Archive for the 'relationships' Category
Summer’s finally here. And it is HOT! In the Pacific Northwest we only get two, sometimes three months break from the relentless rain that hammers against us, our towns and our forests. When summer finally arrives we treasure it for about five minutes and then proceed with complaints about how unbearably hot it is.
Which just shows how ungrateful we are. Because really, what’s there to complain of? Hours of doing absolutely nothing other than sitting at an outdoor cafe with our kids or our friends? Picking raspberries, cherries or peaches at the multiple family farms surrounding Portland, which we’ll take home and turn into pies and cobblers? Biking and picnicking in the shade of a tree by the water’s edge? Meeting friends for happy hour and not having to rush home and get the kids to bed? Exploring new hiking trails?
There is really no reason to complain.
So hello, Summer. And welcome!
All children have expectations of their parents. The seeds of expectation are planted in a child’s infancy, by the first cry. From the first: I am hungry, feed me; I am wet, change me; I am scared, protect me; I am hurting, love me, expectations are watered daily, and they grow. The roots go deep. Far into the earth. And whatever the outcome, disappointment follows.
I know all about disappointment, dashed expectations. Mines were dug out, set fire to, and destroyed soon after I turned nine. That’s when my childhood stopped. One day I was a child and the next I wasn’t.
It wasn’t anybody’s fault.
When my parents came to the United States in 1981, with five children clinging to their legs ranging from two years old to nine, they worried more about what things to bring in their allotted two suitcases, than about how they would function in this country. Functioning in the United States, in fact, was never an issue. To their minds they were not the first immigrants and they would certainly not be the last. Besides, they had family here, to secure them a furnished rental house, an automobile, even a job for my father. Within a year or two, with hard work and many economies, they would even be able to buy their own home. So many immigrants with a strong work ethic did it. They would too.
And they did. My father had two, three jobs at a time. He worked from four in the morning to eleven at night. Monday through Saturday. Week after week after week. For years and years. He did this while my mother raised us five, gardened and cooked and drove us to school and to church and to wherever else we needed to go. All because they were determined that their children have a better life than they did. That they’d have better opportunities.
But it was the lack of English skills that they bumped against every single time they stepped out of the house: at the grocery store, at the bank, at the doctor’s office. And as the oldest child in the family, I became their interpreter. A parent to them, in a sense. Their confidant. The one privy to all their secrets and moles and blood clots and financial situations. I had more control over their lives than I understood. And maybe even more than they understood.
While my sisters and brothers chased each other in the rows of vegetables and fruit trees, while they splashed in a plastic blue kiddie pool in the shade of the backyard pomegranate tree, or read books, or played with bits of wood they imagined as dolls and action figures and cars under the scented lemon trees of the front yard, I was translating insurance forms or waiting on the line for the electric company. That’s when the seeds of responsibility were planted. One. By. One.
I did not know any better. I was raised to respect my elders.
If there was any resentment toward them, if there was any resentment that I didn’t have the freedoms of my siblings, it was buried deep within my body, somewhere in my toes, I think. It was the toes that always itched to run away when I heard my name called.
But I never ran. Responsibility had become a vine and I was ensnared within it.
No matter how busy I am throughout the year, I always make time to slow down in the summer. I make time to pamper myself and those I love. I make time to relax. To laugh. I make time to be present in the daily moments of wonder, of gratitude and of beauty.
So here’s my recipe for a magical summer:
Daily one-on-one time with my sweetie. Yup. I KNOW he’s gorgeous.
Eating well. Summer is my favorite food season. Oops, second favorite. Winter’s first;
Long talks with my BB’s - beautiful brilliant - children. Far into the night;
Creating. Playing. Relaxing;
Ice cream dates. Every day. Why not?
Get-togethers with friends. The conversations, the laughter, the ease of being with people who love me and don’t judge.
Reading. Reading. And more reading. Inside. Outside. On a blanket at the beach. On a blanket in a field. Anywhere. Anytime.
How about you? What are your recipes for a great summer?
As teens, my sisters and I would roll our eyes whenever my dad or mom would bring forth the subject of their courtship. It seemed such an old fashioned concept, and we were more than slightly embarrassed by it. Normal people’s parents had dated, not courted. According to my dad, mom had quite a few suitors and she couldn’t make up her mind between them. One night she’d meet one of them for a walk down the linden city center streets, stopping somewhere for a beverage or dessert, and the next, together with her girlfriends, she’d run into another at an ice cream parlor.
Apparently these meetings carried on for a while, and dad was losing patience. Christmas was approaching, and he was playing the trombone in a brass band that visited the surrounding village churches. He would be gone for a while every Saturday and Sunday and those were their designated days to walk the promenade, coyly flirting, my mom in her tailored miniskirt and kitten heels and dad in his well-cut suit. On a cold November Sunday he demanded that she choose between him and the other man. Who would it be?
I can just imagine my mom looking up at him surprised. What was his hurry, she had probably murmured in her soft voice. My mom is very soft spoken. She couldn’t be rushed, she had most likely added. She was just twenty-one. And so my dad did what every honorable man of his time did. He paid a visit to my grandparents, laden with gifts and asked for my mom’s hand in marriage.
The only problem was that another of her suitors had beat him to it, and while she hadn’t been promised (as the decision was solely my mom’s), my grandparents prayed that she would choose the kindest of the two.
My mom took a while. She could see herself having a future with either of them. Finally she decided that she’d leave it up to fate. She’d pick the one she would first encounter, unplanned. She got herself ready, her long dark hair in a topknot popular in those days and went to meet a girlfriend. And whom should she meet on the way there? My dad, of course! Was it planned, a coincidence perhaps, or was it really a sign from God? No one’s telling. And my grandmother had a saying she loved to repeat over and over whenever I pressed her about it: God’s not into magic tricks.
A month later my parents were married, and almost two years after that I came along, the first of five children. Now, as they are preparing to celebrate their 42nd anniversary together, on New Year’s Day, I am praying for their long, happy marriage to continue, in good health and in love, side by side.
Happy New Year, to you all, my lovely friends. May the journey through 2012 be a blessed one, filled with joy, love, peace, good health, and prosperity.
When I was a little girl, I loved sneaking looks into my mom’s or aunts’ purses. Treasures awaited. Every little scribbled note was a mystery, a secret message. The backs of wallet photos were especially important. I was looking for hearts and xo’s and I love you’s. Zippered compartments with their spare change, ticket stubs, receipts, and discarded candy wraps were scrutinized with suspicion. Perhaps I was just looking for candy. Or perhaps I was looking for something more, something deeper. A look inside the hearts of these women so dear to me.
I was remembering all this as I cleaned out my purse today. It was starting to weigh me down, starting to slow my walk. And I got to thinking about the things I carry with me and within me. How much is treasure, and how much is trash? Hoarding wrappers and unacknowledged addictions, receipts and guilt, lists and forgotten dreams, photos and great love, love notes and memories. Getting rid of the junk, and keeping the real.
It was surprisingly easy to let go.
I love lists. Oh yes! I do. Sometimes before I fall asleep, I make lists in my head. Of places I want to visit, things I want to accomplish, books I must read. Sometimes I make boring lists, about retirement and saving money and such. I don’t dwell long on those. And sometimes I make lists about the things I want to possess. Clothing, furniture, homes in 20 different places. But the possessions list is boring as well. Lately I’ve become sort of detached from the idea of excess, although at one time I’d rather have given up my right hand than separate myself from a walk-in closet.
In my current journal I have a few identical lists of my 100 favorite books, people, furniture, and clothes. The week of the rapture that didn’t happen, I dreamt that I was told that I must pack up my car with 100 of my *cannot live without* items and people. So I went to get a UHaul truck and started filling it up. But, for some reason, everything I put inside it ballooned up and there was no room for the people that I loved. Out came all the things I thought I couldn’t live without, and in went all my family and friends.
I love my life. It isn’t perfect, no, but I am content. And although I know it’s so cliche, the things that make me so, aren’t things. Not really. What completes my days, are the smiles of my darlings as they reach for me, all sleepy headed and heavy lidded in the early mornings hours. The chirping of the birds flitting from branch to branch outside my open window, beckoning me to rise from the softness of my bed and make the most out of the hour before everyone else is up; the books waiting to be read, impatiently threatening to spill out of the overflowing bookcases; the smell of coffee and of toast; my stash of emergency dark chocolate, hidden in a secret spot, high up on a shelf; the yellow roses scrambling up my patio’s trellis, competing with the green of the ivy; hubby surprising me with delicious treats when I least expect it; my ever-ready daily uniform of converse, dark jeans and fitted cashmere sweaters; treasured friends (see the photo) who support and encourage and never fail to check up on me whenever I pull a disappearing act; the smiles and the kindness of those who cross my path on a daily basis; and my faith, always present, always a comfort, a steady presence in my life.
I want to absorb all the delicious moments of my every day. Inhale them. Stretch out the minutes to last for hours. Remember them forever and ever, whatever life will bring. I watch the faces of my lovelies, those of my parents, of my siblings, of my friends. I try to etch the twinkle of their eyes into my mind, the wrinkles on their faces, the laugh lines on their cheeks, the perfection of their skin, the sound of their voices and of their laughter. Sometimes I feel desperate that I will forget something important, that a moment of eternity will pass me by and I’ll be looking the other way. So I stare harder and command my mind not to forget.
What about you, friends? What makes you content? What is on your happy list?
The photo above was taken this last Saturday at my friend Melania’s wedding (CONGRATULATIONS!), by my friend Teddy. Actually, it was taken by one of Teddy’s assistants because we wanted Teddy in the photo with us. Teddy is the one next to me in the white blouse and black slacks. She is an awesome photographer. When her website is up I will provide a link. Until then, keep an eye on her everyone!
You know those families that only get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Well, our family isn’t one of those. Our family welcomes any opportunity to gather up and sit down for a loud, opinionated meal, and we make all sorts of excuses to come up with a next meeting. Unless, someone is out of town, our family Sundays start soon after noon when church let’s out, and they last for a good four to five hours. We meet in our parents home, the house we grew up in, ushered in from the outside cold by the aroma of soup on the stove and a roast in the oven.
The lady of the house (my mom, or sometimes myself, as I go earlier to help) is responsible for the soup and the main course. The rest bring the bread, the beverages, the salad makings, the dessert, and the flowers. We set the table, without skimping on the details, and sit ourselves down with much deliberation as to who sits where. Somehow we always end up in the same seats we had occupied the Sunday before.
After generous compliments to the chef and a word of grace from the oldest grandchild, we start our meal. And what do we talk about? All sorts of things, really, but we especially love politics. Some of us are liberal, others more moderate, and yet others conservative. However, we agree to disagree because we love each other, and regardless the heat generated by our discussions, we respect the other enough to listen and concede when the other is right. The one thing we all cannot stand though, is the moronic repetition of the closed minded. Every subject brought up needs to permit logical scrutiny. There’s enough unexamined thinking everywhere without adding on more to that pile, isn’t there?
A couple hours into the meal, we retire to the living-room where we deposit our stuffed selves on the velvety couches and chairs, or prop pillows under our heads and roll ourselves out across the floor, cushioned by the thick persian carpets. The discussion by this time is much lighter. We recount stories of our childhood and jokes, and grandpa (my dad) hands out a weekly allowance to the grandkids that has been in effect since the first grandchild was old enough to know what money’s for. The little kids are quite enthralled with grandpa’s method of throwing money up in the air. They scramble this way and that to get their little hands around the floating dollar bills.
It often appears that time has quite stopped while our laughter and merry voices ring out the opened windows. And when it’s time to leave we do so with a bit of sadness. These intergenerational repasts sustain us all in the week to come, and as we leave and pack ourselves in our respective autos, toting plates of leftovers, and buckling children into their car-seats, we call out to each other, “What are you doing this week? Let’s get together for coffee!”
I would like to announce that this Mother’s Day Sunday, my house has officially become the Sunday dinner house for us all. I am so very lucky that my husband does the majority of the cooking. He is really one of the most naturally talented cooks. Ever. Thank you, baby!
I have a friend who’s a sexologist (a fancy word for a relationship therapist, if you ask me), and she told me recently that no matter how dire the economy, women will continue buying their lingerie, and men will continue going to strip clubs. I find this fascinating. It says so much about our roles. Men are happy with who they are, so they spend their money on getting aroused. Women, on the other hand, think they need improvement, and as such spend their money on ensuring that they arouse their men.
If that doesn’t objectify women, I don’t know what does. Why am I writing about this? I certainly like to look pretty and lounge around in my underwear. I like make-up, big hair, and lace. I also believe in common courtesies between the sexes. And I’m vain and enjoy getting attention.
I was at my mom’s and watched Oprah and the show had to do with the sex industry. I was watching the women in the audience. Everything about them was self-conscious. They were behaving like giggly teenagers. In fact, I still behave like a giggly teenager myself: just look at the way I spelled talking in the title!)
Sadly, sex still belongs to the man. The sex crimes going on in the world against women and children. Men’s doing. Our children and the lessons they learn from the media. Men again. But women are not completely blameless. We need to fully own our sexuality. Take it away from the men.
Embrace it. Speak openly about it, without fidgeting and turning every shade of red. Our boys and girls need to see that.
Does this sound crazy?
I was about thirteen, the first time I had ever attended a bridal shower, when one of the women there announced to those gathered around the room that nothing made her happy. Not even sex with her husband. She said it so loudly that everyone stopped what they were doing, their plastic forks lifted halfway to their open mouths, clearly wanting to hear more, yet not knowing how to solicit the conversation. On the one hand, sex was a taboo subject. On the other, the woman was a loose cannon. Who knew what she would say? Moreover, there was too much propriety amongst them all, and no one wanted to be seen as lacking good manners.
So mouths were quickly stuffed with food, furtive glances sent her way, and everyone got back to their own conversations. A few months later, she was committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Of course back then I didn’t understand. That her outburst had been a cry for help, I only understood in college. I had never heard of depression, nor had I seen it. We were all an emotional bunch, even my mom cried from time to time, but it was short lived and our smiles were so much more brighter.
The church was the most unkind. Calling all that their small minds couldn’t comprehend as the work of the devil, they shunned her and instilled fear in the women, preaching from the pulpit submission onto their husbands as onto Christ, so that such a fate would not befall any of them.
I spoke with a friend battling cancer, earlier last week. And with another one who has a teeny, tiny newborn. And another one who has lost her job after 20 years. Stress in their lives, hormonal changes going on, left and right. Dejected, listless, angry. Yet despite it all, reluctant to admit that they are suffering from something. Reluctant to grasp the outstretched hand. Do they fear shunning? Or perhaps lost friendships? Why is there such a stigma still attached to depression? Why can’t we discuss it? Woman to woman. Friend to friend. Can we give our support without judgement?
When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I was going through miscarriages, very few friends asked how I was holding up. Only the love of my husband and family kept me going. I was an emotional mess. Many pulled away as though my sadness was contagious. Perhaps it was. Yet a kind word would have been so welcome.
Can we be that ear, that shoulder, that word, to another one of us who is suffering?
I spent a quarter of my waking hours in Kauai chasing roosters, just so I could snap a picture of them. They run rampant all over the island, crowing at all hours of the day and night, their internal clocks haywire. For all their cheeky behavior, they are quite shy, or maybe just terrified of the high pitched squeals of the children chasing them, yet I did get them in the end.
This trip to Hawaii was for my baby sister’s wedding. She is unbelievably beautiful to begin with, so you can be sure she made a stunning bride. The wedding was on the beach, as all weddings in Hawaii ought to be. We were walking around barefoot, digging our toes in the golden sand, laughing and crying, and hugging each other. My daughter and my niece had the time of their lives being flower girls. I watched them remembering how I used to wish I had been a flower girl as a child.
I missed my blogging pals and can’t wait to catch up with all of you! The internet connection was terrible, though. Which isn’t all that bad, I suppose, as I had ample opportunities to watch the violet tinted sunrise on my early morning walks through the enchanted forest, coffee in hand.
The bright, cloudless days, I dozed away on the beach, smeared in a thick layer of sunblock, yet still somehow managing to get a burn, while the kids played in the sand and the water. As the sun set and the skies quickly darkened, we gathered around an outside table and had dinner and conversation by flickering firelight in torches and candles, dreading our return to the cold, damp Northwest. Still, we are highly grateful for a chance to warm up our bones, and the lovely reminder that summer is coming.
A lovely, blessed week to all of you!