Friday, August 31, 2018

Callen

Dearest Callen~ 
I hope you appreciate this poem from my heart to you!  I love you, Abuela




Because of you I have celebrated
the once abandoned wheelbarrow—
danced alongside of dangerous birds,
resurrected cherished, sacred dreams:
blue and purple, larks and lonely,
captured, taken, spent, forsaken.
All the things that once were
glued down have floated
up.  Now because of all the
tender, brokenhearted echoes
of my ulnar nerve I reach beyond
the sky.  Fear no longer resides in
my dangerous loneliness, can’t haunt
my sullen, awkward imagination.
Instead, it left through the
Window, chased by the cheers
I felt to cry out when the rest of me
Saw you running swiftly—
so Greek and Roman—
made me switch routines:
Vespers in the morning,
Lauds in the evening.
Because of you I have leapt
from boulders, darting over
icy meadows of doubt
because I had to had to had to
if I wanted to believe
in you. Because of you my
faith has meaning.  Life.
And all the things that
Once were marbled taboo
Now are truth and beauty.
Because of my love for you
and you. Because of you.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Alannah

Through the years!  Alannah In many stages of cuteness


Alannah sings with Alexa at Alicia's Birthday Party
July 2018

Alannah is going to start second grade soon, and this year she’s learned to read well.  In her room, a bookshelf of her favorite books—mostly Princess related—is also decorated with stars, hearts, stuffed unicorns, and miniatures.   She is our sparkling, princess granddaughter, so filled with joy and sparkles that she glitters wherever she goes.  Just like her mama!  

Seven years ago, I appealed to friends on social media: “My daughter, Alicia, is scheduled to be induced tomorrow early in the morning.  Please pray that all will go well!!”  Between the lines, I can still feel my anxiety and concern for my daughter.  When she was eight years old, Alicia was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, and though she managed diabetes as best as she could, childbirth is always complicated, and doctors openly called the pregnancy “high risk” for mother and baby.
Alicia had given birth to Harmony just two years before, but that labor was long and hard, and her beautiful baby was born in distress, struggling to breathe in the first six minutes of her life.  None of us wanted a repeat of that scare, even though Harmony had recovered completely, showing no signs of any birth trauma as she exited the hospital.
In 2011, when Alicia was pregnant with Alannah, Mario and I lived in South Africa.  We regularly SKYPED with Alicia, and got to see our daughter’s tummy grow month by month, all via webcam.
“I think this baby’s going to be larger than Harmony,” she told us. “I might not make it to my due date of August 1.”
“Should I change my flights?” I asked her.  “Should I come earlier?”
Alicia smiled.  “Yeah, I think so.”  

Arrived in Chico--July 2011

I changed my flights and traveled to the USA in time to celebrate Alicia’s birth (July 28) but Alannah didn’t arrive until August 8.  Even she was born after another long, hard labor, Alannah came out kicking and screaming.  I had never been so grateful for loud cries in my life.  Mario was with us via SKYPE hookup, and we both celebrated the mercy of God!

Just after birth


Yes, you're reading that right--9 lbs 4.9 oz
Alicia was incredibly exhausted afterward, and had lost so much blood that they talked about arranging for a transfusion.  The good news was that the baby was delightfully healthy—Alannah Litney Vosburg was 9 lbs, 5 ounces and 21 inches long.  She was pink and beautiful—lots of noises came from her. We all rejoiced in her beauty.  I got to hold her almost as soon as she came out.

Our first contact!  10 Minutes old

The next day came the sad reality: I had to leave only one day after Alannah was born. Because I had rearranged my flights thinking the baby was coming earlier, the return flight (two weeks after arrival) was also earlier.  International flights can’t be rescheduled like domestic flights can be—and I felt a strange mixture of gratitude and grief.  Alicia said she understood, but I knew she wished I could stay. Our goodbyes were tearful, but we smiled for photographs with the new baby, a granddaughter that I would see four months later, at Christmas. 
 
Just before saying goodbye - August 9, 2011


Today, Alannah is SEVEN years old!  And yet, all of this feels like it happened last week.
Now living in the USA, Mario and I are regular fixtures in the lives of our children and grandchildren.  Every Friday, I make the trip to Chico and see Harmony and Alannah, many times with Scarlett, who adores her cousins.
At Caper Acres Spring 2018

Alannah has grown into a beautiful girl.  She is kind, affectionate, loving, creative, has a beautiful singing voice and a great imagination.  She is also tender-hearted and empathetic—with a beauty and warmth that is rare in human beings.
Reading at Chico's The Bookstore

When I asked Alannah what she wanted to do for her SEVENTH birthday, she answered without thinking. 
“Grandma, I’m going to have friends over for a unicorn birthday party and you’re invited!”
“Am I?” I asked. “Can I bring Grandpa?”
“Yes, Grandpa, too!”  She said, sparkling with excitement.  “My whole family and all of my friends are coming and we’re going to have so much fun!”  Unable to contain any more excitement, Alannah jumped off the couch and started jumping up and down.  
“What do you want for your birthday?” I asked her.  She stopped jumping for a moment and thought. 
“I want you to come to my party.”
I smiled. 
Alannah's Unicorn Costume she swore she was wearing to the party

The best thing about returning to your home country after several years of meaningful, rewarding work in the mission field, is family.  In the middle of familial reward, there are grandchildren, the best beings in the whole world—especially when you have one like Alannah.
Happy SEVENTH Birthday, dear Alannah!  We love you!! 

Alannah wears my glasses after a bath


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Alicia


The following is a fairy tale/allegory for my daughter, Alicia, on her 30th birthday.  She was commenting throughout (in italics) --at least the version of her I keep with me always in my heart.  




Once upon a time there was a princess.  She was bold and fierce and often very mercurial.

Mercurial? Do you mean to sound critical?

No, of course not! I’m trying to write your birthday blog, so stay out of my head. 

Alright, but keep it real.   

Anyway…the princess grew up knowing she was destined for greatness, not the simple life that so many around her chose.  One morning she woke up, and realized that the beautiful mountain in the distance, far beyond the reaches of the kingdom, would be hers to climb one day.  Every morning after this, as dawn colored the pale pink walls of her room, the princess would wake, go over to her window, and see her mountain in the distance.

ONE DAY, the princess told her mother about her dream…

“Hey, QUEEN of the kingdom!  Can I go climb that mountain?”

Oy, oy, oy.  This is my story to you.  Are you going to let me finish?

Cool…

The queen wanted more than anything to protect her daughter from all the evil and ugly predators beyond the castle walls.  She told the Princess, “Please don’t ever climb that fatal, icy precipice in the distance—

“Or else you’ll die!”

Very funny.   The Queen said, “Please don’t climb that mountain because… I fear I’ll lose you if you go beyond the far reaches of  our kingdom.”  So, because the Princess  was so young, she trusted her mother and was happy growing up in the castle—for the most part—and continued to live in harmony and peace with her mother.

Keep it real, Mom.

For many years, the dream of the faraway mountain seemed only a distant wish, but each year the Princess grew bolder and stronger.  Once, during a particular night near her eighteenth birthday, she decided to pack an escape backpack, with her harness, rope, pitons and cams with unique double-axle designs for the Princess’ desire to swing free of normal expansion ranges…

Really?

Anyway, the Princess was prepared.  All she had to do now was to tell her mother that today was the day that she would pursue her dream of climbing the forbidden mountain... 

...and her mother freaked out. 😊

Well, who wouldn’t?  Any mother who has a daughter would say, “Are you flipping crazy?”

She might even use the real word, right Mom?

Anyway... the Princess came to breakfast in the royal dining hall that day to find her mother and father eating quietly.  She told them, “Today is my day to climb that mountain!”   Before the Queen could answer her daughter, the King stood up and embraced her.  He told her how he was proud of her, and gave her his compass and a box of power bars for her journey. 

Dad is so cool.

As the Princess walked away, with the castle gates closing behind her, the Queen sat still, frozen and unable to process her daughter’s exit.  For many days, the Queen looked out her daughter’s window, at the same view that her daughter saw every morning.  She cried the most broken-hearted tears she had ever cried before….

But this is a story about the Princess, right?

Meanwhile, the Princess had met many friends on the way to the climb.  Her new friends were encouraging, hard-working, and even had the same goal as the Princess—to climb the mountain beyond the far reaches of the kingdom.  They reached the mountain and found it even more beautiful and rugged than they ever imagined.  Tucked away in the jagged rocks of the precipice were pockets of earth, out of which sprang every sort of life—flowers, cactus, grass.   The Princess and her new friends climbed the mountain together, relying on one another for support and direction.  It made the journey easier.  They became such close friends that the Princess forgot all about her family back home—even her mother.

She never forgot about her family back home—especially her mother.

You don’t think so?

No.  Never.

After a year of climbing, the Princess decided to return home to see her family.  She found them seemingly unchanged, excited to see her.  The Queen spent a few months waiting for the Princess to return, looking out the window and praying to God that her daughter would come to her senses and return.

The Queen finally realized that maybe the mountain was put there for the Princess to climb.  Maybe God knew about the dream and the climb and the new friends all along.

And maybe the Queen just needed to take a deep breath.

And so she did.  And the reunion was just the first of many reunions, a constant ebb and flow of connection and…

Letting go.  Right?  Doesn’t the Queen need more practice in this area still?

The Queen decided that she would try mountain climbing, too, so she went with the Princess when she went back.  On her first attempt, the Queen broke her coccyx and had to be hospitalized for a few weeks with commoners who blew their noses at all hours of the night.  She became sleep-deprived and a little mentally ill.

Oh no!  The poor Queen. She didn’t need any more help feeling crazy…

But she still managed to recover and love life and her family.  Many years later, the Princess got married and had a couple of really sweet and beautiful little girls  The queen’s heart was so full she could barely breathe. 

They are beautiful, aren’t they?

But those little Princesses have their own, unique story, don’t they?

They will be world changers.

I know they will.  World changers raise world changers.  Don't they?

Yes, they do, Mama. 

Happy Birthday, Baby.  I will always be proud of the fearless Princess you are.  Blessings and love today and forever, my luminescent girl. 
I love you,
Mama –the Queen.




Tuesday, June 26, 2018

ir de compras






Voy a ir a comprar palabras
en un lugar que se supone que conozco 
por palabras que completarán mi alma

el mercado es antipático
y mi dinero está sudoroso y hecho jirones 
el intercambio rápido me causa vértigo vueltas

las palabras son caras
pero sin ellas no tengo puente
a mi corazón secreto      

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mario


My hunka-hunka Mario Rodriguez 


The night before we left for Los Angeles, where I would begin the first residency of my MFA program at AULA,  Mario and I were trying to decide if we should take the wireless keyboard that I am typing on right now.  I am not used to writing on an iPad or a laptop, unless they are connected to a standard keyboard or a real mouse. 

“It’s no problem to take them,” Mario told me, leaning over me and picking up the mouse.  My hand was still on it, and when his hand touched mine, I shivered.  He smiled as I looked up at him. 

“Thank God we’re married,” I said.  “If we weren’t, I’d be in big trouble.”  

“Well, we are married,” he said, trying to sound matter-of-fact, but he was still smiling. 

Sound corny?  It’s true.  Mario still gives me goosebumps, even with a simple touch. I normally don’t talk about this, mainly because so many people I know (and love) live with broken hearts or unrequited love, and I feel for them.  But today is Mario’s birthday, and this post is meant to bless him.


I started working for Mario in 1986—co-workers first, friends next, and then we hugged –but that’s another story.  Mario always recognized me as a diamond in the rough—a princess beneath layers of insecurity and self-doubt.  When I started working for him, I was twenty-three, a single mother freshly out of a disastrous relationship.  Looking back on that time, I am embarrassed to admit how unbalanced I was - a proverbial catastrophe waiting to happen.  Mario’s friendship built me up with encouragement and acceptance without strings attached.  After years of being deprived of this, I ate it up.  He was handsome, financially stable, loved my son and respected both friends and strangers.  Then there was this: Mario loved me.  He loved me!  I received this love with a mixture of wariness and gratitude, knowing that one day he would probably come to his senses, figure out I was just me, and move on.  He stayed. His steadiness made my head spin—and we prepared ourselves for marriage.  As parents of young children, we knew the effects of failed relationships and we weren’t interested in failing again.  Mario loved me, respected me, and honored me.

In Mexico 1990

This thought still brings tears to my eyes.  His love for me was the stuff that legends are made of.  He didn’t manufacture it – it came naturally.  Sometimes I look at him now and remember how I thought of him as a guy light years out of my league, but one who saw into my soul and loved me!  I am married to the best guy I know.

When I think of Mario my heart swells.  From meeting him, to working for him, to becoming friends, newlyweds, having Alicia and raising a family, working, moving, losing family, and then gaining family through our children, all the way up to now is the sea of life we have built together.  In every season, Mario has been faithful, fun, and has never given up.  God has mercy on the humble, which is probably why he gave me Mario.  I thank God for this mercy – because I know I don’t deserve it.
 
Mario and I December graduation --my biggest supporter!
Today Mario is sixty-four! I can’t believe that my athletic, beautiful husband is sixty-four.  Today he will fly back to L.A., after three days with our family in Kansas City, and I will see him again!! 

Happy Birthday, babe.  You really are the best thing I have in my life – and my life is overflowing with good things!  I still need you and will still feed you now that you're sixty-four!






Monday, June 18, 2018

Joe


Joe Cool Rodriguez 1987

The first time I met him he was wearing a green-striped shirt and following David, his elder brother, into Mario’s office.   This is before Mario and I were dating, and our relationship was boss-employee.  I loved working for Mario, the most organized boss ever; as a single mother I appreciated his humor and discipline. That day, however, he looked over the counter and smiled at me.

“Boys,” he said in a voice reserved for his children,  “this is our new park aid, Janet.  She’s brand new so don’t bother her.  She’s still trying to learn how to type.”

I rolled my eyes at him, but smiled at the kids.  The two boys  (David, 7, and Joe, 6) walked over to my desk, and started telling me about their recent airplane voyage from Kansas  City.

“That’s where our Mom lives,” Joe said, dreamily.  He had sandy, blonde hair and blue eyes, and he looked at me when he spoke.  David was brown haired, brown eyed and the talker of the two.  He was quick to tell me that he would soon be eight-years-old. 

David and Joe drew pictures at my desk as Mario made a few phone calls in his office.   They were filled with observations and questions.  They wanted to use my new electric typewriter.  They told me they had just ridden a horse the day before and Joe actually fell off.

“But I got up and got back on,” he said.  It wasn’t hard to tell he was proud of himself for getting back on the horse. I didn't even imagine that Joe would one day become quite an accomplished horse rider , a genuine cowboy, and that he and David would break and care for horses with such skill that they could make a living at it. Joe would also become an honor student, a star football player, and graduate high school in favor with his teachers and classmates, voted most likely to succeed. That day he was just a boy who was coping with his parents' divorce, and my heart went out to him.   

Reading books to Joe that night
I went to my boss’ house for dinner that night, more at the invitation of the boys than of him.  I got the feeling that they all liked me there, a woman in the shadow of all these guys.  I was also delighted to watch them together.  David was bold; Joe was thoughtful.  They were fun and respectful and I loved the relationship they had.  I ended up marrying Mario eighteen months later,  even though I was clueless of my true feelings for him that first night.  It was easy being with him and the boys, eating cold chicken and salad together, and later reading books.  I read four or five books aloud to the boys that evening as Mario washed the dinner dishes. 



“Why are you leaving?” Joe asked me as stood up to leave. 


Mario laughed from the sink and shouted, “Because she doesn’t live here!”


“I have a baby,” I answered  Joe, smiling. 
  
Joe leaned against the chair and looked at me.  "Is it a girl baby or a boy baby?” 

“A boy.  His name is Vince.”

“Why don't you go home and get him and bring him back here?”

I looked up at Mario who was smiling. 

“No, honey,” I said.  “I’m going to go home and spend some time with him.  Usually I give him a bath and put him to bed.”

"Okay, bye," Mario said, emerging from the kitchen, drying his hand on a towel.  "Thanks for coming over."

I left that night, not knowing it would be the first night of many--nights where I did go home and get Vince and bring him back to Mario's place.  We all got along so well, and I loved seeing this side of Mario.  We were good friends and once I allowed myself to, we fell in love.  



In many ways, I saw David and Joe as a package deal when I married Mario, but I soon learned to appreciate them as individuals.  Joe expressed his emotions and reasoned through every decision, just like his father.  Even as a teenager, he was kind and funny, tender and strong, analytical and careful.  



Ariel, Asher and Joe...goin' to the chapel


Not long ago, Joe married Ariel, the woman of substance that brings out the best in him.  She lights up his world, has a beautiful smile, and appreciates who he is.  Want to know the beautiful thing?  When he met her, she was a single mother of a young son. 


Harvey's birth--three Generations 

 Over the years, I have amassed thousands of memories and thousands of words to describe Joe, but none come as close as this: he is just like Mario.  Even the way he fathers his delightful sons reminds me of his Dad...and I can think of no greater compliment.  

Today is his birthday, and I think of how far he has come.  Now a father to three boys, he juggles work, home, and family with care and purpose.  Every day I am proud of him. 

Happy Birthday, Joe! We love you, so, so, so much!  


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

fight

This blog is a re-post from five years ago--and it is still true today.  Even though Mario and I are not fighting, the principles for reconciliation still apply. Think of your love and remember the joy and challenge of a love that lasts. 


Mario and I one random night - 30 years married.  





We are cordial as we speak to one another this morning, but there are icicles sticking to our words.  After 25 years of marriage, our fights have become polite.  

I know I’m crazy in love with my husband and I know he is my rock as much as a human man can be a human woman’s rock.  Even so, I am mad at him.  He made me mad yesterday and when he did I felt bad about myself.  The mood in our house drastically changed.  I didn’t just shut my mouth – I made him angry, too.  We were both tired and hungry and spent, so when our busy day was all over, we shared our double sized bed together without touching one another.  

This morning I made my own coffee. 

Today we will reconcile.  I’m mad at him now but I can guarantee you that I will not be able to stay away from him.  He rejoices with me in my small victories, like being able to rent a garbage bin for the lowest price.  He will help me see things from a balanced perspective and convince me that organic salmon is worth the price.  He will kiss me some time during today and chills will radiate from the back of my neck to the base of my spine. 

The reason I know this is because I have endured many fights with him.  They have threatened my happiness temporarily; but never have stolen from the concept of true love – the dream I am living with this man.

True love is not wimpy.  It is not selfish or self-centered.  It doesn’t wear make-up to make itself look good.  It exists between two people ready and willing and able to sacrifice for and with each other.  True love sees disappointment regularly and survives.  It is filled with passion, but equally filled with awareness that it is responsible to the world around it.  It becomes a large, stable boulder in a sea of change that people know will never move.

My love is not perfect; but it is strong.  It is rooted in grace and mercy and forgiveness.  It is a marathon runner, fueled by respect, truth and kindness.   It has fallen many times on a rocky road that never ends and it has stood up and limped back into the race, ready to go on.  My love kicks ass. 

That’s why this morning I can write this.  I am no baby – I am no spoiled princess.  I am a woman of substance and strength and I know who I am.  I will apologize for my part and I will forgive him for his. 

Eventually.