Untitled, as the winter goes on

It is the weekend, the days of the week that -for me- are most ironic and spontaneous in its unplanned disarray. For five days many of us can only think of…”when the weekend comes” , then it comes and there is so much to do in the house. I fantasized yesterday of a whole day at home, blogging, finishing my 2012 scrapbook that never saw the month of March, and possibly continue with 2013.  I  pictured myself selecting some of the best family pictures to get them printed, framed and hung on our walls, so that our new home ,that is still a bit cold and empty in the wall department, can start getting some friendly and warm faces here and there.

Some pictures than can remind all of us that we are part of something big and beautiful. That there are people scattered in several  States and in Mexico too, that probably think about us every day, that miss us. and that very likely see our faces on a wall of their own.

My fantasy sounded good, almost relaxing and fulfilling, but I ended up deep cleaning our stove, polishing our kitchen hood, vacuuming the house, polishing hard wood floors, all while dirty laundry was spinning in the washer, or drying.

I got the kids to do some work too, their weekly chores, I didn’t feel so miserable working on a Saturday, plus my husband worked from 8 am to 5 ish too, clearing and moving dirt on our lot in his little tractor. I have to say there was some consolation in seeing all of us working. The fact that I had music playing the whole time helped too. Lately, that is my way of feeling I am not alone, there is almost always a good memory linked to every song as I move around the house with my cleaning supplies.

By noon I was mostly done, and realized I was in a little bit of a bad mood and acting quite bossy with the kids. I made myself a cup of tea and went to sit outside to take a break and become a nice sweet Mom again.

It was chilly but sunny. I sat on our new, but almost never used patio chairs and watched my husband diligently up and down a slope, moving rocks and a lot of dirt. I enjoyed the view, the cold crisp air and my chamomile and peppermint tea  just sealed the moment. Then I thought -yet again- that my Dad would never come and sit there with me.  No afternoons there chatting with him, making him his favorite snacks, laughing, reading. No, never. Then I knew why I was so grumpy and bossy. Because I miss him a lot.  Just then, one of my favorite songs started playing:  Silent Lucidity.  A 90s song that I have heard many many times. I love it’s rhythm, the very soft, deep voice of Queensrÿche’s lead singer, the sound of the guitars, and violin’s in the background with so much emotion, almost pain.  But for the very first time, the lyrics just hit me and made me teary eyed:

“Hush now don’t cry
Wipe away the teardrop from your eye
You’re lying safe in bed
It was all a bad dream
Spinning in your head
Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over
Or has it just begun? “

This is a song about dreams, specifically about lucid dreams: when we dream we are dreaming. It is like a double depth or layering withing the dream. When we dream we are dreaming, and we know it and have certain control over the dream.  Maybe this sounds crazy or complicated, but it really isn’t. It has happened to me many times, and it is true. I have been able to control the dream. If it is too scary, I make it stop.

I have had many dreams about my Dad in the last few weeks. None of them lucid dreams; they seem to be more like memories of him, of the situations I lived in real life with him.

The song has a protective tone to it: a man talking to a child about not being scared of the dreams and the feelings that come with them. It is amazing how the same song in different stages of our lives can mean something so different. Just today I learned that the track incorporated a tiny bit of Brahm’s Lullaby (5:26) played by a Cello.

http://www.vevo.com/watch/queensryche/silent-lucidity/USEM40200001

So I listened yesterday to the song, uninterrupted and not bothered by anyone, music playing loud through the patio speakers and while I felt sad, I also knew that even if my Dad will never come visit me here, he will visit my in me dreams.

His birthday just passed, on January 31st. I had feared that day to come, but surprisingly I was absolutely OK. I am doing well I think.  The distance (away) from my home town and my parents house has helped. I visited my Mom recently and I have to say that being there, witnessing -again- the empty  spaces and getting a whiff of my Dad’s Bleu  by Channel made my stomach hurt.

That weekend my admiration and empathy for widowers skyrocketed. They stay there, they feel the pain every single day. The clean out the rooms. They are reminded of what they don’t have anymore almost 24 x 7.

I was sad to leave my Mom, but happy to run away from it all. I am dealing with my loss here at home at my own pace.

On another note, life is happening so fast, too fast!  My son got his first real pimple a month or so ago. He is just a couple of inches shorter than me (5’6″),  but he still plays with stuffed animals and asks to be tucked in at night, so in my eyes, he is still my little boy. He will be turning 12 this week. One more year before officially becoming a teenager, but that stupid pimple made me feel like there was no time left at all!  Together, my son and I killed it. With gels and soaps we dried up the invasive premature infection on his face.

That pimple was definitely a marker for what will be the start of a phase I am not exactly looking forward to: snappy kids that talk back and need constant reminders of who is boss, mood swings that are never understood (not even by them), challenging questions to test limits and,  oh my,  kids that after school, fill my car with the smell of dirt and sweat that remind me they are not kids anymore!  :/

My daughter is following right behind. While she is ever so careful with her personal hygiene, she is at the age where, while she can’t sleep without her stuffed bunny, she also listens to songs that could very well be in my own playlists, and likes to wear mascara on special occasions.  I remember it myself as being very confusing, should I act like a sweet little girl or should I make it clear and apparent I almost a teenager and act super cool?

Just last weekend my daughter and I went to see the kids from School of Rock in town, perform at a local  family friendly bar/restaurant. My friend’s daughter was performing, she has been into music and performing arts for years now, she is only 12.  The whole group of kids ranged anywhere from 8 years old to 14, so it was quite a mix of ages and talents. As I sat there, looking at my daughter, 10, wearing a cute and girly outfit, her heir neatly tied up, I noticed how out of place she felt- and looked. The very loud guitars and drums made it impossible to  talk, she was clearly a bit bothered by it, but refused to wear ear plugs (available for all intolerant audience members). She endured over an hour of rock music and I watched as my friend’s daughter along with other kids, were singing their hearts out and playing their instruments with a true and authentic professional attitude. Girls wearing make up, crazy hairstyles dyed with blue and purple, and clothes that made the point: I want to be a rock star.

It felt like watching kids wanting to be adults, really wanting to grow up fast and be cool teenagers. I felt older that afternoon. The memories of watching my own kids at Kindergarten Christmas recitals came flooding my head and I confirmed with myself: time flies!

Because of the abrupt circumstances in which I received the new year, no resolutions or major reflections were made. But it is never too late to stop and think what changes or additions we intend to make in our lives. On 2017 I want to make my fantasies come true about being more leisurely on my weekends. The kitchen hood can wait, the windows too. But to watch our kids grow up leaving childhood behind and turn into young adults can’t wait. Every day counts, and it is my intention to be right there with them, reinforcing the trust and communication bridges both my husband and I have built between us and them.

To answer their questions promptly before they resource to the internet when they get curious, to cheer them up after dealing with mean spirited kids at school. To laugh at the things they think are funny, because as we get old, our sense of humor changes too, and I have learned it is refreshing to really get involved and listen to their funny stories. To tuck them in at night as long as they will let us. To keep teaching them the values that we believe matter, values that will make them better people in this crazy and sick world, specially in a time where our country is so divided.

2017,  here we go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commute in Silence…where are you?

The ten days that followed my father’s passing were hard. Christmas was approaching, an emotional time of year for many. A Holiday I had planned to spend with him and my Mom. During the day there were many things to take care of: banking, legal matters, contracts; while those things helped me be distracted and busy they also served as a dam to hold in all  my feelings that were strong and fresh and building up, so the nights became even harder.

Once I was out of my Mom’s sight, I let go. The anger and the pain. Because of our crazy sleeping arrangements those days at my parents’ house in Mexico , the only one at night with me was my daughter. The same one that was next to me when I heard the news that my father had passed; she was the same one to hold me at night, and say “It is OK Mom, we will get through this together”. Only 10 years old and yet she was the little person that comforted me as much as my husband did those days. Children can be amazingly sensitive to our needs sometimes.

Having my mother here, back home with us  for two weeks after the holidays, helped us both have each other for company, for comfort, for support, as a crying shoulder. Even though she was very much in control of her emotions and surprisingly calm, she broke down crying when someone close sent her a message, an email, or would pay respects.

Me? I worked hard to be busy, to be distracted, to be watching TV or listening to the radio.  January is the busiest time of year for me at work. Being part of an Accounting department, I knew what was coming, and I welcomed the work almost thankfully.

My commute to work is an 80 – 90 minute drive,  twice a week. This is the time when I either make calls with leisure, listen to relaxing music, mostly classical or listen to the news.

It is during this commute that I always called my Dad, once or twice a week and we would chat for a good 45 minutes. He would tell me which movies and series him and my mom were into, he complained about the weather, about his arthritis and  his aching back. He would ask many questions about my children, about our new home, about work. He always wanted to know -and make sure-  that everything was ok.

We laughed a lot during those calls, making jokes about most anything. At times he would be a bit sad, lonely I could tell, on the verge of a depression. He missed his children, and the joys of having a full house, with kids or grand kids, but him and my mom had nothing ; the three of us left our hometown years ago.  Rarely he cried and vented, but sometimes he did and it broke my heart not to be able to help, to be there, to give him the love and company he yearned for.

As of today, my commute is silent. Loud, fast music annoys me. News overwhelm me, I can’t play classical music – yet. It makes me cry still.

Every now and then I will call a close friend and say hello. Now I am the one that feels lonely during those 90 minutes.

It is down time; time to reflect, to relax, to collect one’s thoughts and put them in some logical order. Yet, it is also time to accept, to process, to remember.

I find myself talking to him in my mind, asking…are you there? Can you hear me? Can you see I miss you so?

Maybe silence is what I need, to take further steps towards  the road of healing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast with my Dad

On December 14th 2016 I woke up at 6 30 am,  looked outside my bedroom window and saw one of the most spectacular morning skies I have ever seen. My daughter had just walked into my room and we were both mesmerized; we  went to fetch our cell phones to capture a little bit of what the lens could get. The sky was peach and pink, and there was still a big  full moon floating  above the hills.

I took a photo that did not do justice to what my eyes saw, but it was good enough to remember it. We both stood there, looking as the earth slowly moved making the moon disappear behind the hills.

12/14/16
Sunrise on December 14th 2016

 

Little did I know that at that same moment, my father’s heart was failing, and he was being rushed to the  hospital.  I went about my usual school day routine: breakfast, preparing lunches, getting dressed to take the kids down to school.

An hour later I found out that my Dad was struggling for his life in the hospital and my mind started going 100 Miles per hour. Should I fly out that same day? Or was it just a scare? Would he be OK? I had just spoken with him 2 days before and heard his many voice recordings on Whatssapp telling me he was so excited that I was going down to Mexico to spend Christmas.

This couldn’t be…

Fourty-five minutes later, while I sat with my daughter in the car waiting for her school to open its gates, I got the call from my brother. My Dad had passed. I reacted with screams, loud, hysterical, pained, I could not breathe , I started sweating and shaking. And then sobbing came, endless, out of breath, and it hurt. My chest hurt so much I felt I could collapse. My brother stayed silent, and waited for me to collect myself. It look me several minutes to realize that my daughter had been sitting there, on the passenger seat the whole time. I turned to see her, my face a mess; she sat there looking tiny, not her 10 years old and her regal 5 feet, but a little tiny girl that was terrified, not quite understanding what just happened, since my conversation had taken place in Spanish.

After ending my call I turned to her and told her “He just died”.  Soft sobbing came, I hugged her and we held each other for a while.

This is how December 14th started for me, the day of my sister’s birthday, which will now be marked with the end of my  father’s life but also with the joy of always remembering him as a loving, hard working, admirable and hilarious father.

Because both my Mom and Dad have had several health problems, more so lately, I have  -reluctantly- given some thought to visualizing the day they are not with me any longer.  When would the last day be?  When will the last good bye?  Will they go gently or will they suffer?  Could I stand the tremendous pain of the loss? As tears always filled my eyes when reflecting upon death, I put those thoughts away and decided to move on and enjoy them while I had them both. Email, calls, messages and as many trips as I could afford to see them. To share my family stories, my worries, my joys. To say “thank you”, I miss you”, ” I love  you”- over and over, because one can never get tired of these words.

That morning I stood in my closet with an empty suitcase, refusing to proceed pulling out my black pants and blouses. I wanted to scream, to curl up in a ball and disappear, to make it be yesterday so I could call him and say I LOVE  YOU DAD.

A couple of hours later I was on a plane feeling numb, empty and full of sorrow. I wrote then, the letter that would be my fathers eulogy. He loved my writing so the least I could do was honor him in the presence of his family and closest friends with a letter that would attempt to describe one of the most wonderful man I will ever know.

Thoughts in Motion…and then words poured relentlessly; my fingers typed with care and tenderness. Warm tears came , non stop. I was grateful not to have any passengers on either side.  Halfway between Dallas, Texas and Monterrey I finished my letter. I remember looking out the window, to the skies, the clouds, the immense space and wondering…where are you Daddy?

The next morning my father’s body would be ready for viewing. I needed to see him, to say good bye. Both my sister and I drove to the funeral home together.  I saw his face and felt out of breath again, my Dad, whom I had just spoken to a couple of days earlier to gossip and chat about anything, was in the casket, handsome as ever, wearing his one black suit and a bright yellow tie. Perfectly groomed, with a peace in his expression I do not recall ever seeing. Sobbing took over me again, I wanted to  hug him, to feel his soft hands, to talk to him. The glass that covered him was soon wet. I wanted to break it and reach in to be in my fathers arms again. But he was gone. I talked to him, kneeling by his side. Thanking him for being such a loving father, for giving me so much, and assuring him I looked my best for this day, clean shoes and all, as he taught me as a little girl.

My sister and I shared this very intimate moment that will forever be sealed in my heart. We cried together and held each other. Soon  dozens of people would arrive and this moment would end. The thought was sickening.

My husband and children joined me the day after. We had a small intimate ceremony at home in which we spread some of  his ashes in one of his gardens and I was very happy to have them by my side those days.

My Dad had been growing and caring for some fruit trees in the back yard for years now.  He often bragged about all they fruit he got every year from them. He really enjoyed this as a hobby and often sent pictures of him sitting or standing by his trees.

After the ashes were spread , we had a party, -as he had requested in written form in a document we found from 2008- His family came from Chihuahua to the services, so we invited them all to our house to celebrate my Dad’s life, to share stories, mostly funny ones and moving ones. We played his favorite music (Zarzuelas and Spanish Opera).  I barely remember any of it, I feel like I wasn’t really there. It was over before I knew it.  Then everyone said good bye, they have lives to go back to, families, jobs…and the house felt empty again. My Dad’s absence became a presence.

The next morning I woke very early. The house felt very still, quiet, and everyone was still sleeping. I made myself a cup of coffee, black. I went outside in my pajamas  still, and sat in one of the tables we rented for the party.

The wind was blowing very gently; all the leaves in his fruit trees were moving softly. I looked at all of them, and felt so calm. As my brain started waking up and awareness of the events registered, a sudden pain  in my chest came with a deep sadness and realization. He was gone. And I missed him- a lot. I stood up and walked over to a tree that had some tangerine oranges begging to be picked. I took one, peeled it and took it back to the table. I ate it all, enjoying the sweet and tangy flavor, as he would. “You did good Daddy”- I thought.

I finished my coffee and sat there crying freely, no one to stare at me, to try to make my stop crying. It was me and my Dad there and then. Me and his trees. Me and his messy garden. I felt him there with me , at our last breakfast together.

I love you Daddy, always will. Rest in Peace.

Last photo of my Dad 12/7/2016
Last photo of my Dad 12/7/2016

 

 

Fall, Middle School and Vivaldi

Summer passed (yey) and my favorite time of the year is here: fall.  Fall equals cozy, beautiful colors in the trees, pumpkin everything (Oreo cookies? really?); fall is butternut squash recipes, creams and soups, fall is dressing up the house with Halloween theme first, then Thanksgiving followed by Christmas. My second favorite time of year.

Updates on previous topics: after giving up on decent technology to have Internet at home, we decided to go for Satellite Internet, the worse one can have (only because Dial up doesn’t exist anymore). I can finally work from home, no need to bother my cousin at her home, or buy dozens of unnecessary Starbucks drinks and treats to use their Wifi, or 2 hour trips to the library with my kids objecting every time.

Our speed is good enough for me to work, or pay bills on line, or my husband to research a topic, but definitely not good enough to stream Netflix or You Tube. Our kids were extremely upset at first, asking me…”If we can’t watch Netflix or You Tube Videos, or Play on the Xbox Live , why would we want Internet at all?” Unbelievable what the concept of Internet has  become for the kids.   That afternoon I explained to the kids how I used to do my research for Middle and High School: Encyclopedia Britannica.

My daughter said, “Oh yes, I have seen those thick books at your Mom’s house”. I bet she thought they were ornaments for people that want to seem smart. I made them appreciate what it is to have data at the click of a finger for any imaginable subject.

I honestly find this situation an opportunity. Our kids are still reading more than they did all last year, and we spend good quality time with them after dinner, on a slow morning on weekends, before bedtime.

About my mom:  She had tests done a month ago and no clots were found: none.  I was so blown away by the results, I had to hear it directly from the Cardiologist, so I reached out to him kindly asking for a brief summary of his findings, and he replied confirming that he and his team were as pleasantly surprised as us. We all prayed a lot…a lot. I believe the power of prayer, plus the determination (and stubbornness) that my mom possesses, and of course, the medication –medication that “could only do so much”, in the words of the doctor- all contributed to a very successful result.  My mom if now off the oxygen machine and as of today, October 30th 2016, has taken 2 trips already.

On October 12 she landed in Tijuana, Mexico. I had the joy of having her visit, and stay at our house for 10 days. I got all the equipment she needed: power wheelchair, Oxygen for night time only, and my (adorable, amazing) husband made her a ramp in an hour, to make her access to the house smoother.

Our kids knew what happened to her in July, everything, they saw me cry many times, and be sad for her, and some of that sadness got to them; they were a bit worried, and my daughter specially, prayed for her many nights. Our son is a bit less expressive, less comfortable with showing feelings, yet they were both as affectionate as I know they can be with her, each one in their own way.

Like many kids, they don’t have any of their grandparents in town, so when one of them visits, it is very special to them. My mom truly enjoyed the house, the ease with which she could move in a one story home, the wheelchair friendly bathroom we designed for her, every inch of it.

But more than the house, she could not get enough of the mountain views, the hillsides with perfect rows of fruit trees, bright healthy green,that go for miles to the west of our house.

The sunsets that look like the sun is exploding with unique orange and pink colors as it sets and disappears, leaving us holding up our cameras that fail every time, to capture the beauty of it.

Every morning she sat at the end of the dining room table, sitting facing west, looking at it all morning as she applied her make-up, read in her kindle, or had breakfast.

Once I told her, “Mom, let’s go out to the patio to eat”, she said, “I am already outside”.  We have no blinds or curtains, it was all as enjoyable to her  from her spot in the dining room.

I observed every day all that it meant for her to travel, with her aide, her wheelchair, her seat cushions, her medications, her foot brace she uses at night. Her dozen creams and make up (it’s no wonder she has the complexion of a 40 year old), and she never fails to amaze me: there is no limit for her. She will bring whatever it takes with her, to visit her children, to be there, to see her grand kids, to be part of our lives, not just from a distance, but in person.

She told me one afternoon, “I really like spending time with the 3 of you” (meaning my siblings and I).After that, I didn’t care much about taking her out, to the mall, to go grocery shopping, because I understood very clearly she was there for me, to be with me, so see our lives from within, our family and be a part of it for a few days.

I felt like a plant that was being watered: fed, nurtured. I had not realized how much I needed her, just as she needs us. My husband told me more than twice that week “It is really nice to see you so happy.”

Our kids and my husband really enjoyed her company. The day she left my son’s first words that afternoon when I got home where “The house feels very empty Mom”.

We are looking forward to her next visit.

Our kids are doing very well at school. Our son is still getting used to Middle School. The change is big and I am not sure he embraces every aspect of it. The first week of school he came home to tell me his school was “rated R”. Because all he heard were bad words. He quoted several kids very disapprovingly and said they were completely inappropriate. (By the way, he is 11)

We have been giving him advice on how to deal with bullies, or just aggressive verbal kids. How to be likable to…..yes: girls!  We are already there. I can’t believe my baby boy has a crush on a girl. He is almost as tall as me, which I am still getting used to.  Eleven years old and 5’5”.   I find it a bit harder to lecture him or give him the “Homework and chores first” speech when he is almost eye-to eye level with me.

I know my daughter will catch up fast too, so either I start wearing heels more often, or use a step ladder to give my speeches, or just get us all used to the shorty mom still be the boss of them (I am 5’8” and yet I will be shorty soon).

The signs of growth and maturity have also been very “loud and clear” with our daughter too: no crushes or boy talk,  but perfume, colored lip gloss and pimple cream (even when she doesn’t have a single one yet),  fancy shampoos and flowery scents all over her room, and a taste in music that keeps surprising me.  She will sing to Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me, Erasure, Neil Diamond, the Fratellis and then Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber, Arianna Grande. The girl is carrying the very mixed tastes of her parents, the radio top 40 and then some. She will happily dance to it all.

And speaking of music…Our son is taking Viola lessons at school. For the first 2 months he absolutely hated the class. Month 3: he is reading music, playing basic simple songs that he knows (like Jingle Bells) and loving the sound of his Viola along with 20 other kids that take the Strings Class. His first concert will be in 2 weeks.

I love listening to him practice at home. Even if this doesn’t last for the rest of Middle School , just this year has brought him the basic knowledge of what music is, how difficult and challenging it can be to read music, to play with others, to combine sounds, and to build and maintain  the harmony needed to be part of a Strings group and on a bigger scale, an Orchestra.

For the last months, as we drive to or from school, he asks if he can select the music to play during the drive, I always say yes. He will choose Bach, Debussy, Edvard Grieg (one of his favorites), Tchaikovsky and lately Vivaldi.

He plays it loud and asks us to please be quiet. I love every minute of it.

Every now and then both kids will say a piece sounds familiar, so I remind them about the Baby Einstein and Little Einsteins videos we played for them a zillion times as babies and toddlers.

I have friends with kids that just left for college and often talk about how they miss them and how the house feels empty. These are constant reminders for me to enjoy our own, at this age. They can be so much fun as they can drive us crazy sometimes. They keep teaching me lessons, to calm down, to chill. To take it easy, to watch my back (literally) and not bend over or carry heavy things, since I have had several episodes of severe pain and days of being bed bound.

They have become much more helpful around the house. More opinionated, more curious just about anything. More involved in our conversations, in politics (Can’t wait ‘til elections pass!). But all of it makes them more aware about the world, and not just the small bubble they live in.

I have learned lately that I have to be extremely careful with what I say in front of them, because…THEY WILL REPEAT IT!!!  This has already caused embarrassing moments.

Our house keeps getting little things (that I buy) here and there, more color, more personality, more “homey”. I am loving it and feel blessed and fortunate for being where we are today.

I went to a PET SHOP BOYS concert last night. I enjoyed it a lot since I almost never go to concerts: my husband is happy to listen to our son play the viola for 30 minutes and that’s about as “concert” as it will get for him. So I go with girlfriends every now and then. Listening to the songs I danced to in my 20s brought back very good memories at the same time as I watched the lead singer (completely bald) singing his nasal, high pitched  voice to Go West , It’s a Sin, Domino Dancing and New York City Boy –among others- made me realize….we are the old crowd for many! But, who cares. We had fun, enjoyed the music AND had midnight tacos (at 2 am) like on the old days.

I must head back home now to start testing my Blondie recipe in our oven that I have yet to master.

Must get ready for Christmas time,  when I have many batches to bake.

Happy Autumn Season.

This was really…September 4th.

Back -posted, after 2 months of craziness…here is entry from 2 months ago:

As a quick reference to my previous post…we are still off the grid, just like I suspected it would happen.  We have found additional spots in the house where our cell phones get reception, so it is “partially” off the grid I guess.

In the past 3 months (it has been almost 4 since we moved) I have tried to make the house feel and look more like a home. With the constant and unconditional help of my (very patient) husband, we have hung several paintings here and there. And added some décor items around. Some of them reminders of our previous home, some brand new.

Almost a year ago, my husband noticed a Latin Art Festival was going to take place in San Diego. We attended and walked through several dozen stands that offered a variety of artwork, from photography, pottery, weaving, painting, sculpture and food. A couple of artists caught our attention, so we took their cards and added our names/emails addresses to their newsletter lists. Ever since, we have attended 2 more art walks in the area. We always take the kids with us. With technology brutally taking over kids’ spare time today, I strongly believe that we -as parents- have to take charge in the roll of instilling other interests. From sports, to arts, to cooking, or just plain relaxing and reading a book for a while. “Down time” seems to be a rare thing in high risk of extinction among children and preteens today…and adults too!

I was very pleased when, at our second fair – an annual event that takes place in Palm Desert, CA- both kids walked out with something beautiful that they chose and loved.  My daughter chose a photography of a very calm and relaxing beach, printed in a sheet of aluminum that sits on a stand.  My son, a print (of an original painting) of 3 wolves. He met the artist at the stand, she told our son the story of the wolves. They were rescued and cared for as cubs. The 3 of them had different conditions that made it impossible to release them. And sadly, they all died young. The artist did and amazing job capturing the look in their eyes and the softness of their fur.

My husband and I had grown a strong interest in the work of a Mexican artist that paints abstract, very colorful pieces. Alejandro Martinez-Pena. We had been following him since the first fair. And just a month ago, we were able to purchase one of his paintings. It is so bright and colorful we decided to place it at the entryway of the house. It is the first thing you see when the front door opens.

On another note, exactly 2 months ago, my mother fell ill and gave us all quite a scare. I don’t think I will ever forget that 4th of July when I received a call that announced that my mom had been rushed into the hospital. That night, the fireworks at full blast as I stood there in the small area that has cell phone coverage, desperate to receive more calls or texts with an update. I knew close to nothing. It was a horrible feeling; I felt out of the loop, in the dark. Fortunately, my sister was in the area, and she was able to get us both tickets to fly out the next day. I barely slept that night. My brain turned into a type of movie player, and all the trips we took with her instantly came streaming one after the other. Only my player had scents included, so I could smell my mom’s perfume, and her natural motherly sweet smell that I love.

Her laugh, her smile, her many life lessons, her optimism despite the challenges she has faced since her twenties, when the stoke happened.

I tried to remember when and how many times I told her I loved her. Have I said “thank you” for all the many things she has taught me? For shaping me up to be the woman I am now? Have I hugged and kissed her as much as I can on every visit or trip with her?

The flight down to Monterrey seemed to take forever. I felt numb most of the way; I had episodes of non-stop crying, when I was very grateful that my companion was my sister. I felt terrified that something would happen. I felt angry for being so far. I felt sad for her loneliness. My sister held my hand and squeezed it hard to show her support, and me hers, as my crying became contagious.

The next week was one of the worst I have ever lived. My mom was in the ICU, so visits where somewhat controlled and limited. I say “somewhat” because we found ways to bend the rules and flex the hours every single day, so that my mom had one of us with her most of the time. Using the excuse that my mom had a hard time speaking clearly,  we convinced the nurses what it was better for everyone of she had one person there as a translator. Whether they bought it or not, it worked. It was bad enough seeing her with needles on her neck (IV) and oxygen and monitors on her chest and forehead. The last thing we could stand was have her being alone.

That week, my sister – who is tiny but as the eldest, the big boss nonetheless- took the overnight shift and sent me home every night. She knows I have a very light sleep, while she can sleep with a Mexican wedding party next to her. So she decided I was to rest at night and be bright and happy during the day, to keep our Mom company, cheer her up, and of course, see to all the visitors at the hospital, who were really visiting us, as my Mom could only see family members. It worked perfect. Towards the end of the week though, I did see the lack of restful sleep take a toll on my sister.

My mom was diagnosed with a condition (forgot the name) where her own blood creates clots. We were all quite surprised that this diagnose had not come up years earlier, as her Cardiologist expressed his suspicions that this condition might be the culprit of the stroke she had 42 years ago.

Not only did I pray hard that week for my mother’s pain to be over, the needles out, the tubes, all the invasion; but also, I prayed for recovery, for a solution. I was so very grateful that she had access to a medical facility as the one where she was, the means to pay for it, the amazing doctors that had her case, and most of all, for an anti-clotting medication that would solve the problem of future clot formation.

My mom’s mental strength (and stubbornness to recover) was so, that after almost 2 weeks in the hospital, in a state where we had to spoon feed her due to the weakness in the right arm, today she is feeding herself again. She can have phone conversations again, she goes out to the movies and to have coffee with her friends taking along her small mobile oxygen tank. She is counting the days so that her doctor authorizes her to fly, and she can finally come out to see our home.

Life is most definitely a mystery, in terms of how long do we get to be around our loved ones. Yes, healthy lifestyles help -quite a bit- but there are so many things moving and happening around us that are out of our control, so many diseases still invincible, that we really never know.

One thing I took away after those weeks of emotional pain : enjoy today….at the fullest. Express love and gratitude whenever you can. Make someone’s day better with something as simple as a sincere smile.

 

 

 

First Month In:  scraped knees, off the grid and coyotes howling.

I cannot say time flies right now; this first month after we moved in really has felt like a full month.

We knew that getting Internet and a land line would present a challenge in this hilly area. After a painful and thorough research, we concluded that Satellite Internet (slow as a donkey, reliable as the weather man and expensive as limes in California) was not what we wanted, which meant settling for DSL technology.

Considering I work from home, this issue was not something to take lightly. The one and only company that services this area is so slammed with orders and all sorts of problems after buying  a big part of Verizon’s telecommunications, that I’ve had to call them around 10 times to schedule, reschedule, confirm and reconfirm our service. Tomorrow is the big day of hooking us up. I am not getting my hopes up until I can actually see my laptop reaching out into the big WWW.

During this first month, I have made my place of work all of these: primarily my (very generous) cousin’s house, but also Mc Donald’s, Starbucks, the City Library, my son’s swim school, my daughter’s Dance studio. Wifi has never been as valuable as this last month. But I am tired of chasing the signals and can’t wait to actually sit at MY desk which has been empty – and very organized- since May 14th.

Being “off the grid” has also meant no Internet for the kids, no You Tube, no Animal Jam, no Xbox Live. As dramatic as it sounded at the beginning, the kids have gotten used to it.  We had the luck of having neighbors close; a family with a boy, my son’s age, who likes biking. So he has been biking up and down our road, more than he has biked during the last 3 years. He has scrapped his knees more than once but has kept at it. He and his newfound friend have discovered a way to make their bikes sound like motorcycles by jamming a flattened water bottle between the frame and the tire. It is hilarious. Even my daughter has joined them in their biking adventures on several occasions. Needless to say, now she wants a bike that looks like a boys’ bike: all black.

I love watching them do things that they had stashed somewhere in the back of their minds: crafts, drawing and even reading.  Of course, every now and then we get the “I am bored”, so they are obligated to get creative or just go watch TV…that, we do have.

Me?  Not having messages constantly coming in from the half a dozen groups I am in, or email from 4 different accounts is actually de-stressing. I don’t find myself checking my phone or checking facts on google when I am in doubt about…anything, you name it. Every time the kids question me about something I am not 100% sure about, I just say:  “ I don’t know”, end of story. And if I do know, there is no chance of my son second guessing me and checking Google to check my facts: sweet.

Another effect of being off the grid: a little bit more conversation. More deep conversation: the last chat I had with my 11 year old son, he asked me…”Mom, you know how there are couples with 2 men, or 2 women? So, how do they make babies?”

After a very clear, age appropriate answer about Sperm banks and surrogate moms, he said, “oh, ok. I wonder how high my cholesterol is…”

Just like that he ended the subject and as easy as eating pie he started with the subject of his own health. So, yes, different conversations for sure. It probably has to do with his age. This business with the tweens and Middle school, I don’t know. It scares me!

The noises in and around the house have also changed quite a bit. We no longer get speeding cars right on our street or street racing at night like before. Or neighbors partying hard just yards away.

The mornings are exceptionally quiet and serene, the air around us feels crisp and chill. I have heard birds that I have never heard before, making sounds I wouldn’t imagine a bird can do. I heard the sound of squirrels too. The sounds I am not crazy about at night: packs of coyotes all over, near and far, always moving. Very distinct, is the howling of the leader, who clearly has a dominant sound. I know we will all get used to it.

On another note, I am actually getting comfortable in the kitchen. After many frustrating moments and several pages on a variety of manuals, I now know how to use the temperature probe in the oven, and I have almost accomplished the level of not burning the scrambled eggs on our cook top. Apparently the BTU’s do matter. Sometimes I feel like my heat resistant spoons are going to melt! Everything with measure, they say.

Even though we are going through the worst heat wave ever since we moved here (117 F today), the rest of the time has been extremely pleasant during the day and chilly at night. Consistently around 5 degrees cooler than down in the valley, where the City is.  So, I still have not been able to put away all my sweaters and light coats; they are hanging right next to my summer clothes. But I have resigned to the fact that it is the way it is in most of California: flip flops during the day, and sometimes boots at night.

One month in and less than 5 boxes left unpacked: not bad at all. We are missing several sets of furniture, which makes the house fells pretty spacious. As we start getting couches and tables, the house will feel fuller and cozier I hope.  Hanging art and photos should help too.

The first week here I was reminded of when we moved into our last home. My dad flew in to help us clean up, unpack and arrange what we had then. I remembered perfectly how we arranged plates, cups, cleaning supplies. He helped scrub floors and toilets, and the countertops too. I was (and still am) very grateful for his help and his company as well.

The day I arranged my plates, cups and containers here, I found myself a bit teary eyed remembering those days. I felt pretty lonely that morning. The kids were in school, my husband at work, and there I was, one of the most exciting weeks of my life, having reached a milestone to remember for many years to come, but all by myself this one time. I missed my Dad very much that day.

Our guest bathroom was designed in every sense to accommodate my wheelchair bound mom. Spacious with a roll in shower and safety grab bars; looking at it made me miss her too. I can’t wait to have her here.

Two weeks after we moved in, my husband mustered up the energy and resolve to install a sound system in the house, which he had previously wired the house for. This was my Christmas present that I had only enjoyed by looking at the half a dozen boxes in the garage.

Ten speakers or so where installed in the ceilings of different rooms, a controller for each room and the central brains of the system were all put in place in 2 days. The evening he tested it out, he used my Ipod (since we don’t have Internet to stream music online), so the songs were all mine.

My husband knows that music is one of my passions, my mood changes dramatically when I have music in the house or in my car. Music takes me places, it makes my brain work in a different way; it’s hard to explain. But I feel empty and lacking when I don’t have music with me. I have noticed that our days start better when I play the right music for the kids while cooking and eating breakfast.

Because my kids are not old enough to buy their own music yet, they have had to listen to mine (and my husbands’). So it is not surprising that my daughter has come to love Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, A-ha, Abba, and Dance/Electronic Music too. She loves dancing, so Music is a big part of her too. At the same time, both the kids have gotten used to Neil Diamond, which our parents used to listen to, so we both like as well. It is like a generational musical transcendence. And I love it.

In our old home, I used to have a Blue Tooth Bose Speaker he gave me as a present, and I would carry it around or play it loud so I could hear it everywhere.  So when he told me about this Christmas present, in times where things where already tight with the construction going on, I was tremendously grateful.

So back to the day he tested the new system, I was getting dressed in my closet, where there is a speaker. Suddenly I heard a piece from the Classical Ballet Coppelia, by Leo Delibes.  I heard the whole piece as I got dressed, then I just had to sit down on the edge of the tub and take it all in.

My first time at a Professional Ballet performance was at age 7. My Dad, lover of Classical and Opera took me one night, and this is the Ballet we saw: Coppelia. I was mesmerized by the graceful movements of the tiny ballerinas, the intensity of the live orchestra, the costumes, the beauty of it all.

So sitting there at the edge of my tub, I started crying uncontrollably. I was happy, extremely happy and overwhelmed.

I realized my husband had gone through back breaking work (climbing into the attic more than twice to find lost cable ends), covered in fiberglass, all itchy and sweaty, just to give me the joy of music.

To top it off, he tested the system with music that takes me back to 1978, that night at the theatre with my Dad.

I came out of the bathroom sobbing of joy. He found me in the hallway walking towards him and gave me a worried and puzzled look.

I hugged him tight and thanked him for all his work. Like the ABBA song says “Thank you for the music…”

Life has been good to me so far, extremely good. Some things we worked for, some we deserve, somethings are pure luck. All together I am grateful and very appreciative of the many joys I have today: my health, my precious family (immediate and extended!) and –always- the music.

More to come…hopefully form my home’s Internet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom, Dad, it’s just a house…

 

I wonder how many times this phrase has been said, yelled, or at least insinuated, to all those elderly couples that suddenly find themselves living in a home too big for them, a home too expensive and empty for them, and yet, too painful to leave, to sell.

I bet millions, all over the world, in many languages and in many tones- angry, sad, or even in attempted cheerfulness.

Personally, I have said it several times to my Dad, not many, as I have tried to be sensitive about the delicate subject which has several implications and consequences if it is acted upon (the dreaded sell).

My parents, as many others, live in a 4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom home, with a square footage that screams emptiness, especially in the social/living areas.  A house that –like I have mentioned in earlier blog entries- shows many signs of its age and demands expensive attention if one would want to restore it to its 1980’s glory days.

My siblings and myself all live out of town- which is truly unfortunate. That means all grand kids are away too. So the spacious home is a constant reminder of the sad fact that the loved ones live far and away-or at least that is what it feels to me when I have the pleasure of going back to visit.

Are other grandparents’ homes going through the same abandonment or possibly even neglect? They probably are.

Financial worries become a reality for most middle class seniors, even when there’s enough to live on; that lingering worry about medical expenses, unfulfilled traveling dreams, helping out the “kids” who are all grown up and doing well anyway, but they are still referred to as “the children”.

And yet, the thought of selling their home is unbearable; it is the building that witnessed a lifetime of childhood memories, good and bad, growth, conflict during the teenage years, the first boyfriends and girlfriends; the parties. The lazy afternoons. Houses that saw a crazy parade of a technology blend and become part of the household: the brand new Beta Video player, or cordless TV control, the strange box that heats up food fast, called Microwave.

Homes that for decades waited for us after a long trip, with that very own and particular scent of Home Sweet Home. Warm and dry in a cruel winter, or cool and comfy in a hot sticky summer day.

Homes were countless meals where prepared, enjoyed and remembered. Vivid conversations after many meals (in Mexico referred to as “sobre mesa”), the nice long chats over coffee and dessert about anything- there were no banned subjects, at least not in our home.

In my parents’ home, many upgrades and improvements were made throughout the decades. Improvements that cost money, sacrifices, time and great care. Improvements that made my Mom and Dad very proud of their home.

A home in a way, defines a part of you. This doesn’t hold true for everyone, but for my Dad, I always believed it did. His little backyard overcrowded with fruit trees still does today.

This touchy subject of selling the house has surfaced several times in our family in the last couple of years, and until recently, I had never given it the thought I am now. Selling the house that has been your home for most of your life must be difficult; an experience exploding with mixed feelings.

My husband and I bought our 1st home exactly 12 years ago, just 8 months after our wedding.

Our first big project was to remodel the Master bathroom. Out went the big nasty tub, old sinks and sagging vanities. In came gorgeous Mexican Talavera vessel sinks, contemporary cabinets and a very roomy shower with a glass door. Worth every penny. It took all our savings and some convenient Home Depot financing. We felt so proud, especially since it was all done (most of it) by my super handyman husband and his Dad: Grandpa Ross.

Less than a year later we had our son. As soon as he started crawling we removed the carpets, because the allergic reaction to dust was very dramatic. He had a bad case of Eczema and the doctor said removing the carpets would improve his health. So we saved some money and did the 1st floor only in a beautiful Cherry wood. The second floor was another project to start saving on, back then.

A year later, when our daughter was born, our AC broke. I will never forget those afternoons (only a week but it felt like the whole summer), she was only a few days old in early July 2006, temperatures registered triple digits, while I was attempting the motherly duty to breastfeed. All I remember is excruciating pain, non-stop sweating and sleepless nights, sweating in bed or trying to calm down our colicky baby. It was not fun.

So a few thousand dollars later, we got ourselves a brand new AC. Ouch, that hurt, but summers where we live always reach triple digits, so not having an AC was a sad option, and definitely not an option for a home with a newborn.

And so the years passed, and like all houses, they are a bottomless money pit, but all those “investments” made out house more beautiful, more our own, and of course, we always thought of the resell value.

Now, in 2016, after 2 years of planning and spending many nights drawing, redrawing, and putting together our “must haves” wish list, and with the invaluable help of my friend who is an Architect, this drawings and lists were transformed into a reality. And with it came, the time came to move.

We de-cluttered the house, sold some furniture, packed and stored away what was not frequently used, painted and scrubbed, and once the house looked spotless and spacious, we listed it for sale.  Three days later we had 5 offers, and a week later we accepted one. After arranging a back-rent deal with the new owner, we started packing and getting ready to move.

Little by little, box by box, our house became more and more empty. More echoes could be heard as we talked. Less homey scents filled the house, no matter how many candles I lit those last weeks. Not a single family picture was left, barely any toys or Legos on the floor.

The last week we were still living in our house, just as I expected, many memories surfaced of our first years there. When it was just two of us, how spacious it felt after living in a 2 bedroom condo! How we loved having a backyard. I remembered all the years when our kids were still babies, still crawling and how they would sneak through a child-proof fence and start climbing up the stairs while we were distracted. The many parties we threw, from the House Warming party, when I drank quite a bit not knowing I was already expecting my first born! …to the dozen or so birthday parties for our kids.

That last week I took a walk one evening, all by myself, around the neighborhood, I watched, observed the homes around us, the proximity between one house and the next one. The sense of “tight community” this gives, even though we never really knew any of the neighbors. The different smells, someone drying clothes, I could smell the Laundry Detergent all the way out by a driveway; someone else was cooking a hearty meal. Another was grilling. Some other were having a smoke outside.

The “trick or treat” routes we took with our kids every October 31st came to mind as well. The very first one with my son in a stroller, the last one just months ago wearing a Scary Wolf Costume.

When we first bought the house, I used to enjoy watching all the little kids walking to and from school from our living room window, and I wondered what it would feel like to take my own to the school just 3 blocks away.

I wondered if I would miss this feeling of being in the middle of a busy and tightly packed neighborhood. The background noises ever present, the barking dogs….scratch that- I would never miss that.

It was a sad walk, a farewell in a sense.  I knew I would miss having the school so close. We were going from a 15 minute walk to a 25 minute drive. A sacrifice I decided to make so that our kids could stay in the same School District.

I came back home a bit droopy. I looked at our small kitchen and remembered the dozens of Blondies I had baked every Christmas for the last 12 years in that oven. The “excuse me”  kitchen, we called it. Because if more than 1 person was in it that is all you would hear: to open the fridge, to open the dishwasher, to reach for a drawer, you name it, it was always “excuse me!”

I realized that it no longer felt like home. I already felt like a spectator. I was standing there, but my heart wasn’t in it.  We were actually renting the house.

That last night, when I went to tuck my daughter into bed, we both laid down, looking up at her Glow-in-the-dark plastic starts we had gotten her many years ago, and we both confessed we were sad, and feeling already homesick. We would miss our house -we both agreed- and shed some tears.

On Saturday May 14th, with the help of half a dozen good friends, we emptied out the house. For reasons I still don’t know, we were all running, rushing, packing up, loading trailers, taping the last boxes. Three hours later, the house was completely empty.

Someone asked me “Are you sad that you are leaving this house? It is a beautiful house and you lived here so many years”.  I realized then, that the morning had been so rushed and crazy, that my brain didn’t have a split second to think about that.  The last picture of the 4 of us standing in front of the house never happened, there was no time, no matter how many days in advance I had thought about having it taken by a friend. That day I was so stressed trying to move at the same speed as everyone else, and getting my daughter ready for a Dance Competition (yes, that very same day!), that I didn’t allow myself to cry or even be sad.

He truth is, I had a full month of slowly letting the feelings flow, a month of remembering, of thinking, and a month of getting prepared for what was to come: living in a house that was designed by us, every inch of it, and even though the very dramatic change was a bit nerve wrecking, I was super excited too.

Today, after 10 days in our new house, I now am starting to get attached to it, to like it’s scent when I open the door (except when my son or daughter leave their dirty socks right there at the mud room floor).

I will always remember the many afternoons I spent there with friends, with the amazing ladies I have met through school, the many play dates my kids had with the neighbors/friends.  The nice walks I took in the evenings.

Thank you all for your help when I struggled as a working mom with the schedules, the classes and the errands, thank you for your friendship and your support. Even though we are now some miles away, our home will always be open for you…and we would love to see you all there.