Friday, October 4, 2019

David




David's 1st Picture--October 4, 1979


Today I got an invitation from Mensa. Okay, it wasn’t a real invitation, it was one of those mass-emails that organizations send out to people, and I got one. They invited me to take the test to see if I were one of the people who can meet and mingle with others in the upper 1% of thinkers (actually the upper 1% of scores on IQ tests). I didn’t respond, mainly because I’m not Mensa material and I'm smart enough to know it. I have a wickedly precise memory and a mind for languages, but I’m “challenged” when it comes to directions, patterns, maps, statistics, and numbers. In other words, I am a right-brained person. The left side of my brain is carried by the right.

David—my step-son—could be in Mensa. 

David is one of the smartest people I know, understanding patterns and equations into the fourth dimension. Before becoming a programmer/web designer/ hardware systems expert, David majored in astrophysics.


“I used to smash protons together in these closet-sized labs at school,” he once told me. “Until I had enough of it.” He was smart enough to study astrophysics, and smart enough to leave.

David on his first computer--a Kaypro--telling Joe his turn will be in about two hours

When I met him, he was six years old, and he loved everything. I used to tell him (and his brother, Joe) that he was the best step-son in the world, and I didn’t deserve him. I deserved a step-son who hated me, one who stormed out of the house and called me a bitch under his breath...but David never said one unkind thing to me—ever.


At the New York Public Library 1987

As he grew, David reminded me more and more of his Dad—especially his weird and obscure sense of humor, followed by a funny, squeaking puppy laugh—which is a good thing.

He grew and grew and grew. Eventually, he got married and had children. Just the other day, Mario told me that David was going to be turning forty and I had a heart attack from the realization (I’m not good with math).

Family Portrait 1994

I still remember him dancing around the living room in his new karate pajamas, playing the slide trombone, and singing “Kiss the Girl” with his friends. I remember him holding Alicia when she was born. I remember him holding his firstborn child, then his second born child, and then, his baby. 

David, holding baby Lauren (Lilli looking at camera)

I remember the night he showed me what an Irish Car Bomb was, and I remember drinking it, and laughing my head off. I remember all the love, all the love. All the love I don’t deserve and never could deserve.

My favorite recent pic--Grand Master Samarai Jedi Master Rodriguez (with his bride, Lennae)

David, in every phase of your life, I remember you. I remember you smart. I remember you funny. I remember you being so kind to everyone—especially me. Because you are such a wonderful man, I am filled with love for you. I refuse to remember that 2019-1979=40. BUT on October fourth, your birthday, please remember that I love you!

David met us in L.A. at my December 2018 Residency



Friday, September 27, 2019

Harmony



Harmony 2019


Thinking of Harmony is like entering a museum of art and science, while eating a three-scoop-ice-cream-cone, and holding hands with your true love. Are you with me?

Being with Harmony means feeling love and admiration. She appreciates people, no matter how familiar or random. She loves Mexican food. She reads fantasy literature and science fiction. She asks deep questions about God and the Bible. She loves technology and will most likely learn to program soon, if her math and computer skills continue.  She paints with feeling, writes interesting stories and poetry. She is exceptionally warm-hearted, a team-player, and remarkably humble. She has no idea how smart or beautiful she is. She is a friend to everyone in her classroom, asks interesting and intelligent questions, and is kind to strangers.

I’m not saying all this about Harmony because she’s my grandchild—it’s really true. It’s also her tenth birthday today, and I want to celebrate the girl she is becoming. Not many ten-year-old girls are like this, so finding one is like striking oil, and having her in the family means we can love and appreciate her openly. She lights up our world and gives us hope for the future. 

I always said that love took on new forms when I had kids. Suddenly, I prayed more, listened more, my motivation to do things changed, etc. It is a reward to have grandchildren, the ones who make your life seem illuminated. My prayer life has been one of thanksgiving.

I decided to end this blog by showing you a picture of us at Casa Ramos, one of her favorite restaurants. I took out my phone and said, “How about a selfie?” Harmony and Alannah obliged, and this quick pick kind of makes me feel like I always feel when I am with her. I am not trying to be anything, not trying to do anything, I am just me with my granddaughters...little globes of light and love.




Happy Birthday, Harmony! You light up my world and today, I pray that you will know the height and width and depth of God’s love for you!
Grandma

Friday, August 30, 2019

Callen







Callen

The best of me was born the day I had a grandchild—
lovely and amazing, green-eyed and perfect. The
layers of lushness in their soul, the reflexive
desire for their mother’s breast. Inside a distrust for
humanity, as if wisdom were downloaded already
from heaven. In their eyes I became abuela—carrier
of magical foods and story—having purpose, fragrance,
love, with outstretched arms. As they grew, they loved
me (still), no boundaries, expectations, sudden changes—
I discovered shades of agapē  I hadn’t seen before. When this
child became his own, I celebrated with the love, mined
from deposits he put into me—his sowing returned
a crop of heroic love—the perfect example of a soul
returning truth; a beauty invested and momentum stored inside
of me. I dream of living up to this, the love of a grandchild:
to be the one who is loved without question; the one
who will love without question. The one who is celebrated,
who will celebrate every voltereta in life with the same joy,
the same love we inherit from a God who loves us both.


For this day and forever, I love you and am so proud of you! 
Abuela

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Alannah



At the pumpkin patch 2015

In a few days, Alannah will begin another school year—and it’s all she can talk about.
“I’ll see all my friends,” she says, breathlessly. “I’ve missed them so much and they’ve missed me.” She has a beautiful way of delighting in the sweetness of friendships. She loves her friends the way that her mother—my daughter, Alicia, used to. When I volunteer in her classroom, Alannah is a shining star, hard-working, but also very friendly. She has lots of friends and is genuinely warm and welcoming to all of her classmates.

At the Discovery Museum with a walking stick 2019

Alannah is curious and loves to learn about so many things.  Science is fascinating, cooking is fun, but art is where she excels. loves to watch plays, ballets, and singing.  She paints, draws, and writes poetry. Like her sister, she loves reading and being read aloud to.

For an early birthday present, Alannah chose a sleeping dog—it’s called a Perfect Petzzz, a stuffed animal—for her collection.  When we took it home, she set up a shelf for him to sleep, collected a few family members for him, and then made the sleeping dog a mother as soon as she found a  stuffed animal small enough to be a baby.  It was such a wonderful day, watching this, and playing with her. There's part of me that is always hoping she will stay this age.



When you’re a grandmother, there are few things in your life that equal the love of a grandchild—the love I feel for Alanna is enormous. It swells in my heart, like a wonderful wave of surf, and she makes me feel like I can actually stand up on a board.


The love I receive from Alannah is like a taste of  heaven.  There’s not one condition or string attached to our relationship—it’s all just about love and discovery.


Every day I’m with Alannah, I’m grateful. Every day she’s in my life, I stand up straighter, take deeper breaths and learn more about life and why it's so worth living.


Happy Birthday to Alannah! You are a glittering ray of joy and hope.  Let’s celebrate!!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Alicia






Alicia, Harmony, Alannah and I in June 2019



You Are.../I am...

A song whose melody is light—
the best there is—singing
with outstretched hands, my love
inspired by the sparks of joy
reach out and take my hand

I wasted precious time, forgetting
of you in my arms, my house, then
wandering, looking for something I lost
sleep—those nights drowned in red
darker than blood wine, the secret
fear that I wouldn’t find the thing
if there was a thing—that kept you from me

I once held expectations, now only hope—
broken and glued-together hope,
for the reasons mothers understand—with
my hands. I named you 
seeking truth, the gold you might find in
everything.  My girl, always shining,
as you lift your arms to be carried, lifting
away from tender wounds, look
for your heart, unveiled. Look
this way, see me reaching now
by the mercy of God, to bring you back
to me—a mother who loves you



This poem is for my daughter, Alicia, a woman in constant motion, who turns thirty-one today! If you read it line-by line from the top down, it is about Alicia and my constant search to understand her as she grew. If you read it, line-by-line, from the bottom to the top, it is about me seeking understanding for today--to love her for the woman she is.  

All by the grace of God--all by the grace of God...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Mario

Happy Birthday, Baby!!


I just got off the phone with Mario, the love of my life, the man who normally reaches in to make things easier for me, when the world seems like it’s unravelling in my hands.  He is the best guy I’ve ever met, a man of exceptional capacity to care for others and make everyone around him feel safe and understood.  The world is a better place with him in it--and I celebrate him every chance I get.

 Mario turns 65 today, which seems impossible, since we just got married last week (32 years ago) and our kids just graduated from high school (yesterday Joe turned 38). Didn’t we just get back from Africa? (Six years ago, we arrived home in Sacramento).  It’s easy to lose track of time when it flies by…and time does fly when you’re having fun.

Today I’m typing from a single bedroom in an AirBnB in Los Angeles—staying here while I attend the third residency for my MFA at Antioch University.  Five days into my residency, a time of stimulating and intense I’m exhausted and I miss him. Next to me is my purse, my book-bag and nothing else. I miss my husband, the one who validates me at every turn.  I miss the smell of his neck, the sound of him making coffee, the way he lays out his clothes for the next day.  I miss him.  I have to remember that sometimes marriage is tested by absence, and for some people, they have to endure separations for much longer than two weeks! When marriages are strong, love and respect keep the distance between us like a thread of music, continuing from another room.  When we’re reunited, we’re able to pick up where we left off.

Mario and I, chilling after an AWP Conference

Happy Birthday, Baby!  I love you so much!  I miss you so much it hurts!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Asher


Asher (grimacing after tasting frosting) Christmas 2018


Last December, I was in line at Hobby Lobby, holding gifts for Joe's kids that I let them select for themselves. Our precocious grandson, Asher, heard a cashier at the register ask someone to bring her a set of Copic markers, kept under lock and key.

"I changed my mind!" Asher said, looking at me, wide-eyed. "I want Copic markers!"

I laughed. Copic markers are used by art professionals, familiar with intricacies of layering and blending.  They are also extremely expensive and we can't afford them.  I'm a traditional grandmother who wants to buy everything for my grandkids, but I tried to deflect the request.

"No, Asher," I said.  "I don't think you're old enough for Copic markers."

Asher grimaced. I LOVE Asher's grimaces, almost as much as I love his smiles. 

"I'm old enough," he said. "I know what you're thinking.  You think I'm not going to treat them well, and I won't know what to to with them, but I do."  The grimace fell into a sadness that made me put my arm on his shoulder. 

"I know you're an artist," I said. "But I can't afford more than one Copic marker.  If you want one or two we might be able to afford it. But that's your Christmas gift. I think what you've chosen is better."

Asher looked up at me, then at his pre-purchased gift. "Alright, I'll take that," he said.  The look of defeat was all over his face. I knew better than to lecture him about being thankful--he was genuinely disappointed, and I didn't blame him. He looked up at me again. "One day, when you can afford it, can you buy me Copic markers?" 

I nodded. "Yes, Asher. Because I know you'll take care of them and I know you are a serious artist."

He smiled at me and shrugged.  "You should have just said you couldn't afford them in the first place," he said. "Instead of saying I'm not old enough." 

When we got to the cashier, I was so ready to be out of there.  I wanted to advise her not to say "Copic Markers" out loud while others are in line.  Instead, I smiled and looked down at Asher.  "One day, buddy, okay?"

"Yeah," he agreed. "Because I'm pretty good at drawing. You've never met another kid like me, right?"

I smiled. Asher remembered what I was saying earlier.  I told his parents that I never met anyone like Asher--he wasn't like other kids.


Asher's School open house - September 2017

I met Asher when he was eighteen months old. Mario and I called him "the little man" because he was so grown up for a little kid. He was already speaking in complete sentences, even though he didn't speak them to me.  His whole world was wrapped up in his mother, Ariel, my daughter-in-law Lennae’s sister.  Ariel and Asher occupied one room of (our son) David and Lennae’s house, so when we would visit our kids and grandchildren, we would see Ariel and Asher.


When our other son, Joe, visited David and Lennae, he got to know Ariel and Asher much better than we ever did. Soon, we noticed he was becoming pretty close with Ariel--a gorgeous, quiet woman that looked like a Renaissance painting.  When Joe and Ariel started dating, I wondered how it would affect the small, territorial little man in Ariel’s life.  After a brief warming up period, Joe and Asher got used to one another and began a relationship that looked like father and son.  A little while later, Harvey was born and the family blended quite nicely.

Playing Slinky on the stairs with Harvey - 2018

When you see Joe and Asher together, you see a unique closeness in their relationship, one that reminds me of how things are between Mario and Vince.  WhenMario and I started dating, Vince was 18 months old; when we married, Vince was two and a half.

Dog Pile on Grandpa
The blessing of a blended family is that everyone in it has a heart that makes room for each other.  While not always ideal, the children learn that they have parents on all sides.  When it’s working properly, the child feels loved on all sides.  While not ideal, the blended family has a special beauty, with  members that can adapt to newcomers easier.  Ours is such a family, where we are scattered and different, but we all love each other.  Asher helps me remember that life is pretty sweet –if we make it that way. 



Happy Birthday, Asher!!  I have never met another kid like you and I am so grateful that we're family!!  Blessings and love today and always!  Abuela.