In Memory of my Mother- The Gift of Time.

When do I write?

When she is still so fresh in my mind? When it still hurts so deeply to remember her smile, her laugh, her touch?

Or when the pain subsides a little bit and I won’t cry a river with every sentence that reminds me of her?

I am afraid, I have been afraid of writing this very blog entry for months; when I knew my mother’s health has deteriorating faster as the months passed by.  For the past two years she had been the biggest fan of my blog. She not only read every single piece, but commented, congratulated me and passed the link on to dozens of friends and relatives who would otherwise never had read me.

Today I feel like I am writing to a silent audience, writing a blog entry that will lack my mom’s watchful eye and appreciation. But I want to believe that she can hear my inner voice and almost listen to my words as I type them.

On September 16th 2017, my mother Olga Victoria Lozano passed away. One month ago, today.

For those of you reading this blog for the first time, I will say this much. My mother had a stroke at age 27.  She was married to my father and had 3 children, all under age 5, me being the middle one.

After a very pessimistic diagnose and almost dying, she proved how strong willed she was, and took on her paralysis and all the limitations that came with the stroke, with her head held up high and a dignified and optimistic attitude towards life that became my motivation and still is, even now that she has left this world.

For years she did physical therapy, speech therapy and went through at least half a dozen surgeries. She regained strength on her right side.  Her left side never recovered and she was never again able to move her left arm or leg.

Many health problems surfaced during the 43 years that followed. She was bound to a wheelchair and her sedentary lifestyle lead to more complications.

After several years of having problems with kidney stones, these became more serious during the last 3:  kidney infections, severe pain, stones blocking the flow, etc.

On the morning of  September 15th, she was undergoing a laser procedure to dissolve several kidney stones. At that time, I was visiting Portland, Oregon on an anniversary trip with my husband.

My brother, the youngest of us 3 was there with her; he was supposed to call me and my sister letting us know how it all went, once she was in the recovery room.

But 3 hours after my mom had gone into the OR, I still had not heard from him and I knew something had not gone well.

He finally called and told me there had been complications and my mom was not well. It was serious.

All I could imagine was my mom laying in a hospital bed, fading, and me, thousands of miles away, as was my sister, who was also travelling.  I was so desperate and broken up inside in small tiny pieces. My husband and I managed to cancel all that we had booked and flew back home that same afternoon.

We got home on the 15th at night, and explained to our kids why we were back so early. They were both worried about their grandma.  During the flight I had recorded a voice message for my brother to play for my mom. I wanted her to hear my voice, even if she was sedated.   And he did play it, 3 times he later said. In it, I told her I was on my way to be with her, and take care of her.

The next day, on the 16th, I took a direct flight to Chihuahua. I was picked up and transferred to the hospital immediately. Upon my arrival, my brother, surrounded then by family and friends, pulled me aside to a private room and told me so tenderly and lovingly that we needed to remember that my mother had always instructed us to never ever authorize any form of artificial life support on her, such as a tracheotomy, feeding tubes, etc.  I did not understand why he was telling me this.  My mom was still breathing and her heart was beating, so why this seriousness?

I asked him directly between sobs “Isn’t she going to make it?”  He shook his head and calmly said “No”.

I wanted to scream and run somewhere, but all I did was cried as loud I have ever cried in my life. And he held me and I could tell seeing me like that was hurting him. He had known my mom’s condition for the last 24 hrs. but had not wanted to tell me over the phone, so he had some time to process the facts and prepare.

I didn’t. I felt like it was all a dream and I was only half awake.  I couldn’t stop shaking and I was having a hard time breathing. A lady from the staff came in told us we could go in to see her.

I walked in her little room with my brother, feeling with every step so much pain and desperation I thought I wouldn’t make it to her bed. Then I saw her; I couldn’t believe only 2 months before I had visited her, on the same stupid hospital, and said goodbye to her with a big smile and warm hug, assuming we would see each other in October- when she had planned to visit me.

She laid there, aided by a respirator, monitors and IVs all over, sedated, pale. I immediately laid right next to her and hugged her tight. And sobbed, cried so much I felt bad to bring so much sadness and pain to her. But how could I to bring strength with me if I was supposed to say a last good bye to my mother? To the woman I have loved the most in my life? To the woman who gave me life and had adored me unconditionally for 46 years. Who taught me life lessons like no one ever had?  I could not say good bye to her. I wanted to feel her warm hand stroke my head like she used to do.  Hear her low soft voice. I wanted to breathe her motherly scent and fill my lungs with it. And all I could smell was the horrible bleached gowns and bed sheets. My brother broke down as well, just looking at the sad picture, looking at his sister completely falling apart and losing all reason and strength.

I talked to my mother then, I said thank you to her, for all she had been, for all she gave us, for being so generous during her life.  I told her to fly away to all those cities she dreamed of visiting, to be free at last. Free of her crippled body, of her damned wheelchairs.  I told her everything would be alright.  I saw the tiniest movement in one of her eyelids.

My brother stood there next to the bed, and helped me wrap my mom’s arms around me, as if she was hugging me, because I needed one last motherly hug.  I don’t know if 10 or 15 minutes passed, but I heard a nurse come in and my brother asked her if her heartbeat was  slowing fading. I don’t remember her answering. She just adjusted the monitors and muted them, and quietly left the room.

My brother then told me “She is leaving now”. I panicked at the thought of not feeling her warmth any more.  I stood up and kissed her feet, her hands, her head, as much as I could. My brother then laid next to her and sobbed and hugged her.

I kept holding her hands, being as close as I could to her. I felt her forehead getting colder, then her neck, then her hands and I felt as though the life in me was draining as well.

This was not supposed to be!  She was already planning to come visit me in California in 2 weeks. We were going to spend Christmas with her in only 3 months. I had just ordered her some sandals online for her.  This was all wrong.

But there she was, peacefully lying there, letting go of this life, letting go of her tired and sick body that for so many years kept her from being the free spirit and the adventurous soul she always was. I want to believe she had been waiting for me, just to give me the precious gift of some minutes with her, still warm, heart still beating and listening to my voice one last time. A gift of time, that’s what she gave me.

My brother left the room and gave me some more time with her. I kept trying to find warm spots on her body. I wrapped my hands around her back and found that it was still very warm.

I leaned in and hugged her, feeling her warm back, and cried softly, finding it impossible to let go.

The same lady that had led us in came again and took my shoulders. She pulled me back; as I refused, I begged for more time. She gently said,  “You will never be ready, you need to let her go”. She hugged me tight and let me cry all over again.

Breaking the horrible news to my sister -who was desperate, flying back home from Europe- was extremely hard too. I refused to lie to her the dozen times she called or texted asking how she was, so I decided to tell her the truth. I have never heard her cry as that morning. It broke my heart to be the  bearer of the bad news, but we are very, very close and I felt I was the one who should.

September 16, 2017 has been, as of today, the saddest day of my life. When my father died, it was hard yes, because it was sudden, totally unexpected, a heart attack. Just like that.

The painful part was getting used to the idea, processing the absence and accepting it.  But there was no painful goodbye. No horrible hospital experience (for me anyway) with total strangers among you in your worst moments.

It has been a month now, and I am afraid of thinking too much of her. Of smelling her perfume -Boucheron-on someone else.  Of looking at her pictures for too long, because it hurts.

In my head I have plans of dedicating one of the walls in our home to pictures of my Mom, my Dad, and my siblings, and yet, I can’t find myself ready to get started.

When I think of those days where I had to take anti-anxiety pills during the day and sleeping pills at night, I think of my close friends that have lost a husband or even worse, a child, and can’t even imagine how they do it.

“Time heals” they say- I sure hope it does.

Just some days before my trip to Portland, I had started to read a book that my mother gave me: Dying to be me, by Anita Moorjani. She never read it, but had given me and my sister a copy each.

The book is written by a woman who had a Near Death Experience. What she felt, what she saw, what she heard. How she decided to give life a second chance in her cancer-invaded body, turn it into a healthy one and share her experience with the world.

Even though I am not done reading it, the book has helped me tremendously; not only with the comforting concept of the peace, love and liberation that comes as you leave your body, but it has encouraged me to be in a good, stable and almost happy state of mind when I think of my mother, because I believe she can sense it, feel it, and I do not want her to see me in a state of depression or deep sadness.

Now that my mother is gone, I feel a sense of responsibility as a mother, to fight as hard as she did, to enjoy life every day as much as she did, regardless of any circumstance. Responsibility as a mother to pass on these values to my own children. To be humble and charitable, as she was. To focus on the Yes, instead of the No. To be strong and yet to cry when I need to.  To mind my own business; to be careful when stating opinions or giving advice.

My Mom and Dad are together now, and I know it will give them peace to see us – my siblings and I- happy, very happy with our lives, our spouses, our children.

The gift of time is what we all have today, time to live, to appreciate, to give, to love, but specially to share it with others. Sharing our time is in a way sharing our life. In this hurried world and even more hurried lifestyles one would think time is is sometimes unattainable.

I know that even though their absence will always hurt, time will help me remember my parents with a smile on my face, with pride, with a lot of love.

Guera and Chofin, rest in peace forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Irony of the Hello Kitty Belt.

Often times I agonize and dwell over the fact that my kids are growing up so fast, too fast. I look deep into their eyes, and for a brief moment I see them as babies holding up their milk bottle while looking back into my eyes; as toddlers inquisitive and curious , their eyes asking questions about the fast paced and loud world  around them.  Then, seconds later, I zoom out of my precious memories and see them today, freckles around their noses, smelling of dirt, sweaty foreheads, big teeth, too big for their little faces.

I am proud to say I have enjoyed each and every moment with them,  growing up, growing smarter, defining those very clear personalities they each have.  Despite the fact that I have never stopped working out of the home, I can say I have been there- so far- every step of the way. That even though I have a ridiculous number of photos in my laptop , with triple online backup, I also have them imprinted in my mind.

But is it also true, I DO want to slow down time, or freeze a moment every now and then, because I know tougher times are coming: Middle School, and before we know it, High School and all that follows-all in a breeze.

My daughter – age 9 now- has been developing all too fast, a sense of sensuality, along with the dreaded Hollywood prototypes with its empty and vain concepts of beauty and female perfection. Who do I blame,? None other than media: music videos, commercials, unnecessarily explicit ads, and sadly, movies. Even animated ones, yes.  This past summer, she came down the stairs one morning ready to go to school – or so she thought- wearing  a T-Shirt that was tied on one side with a hair band, making it look like it was knotted, resulting in an exposed mid-reef. I stared at the whole outfit for a few seconds, debating, struggling on how to approach this situation, which was  not the first one, and most definitely wouldn’t be the last.

How to you tell a 9 year old that exposing her body like that is not acceptable, when she is not yet fully aware of what dirty looks are, about the image she portrays as a girl, about respecting her body. It’s a tough one, at least for me, to make her lose a bit of her innocence and naivety because of how our world is these days, because there are registered predators within blocks of our house, because of the sick and disturbed human nature of some.

Looking at her tiny waist, her half exposed belly (she has a 6-pack already due to her gymnastics!), I observed that she was wearing a Hello Kitty belt, hot pink, metallic, with a Hello Kitty Head as a buckle. Of course!  She is only 9.

I half smiled to myself, and had a little chat with her about appropriate dress code, not only for school, but for her age. Confused a bit, she agreed to take the fake knot off and told me some girls wore T-Shirts like that. She never really understood what age had to do with it.

After this one event, both my husband and I have sent her back to her room  at least half a dozen times to change. One has to stick to it and be consistent, so that is what we are trying to do. However, the “control” somewhat ends there.  Once they are out of the house, other issues come into play that are more of a challenge to have a grip on.

Last week, we all went for an easy hike, together, as a family. These outdoor activities  have turned out to be some the best to spend quality time moments with our kids. There are no phones, no videogames, no dancing and jumping and tumbling. No Noise. Just us, walking, climbing, having a small picnic or snack, talking. Every now and then, we split in pairs for a while. Walking only with 10 yr old son, he asked me how he could get his “crush” to like him. Again, I paused, thought and many, many things came to mind. The very first one:  HOW AWESOME that he is asking me this, not a friend, not even his Dad ( he has always had the girls talks with me).  Next I wondered, isn’t it too soon? But I immediately recalled my first crush, I was probably younger than him. So, to soon? No. Then, a question to myself was: how do I give him advice on being likable to a girl, while at the same time discourage him from thinking too much about girls?

Concluding that I could not control his thoughts anymore that I can control my need for Dark Chocolate, I took his question with an open heart and a smile and so started the chat about girls.

Because I have tried to participate in as many school activities as my job allows me to, I happen to know not only his “crush”, but this adorable girl’s Mom too. Just briefly, during a field trip to one of California’s Missions, I met them both. So I can understand why my son has been secretly admiring this girl for over a year. A year? Yes. My son told me he looked up on the internet how to make a girl like you, and the advice he found was “Let time do its work”. But he said “Mom, I have given time a whole year and nothing happened, so it is time I do something . This is how I found out his crush is that old. I was glad the advice he found was all good and clean. God knows he could have found the worst and nastiest advice at the tap of his fingers.

Later, than same day, my daughter , still 9, made a confession too. She was so uncomfortable and embarrassed, she waited until bedtime to talk. The precious time when I tuck her in, lay with her, in her tiny twin size bed (with my butt and one leg hanging off the edge at times),  with lights off to start winding down we chat about the day, about life, about my childhood, about her grandparents, then pray, then I leave. So she chose this moment to tell me that some boys she has been hanging out with at recess, were having inappropriate conversations with her: it had been going on for days and she felt so dirty and guilty so couldn’t hold it in any longer. She provided me with details which made my head numb, she talked and I listed but my mind was going in slow motion, I couldn’t fathom  the whole scene, the conversations that 9 or 10 year old boys were having. What is going on with people? Should I have seen this coming this soon?

Thankfully, over the last weeks of summer, my husband and I already talked to both kids about sex: from  the reproductive system, how it all happens, how babies come to this world, briefly touching upon sexual relations. The focus was more on body changes and how babies are made. It was all very science-focused, a lot of drawings on our kitchen whiteboard (yes, next to the shopping list was a drawing of the female uterus and the menstruation  sequence).

Despite my efforts to use mating and animals and keep it all serious, my kids and I ended up laughing hard because my drawing skills are TERRIBLE to put it lightly, so the penis and scrotum outlines fell into the humorous category. Oh well, some humor actually helped break the nervousness and embarrassment.

Because of this talk (and common sense), my daughter knew that the conversations these boys were trying to have with her, were out of line. I was -again- grateful she came to me and got it off her chest. Her heart was racing the whole time we chatted. After telling her several times she was not  in trouble, she calmed down and went to sleep.

Me ? I was in bed, wide awake, thinking about the day’s events. My son had a 1 year old crush and wanted to be likeable. My daughter was told she is sexy and a boy wants to “do it” with her. Age came to mind. I felt 60 years old that night.  A scary vision of High School came to mind, driving, alcohol, partying, drugs and all the chaos that usually comes with those years.

To top it off, that same afternoon my husband made a ship for the kids to play with, using leftover cardboard from a huge box we had in the garage. The illusion of them playing with it quickly dissipated. Apparently (I wasn’t there) they both went back to their games after briefly acknowledging it.

These are the subtle signs that come bite you (‘cuz it hurts) of how they are growing up fast, and they are no longer our “babies”.

Tired of looking at the soft blue glowing light from my night stand clock, I left my room at 1:30 am directly to where I now sit. I furiously typed an email to the school principal, detailing as much as possible. I (kindly) demanded she talked not only to the boys but to their parents as well.  Only after that, I slept.

I am currently reading a book about a Helicopter mom, (mom’s that hover over their kids and take away their breathing space). I don’t believe I have ever been intrusive or overprotective, otherwise I wouldn’t have the honor of being my kids listening ear and soundboard when they are angry at the world.

However it doesn’t hurt to read about other moms’ mistakes (according to the author, that is why she wrote this novel about helicopter moms). While I promise myself to give them space, freedom of choice, and support when they need us parents there, I also intend to keep being involved -as much as they allow me- in their lives. Being there, is the difference sometimes between  a happy child and a depressed child; between self confidence and feelings of inferiority; between feeling ignored and feeling loved and needed. 

Like the cliche says: Time flies.  So, let’s fly with it instead of watching it pass us by.