Sunday, June 29, 2008

Angels Calling

Sorry I've been MIA but life continues to move at break-neck speeds. My 6-years-young old soul tells me, "Mom, if life is running away from you, chase it!" And so I do, chase my version of the proverbial golden ring.... a peaceful path for my children, my husband and myself. Fortunately, on my journey along this path, I've been blessed with the presence and divine intervention of angels who come in different forms throughout my life. Being all but quarantined with my children due to the crazy therapy schedules we keep, almost my favorite kind of angels are the ones that keep reappearing. Those angels whose sixth sense tell them at precisely the right time that I need a supportive word. And the telephone line delivers them to me.

My favorite telephone angels grace my life with their humor... with perfect timing. These angels include my sister, Cathy; my friend, Christopher; my girlfriend, Lori; and my friend, Marko. These folks consistently call at just the right time and, instead of asking for updates and offering advice, they make me laugh. I mean REALLY LAUGH... OUT LOUD AND FROM THE HEART at the trials and tribulations of their lives as well as mine. They have the ability to turn my mood such that the conveyance of a stressful event -- which formerly might have been a downer in the retelling -- suddenly becomes fodder for the best stand-up comedian. I laugh til I cry and I hang up happy. A little break from the day-to-day routine of my life.

My Mom sometimes says that technology is the devil's invention, claiming it drives people away from face-to-face communication. And, while I sort-of agree... under certain circumstances, I have to thank God for telephone technology... especially those cell phones. It enables my loved ones who don't live near enough to me or are just a bit too busy chasing their own lives for a face-to-face encounter, to reach out and touch me... whenever and wherever the need arises. So, here's to my telephone angels and to the technology that brings these loved ones to me on a regular enough basis to keep me laughing.

Be some one's angel today! Call an old friend that you haven't spoken with in awhile just to say hello!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Angel, Isaiah

Sometimes, angels are people you encounter who just do what they do... but they do it with compassion. Yesterday we received the bad news that our beautiful 12-year-old dog, Isaiah, has a very aggressive form of terminal cancer. Given the type of cancer and the abrupt appearance of a softball-sized tumor, our veterinarian expects his time with us to be quite limited. And so, she has become our champion in helping us to ease his pain and suffering until he tells us when it's "time"... something, she assures us, he will let us know very clearly.

Let us also not forget our pets, the angels who bring so much joy to our lives in exchange for simple pleasures... a pat on the head, a morsel of food, a chance to lay at your feet. My beautiful "4-legged child" is the most angelic canine companion I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Among his virtues, I have found that he is Patient -- waiting calmly for his dinner without ever begging at the table despite the wafting scent of hamburger, as well as waiting for his nightly walk until the kids have all gone to bed; Tolerant -- never snapping, biting, or even growling a complaint EVER! even as the boys climbed over him, stepped on him, rode him like a pony (he's nearly that big), and otherwise poked or prodded him in the eyes, ears, butt and other unseemly places; Vigilant -- always at the ready to protect his people and his house, barking out big-dog warnings when suspicious doings were afoot... even when he lay asleep at our bedside (don't let the snoring fool you); Trustworthy -- sitting stalwart and untethered as I disappeared down the block giving chase to his 4-legged sibling who wanders off whenever she gets the chance (which is not often since we know this about her); Loyal -- walking by my side wherever I go, coming to rest in whatever room I occupy and following me to the ends of the earth just to be near me. This dog has shown me unconditional love like no other being -- be it human, canine, feline or any other.

And, even now, in his disrepair, he seeks me out for belly rubs, for company, or just to lean on me. He trusts me inherently... with his care... with his life. Much the way I trust him. I will miss Isaiah more than I can even let my heart imagine right now. So, while I pray for a miracle cure for this angel in my life, I hope that in whatever time he has left with us on this earth -- 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years -- I can show him the same unconditional love that he has always shown me. And maybe, in some small way, I can be his angel in his time of need.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Heaven Sent You

Some days I don't feel like I've met any angels... But, when I really stop and think about it... There they are. Shining examples of helpers who, in simple ways, make my life easier.

So here it is: As usual, we're rushing out to school, late again. Wanting desperately to walk despite the late departure I decide, "to heck with getting there on time". If my old soul refuses to get out of bed when I tell her to and then dilly dallies during get-ready time, that's her problem. Right? I want to walk to school and then take the long walk home past the river -- some exercise and soul-soothing for me and educational for the boys (as I stop and point at/talk about absolutely every bit of wildlife we see on the way). The old soul will have to suffer the natural consequences of her behavior and arrive late at school.

Still, as we're near-running down the block behind the double stroller filled with half-dressed boys -- NOT relaxing at all -- a driving neighbor slows to say good morning. Now, everyone who knows me and lives in the 'hood' knows I walk because I want the exercise. But, today, this neighbor says hello and must have recognized the frenzied look on my face, or perhaps because I was still in my pajamas (just kidding... sort of), and asks the usually ill-fated question, "Want me to take her?" "YES!!! That would be wonderful" I say as the mini-van door slides open to the pleasure of my and his [also 6-year-old] daughter who dilly-dallied and was running late for school just like us. Perfect!

Thanks for the ride, Frank. Heaven definitely sent you!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friends as Angels

As a stay-at-home-Mom, I occasionally find myself isolated from friends and the outside world. Please know that I don't actually mind this at all. However, in addition to a girl needing her mother... every once in awhile, a girl needs her girlfriends. And, I do pine for the days when I had various girlfriends at arms length for a quick conversation, a sympathetic ear, a lunch date for a salad or Tasti-Delight (NYC's version of fro-yo). In the 7 years since my departure from the corporate world, I have convened with various girlfriends, sadly, only a handful of times.

My angels today, are my girlfriends. Caren, Loree, Lori, Sue, Tammy, Wilma. Those women I love dearly, who recognizing my self-imposed "prison", always find a way to break me out every once in awhile... Either by insisting on a quickie salad at the diner ("back before your kids' bedtimes, I promise"); or by a quickie visit, spending a day in my crazy home so the boys' hectic Early Intervention therapy routine or naptime schedule or school pick-ups don't get messed up; or by sending just exactly the right email (usually about aging woman or crazed mothers); or by a simple pick-me-up phone call. Thanks for the outreach program ladies/angels. I couldn't survive without each and every one of you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Let's Hear it for the Real Angels

I noticed today a simple, orange and yellow artificial flower in the storage pouch of my double stroller. I see this flower every time I use the stroller but, today, I really noticed it. The flower was inadvertently picked up by my old soul during the recent burial of my mother-in-law. In life, my mother-in-law and I had a good relationship that was occasionally uncomfortable because we were a bit too much alike in some ways -- specifically, wanting things our own way. (So you can understand where an occasional clash might occur.) In death, my mother-in-law is one of my angels. Someone I talk to so much more frequently, seeking her assistance when things don't seem to be going exactly my way (see the pattern?). And, I know wholeheartedly that she is up there whispering in the right ear of my God, and asking him to take care of our family, her son, her grandchildren, and yes, even me, her sometimes stubborn daughter-in-law... advocating on our behalf.

No matter what earthly experience I may have had with friends or family members who have passed on, I find their presence in heaven (just my beliefs, not pushing anything on anyone else) such a comfort on those days that seem particularly rough going to me. So when I seek comfort, whether in prayer or just pleasant memories, I speak to and think of these angels... asking them to put in a good word for me and mine still running the daily race down here on earth.

So, my deepest gratitude to some of the real angels in my life: Grandma Alice, my Mother-in-law, my cousin Annie, and even my cat, Miko. For me, their absence here is a comfort and presence there.

Monday, June 9, 2008

An Angel is Anyone That Makes Me Feel Good About Being a Human Being

For me, some days feel long and hard, honestly a rarity for me but they do happen. Still, on those days that I find that I've raised my voice in impatience with my children, I tend to beat myself up a bit for it. You might recognize the internal rant ... "Boy, I'm a terrible mother. I yell too much. What kind of person am I to take out my foul mood on my kids? They're great kids. They didn't do anything wrong. They'll be talking about this on the psychiatrist's couch some day." And, so it goes. Not all the time but just those once-in-awhile days where I've just gotten up on the wrong side of the bed when maybe I shouldn't have gotten out of bed at all. And, it seems to me that these are the days the most subtle and unexpected angels appear.

The other day I was discussing with another mother, the "123 Magic" book (Phelan) that I'm reading to help me improve my parenting. Our conversation was anything but private as we were having lunch at a shared table in a public place. The middle-aged couple nice enough to share their table were quietly talking amongst themselves. As we were cleaning up our space and preparing the children to move on, the gentleman got up for a moment and, in his absence, the woman said to me, "I don't mean to eavesdrop but I couldn't help but overhear your conversation about the book you're reading and your discipline tactics. And, I just had to say, I wanted to stand up and applaud you for your interest and perspective on raising your children. "

THIS woman was my angel for the day. Here I am bemoaning my behavior and feeling badly about my mothering style at that particular time and a stranger compliments me... Mind you, I am not tooting my own horn about my mothering style. If you think so, go back and reread the first paragraph where I talk about yelling too much and taking my bad mood out on my kids. This is about an angel. A stranger who at just the moment I was not feeling so great about myself, says something kind and gentle and reassuring to me. As though she knew I desperately needed that boost at just that moment. She made my day and helped me believe that maybe I'm not half as bad a mother as I occasionally think I am.

Sometimes, a well-timed, unbidden compliment from someone you don't know can make all the difference. I wish you all angels like this one in your lives. And, I hope that you feel good enough to pay it forward and be an angel to someone else who might just need that one kind word. I know I will!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Simple, Everyday Angels

For me, the crosses I bear, the baggage I carry, the burdens I endure, gathered over the course of my life, in the end, are just stories to tell my children.... Hopefully, with some moral purpose or lesson such that they might not "make the same mistakes I made". I'd like to add here that at least some of these mistakes certainly made my life more interesting if not more difficult or painful at times. I certainly subscribe to the "scars add character" philosophy. That said, many an adult I know holds one or both parents responsible for at least some of their current adult-life woes. I, gratefully, have outgrown this silly notion. Taking full responsibility [now] for my actions since I was at least 3 weeks shy of my 18th birthday and off to college. Furthermore, the advent of birthing and raising my own children and the notion that I am now in my parents' role -- orchestrating my children's future baggage -- has afforded me the hindsight to appreciate not only the human-ness of my parents, but also the angel-ness of them as well.

So, today's angel award goes to my Mom. Yesterday, in 96 degrees heat, she donned her loosest cotton shirt, pants and some sandals and took me and my 3 beautiful children to the local church's annual feast... Her pockets stuffed with cash so she could make sure our afternoon and evening were completely worry-free. And, so she succeeded... along with the unbidden assistance of my aunt (my Mom's Ex-sister-in-law of 25 years). Together, they paid for and helped me juggle plates of hamburgers and cheesy fries, bottles of water and Snapple, and Mr. Softee ice cream cones, as well as ride tickets and distraction for the boys while the old soul rode the flying saucer, a ride that my little man (the baby) was sure would result in injury or worse, disappearance of his big sister. My Mom, "Grandma", despite being prone to serious motion sickness, even took on one of the rides -- "The Space Shuttle" that crashes into the moon at one point -- to the great satisfaction of my very happy and appreciative daughter. Thank God for my Mom, my Aunt and all those simple, every day angels... Lest I forget what my life would be like without their daily and selfless acts to help make my existence more worry-free.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Angels Work in Strange Ways

I spent a morning chatting with a friend, neighbor, mom to my old soul's friend, and special education teacher during a school "fun day" activity recently. As we talked about our daughters and their unique personality traits, this mother relayed a beautiful story to me about my child. I should preface this story with some information about my old soul. She is a hyper-creative, out-of-the-box thinker who rarely moves faster than 5 mph even when a speedier manner is called for. She is so creative (taking after her mom) that she is bored to distraction when projects are laid out, spelled out and the outcome is the same no matter which child is at the helm. That said, this mother shared with me that during a classroom activity where she was acting as class mother, the children were busy putting together their holiday craft according to the directions given previously by the teacher. My friend told me that she had been assigned to assist the children at my daughter's table. Halfway through the activity she noticed that my daughter had not started assembling her project per the instructions. She inquired and my old soul said, "I'm looking at all these materials and I'm thinking I could make a really fun cat toy for my cats instead." Rather than redirecting which, no doubt, the teacher would have done, this angel told my creative old soul to make whatever she wanted. My daughter came home with two beautiful holiday cat necklaces laced with jingle bells for her cats.

This mother said to me, "She's amazingly creative and that's something you should definitely encourage because that could be a great strength for her in life." In her relaying the story, I felt such gratitude that another adult/parent/teacher/mother would see value in my daughter's creativity... as I do. I thanked her and we went on to discuss how, these days, children are all expected to step into place and march like good little soldiers. A time where individual strengths are ignored and weaknesses are examined under a microscope in an effort to apply a diagnosis and prescribe meds. Thank God for the angels who see each child for their unique talents and encourage them to develop their strengths.... And, even more so, when these individuals find themselves in teaching professions or in frequent contact with children who need to be nurtured in this way. I'm happy that, at the very least, all the children that this special ed teacher, mother, friend and neighbor come in contact with -- including my daughter -- are better for the experience.

Another Day, Another Angel

It amazes me that people continuously offer their help and assistance to others, without being asked. As you know, our financial situation is less than rosy but doesn't really stink either. Some months ago, I asked a down-the-block neighbor who had successfully installed a beautiful brick-in-sand patio and walk way at his home to share his tips and secrets for such beautiful work. I mentioned that we hoped to tackle a similar project in due time, pavers already sitting on pallets in the driveway for 9 months. Last week, this neighbor -- who after losing his "real" job to the failing economy now does masonry/construction work -- offered me base sand leftover from one of his jobs for use in my project. The sand was in the back of his pick-up truck and he'd intended to dump it. But, as he drove past our house he thought of me and stopped to offer. I gratefully agreed and first thing this morning, said neighbor laid down a tarp in my back yard and shoveled a yard of sand out for our use... as well as offering his truck to pick up additional materials as needed. It's folks/angels like these -- who seize every opportunity to help others -- that make the world a nice place to be.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Circumstances & Today's Angel

I have 3 children: a 6-year-old daughter I'll refer to as "the old soul" and 3-year-old identical twin boys who also happen to have been blessed with an extra chromosome (aka: Down syndrome). Collectively, I'll call them "the boys" and individually it'll be "my big man" and "my baby" (given the 2 minutes between their births). There are those who hear of my "situation", as we're somewhat of a rarity, and immediately pity me for the circumstances we find ourselves in. Sadly, I cannot correct their erroneous thinking but I can write here... and introduce you all to this absolutely wonderful phenomenon I call my life.

'Tis true, I left the highly profitable corporate world 6 years ago for greener, if not poorer, pastures as a stay at home mother. It's also true that I have never regretted that decision even when the bills were due, the wallet was empty and the bank account ran dry. My hubby (let's call him "The Captain" for reasons I'll explain another time if the topic comes up) and I have always found a way to more than survive and have oft been reminded of those less fortunate to help us not just accept but appreciate our blessed circumstances.

My "Angels Amongst Us" lesson today came from hearing two incredibly sad stories: one about a little girl my daughter's age losing her Mommy to cancer and another about a young Mommy preparing to do battle, for the second time, with this devastating disease. Fighting just for the privilege of seeing her children grow up. A privilege, sadly, I have occasionally taken for granted. How can any one of us who live cancer free (knock wood so the tree spirits continue to grace us with good health) not be profoundly appreciative of the greatest gift of all.... life? Empathy is a powerful tool. It made me stop and really think what it would be to walk a mile in either woman's shoes. I thought about all I would miss, about all I would want to say, do or change were I to find myself where these loving mothers now find themselves. I know I would be devastated. And then, amidst these sad stories, I heard about another mother, an angel living amongst us. She's doing all the mommy things that the rest of us do on a daily basis so I didn't really recognize the halo... the way she wears it (She's sort of the halo as a beret type, I think). But, when this "every day" mom heard about the first mom's illness, as a massage therapist, she offered and regularly delivered free massages to the Mom, to help ease her physical pain and to the Dad, to help ease his mental pain. What an extraordinary gift, like that of the little Drummer Boy. She gave what she could and what could make a difference in the quality of this family's lives. Note: This mother-turned-angel didn't tell me the story herself, mind you. No bragging or self patronizing. Someone else told me about this incredibly good and selfless deed. I consider myself lucky to count this woman amongst my friends. I knew she was special, but today, I am in awe of her.

There Are Angels Amonst Us

I have no doubt at all that there are angels living amongst us. God knows I have three that were gifted to me personally, I call them my children. I learn more important stuff from them on a daily basis than I learned in all my years of schooling and working. Combined with the other angels that cross my path on a daily basis, I consistently feel as though I'm living a glorified life because of their presence. This blog is dedicated to them, my angels, and all the richness they bring to my life.