Neighbors For Good

I see a world where we continually define ourselves by the way in which we are divided.

Our family moved to Chandler, Arizona from Los Angeles 18 years ago. We found a nice house we could almost afford in a safe neighborhood. My husband and I had two small daughters at the time. I suggested leaving L.A. the day helicopters were hovering over our house bellowing repeatedly through a blow horn for everyone to lock all doors and windows and stay inside. An armed robber was thought to be hiding in one of our backyards after shooting the owner of our corner grocery store. I love LA, but life in Chandler has been way less “survival of the fittest.”

The first day of house shopping brought us into 20 identical, beige, stucco houses in 20 different neighborhoods between Scottsdale and Chandler. more “Neighbors For Good”

Just For Today

Maybe just for today we can find a way to offer hope just by being open to someone else’s walk through humanity. In my opinion, this is vitally important because now more than ever, Americans seem to rise up through tragedy just too often to keep going on. 

Jane, a friend of mine from my distant adolescence in California, posted this on Facebook after one of our way too many mass shootings, or maybe it was in response to the divisiveness of our political climate… more “Just For Today”

How To Change The World

peace-clip-art-at-vector-clip-art-free.png
It can be as close as next door. 

On October 1, 2017, Steven Paddock had a psychotic break in Las Vegas and unleashed a string of bullets onto unsuspecting country music fans across the street from his hotel. No one saw it coming and no one knows why. Our world seems lost and out of control.

Ten years ago, I had an idea during a fabulous weekend retreat. The Walk To Emmaus. http://azemmaus.org/

On fire with a thousand grand ambitions when I got home, I started showering my children with affection, “Hannah, I made you some toast, my precious child of God.”

Hannah liked being showered with toast, and so I branched out and experimented with various cashiers in our neighborhood stores. I just said, “Hi” to them though. No toast. The feedback was instantaneous; my kids were surprised, “What happened to you?” And more than once at Wal-Mart, cashiers remarked, “Your kindness does not go unnoticed. It makes a difference. Thank you.”  more “How To Change The World”

My Name is Mom, Not God

This is the same story as told in: “It’s Been Five Days Since You Left, But We’re Still Here and You’re Not and It Is So Quiet.”  But, I sought help from Kevin McGeehan and this is how it evolved. I just wanted to put it out into the world beyond the one storytelling event I was brave enough to enter. Which was my event. I produced it. So, not really all that brave.

A different take on the same event:

There are six of us in this tiny space: proud grandparents, anxious parents, Hannah-the-Freshman, and Talia-the-supportive-little-sister who is singlehandedly organizing what appears to be a closet. Everyone is shoving “necessary” items wherever they could fit, except for me. Overwhelmed by debilitating fear I am useless in this chaotic room. I just stand in the middle of chaos clutching my favorite pair of Hannah’s shoes. All motherly devotion seems irrationally transferred onto these shoes. 

I’m jolted out of my inertia when Hannah’s new roommate, Christine, suddenly pitches into the room, drunk. Christine, all tanned boobs and short shorts squeals “HANNAH!!!” and lunges forward on her stiletto’s to give Hannah an insincere hug. Christine is the embodiment of every parental nightmare: a partying freshman roommate. The predator.

  Not knowing what to do, I do what I do best. Freeze. This is not my first time lost in motherhood.

When Hannah was a week old she got an audition for a commercial. At the time,  we were actor’s living in L.A. Hannah booked the job and at ten days old shot a national commercial.

  She was adorable during the casting: alert, quiet. Perfect. On the day of the shoot though, she wouldn’t stop screaming. I didn’t know what to do, I just stood there, frozen, listening to her cry and wincing at every dirty look from…everyone.

After what felt like a few years had passed, the director called to “remove the crier.” A surely assistant director handed her over like a bag of squid. I grabbed her, ran out into the hallway and clutching her to my chest begged her to forgive me. I didn’t rescue her. I’m the Mom and I blew it. When her gasping sobs stopped, I held her out to look at her scrunched up little face.

 I swear she smiled at me. I stopped breathing for a second. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. “I promise I will never leave you.” I swore this would be my last mistake as Mom.

  18 years of mistakes later, the day has come to move out of her childhood home into her freshman dorm. On the sidewalk in front of our house, a sobbing Hannah could not let go of Andrew, the-stunned-soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. About to attend universities in separate states, it didn’t look good for the long run.

  Hannah and Andrew dated during their senior year and, of course, he asked her to the prom. Hannah bought her dress with her own money, a sparkling, soft pink, strapless gown. It cost four times what I was willing to pay for a prom dress.

  I bought her shoes, and because Andrew is not tall, Hannah, in a shocking turn from her usual CFM’s was determined to wear flats. We found a pair of Steve Madden sandals with rhinestones imbedded in clear plastic straps and a beige plastic sole. They looked pretty cheap in the box. But when she put them on the clear plastic straps disappeared and the sparkles wrapped around her feet as if held on by magic. They were the most beautiful shoes I’ve ever seen.

I borrowed them once. I felt magical. For a moment, Hannah and I shared these pretty, pretty shoes. In a moment, I must relinquish the girl with the memory of a sweet dance in beautiful shoes with a handsome boy.

  Back in the dorm room the magic shoes seem cemented in my fist. The perfect place to leave them doesn’t exist. Christine might want to borrow them. Christine could ruin the shoes.  

  Of the two girls who are about to live in this dorm, I love one so very much, but I relate to one of them so much more.  I was Christine when I was 18. I know this enemy. It used to be me.

  Without looking at anyone other than Hannah, Christine slurs “Nice to meet you” to the room in general and is gone as fast as she came. Watching Christine leave I realize I have no control over this situation. I probably have never had control over any situation ever. Because I am only Mom. Not God.

18 years ago I had no idea she would be the one to leave.

  I step on the printer to climb over the mini-refrigerator and sit next to her on the long, single bed. I reluctantly hand her our pretty, pretty shoes. “Please. Stay. Strong.  Do not lend these to Christine. I would like to see them again.” Hannah just laughs, “Mom, the shoes and I can both stand up to Christine.”

Our time is almost up. “If you ever need anything Hannah, you can always come crying to me. I think I’m ready for you now.“

  Out in parking lot the proud grandparents drive away first. The sobbing, mascara stained sisters cling to each other as our existing world changes forever. There is nothing my husband and I can do to ease the pain of their separation. We can only stand aside and watch. What I want to say to my pair of beautiful girls is, “I promise I will learn to let you go.”

What I actually say as I hug Hannah goodbye, “Take your vitamins and be gentle when you break up with Andrew.”

  College, it’s the real world transition for the parents, not just the kids.

Shoes pictured are not actual size. Or the actual pair mentioned in post. Just really pretty and very similar to aforementioned sandals.

 

No Promises

I have time to write at the moment. I read through previous blog posts so I don’t repeat myself – too much. I came across this piece and thought it might be worth re-visiting. 
It is now edited a little and it comes with a question: 
Is there anyone else who, despite the terror of being tied down, made the decision to get married and have children and realized you looked fear/phobia in the eye, and replied “yes” instead of “I don’t know” and now your life is better because the word “yes” or “okay” was said out loud?
Please leave me a comment if this is you. Even if it isn’t. I’d love to hear any story.  I have time to read it and reply. Maybe it will be inspiring to look back at your life and find something good came from sticking to a choice. 
No Promises
(first published in 2011)

I have commitment issues. 

I can’t even spell commitment. Spell check has fixed it every time I’ve written it. Which is exactly 2 times as of this writing. Spell check fixes imperfect thought patterns – doesn’t it?

The mere confrontation by another person just to set a date with me (and I do view it as a confrontation) invokes an immediate back pedaling deep in my soul.

At first an invitation has promise and hope, so I want to reply; “Yes, I’d love to meet for lunch or marry you or circle the globe.” But the inevitable fear induced answer is said instead. “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you… However, my schedule is not available at the moment.” Loosely translated this means, “I don’t know if I’ll feel like doing that then.”

If I agree to a lunch date, I may not be able to make the 8 other places I’ve sort of committed to already. There are no small decisions. Each act must be weighed carefully so to avoid as much regret as possible.

When I replied “okay” to my husbands marriage proposal it was a hesitant, shaky, wimpy answer. Which really meant: I can answer with a confident yes after we’ve been married and had two children who make it to their teens. I’ll know then. Maybe. But, a couple of questions first – IF I marry you, will your kisses still make my knees tremble next year? Will you still want me when the biggest choice of my day is to tuck my boobs into my pants or throw them over my shoulder? Will I want you sleeping right next to me every single night? Will there be no other men? Ever?

I’ve been married to a wonderful, strong, caring man for 21 years because some very wise friends told me he was the best man they knew. They were right – which I realized on the honeymoon and most, if not all, of the days since.

No one has ever asked me to circle the globe with them. I would need to check my schedule before I replied “Yeah, no. But thanks.”

I go kicking and screaming into anything that’s good for me: marriage, child-bearing, roughage. But I willingly and easily jump into anything that isn’t, for exp: I moved to NYC when I was 23 with $200 in my pocket and that is all the money I had to my name. I easily choose wine and Fritos for dinner over, say, a salad. Laying comatose on the couch watching The Big Bang Theory while having wine and Fritos seems a good use of time. 

And obviously, flirting is more exciting than promises-well, duh….

Maybe it’s really the choice of fun versus lifelong healthy goals that’s the issue. Not committment. (I CANNOT spell that word!) (Why can’t spell check spell it either? Does everyone, including computer applications, have this same issue?)

WHY do I run from people and healthy food and a secure future? Only guessing, but I think it may be because I’m a product of the sixties. I just want to be free – to go back to a world before commitments, before life as I know it – back to before – when there were no promises to keep.

I do not have a full time job – I have 8 part-time jobs. Full time seems like such a lot of time in one place….I have 20 ex-boyfriends, 1 husband, 2 daughters, 3 pets and I’m 52 (it has been 5 years since I wrote this. I’m not 52 anymore. Time went on and I haven’t changed). I’ve committed somewhere – or at least should be…I have been married for 21 years and the daughters are still living. (Yay me!?)

Maybe it’s a good sign I know I’m flaky and scared. I have not ended up alone. I show up when I make a lunch date. I’m late, but I do show up eventually. I have love. And spell check. I have promises I made and will eventually keep. Maybe even before the compelling deep in my soul to skip freely away – wins.

My knees still tremble at the promise and commitment in my husband’s voice-and in his kisses-maybe he’s my spell check. 

5 A’s and a C

5 A’s and a C. Her grades for the final semester of her freshman year in college. 6 classes. All of them academic with deep, theoretical, thought provoking concepts. Well except for 1 unit of modern dance. For which she ran in circles and rolled on the floor to achieve her A. Actually, I guess that can be thought provoking.

5 A’s. And what is the question everyone asks?

What’s up with the C?

I didn’t have to ask. I knew. Thank God I knew. Because that means I asked throughout the semester and listened and remembered the answer.

I really thought English or Critical Cultural Concepts was gonna be the kicker. But, no. It was the subject that was easy in high school.

So this means there were 6 surprises for this first year away from home. 6 that I know of any way.

1) She finished her first year with 35 credits and a 3.9 something GPA. (I could not have done this.)

b) She didn’t leave college to marry her high school love.

3) She didn’t fall apart when she had every opportunity to cave. We had the roughest issues with our family this year that no one knew how to handle, and she had to handle them alone in a dorm room shared with well, let’s just say, a roommate who came to college for the extended party, not the thought provoking concepts. As well as surgery on her toe the first week of the year at the student health center (Oh Dear God this was terrifying! and she said quite painful), a break-up with the boyfriend she didn’t marry…and there’s even an, etc or two.

4) Not really so much a surprise as a welcome unveiling, it turns out that so far, she is a determined, hard-working, sensitive, strong woman.

5) Everyone, except me, asked about her C grade before they congratulated her on getting 5 A’s. (Yay me!) (It’s the only “Yay me!” I’m allowing myself this year.)

6) The C was in Math. Apparently, it was harder than expected.

She is happily home now with a tremendous sense of humor about the C in math.

Home for only a minute before she leaves to volunteer with International Student Volunteers on an Elephant preserve and teach the poorest kids in a rural community in Thailand.

She sounds too good to be true. She is!

However:

Her floor here has disappeared under enough clothes to cover all of the poorest in the rural communities in Thailand and none of them are clean.

I don’t believe she has eaten a vegetable since last August. I was hoping she would gain the “Freshman 35” but, she adamantly disagreed and only gained 5 lbs.

She seems to have inherited from me an instinct to watch romantic comedies as priority over anything else.

Well, and, of course, there’s the C in Math.

And I’m sure 1000 other idiosyncrasies and questionable behavior I have thankfully missed.

All of it: her living, her love of life, her desire to help, her C, are all…Grace.

I still believe God gave me children to increase my prayer life. My knees are worn-out and the time spent there has been worth all the moments in-between and hopefully yet to come.

If you would love to help my idealistic Hannah on her journey to start saving the world – here’s a link that will inspire you to do so!!

https://www.volunteerforever.com/volunteer_profile/hannah-burns

First Semester and All is Well That Ends Well

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We are getting the college student back from her first semester abroad in the wilds of Tucson, AZ.

She got some good grades, bought some life experiences, joyfully declared her major and is ecstatically confident about the choice to be a Rehabilitation major working directly with the special needs students beginning in January. She has found time to dance on her own, take yoga, and break more than one heart. She has even survived a few crippling life events that have occurred here at home in her absence. For this first semester all is ending well with high hopes for the future. There is relief in my soul. I’m not done worrying about my girl, but she doesn’t need to know that. Yet.

She might need to know just how ridiculously proud of her I continue to be. Oh, I hope I remember to tell her.

Here’s a follow-up to the text questions never sent in the post ” It’s Been Five Days Since You Left for College and We’re Still Here, But You’re Not and It Is So Quiet”

Texts that would like to be sent:

Do you like your roommate? Well…it’s probably better that you don’t know anymore than, well….
Did you finish hanging up your pictures? Yes!
Have you made anyone laugh? Too much! Mostly from my innocent mistakes.
Are my favorite shoes having a good time in college? Way too much. Seriously. Too much.

Have you looked at the 52 page photo/quote album I made you and left for you to easily find the moment I returned to your childhood home and left you in the wilds of a college dorm? Yes. 🙂
Have you read any of Dad’s “Phils-osphy” book? All the time. I love it.
Are you flossing? No….

What’s the bathroom like? Dropped my iPhone in the shower, had to buy a replacement with the emergency fund that was gifted with the words “This is the money to use when you have emergencies you don’t want to tell your parents about”… Mom questions: “Is the shower a good place for a phone to be? Why did you bring it into the shower? Is it a safety reason? Or were you planning on doing a little communicating during the conditioner phase of hair care?”

I guess technically they’re your shoes, even though I paid for them. I miss them.

Are you always with another person when you walk on campus at night? NO?????
Are you carrying your mace? The only right answer to this is, yes.

You should see your bedroom here. You actually do have carpeting. I just vacuumed it. Please let it stay visible while you are here.

I miss you.

Your replacement, Chewiethedog, keeps stealing your Minnie Mouse slippers and your Minion. Chewiethedog is coming with me to pick you up today!!!!!

Your Dad wants to keep your bedroom door closed. Well, now we have to keep it closed so the cat won’t pee on your bed. Surely is a little mad that you are gone…too.

Did you apply for a job yet? Sigh.
Do you miss home? A resounding yes!
Are you sleeping enough? Actually it seems so.

How often have you gone to Starbucks? It might be time to purchase some stock in this company.

Your sister misses you terribly. 🙁

It is so quiet. Deafeningly quiet.

The mayonnaise and ranch dressing are taking up too much space and remain unappreciated in the fridge. I wouldn’t have either of these things at this point. They need to be tested for icky-ness.

I’m considering moving. Yup. Still.

What are you reading in English? Have you written anything yet? An A in English???? Good news.

Please. Stay. Strong. ??

How many parties have you been to? Any of them Campus Crusade for Christ? Sigh.

Are you scared? Sometimes.
Are you free and happy? Sometimes.
Excited for your potential to be exposed? Sometimes.
Frightened you don’t have any? Sometimes.
You do. BTW. Yup.

Please don’t lend the pretty shoes to your roommate. I’d like them to visit someday. Soon. Shoes had better be packed to come home for the holidays. I have an event in which I’d like them to accompany me.

Do you want to stay? She wants to stay in college and come home for Christmas. All is good.

This marks the end of the texting questions.

I would like to point out that yet again, everything I worry about, causes every bad thing not to happen.

But, I’m worn around the edges because of it. This Christmas I deeply wish and pray to look at the facts right in front of me as living proof that we will all be alright, and to trust the Lord for the outcomes in the rest of our adventures. Oh goodness. We will be altogether in our beautiful home, that is lit with so many twinkling lights we could guide planes to safe landings, and life will be back to it’s chaotic sweetness. All is well.

And I vow to enjoy the full family in our midst.

On a side note:

Here’s a link to a pretty fun video from SNL about daughters coming home from college. Do not watch it if language is offensive to you. Language is offensive to me, however, this was sooo true!!

http://www.buzzfeed.com/alisonvingiano/back-home-ballers

Honestly, do not watch it if you are sensitive to crassness…and other ,you know, harsh stuff.

Wanna Have Lunch?

Food for the comfort of the mother’s soul.

Just a little follow up to my previous post.

Broke down and called the-daughter-who-has-now-had-five-days-of-college-life. “Are you coming home for the weekend?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Wanna have lunch then? I’ll come there?”

“Sure!”

And off we drove – the parents, the little sister, the grandma. It’s only an hour and a half away to us, it’s a world away for her.

She LOVES everything about this new world. She is literally and figuratively having the time of her life.

But, again, how not to worry? Because if I don’t worry, if I just let her go without a thought about her safety or her intellectual curiosity or her determination or her, well this list just goes on and on and on, if i don’t think of every bad thing that could come her way, then I am a bad mother. If I worry about everything – then nothing bad will find her. I know this from experience – everything I worry about, never happens.

That’s all. Lunch and grocery shopping with Olaf (he didn’t follow her home). We discovered she has already become quite popular, she is wearing the pretty, pretty shoes out – a lot. She swears she is staying strong. I believe her.

I remain vigilant on the home front armed with nothing but the innate ability to worry her into a safe existence. That whole “let go and let God” thing is merely a suggestion. 
I’m workin on it.

Yes, Grandma, I’ll get a flu shot

She
is
happy.
There
is
such
peace
in
that
one
thing.

Shopping with Olaf and she is wearing the pretty shoes.
They’ve been having a blast.

It’s Been Five Days Since You Left for College and We’re Still Here, But You’re Not and It Is So Quiet

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Soooo…my 18-year-old daughter moved out last Thursday…The daughter who graduated with high honors and was voted “Best Personality” of her senior class. The first child. The test kid. The experiment in parenting. The first heart to leave the house for longer than just a week away in L.A.

You know – the moment I’ve waited impatiently for through 18 years of living with the “best personality.” The unexpected moment of such overwhelming grief and pride and insecurity that…was just more than a little surprising in it’s intensity. I am happy for her adventure. I am thrilled she got in to a good school. I am haunted by the mistakes I made along the way. Sincerely and truly. It was the sobbing, mascara stained, sisters clinging to childhood, that my hand to God, stopped our existing world.

Give her space. Don’t call. Don’t text.

But, if I don’t contact her how will I know…how will she know…how will we go on?

Texts that would like to be sent:

Do you like your roommate?
Did you finish hanging up your pictures?
Have you made anyone laugh?
Are my favorite shoes having a good time in college?
Have you looked at the 52 page photo/quote album I made you and left for you to easily find the moment I returned to your childhood home and left you in the wilds of a college dorm?
Have you read any of Dad’s “Phils-osphy” book?
Are you flossing?
What’s the bathroom like?
I guess technically they’re your shoes, even though I paid for them.
Are you always with another person when you walk on campus at night?
Good night.
Are you carrying your mace?
Good morning.
You should see your bedroom here. You actually do have carpeting.
I miss you.
Can I come down for lunch on Friday?
Or dinner?
Have you thought about coming home this weekend?
They’re just such pretty shoes.
Your replacement, Chewiethedog, keeps stealing your Minnie Mouse slippers and your Minion.
Your Dad wants to keep your bedroom door closed.
I won’t let him.
I love seeing the carpet…
Did you apply for a job yet?
Are you getting all of your books? Legally?
Do you miss home?
Are you sleeping enough?
How often have you gone to Starbucks?
Your sister misses you terribly.
It is so quiet.
The mayonnaise and ranch dressing are taking up too much space and remain unappreciated in the fridge.
I’m considering moving.
What are your teachers names and do you think you can hang in the university collective of intellectuals?
What are you reading in English? Have you written anything yet?
Please. Stay. Strong.
How many parties have you been to? Any of them Campus Crusade for Christ?
Are you scared?
Are you free and happy?
Excited for your potential to be exposed?
Frightened you don’t have any?
You do. BTW.
Please don’t lend the pretty shoes to your roommate. I’d like them to visit someday. Soon.
Do you want to stay?

What I actually text after letting an agonizing 24 hours pass:

Get vitamins when you go to Target.

That’s it. Well, more followed, in yet another 24 hours that felt like 3 weeks, but the vitamins seemed to be the least….overly-protective.

Now, let go. And let God.

But,

It is so quiet.

(She likes her roommate, all books purchased legally, she looked at the photo album I made her, she had a sandwich today. That’s all I know as of now.) 
(I’m going to try to not go see her tomorrow.)
(Hoping to hear good news that the pretty shoes are having a wonderful time. Quietly in her closet.)

To Talia on Her 17th Birthday

While on vacation in California this July, I received a text from the youngest daughter, Talia, announcing that a dog had been rescued and was living with the two teenage daughters currently at home alone. In this text from the youngest daughter was a long list of why said dog should stay. Mainly, she stressed that this dog would be the blonde replacement for the blonde older sister, Hannah, who was leaving for college in two weeks. This sentence was followed with: “Please tell Dad.”

I gave her 10 days to potty train this dog. (I wanted to name her Mary Murphy, but was told that she was not my dog.) 

10 days have come and gone. She is not entirely potty trained. But…well, here we are:


Talia the Rescuer

Sherman, the 13-year-old cat in the shelter for six months
came home with a tearful 13-year-old daughter.
6 months after Sherman, the 14-year-old cat died,
 there was Shelly, the 12-year-old cat in kidney failure

2 months after Shelly passed,
Surely, a 4-year-old obese fluff ball came home too.
Surely- the *%#!@ 
She’s a cat too.
She’s not very nice.
Her full name is Surely You Didn’t Just Call Me Surely.
It fits.

well, yeah, maybe, I brought all of these animals home.
But, I brought them home for Talia. Who wanted them.
I swear.

And then there’s
Me.
Talia rescues me when I’m a sobbing, pitiful failure
By raising herself out of her teenage self to encourage.
She always knows how point out that I am not as pitiful as I think.

But mostly,
there’s Chewie.

A matted,
Tossed around,
Scared,
Skinny
Dogsortof.
Not yet a dog when found frantically trying to get out of a lake.
But now,
 Chewie is the sweet rescuer of the perpetually sad Talia,
and
Snickers, the 13-year-old first pet dog who is romping again
and
Surely, who is less of a *%#!@
and
Hannah, the sister who moves out today and turns to mush at the sight of Chewie,
and
Me, again, who sees the change in all of the above,
and
the Dad, who is more in love with Chewie than anyone else.

We all laugh at, love, play with, cuddle and adore

Chewie
A scrawny, mess of calm grace and playful gratitude.
A little portable mop that found our home
Because Talia is a rescuer of vulnerability
And abandoned, hopeful causes.
Where there is an ache,
There will be
Talia to the rescue.
Thank God.

To Talia on her 17th birthday:
GIFT CERTIFICATE
ONE SPAYED, VACCINATED DOG
WITH OBEDIENCE TRAINING.
Take good care. 
Both of you.