Friday, March 8, 2019


This blog is about my mother, Jennie.

There is an old adage that seems to be true: mothers and daughters cannot truly see or know the other as a person. Because mothers and daughters are so closely connected, their mutual unknowability and inherent blind spot might come from proximity or having expectations. The normal personality differences usually result in a mother-daughter dance that lasts forever, a dance that unintentionally upholds the tender relationship where we share and protect our hearts with and from one another.

My mom is peaceful, serene, and logical.  She loves justice but also uplifts peace. She’s honored  first her parents, then her husband, and then her family.  In all of my years with my mother, she’s never badmouthed any of them—because she treasures these relationships. She rolled up her sleeves and shared her skills, recipes, stories, and values effortlessly while we were growing up. She taught me about proper boundaries before that word was even part of the female vocabulary. And most of all, she taught me how to be a good woman just by living the example right in front of me.

My parents, Jack and Jennie, on their wedding day

 As a young woman, she was Tracy’s Tomato Queen, riding on top of an elephant in the middle of our small town.  Not long after, she met and fell in love with my father, Jack Ryan, an Irish-American from Boston.  Together, they had five children—Patty, Janet, Steve, Shari, and Colleen—their first grandchild (my son, Vince) was born before Colleen finished high-school. Our children know her as Grandma and now my Grandchildren know her as Great-Grandma. Time flies! My Mom is a woman of endurance and peace, but she sure knows how to fire up the joy, especially when it comes to gatherings.

This past year I’ve been compiling a family memoir of my mother’s family, the Gonzalez family, immigrants from Mexico. In this process, I’ve been able to know more and more about my mother.  I am in awe of how carefully she’s navigated through life, how each step has been done with care and gratitude. There are many times I’ve watched her walk through things she never should have walked through…and she’s been faithful to stand up and walk.  My Mom’s beauty is much more than exterior—it’s a beauty that radiates from her heart.  

The days she’s given me are priceless, and when I look back, I see rivers of love, flowing from her heart and spilling into my life in every season.  She has given the same love to all of our family over the years, faithful to be there in every way.  She continues to surprise me.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you, and am pleased to dance with you!   

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


Lauren--Christmas 2009

There aren’t many guidelines for loving grandchildren, because it’s an easy love. It’s a love that suddenly cheers you, a favorite song that plays when you’re standing in line at a store, or the DMV. Grandchildren are the music of celebration, the dance of connection. Each grandchild is a unique symphony, with movements depicting different seasons, or stages in their life.  

Lauren Christmas 2019

Our granddaughter, Lauren, is a young girl who moves constantly, an ongoing narrative symphony, like Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf,. Sly, fun, mischievous, and expansive, Lauren’s life is filled with flutes and timpani, warning us that change is coming; something big is about to happen. This is Lauren.  She’s the something big that is happening—the tale well-woven into music.

March 6, 2009

I still remember the day she Lauren was born.  Like her siblings before her, she came into this world through my daughter-in-law, Lennae, when she was at home in a birthing hot tub. I saw pictures, in full color—Lennae and David cuddling, Cathy (mi comadre) close by, and the midwives ready to help—from our kitchen counter in South Africa.  The longing I felt as I looked at the pictures via email filled me with admiration, love, and a sad emptiness.  I wanted to be there—to at least hold Lauren—but I knew it wasn’t possible.

Static-haired, elephant-hugging Lauren - 2014

We moved back to the USA when Lauren was four-years-old, and even though we made trips home to the USA to see her, she barely remembered us, and so we began the business of reconnecting. It didn’t take long to realize that distance is distance—we lived in California and David and Lennae’s family lived in Kansas.  When we visited Kansas as often as possible, where I selfishly kidnapped my grandchildren, took them to fun places, bought them stuff, and prayed that we would later remember it as shared experience. 

The miracle of these times were our hearts opening to each other—a beautiful exchange of time and ideas in the minutes together.  We played, took pictures, told stories, colored, and made a big deal about being together.  Of all of David’s kids, Lauren was the one with limitless energy.  She could move faster than all of us, get brighter ideas for creations and games, and invent better ways to do things.  She was unlike any child I’d ever met.

In the years I have been her grandmother, Lauren has grown from a little ball of energy and fun to a bigger ball of energy and fun.  She is always, always ready to have fun.

One year, during a visit with David and Alicia’s families, we had family pictures taken. She was on the porch with me, and after I had put my glasses down, she picked them up and put them on.

One of my favorite pictures with Lauren - 2016
“Now I see what you see,” she said. The picture is on my wall—a memory of Lauren that is cemented in my heart.

 Lauren is trusting, hopeful, filled with gigantic expectations of life, and makes me smile when I think of her. Oh, and she loves gross-looking stuffed animals now, ones that freak out her sister, Lilli.  I wish she would give poor Lilli a break…just for one day.

I once read that the baby of the family is loving because all of the family love trickles down to her—and I find this true of Lauren. Today, Lauren turns ten.  I can’t believe it.  I cannot believe it.  She’s into the double digits? Really? 
December 2017

There aren’t many guidelines for loving grandchildren, but on their birthday you are forced to remember how quickly time goes by. The love I feel for Lauren swells in my heart (like the final movement of Peter and the Wolf) and spills over, breaking into bits at the thought of life and its many changes. 
Borrowing my glasses again...Christmas 2018

Lauren, as much as I don’t want you to grow up, I want you to know that you are a joy to all of us at any age. I love you!  You are unique and wonderful and see life as a beautiful challenge, calling you into it! May I please borrow your glasses?