Sunday, July 28, 2013

the legacy of home invaders

A group of trespassers invaded our home about a month ago.

Thankfully, these aggressors had no particular interest in any of our material belongings. They were simply looking for a place to crash. (And no, our uninvited guests weren’t out of town family members: They actually got here the day before yesterday… and we invited them!)

As it turns out, a swarm of bees found our real estate an ideal choice for their new digs. And it is a fine place, to be sure. “Sexy as crap,” my son says - although, I’ve never thought our house to be particularly bee-worthy.

In any case, what we think really doesn’t matter, because bees have a pretty one-pointed intelligence…“Save The Queen!” And while they are amazing little engineers, their single-mindedness sometimes gets in the way of their innate skills, because their first attempt at a new honey factory was a raucous scrum under a small beam in front of the living room plate glass window. (Great visual I’m told – I’d flown out of town just the day before.)

After a week of ‘not vacationing’ in Northern California, my hubby arrived home and reported that it appeared the mob had taken flight to what must surely be more appropriate lodgings. You know, a secluded place out of the wind where the blue-collar bees could get their work done, and the queen could pump out newbies.

Wrong! Those resourceful little buzzers had actually found a bee-sized crack between the house’s support beam and the fascia board under the outside overhang. Busy, busy, busy! Buzz, buzz, buzz! They worked that crack hard for what turned out to be over three weeks. Oh dear!

Now – our family has had quite enough of death, destruction and the aftermath this past month and a half – and, being of the tree-hugging, nature-aware folk that we are, it was a definite that we weren’t going to obliterate the apiary.  However, none of us were willing to deal with a gaping hole in our ceiling when the honeycomb grew too heavy, nor to cohabitate with roaming bees when they took over the entire house. So - the professional bee charmers were called in to save us all.

The growing hive
Sadly, we had to trade the inevitable hole in the ceiling, for an immediate hole in the roof. This reclamation effort took a bit of time to coordinate, and cost a decent chunk of change to remove what could have been a much larger architectural calamity. And, fortunately, or unfortunately (depending upon your point of view), I missed the entirety of this phase of excitement.

Currently, we no longer have an infestation within the confines of our walls. Instead, we have a nice bee box atop our living room overhang that allows the entire worker bee network to much more successfully maintain their industry. And, soon our little canister of pollinators literally will be put out to pasture to provide support for the agricultural needs of our State.

So what exactly does this newest rambling post have to do with anything?

Well, first of all, it gives our family peace of mind knowing we did something positive for some of the smallest, yet most important members of our global community. We could have gassed them out, without a second thought, and moved on with our lives. That would simply have contributed to hastening the demise of humanity. Or at least for those of us who eat food.

Truth is, the ancient Sanskrit phrase, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” resonates deeper within our hearts these days.

Loosely translated, this powerful adage means,
“May all beings in the world be happy and free, and may my thoughts and actions, in some way contribute to that happiness and that freedom for all.”
 You see, when a heart gets broken open - for whatever reason - astounding things happen. Just like the bee-sized crack in our roofing allowed us to see into the dynamic, living organism that is the hive; a crack in our heart allows the inner-Self to expand profoundly. It allows our energy to be similarly free and motivated by love.

And may we all open up to recognize we are happy and free.

Please Save the Bees!
Here’s more info:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

spinning naked in the rain

I flew back to my home yesterday afternoon. It was a slightly bittersweet homecoming, as I felt derelict in my daughterly duties by leaving my mom on her own before she is 100% better. And to make matters worse, as the plane entered the airspace of “my own private twilight zone”, I felt it’s oppressive nature more intensely than ever.

Sadly, there were no rainbows on this flight…

Peeking under the half closed window hatch, I was greeted by a foul gray-brown layer of haze, aligned slightly above our flight altitude: A miasma that extended well beyond my line of sight. And, while logically I know the layer of grime was likely caused by the numerous wildfires assaulting our fair State - as they do every summer - the smog certainly echoed my frame of mind.

After maneuvering the mosh pit of excited vacationers, exhausted travelers and WAY too much luggage in Lindbergh Field, I was once again reunited with my homeboys.  Both as excited to see me, as I was to see them. Hugs and kisses, a guilt-tinged sigh of relief and a bone crushing fatigue welcomed me home.

I awoke from a fairly comatose sleep to overcast skies, which was befitting my subdued emotional state this morning. Slow motion seemed the most prudent pace for such a shady day – how else should one move while in limbo? Not sure – but it appeared appropriate. The most exciting part of the day was a trip to Trader Joe’s to restock the “magic pantry” that apparently becomes empty and cavernous whenever I’m away.

On the way home, the tailings of the southern monsoonal moisture hit us. Ahhhhh! Sweet, scarce rain! Sure it obliterated my windshield, but moisture - no matter how smattering - is a welcomed sight here!

In fact, to me, there is nothing as naturally revitalizing as a mid-summer drizzle: Warm, inviting and cleansing.  It’s the kind of phenomenon that beckons one to strip down and run amok in the backyard. A lure that is almost impossible for me to ignore.

And this afternoon I heard the soft call of the raindrops’ song: Beckoning me to come outside, buck-naked, and play for a moment in my backyard. Coaxing me to twirl around like an unadorned dervish and allow the rainwater to begin divinely rinsing away the unnecessary weight of the world from my worn-out heart.

Rumi says it best:
“I dissolved as a grain of salt
in your Sea of Serenity:
Nothing remained, no faith,
no certainty, no doubt.
In my heart a star was born
and inside all worlds dissolved.”

Can dancing bare-assed in the rain save a soul? Well, for me, the “twilight zone” now seems like a distant memory, and I definitely feel a freer energy moving within me. And while the pain and overall grief still live here, I feel the windows of my heart now give a little clearer view of the paths of my life that lie ahead. 

Photo -

Thursday, July 18, 2013

the care and feeding of a strong woman

I intended to title this “the care and feeding of a tough mother”…

Anyway, ever since I was young, I considered my mom kind of a superhero. Which is funny since, in school, whenever asked to name our heroes, I could never come up with even one name. I had no time for “heroes” (still don’t, really). I mean, aren’t heroes just regular people, same as you and me?

But, back to my Mom: Why the “superhero” status? I mean, she’s never gone to the moon, or saved Timmy from a well, or made 75 touchdowns in one season. And honestly, as far as I can tell, she’s never done anything that much different than what other kids’ moms did. No overt or stupendous acts of valor, no stopping trains simply by force of will. Nope, none of the stereotypical qualities seemed to apply to her at all. And yet, she’s always been a titan in my eyes: Tall, sturdy and seemingly unflappable. I believed - and kind of still do – that she would have wrestled grizzly bears if need be to protect us. I suppose the “larger-than-life” quality stems from receiving a love that qualifies as a force of nature. That truly Universal, nurturing love: The actual source of ALL love.  

I find her inner strength truly awe-inspiring. She’s always been patient beyond measure, but never indifferent – although many have thought her distant, or even snooty. Fun, but not nutty. Supportive, but not in that controlling, helicopter kind of way. During our childhood, she laid down the ground rules and only really dropped the hammer when we dropped the ball. And boy, when she let loose, she threw down hard! Not with overt punishments generally – but with a subtle quality that made us recognize the rotten little shits we could be. And never to induce guilt: Just to remind us when we were ridiculously neglectful of our personal responsibilities.

Since my dad died we’ve been trying to coax, cajole, and guilt, (I know, right?) my mom into moving to San Diego. Early on, her argument was always that her part time job gave her something to do, and that she had her very own house and didn’t feel the need to leave it. Did I mention her strong nature?

Last October I had hoped to convince her with, what I thought, was going to be my very best argument for a move south. Unfortunately, my scheme was shot to hell by the announcement of my brother’s diagnosis. As devastating as the news was, my mother rose to the occasion and promptly became my brother’s main caregiver – for the second time in 30 years, as this sadly, wasn’t their first cancer-go-round together!

My brother told me time and again that he didn’t think he would have been able to manage without her help, and how tremendously grateful he was for her. And, for her part, she thought nothing of it. It’s what she’s always done; supported her children without a second thought for herself. Even at the expense of her personal health and wellbeing.

Spending the past two weeks attending to her needs has been an amazing experience. Have I missed my husband, son, and all that I do in Southern California? Of course! But, as weird as it sounds, the first time she actually asked me for something, I felt so honored: Fortunate that she finally tuned into her own needs and graciously (of course) received what she needed from someone other than herself.

After a bedside chat about my brother the other night, I saw the most beautiful serenity projecting out of my mom’s exhausted, abused body. It was a loveliness only a mother exudes when swept up in the emotion of loving her treasured child. I’ve seen that very look out of the corner of my eye when she didn’t think I knew she was looking my way. That night I realized that, that powerful, unyielding source of all love resides in the very core of her being.

So wow – how do you truly repay someone for a lifetime of devotion and support? For the woman who pretty much gave up her own soul for the care and feeding of my brother and me, (in addition to doting on her precious grandsons.) Someone who has sustained so much loss and pain in the past few years, yet continues to move forward: To her “whole new life,” as she put it the other day. 

Any feedback is seriously appreciated!

As I kissed her goodnight after our interchange, I heard myself say, “You are one f**king strong woman.” She tilted her head slightly and gave me a sly half-grin and said, “Yep – I guess I am one strong f**king woman.”

As she continues to heal and sets forth on her “whole new life” I believe her strength will sustain her - and I think she’ll be alright.

This pretty much sums it up! Thanks for posting this the other day, cousin K!

Monday, July 15, 2013

it's my birthday, you see

 Sooooo – It’s my birthday today. Yes, yes, thank you to everyone who has and will wish me a beautiful day. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for all of you in my life, in one fashion or another, and know how special and rare some of our connections are. I’m truly humbled for that – and always will be.

I’d planned to post something I’ve been writing about my mom. I will do that. Just, not today. I realized this morning that if I didn’t write these words down STAT, I would be in danger of a full-scale psychic explosion. (As opposed to the many spastic tremors that have been shaking me up all morning.)

OK, so here’s the deal: I honestly didn’t think it possible that I could be even minutely sadder today than I have been for the past month. I thought that gravity could push one down only so far and that there would be some sort of quantum shifts that, if nothing else, removed the gravity or at least brushed it aside. Seriously. I thought that! And while I do, indeed, find myself in an entirely new dimension here, I didn’t consider I could possibly feel worse! Quantum shifts apparently are not what I’ve been led to believe!

You might think, “Are you in a bad place, dear, because you’re another year older?” Nope. That kind of angst has never been part of my makeup. In fact, I LOVE birthdays!! Am I upset that this is the first time in 26 years that I haven’t spent my birthday with my husband? Yeah – and while that sucks BIG time, it’s not necessarily tailspin material. My mom: sleeping away most of the day while we’re both pretty much held captive in the house, awaiting nurses and phone calls and a possible trip to the hospital? Again, suck-fest, but not a mind-blower. Missing a phone call from my brother, as he laments about not knowing what to get me, yet coming through 100% on the gift-o-meter? Sure, sure – that adds to the melancholia – however, all of these things added up still don’t seem to measure up to my cavernous pit of misery.

Now, if you think I didn’t throw myself a pretty pathetic pity-party, you’d be wrong. It was a short, but crazy, snot filled gala that fell just shy of me throwing myself on the ground and pounding the crap out of the floor. I mean, it’s my birthday and I’ll bitch and whine to myself (Oh – and now you) if I want to! Thankfully, I’m aware enough to recognize that hitting things in a fit of despair is most definitely not Self-love. And it’s certainly not something a wise woman of advanced years does if she has half a brain in her head.

So there I sat – and as quietly and calmly as I could – tuned fully into to my irregular and shallow breaths and let the disillusionment of life, as I’d been living it recently, waft slowly out of my pores. Drifting slowly away from my base, like water vapor floating upward when hot rays of light scorch the pavement after a summer rain.

Did the heat of awareness eradicate my sorrow? Of course not. What it did, however, was erase the shell of self-absorption I began to enclose my pain in. It allowed me to separate deep from superficial discontent. To recognize fully that the effects of change, no matter how sudden or prolonged, often take time for the soul to fully acknowledge and accept. Hell, the first Noble Truth is “There is suffering.” Yet, by the same token, I confirmed what I always thought to be true: our self-imposed, egotistic suffering is so easily dusted away when we look at it with full, naked clarity.

As far as birthdays go, this one was definitely…different. And, as my dear friend L would say, “interesting.” Not self-indulgent, not “Birthday Queen-ish,” like it usually is. My gift has been – a deeper awareness of…well... everything. Ok, that, and the surprise birthday cake from our neighbor-friend down the street! Love you B! You saved the day!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

alone in the twilight zone

Here I find myself, alone, writing these words late at night in the house I lived in from the time I was 6 years old to 18. My father died 4 years ago – my brother died just over 3 weeks ago – and my mother is currently in the hospital 5 days – post heart attack. Are the pictures on the wall welcoming me back, or torturing me? Not sure about the former, but most definitely the latter.

Rewind a little more than 25 years ago when I moved to Southern California, six months after finishing my under graduate degree. Somewhere in my last semester I decided I needed more. More of what, I wasn’t sure. However, the thought of trying to find a job teaching PE in the mid-1980’s felt hollow and ridiculous. There were no job prospects, and as I neared the completion of my degree, I found I was drawn deeper toward the actual art and science of the human body. Also, at the time, I was in a fairly long-term relationship with a vey nice young man – however it became painfully clear that I was not at all content with the idea of being “comfortable” – which was an adjective he often used to describe how he wanted his life to be. To me, “comfortable” conjured up images of a glob of discontented humanity slowly melting into a couch somewhere. EWW! Morbid blue fear flashed through my soul every time I heard that word. And even thought it seemed unconventional to my brain at the time – my heart screamed, “RUN!” So I did.

My escape? Graduate school in San Diego. Not a bad place for a small-town Nor Cal gal to end up. I had opportunities to study in Oregon or Arizona… but, seriously? San Diego - I was not yet aware that it translated into "whale's vagina", but I knew it was not too cold, not too hot…and a beach, to boot! Seemed, just right. And not "just right" like Baby Bear's oatmeal. It was exciting, but not comfortable. Because, it was a change that required packing up and leaving everyone I loved and everything I thought I understood behind. Definitely not comfortable.

From that long ago August morning when I sat across from my mother, pretending to eat breakfast in a little café next to I-8, dreading her departure home, I remember how I couldn’t look her in the eyes. Was I running away from home in plain sight of her? Kinda felt like it. Torn, but not torn. But, no matter, as the tendrils of my life wrapped themselves even more tightly around my psyche, and convinced me to set roots in new soil.

I’ve come to visit “home” fairly regularly over the past 25 years. However, except to be close to my loved ones, I’ve almost never been overly excited about returning. Somewhere between Bakersfield and Lodi always felt like the “twilight zone.” Somewhere in that expanse there was some strange shift of energy that completely threw off my equilibrium when I hit my “root” soil. Was it shame? Regret? Or something completely undefined? Jury is still out on that.

Whether one agrees or not, change is the only constant. We're reminded of that reality in thought, word and action everyday. Through the years I, and those I love have experienced numerous adventures, marriages, children, divorces and deaths. For the most part, I’ve ridden the waves of these life alterations relatively smoothly.

Until now.

My brother’s death and mother’s condition, coming so close together, placed me in that “twilight zone” space again – not in the middle of California this time – but smack in the middle of the place of my origin. Utterly disoriented. Right here in my mother’s living room.

As the night moves into morning, I recognize that, while the house looks different from my youth, the pictures are reminders of so, so many days of happiness and beauty. And yet, they are just that – simply reminders. After writing these words, and as my tears dry, I remind myself of the impermanence of everything. As my eyelids swell from overuse, I remember that it’s my choice whether this room and these memories welcome or taunt me. As my eyes close from sheer exhaustion, I know that the pictures, and the benevolent energy they will forever hold, accept me with love.