.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

“Grandma, whatcha doing?”

“Grandma’s meditating.”

“What’s medtittatin?”

“It’s when you sit quietly and don’t make any noise.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because Grandma’s head is about to explode.”

“Would that make a mess?”

“No, there really isn’t much in Grandma’s head anymore.”

“Where did the stuff in your head go?”

“My kids stole it from me.”

“Didn’t you teach them not to steal? My mommy says not to take something if it doesn’t belong to you.”

“Honey, its no one’s fault. They don’t know they are stealing it from you and you don’t know that you have lost it until they are all grown.”

“Grandma, am I stealing your head?”

“No baby. You are stealing my heart one day at a time.”

“Do you want it back?”

“No you keep it and when you go back home and Grandma is here you will have a piece of me that you know always loves you.”

“Like Sophia?” (her dog)

“Yep, like Sophia.”

“Sofia poops in the backyard.”

“Everything poops.”

And so it goes………..

 

 

 

What If You Could Start Over?

 

I am at my favorite place in the world. As I look out my window I see the marine layer starting to retreat back to its place on the horizon. A deer is outside nibbling on the tender shoots of wild grasses that dot the yard while the sun illuminates the tall pine trees producing a golden glow. I hear my grandkids their voices filled with excitement and wonder playing on the deck while my  daughter tries in vain to keep the sound down to a dull roar, “Shhh…It’s Grandma’s birthday and all she wants for her birthday is to sleep in.” All this beauty and new life before me and I have only been awake for five minutes. Sometimes life is just perfect. I think today is one of those days.

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But what if I could start over? Wave a wand and magically start again. Be someone different, live somewhere different, and do something different. Would I do it? Yes. Most definitely.

I would laugh more. A throw-your-head-back-full-throttle-other-people-be-damned laugh with a few snorts and tears thrown in for good measure. This new person would worry less, have the patience of a saint, criticize others less and help others see all they did have instead of the few things that they didn’t. I would let others make their own mistakes instead of trying to control the outcomes that they were meant to experience for themselves. And I would have started consciously living in the present moment while stopping the negative self-talk much earlier in life. Yes, this would be the someone different that I would be.

If I could start over again I would live on an island slapping mosquitos at dusk while waving at everyone who passed by because I knew them all. Where I lived would have a strong sense of community and respect for the earth with magnificent sun rises to start your day with equally spectacular sun sets to settle your soul from the business of the day. A place that makes its own rum…lots of it.

If I could start over again I would do work that was meaningful to me. Work that provided my soul with a sense of purpose. An advocate of some sort perhaps. A researcher studying dolphins or an archeologist digging up the island’s past. Or maybe the person everyone came to talk with and share their troubles because I was seen as a wise old crone.

Yes, I would love to try this life on. See how it fits. Does is feel warm and inviting like a baby cooing on a snuggly blanket? Or does it itch because the seams are supposed to fit someone else’s ideal life?

And as I contemplate all of the “what if’s” the phone rings and my husband and children yell out “Happy Birthday!” and that “other life” drifts away like the fog outside my window and everything suddenly becomes clear. I feel joy deep joy and satisfaction. I have people who love me and I am beginning to truly love and appreciate who I am at this stage in my life. I have all that really matters to me… all things precious that feed my soul and renew my life on a daily basis. I am completely and utterly blessed.

Happy Birthday to me!

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Uncovering A Historical Treasure

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My cousin is coming down my way to collect some of the family heirlooms. There are marriage certificates, genealogy files and a large box of  letters that are over 100 years old that were sent to my Great grandmother. Apparently she was a “pack rat” or was just extremely sentimental for there are letters from relatives, friends, the Civil War, World War 1, and everything in-between. Tales of the mundane, trips cross country on steam trains, fighting in France and the truly bizarre.

I have been working at cataloging these letters for the past two years but had put them aside for a bit. But because my cousin is coming, I have to get them done in three days. So yesterday, I was scanning and putting up these letters on Ancestry.com when I ran across one dated May 1906. It was from one of my Great grandmother’s best friends who had moved across the country in 1898 to the state of California. In it she describes the HUGE 1906 California Earthquake in which much of San Francisco burned to the ground. She was living about 100 miles away but describes how awful the quake felt as the ground shook.

“Well we are alive and well which is something to be thankful for after such a calamity. The earthquake was severe here and there was much damage in Salinas-but old San Francisco…well it truly makes my heart ache.”

Cora goes on to describe trying to contact her daughters who were living in San Francisco at the time.

“The telephone and telegraph were all down…so there was no way to hear from the girls or get to them. On Saturday at about four we got a letter from them mailed at Stockton. They left the city on Thursday morning-went to Oakland. They were burned out. Lost everything. They only had what they had on their backs when the quake hit.They are thankful to get out alive.”

I love that my great grandmother found such great joy and comfort in the letters she wrote and received. I am also thankful that she saved them for future generations. Due to her example she inspired me to give each of my grandchildren their own letter box. I write them about twice a month telling of family activities, talking about the news and letting them know what I value. All those emails…they will be lost… but the letters I write will always be available to them. I hope they treasure them as much as I enjoy writing them and it is my wish that the “packrat gene” of their Great-great-great Grandmother is lurking somewhere within them!

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Sadie

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Sometimes the poverty that exists in this country just blows me away but what blows me away even more is the politicians that have no regard for those less fortunate than they. I have come to believe that before any politician can actually take office they should be forced to live in the middle of any city with their families, they should have to survive on food stamps, and should life without health insurance. They would have to live in buildings that long ago should have been condemned, have to take their clothes to a public laundry mat, and have to rely on public transportation wherever they go. I suspect that most would be so far out of their element that they would die of fear. Hearing guns going off constantly and living in economic chaos will do that to you.

Meet Sadie. She was a product of the foster care system until she became an emancipated minor at 16 years of age. At that time she was pregnant with her first child.She had nothing when she was pushed out into the world and she still has nothing except a broken-down rental, no furniture except a worn-down worn-out mattress, and no stove. She was never cared for properly and because of this she doesn’t believe she is entitled to anything more than she has ever known. She doesn’t think she should be doing better because she has never known what “better” is. What she sees on her neighbors tv (she can’t afford one) is just a fairy tale and not attainable to “someone like her.”

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Sadie had another child by the time she was 18 years gold and things were going well until her husband died unexpectedly. Depression hit her hard and she couldn’t get the mental health support she needed. Currently there are 14.1 state mental health hospital beds per 100,000 people which is essentially at the same level as in 1850.  Because of this breakdown her children went to live with their grandmother and her guilt is immense. She wants them back but knows that they are better off where they are so she puts them first before her own desires. I think our elected officials could use a little of Sadie’s “doing the right thing” towards others mentality.

Sadie met another man and once more she found herself pregnant. She couldn’t afford birth control and there was no Planned Parenthood available. Her baby died at birth in the hospital. She doesn’t know how or why and regrets that in her sorrow she did not demand answers but she wouldn’t have known what to ask anyway she tells me. When you are poor you have no power and you expect nothing.

She’s pregnant again and her boyfriend is in jail. Hopefully, he will be out to be at their child’s birth but Sadie isn’t sure. She didn’t have the money to post bail and so she waits hoping that the judge will see what she sees in her boyfriend…a caring human being with flaws.

Maybe if a politician or two were to live with Sadie for a month they might come to understand that when you aren’t born with a silver spoon, when you haven’t been to the best schools, when you haven’t had parents there to meet your needs, when you were forced into a foster system that often exploits rather than nurtures, when you aren’t tall and beautiful, and when you don’t have an IQ of 120 that life is just tougher. Period.  Unfortunately, our rich representatives do not understand that they did nothing to deserve their good looks, their good parenting, the plentiful food they had on their table, and the comforts that their parents were able to provide for them. It was just dumb luck that they ended up living a life of privilege instead of a life of poverty.  Most didn’t earn what they got… they were just lucky to be born into various combinations of advantages through nothing they did no their own. The lives they were given taught them to think in ways that many in poverty have never been exposed to nor could they conceive for themselves.

So before you let the politicians convince you that the poor are to blame for their circumstances I hope you will really contemplate where you would be in your life if you were Sadie. Then I hope you will go up to her, give her a hug, and help in anyway that you can…including holding our elected officials responsible for taking care of those less fortunate then them.

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Right Speech, Better Communication

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Throughout my life I have been a person who is expressive. A person who uses lots of words and used them well. Too well it seems. I used words to let everyone know exactly what was on my mind at all times. I let words leave my mouth like flying monkeys swooping up people without thinking about the true meaning of my words. I didn’t care how I said IT just as long as IT was said.

Recently, it has occurred to me that my words were hurting others and as a result they were hurting me too. I realized that I was not connecting my heart to my tongue and had no idea how to do so. Even though I knew I wanted to change how I communicated I had idea of how to go about it. But then I chanced upon the Daily OM and the course How to Communicate Like a Buddhist : Lesson 1: The Elements of Right Speech by Cynthia Kane.

Kane’s way of approaching communication is different from anything I had ever seen. She states that the real purpose of communication is to help ourselves and others suffer less. And when communication is looked at through this lens it tosses convention aside and it makes it crystal clear that if we wish to change our relationships then the words we use, the intention behind them, and the way that we speak through them must be radically changed into talk that is kinder, more honest and most importantly… helpful… to those receiving our words.

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The thing I love about this course is that you pay for it based on what you think it is worth to you. Kane’s talks are detailed, thoughtful and in short…amazing. In addition, there is nightly homework to help firm up the ideas you are learning and put them into practice.

So here’s to better communication everyone! May your words be true, kind and helpful and may your well-chosen words spur you on to better and more rewarding relationships!

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Re-Cycle

 

Today you leave on a “business” trip

To give us space and time

And next week I’ll do the same

While our children

With all their special needs

Watch the slow

Splintering of our lives

Not seeing the whole picture yet

But getting a glimpse of what is to come

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Next week I will walk the cliffs

Gather my thoughts

And sit in silence as waves of emotions

Threaten like a gale force wind

To toss me off the path

Down to the jagged rocks below

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Wanting to make the decision that must be made

And hiding from it like a field mouse

Scampering everywhere just to avoid

Going THERE

Decisions that are far-reaching

Into children’s minds not yet formed

Which when released

Might set off an explosion

One from which this family may never recover.

I’m a freedom fighter

Setting a charge on a dark and gloomy bridge

As the flame slithers along towards it final detonation

But as you look up you see… it is your own loved one

Making their way slowly down the cobblestones

Their last seconds burned into your mind

As you try to squash the flame that you intentionally set

Not knowing at the time

Who the victims would really be

I know what is coming

More heartbreak, despair, second-guessing,

More anger, blaming and worry

Until at last

My soul will be left hollowed away

Into something completely unrecognizable to me

Something vast, flattened, and empty

Something I can abandon or recycle into something new

A vessel that only I can begin to fill again

And it’s my choice what to fill it with….

I think I’ll start with wine.

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Ch-ch-ch Changes

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We are in a restaurant discussing the fate of our marriage. The cards are on the table and the chips fall as they may. We spend the next hour talking about finances, what our lives would look like sans one another, and what this rupture would do to our innocent children.

He says: ” If we were to stay together there would be a lot of changes and I am not sure you would like them.”

“What changes might those be?” I ask.

“Well, I’ve never told you this before  but I am pro-life like they house I was raised in. I might want ours to be a pro-life household too. I would want our children to be raised this way.”

Whiplash has slapped me hard because I have shaken my head so violently trying to make this man come into focus again. You mean after 30 years of togetherness you felt like you couldn’t say something about this? WTH.

“And I want to be treated like the man of the house.”

Somewhere I hear the words obey mentioned.

I stare at this man I’ve saved and who has saved me numerous times over the past 30 years. He looks the same on the outside but obviously there is a lot changing on the inside. I’m not sure I like it. Actually, as a feminist I know I dislike it…a lot.

“What does this mean to you? Man of the house?” I ask… while I am thinking to myself…so you are finding your voice and now you want to roar. Roar out all the misunderstandings. Roar out all your “unheard” convictions. Roar out life as you imagine it should be while you figure out who you want to be. You want to be heard after feeling unheard all of your life. A hurt that started with your mother and one that you feel continued on with me.

My eyes stare back, unblinking, both locked into a battle of silent conviction.

“At the end of the day I want to know that my word is the final word.”

And in the end the only thing I can say is nothing. Because talking to this man before me is like talking to a stranger who speaks a different language, has different values, and wants different things than I do.  Things I never knew about. Things I never guessed. They are not the things that delight me. They are sharp and they sting the inside of my heart and of my head.

So I look down at my feet and stare at my crooked big toe observing how it leans to the left, as does my philosophy, and the tears start to glide silently down my face as my awareness of how deep this situation dwells in a land of which I know not; and it seeps from the very center of my pores.

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Maybe…

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A month ago B told me that he was going to China for 10 days. I wasn’t invited and I was hurt as going to China has become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage for us. Besides, although it is for “business”, in truth, he doesn’t really need to go. His partner can take care of it and B doesn’t speak Mandarin anyway. It is really an excuse to just get away from the daily grind of home, office, family and me I’m afraid.

Then about 10 days ago I asked if B was going anywhere else besides the town he usually goes to because it seemed to me that 10 days in that one spot was unusual. He replied “Oh, I am also going to Taiwan” Really? When did you think you would inform me of this news? Oh, and not with your partner…by yourself. How interesting! Oh its part of your business plan now to tour facilities? So are you really going to do something different because of this knowledge you will acquire? Well no. I didn’t think so.

When I mentioned to B that I was hurt about not getting an invitation to accompany him his reply was that I was taking Gracie to Florida for a diving competition. Really? That’s the best you can come up with? I get to go somewhere with bitchy back-biting diving moms and worry about schedules, practices and hauling around a 12-year-old who has recently decided to get strung out on teenage girl hormones while you have 10 days basically to yourself. Hmmmm. Someone is getting the better end of the deal and it isn’t me.

So I asked B if this was the start of us taking vacations apart from one another. He looked surprised and said no. But I feel like this separateness is saying something in and of itself about us, about him, and about our relationship. It worries me. And so, after much thought on my part,  I told B that I think it is the start of something new for us because I will also be going on vacation alone just like he is. That I need time alone and adventure too.

Now part of me feels guilty about this. The woman who doesn’t value herself enough thinks that perhaps I am not deserving of this time alone. Most mothers don’t get it so why do I need it? The devoted wife thinks…come on…there is a difference between going somewhere on “business ” which B is doing and going just to go which is also what B is doing. There is the financially responsible person in me who says you need to save your money…you have been plenty of places so don’t be a bitch. The weary mother of boys with autism and a marriage that is still mending says…go…recharge your battery. Use this as a time of self discovery outside of the usual daily carpooling routine.

And so I am torn. Trying to decide if I am just seeking a kind of perverse tit-for-tat “revenge” for the disappointment I feel at being excluded, if I am trying to make a statement, or if I am looking out for myself in the best possible of ways and giving myself what I need to grow spiritually and emotionally. Maybe a combination of all. And as I contemplate this I am perusing the internet of exotic places…India, the Seychelles, Africa…dreaming of what it would be like to have the freedom and the guts to take a trip for me, myself, and I, with no remorse or guilt on my part. Can I do it? I’m not sure at this point but I think that 18 months of therapy and a marriage that was teetering on the brink might have taught me a few things… the primary one being is that I matter. That my dreams, needs, and thoughts matter and for some foolish reason I let go of that strong confident ball-busting young woman I once was… and that I miss her…a lot… and that I want her back. And I also wonder that if I take a chance… if I just step out and up…if I might find that confident, intelligent and oh-so-sure of herself slightly older  and more colorful woman again somewhere in India because I haven’t yet found her here.

Does going somewhere new and doing something different change you? Does challenging yourself help you grow balls? I’m not sure… but I think I would like to find out and if I do I can only hope that I will bring back so much more than I left with.

 

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It’s Been A While

So it’s been a while since I have blogged. Life has gotten in the way. One of the reasons I have not been blogging is because I have been so ill and when you feel that sick just putting one foot in front of the other is sometimes the only thing you can manage to do.

The other reason I have been absent is that I just returned from South Korea. It was a blast. That is not to say that autism didn’t rear its head like a dragon…it did but we managed to keep the fire contained within the dragon’s mouth.

I love Korea. Not just because it is where my children were born but because of the numerous surprises that greet you while you are there. Like it raining and someone just hands you their umbrella and continues on their way. Like the fact that my children are now old enough to sit away from these two big white folks so they can blend in and become part of the majority instead of always being part of the minority. I wish I could give them that freedom every day of their lives. And I like the fact that pumpkin is valued and eaten in so many different ways.

I love seeing the small boats out with the huge freighters as they ply the waters for fish along the coast. I love the hidden temples and that sort of foggy mystical reverence that permeates the air.Riding the bullet trains are almost orgasmic with their down the the minute time tables and the snack carts that sell dried squid. I also love the open markets in which you can find the mass-produced and the antique amongst all the noise that radiates off of the stalls. And the smells of noodles of all kinds, ginger, kimchee and steaming hot bean buns bought just as they come out of the molds are to die for.

There is something about Korea…a people who have been taken over by invaders again and again. Who have known war too often the results of which allows them to then hold the holy and the beautiful above all else…even their pain. Same goes for my children whose understanding of their short lives here is bittersweet. Joy and pain sometimes it is one in the same.

And then we came home and I immediately went in for an endoscopy because I have been so sick with severe reflux for so long. And while I await the results I decided to try the anti-reflux diet and stop drinking coffee…and the next day feel so good that I don’t take the prescription medicine that never makes me feel great. And the next day I feel great. Better than great. And so I stop coffee and pills and one week later I feel better than I have for the past two years.

So now I rejoice. For travel. For discovery. For the happiness of my family. And for my health. And for the oh-so painful re-discovery of myself, my husband and my marriage over the past 18 months.dsc04814

I’m thinking that 2017 is going to be a pretty great year! I hope it is for you too!

 

Been There…Not Done That

This is my sixth trip to South Korea. The first three were blinded by tears as we picked up our children when they were infants. Those days were short but sweet after waiting a half-a-year to finally meet them.

The last time we came to Korea as a family was seven years ago. Those were trying times. The boys were in the midst of autism and there was a real fear we would lose them on the subway. In fact, I remember that Paul decided to play hide-and-seek in the subway and scooted away into a telephone booth while we were racked with panic trying to find him. He was one of those kids who really needed to be on a leash because he would take off if given the chance. It is wonderful to see him this time…so excited to be discovering his culture. I have never seen him as happy as he was today.

On the other hand, Andre was struggling. All the walking. All the newness. All the change wasn’t doing him any favors. He didn’t want to come because change is so difficult for him. But to our credit we make him vacation with our family even though at times it would be easier for him just to stay home. There are just some memories that must be made and I will confess serenity was easy to come by in The Secret Garden.

We have never visited Seoul in the fall before. That was a mistake because the beauty of the place, the slow cool breezes make this experience memorable. The colors are vivid and more intense than I have ever seen. The scenery is amazing. But instead of telling you I will just show you…Korea in her glory.

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