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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The remains of childhood.

Without a doubt this year has been one of the ones where I have enjoyed the small conversations with my kids the most.

I can no longer call them children sometimes; other, yes…I yell at them when they are acting like TODDLERS and call them so!  But most of time, I quite enjoy these exchanges of ideas, opinions or simple points of view.

Sometimes even a short sentence will teach me a lesson; listening to them is key, especially in this era where we are enslaved by our cell phones. More than once they have complained because they are not getting my undivided attention, but shared attention between them and my phone screen, so I will put it away and face them, and listen.  I have heavily criticized people that have their faces on their screens the whole day. It annoys me and I find it disrespectful, and yet sometimes I find myself distracted by my own electronic devices as well.

And speaking of distractions, I have found that defining and respecting the line between work hours, lunch break, family time is sometimes challenging: it blurs when I have a heavy load of work and I want to do it all at the same time. I get anxious and sometimes selfish about my own needs. About a month ago I was leaving town to meet someone at the airport 80 miles away. I was running a bit late and as soon as I got on the Interstate, I saw a mile of cars completely stopped because of an accident ahead of us. I was fuming, and said “Great! All I needed was an accident blocking my way!”  My daughter looked at me in surprise –disapprovingly- and said, “Mom, don’t be selfish, think about the people in the accident that could be hurt.”

One more lesson learned from her. 🙂

When I was her age (10) I was a very oblivious child, very forgetful and easily distracted. And my daughter reminds me of those days very often. A few nights ago we were watching the Billboard Music Awards. They invited Celine Dion to sing My Heart will go on, in remembrance of the disaster of the Titanic or something of the sort.  While she sang, they showed scenes from the movie Titanic , and my daughter asked “Mom, was that movie shot on the actual ship?”  The question first annoyed me, then almost made me laugh, but I kept a straight face remembering myself as a child, and explained that the Titanic sunk over 100 years ago.

Next, the invited guest was Cher. Neither of my kids had any idea who she was –of course-.  As she performed with her extravagant clothes and hairstyles, my daughter asked if that was Cher Lloyd. I said “Cher who?”  She said “Cher Lloyd mom! The pop star that sings I Want you Back”.   I said “No, this is just Cher, not Lloyd, just Cher. A bit frustrated because I couldn’t hear or watch the show of this amazing performer (at 71 looks amazing still).  So my daughter looked at me straight and asked “no one knows her last name?”

Well, I had to laugh hard then. Her naiveté drives me crazy, in a good way. It shows the remains of what is left in her of my “little girl”.  I love her many questions that just prove how she is still my baby and how curious she can be.

This past week, while we were cooking something one night she said “Mom, what is the purpose of life?”.

A recent movie came out with the name A Dog’s Purpose, so just for a second I thought she was referring to a movie or a book. So I clarified her question, and she said “The purpose of life Mom, what are we here for? What is this?”

I stopped what I was prepping in the kitchen and thought hard for an answer I was not prepared to give while standing with a mixing bowl!

A simple question that called for a simple answer for a 10 year old.

We are here to be decent humans? We are here to create families and extend our values?  We are here to help the needy?  If only she knew and understood how pathetic I think the work-eat sleep-play cycle can be at times, how we live in a society where we are always competing and wanting more to reach a state of happiness that sometimes seems to never come until we “land” and realize what a are some of the fortunate few in this world that have a good life.

The last thing I wanted, was to discourage my little girl about any possible preconceived ideas about life; good ideas.

So my answer was, “We are here to be happy, with what we have”. I then returned the question to her and she replied “I think we are here to learn and help, and be happy”. Good. We were both pleased with our answers.

Oftentimes children (not only mine) surprise me with their questions, their statements, their drawings, their dreams, because it shows how frequently we –adults- underestimate how bright and deep their thoughts can be.

I feel like I am holding on as tight as I can to these last years of innocence, like a dog that will settle for crumbs, I will (almost) beg for conversations with my children, nighttime chats, a walk in the afternoon just to talk to them with no screens present. And I try to remember the things they say to me, or write about them here, in my blog.

I just enrolled my son, now 12- the acceptable age at the gym- to 24 Hour Fitness, where I go to work out several times a week. He seems too self-conscious about his skinny build, and he is constantly asking how he can get “muscly”. He is 5’6”, so at least the height is not a problem for him. So I thought it was a great chance to spend more time with him and help him get “muscly” at the same time.

So it has been fun, walking on the treadmill next to him, or the elliptical or the bikes.  We do cardio for a good 30 minutes, then we do weights. It has been just about a month or 2 and he is already asking his Dad if his biceps look bigger; patience and discipline I tell him, but 2 days later he will ask again.

Last week he said to me “Mom, I have a question about reproduction”. It was a casual afternoon while I was putting groceries away, not at the gym, not at night, just out of the blue. I switched from cook mode to Sex Education mode in seconds. “Yes?” I replied, expecting a very complex question or embarrassing moment.  “How long does the limo have to park in the garage?”

Well, I am glad he explicitly said it was a reproduction question, or it would have taken me a while to figure out what he was talking about. After all I was just putting canned tomatoes away!

Well, these questions are the beginning of the end of the stage I have adored as a mother. These questions are still a mixed bag, in the case of my son anyway.  Where the “bag” is leaning towards religion, politics and sex and less about simple things of life and the endless why this and why that.

Like I said before, I am not looking forward to the teen years and all the difficulties that come with the age, I am not ready but who is? All I can do it keep the bond between us nice and tight, the trust, the emotional freedom, so that when the road starts getting bumpy for them (and me I guess) I can be one of the first persons they will turn to for help or guidance. Me or their Dad of course.

I have a whole Blog entry to write about our recent trip to Cancun and today is Father’s Day so I have one more thing to write before I end this one..

For the first time ever, I have no father to call to say Happy Day. So I am going to write here all that I am feeling today, for him.

Thank you Dad for your laughter, for your smiles, for your silly dances. Thank you Dad for sacrificing so much of your own time and money to provide us with the best of the best, even when we didn’t deserve it.

Thank you Dad for never leaving, thank you Dad for all those Sunday mornings of long breakfasts at our table.  Thank you Dad for years of weekly manila envelopes with an allowance.  Thank you for teaching me how to use a credit card responsibly.

Thank you for teaching me to always wear clean shoes, and return loaned cars with a full gas tank; to pick up the check every now and then. To be a great host at parties.  Thank you for teaching me to be humble and to be charitable. For teaching me to pray and talk to God.  Thank you for being so strict about rules, discipline and school grades, but most of all, for instilling in me and my siblings such respect and admiration for my mother.

Wherever you are Daddy, Happy Father’s Day. I will always, always love you.

 

Sweet dreams among boxes of memories

My mom’s 70th party was a total success. Out of the 35 ladies we invited, 33 came. I am not surprised, because once again this event confirmed that my mother has a very closely knitted group of friends that not only admire her and find true inspiration in life through her, but also follow her, look for her, NEED HER and truly cherish every minute they spend with her.

For this small party I did not write her a letter. People often tell me that when they read my letters or my blog they cry, they get emotional and reflect upon life in ways that make them shed tears. I always feel flattered when I hear this, because it means that my words are not only understood, but felt deep down other people’s hearts; however, I was determined not to make a single person cry that evening.

And I didn’t.   But her own friends did.

After clinging a wine glass with a spoon (it works wonders) and getting everyone’s attention, I said some brief words to acknowledge and praise some of my mother’s best life lessons. After some severe thought and selection, I chose 2

  1. She taught me to be extremely practical and an absolute multi-tasker, because as a result of her own upbringing and her condition, it made her be practical, efficient and confident about her own capabilities- her wheelchair doesn’t even figure in all this. So she taught me just that. Without total conscience about it, I have tried to pass that on to my own kids, and the only reason I notice I am doing it,  is because every now and then they will say to me “Mom, I am not an octopus! I can’t do so many things at once!”  So I try to wind down and restart.
  2. By example, she taught me to love books, to love reading, to develop the habit and find its beauty, its many benefits. To be disciplined with it. To be curious and, just as she grabbed the Britannica Encyclopedia in the 70s and 80s when in doubt, I now google every word, event, masterpiece, city that I read about so that I get deeply immersed in my story. Fiction or not, it doesn’t matter.

After my words, my sister followed with other life lessons, mostly related to self-confidence and being independent as a woman, as an individual.  I encouraged her friends to say some words to my mother, comical events they treasure, lessons learned, inspiration, anything. I honestly think this is more precious than all the Hallmark Cards in the world.

My mom’s only sister followed. It is just the 2 of them. Hers is one of the most pure, unconditional and just absolutely beautiful forms of love and admiration for a sibling I have EVER seen. So when she spoke about my mom, her voice broke, as she ended her brief speech saying “You are my strength”. That is when the teary eyes began.   I knew for a fact that a dozen or more of her best friends had prepared things to share, I was surprised to see that almost none spoke because of the same reason: they couldn’t. They were all choked up already, wiping tears from their eyes, because, not only they love her and where happy to be there celebrating my mom’s 70 years of life, but also their friendship of 50+ years.

I saw them all, observed them, and remembered the many parties (50, 60 and many more) they had all attended, and I breathed love, loyalty and true admiration in that room. I felt so proud not only of my mom, but of all of them.

The support, understanding and sincere friendship  that exists between women that have known each other for decades is something priceless, unbreakable. They have gone through pain, loss, joys and accomplishments together. It is a true roller coaster and they all go on it,  together.

I felt jealous in a good way to see this beautiful group of women and prayed to God that night that if he gives me enough years to turn 70 or 80 or 90, I have this in my life too, with the many friends I have today that I truly love and admire.

The group was seated in 4 round tables, and I thought it was adorable that 2 of my mom’s best friends dumped the table they were seated at, and went to find seats in the table where my mother was. They asked the waiters to squeeze in chairs, had their salads and drinks moved and felt truly happy to share the rest of the afternoon seating just feet away from her.  I thought to myself: that is lovelier than have a guy following you around when you are dating!

The fact that my mother is relocating to another city in 2 months has made her friends more desperate to spend time with her too. They want to see each other as often as they can. Yesterday one of them said, “Let’s meet every Friday!” another said… “What? NO! What about Wednesday and Thursday?”

I loved every minute of it. I think I enjoyed the party more than my mom.

After we got home, my mom told me that a good number of her friends approached her separately throughout the party to say their own speech, personally, because they just couldn’t speak in front of all.  One of my favorite lines was the one from my brothers Mother in Law. She said to my Mom “The moment I met your son, I knew what type of mother he had.”  WOW!  My throat knotted.

One of my sister’s best friends was also there and she said “Your sister is my hero, I might as well have a poster of her in my home. I just love her, but until I met your Mom I knew why”. So then, I was the one crying a bit.

Well, I have to say these past 4 days were a mixed bag of feelings.  The day before the party, my parents’ house sale was finalized and all contracts were signed. My mom is now on a rent-back lease until she leaves for good, the 1st week of May.

A subject that has been talked about even before my Dad passed is now a done deal.  The packing and cleaning out and sorting of items has started and I was a bit surprised to find the house full of packed and labeled boxes and mostly empty furniture -all over.

The beds in both guest bedrooms were literally surrounded by boxes, the smell of dust and old paper was lingering in the air all the time. I peeked into several of them and saw old pictures, kitchen utensils that I had used hundreds of times when I baked cakes in my teens, old coins, key chains, little note pads and all the usual trinkets found in junk drawers and forgotten dusty shelves. I tried to remove pictures from old frames and couldn’t because they were glued and stuck to the glass; old wallets with passport photos from the 80s.  I found books that were read a decade or two ago and have probably been ornaments since then. All of them memories, sweet memories- in a box.

I slept well those nights, maybe it was all the nice memories that made my Dads presence felt in a warm way.

This morning, my sister woke me at 5am before leaving for the airport. That left me with a good 30 minutes of snuggling time with my warm sweet smelling mom that was next to me. So we laid there in silence half asleep. I positioned a small pillow just next to her belly and put my head on it, so she could stroke my tangled mess of curly unruly hair, ever so gently and softly. After a while I kissed her hand and reluctantly got out of bed to shower.

I already had a headache by then, because the tears refused to come, I didn’t stop them but I guess they went to my head instead. After showering and getting ready and packed, I took a last look at the almost bare bathroom and sink counter top and realized there are not going to be many more showers in this bathroom, in the only house I ever knew growing up, the bathroom where I got potty trained when I was a toddler, where I started using make up, where I saw the first pimples ever on my face. The bathroom where I got sick so many times after partying hard when I lost control and track of my drinks. The bathroom and the bedroom I shared with my sister for over 20 years.

My headache got worse and the clock was ticking. I was avoiding one more good-bye and the sound I HATE of the rolling suitcase on the wood planks of the floor.

I quickly kissed and hugged my mom good bye and left feeling 50 pounds heavier. The Uber was waiting for me with Alicia Keys screaming “New Yoooooooork” on the radio. I don’t know why I didn’t ask the driver to turn it down because 10 minutes later I was nauseous.

Once I boarded the plane the tears came -just a few- and I took aspirin a little bit ago. So both things combined made the headache disappear.

I wish with all my heart that I had the power to give my mom the freedom she needs to stay in the city she loves, because I know the move will be hard- for all of us.  But I also know that she is so emotionally intelligent and so wise, that she will find a way to find happiness wherever she is.

The love and support from all of us – family and friends- will follow her.

I LOVE YOU MOM!!! Happy Birthday.

Gracias por darme la vida!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Here we go…My very first post

After too many years of listening to my thoughts, seriously, just like a movie, hearing my inner voice forming opinions and making all sorts of comments about the people around me, the places I see, the fragrances and sights that my senses capture, the sad look in the eyes of  a total stranger – I could not take it any more, just like an itch I couldn’t scratch.

My head has been spinning wildly for years, with the urgency to put these thoughts on paper, in a word file, on my phone’s notepad (which I yet have to learn to use). After some encouragement from life long friends and relatives I decided to start my own blog today. Knowing that I truly love writing, I have high hopes for it to be my outlet for so many loud thoughts that need an escape. Even though my goal is not particularly to have many readers, it would be nice to know that I am leaving something behind, a footprint on this webpage, a testimony of my experiences that could make others laugh, smile, think and maybe, sometimes cry.

I promised myself to put my most honest thoughts and beliefs on these pages- even if it means making a few enemies along the way- but hopefully not many. Names will be (mostly) avoided, as I am aware that people’s lives are private.

I will start my blog writing about parenthood. Not wanting to feel guilty about venting like a hysterical mom, I will say this with no hesitation: I absolutely adore my 2 children. They love me like no one in this planet does and make me feel the most beautiful person (inside and out) on the face of the earth.

Moving on to the real day to day struggles:  why didn’t anyone (specially my mom) warn me about the tremendously huge job it is to be a parent? The overwhelming exhaustion , endless worry, the daily test in patience and tolerance, the sudden change in role from being a woman, to being a nurse, psychiatrist, crafts teacher, mathematician, dictionary, lullaby singer, cook, cleaning lady, chauffeur  to name a few? I want to believe that no one warns us because all those that became moms before us  -in their own experience- forgot about the tough first years of motherhood, and more importantly, because the many good things that came out of their own children’s hearts outweighed all the headaches, backaches, the tears and the broken hearts.  (I don’t know about you but my son -only 9 now- has broken my heart and made me cry more than once). Maybe no warning came because to watch their children grow up, be strong, be independent and form beautiful families themselves, has made them proud. Tired and wrinkly , but proud. And probably, in the eyes of their grown children, they still are the most beautiful woman in the world.

The truth is, as a working mom, with no one really to call a housekeeper (but myself and the invaluable help of my dear husband), I finish my days more tired and grumpy -on the verge of bitterness- more often that I want to admit. The kids have been “parked” on a stage of constant fighting, arguing and picking at each other, that seems to have no end. I have read advice on the web, I talked to a therapist, I have counted to a million, nothing really works, so every day I try to sit it out, and wait, and wait , and wait. (I am actually still waiting).

Sometimes I go to the store, and as I am standing in line at the checkout, I see an older mom with teenagers, boy and girl, like us, and see them doing exactly the same. What the heck??? Wasn’t this suppose to be  a stage? It looks to me like an endless race called WHO CAN DRIVE MOM CRAZY FASTER!

A friend told me once some siblings just don’t like each other, period. They are incompatible  in different aspects of their personalities, they rub each other the wrong way.  So it might not be a stage. In a way, this could be true. We don’t exactly choose our family (other than our spouse- thank goodness for that). So… to not like your brother, sister, cousin, etc should be absolutely acceptable, right?  So why is it so painful to see siblings -specially your own kids- not get along, not admire and respect each other, love each other?  Is wanting this harmony a learned pattern? An expected accomplishment? Could be. My siblings and I have always been very close. My parents instilled love and respect among us (parents and siblings both) almost as  a survival skill.   I am determined not to loose hope, but boy,  am I tired.

I am trying hard to be an optimistic about this whole motherhood thing when I am in a crisis with them. So I hang on to dear and memorable moments I have shared with them, like when my son, at age 4, asked if he could marry me.

Both my son and daughter, on separate occasions, have asked me “Mom, why is it that when kids feel sad or sick, all they want is their mom?”

So many ways to answer that one. This question brings back endless memories of the delicious warm smell of my own mother, specially in the mornings when I used to snuggle with her in bed, stealing from my fathers side. There is absolutely nothing in this world than can compare to the warm body and scent of a mother. For those of us that are still fortunate enough to have them in our lives….HUG AND KISS YOUR MOMS!  They all need our love, even more so when we grow up and leave the home.  For those of you who don’t, I strongly believe that the loving memories of your mothers about simple moments you shared with them, can do wonders when you dedicate quality time to reminisce and relive them. I do if often when I miss my grandma and I find myself smiling big.

Here I end my first entry. I hope there are many to come, and more often than I was feeding my starving dying diary (every 6 months or so).