Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Annual Holiday Letter

Greetings Family and Friends,

As Amira and I clinked our fluted glasses filled with sparkling apple cider at mid-night on January 1, 2012 we vowed to make the New Year a year of being fancy and adventurous. Little did we know we’d be taking Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to a whole new level!

Beginning New Year’s Day we took a spontaneous road-trip to Santa Rosa, Ca, to the home of Snoopy’s Ice Rink. We spent a glorious day there along with exploring the Charles Schultz museum.  It was a perfect way to start 2012.

At the end of March, beginning of April we arranged a surprise birthday/family reunion trip to San Diego for my dad. We rented a beautiful home just a few short blocks from the water.  The Brown Clan and the Leboda Clan (Arizona family) had a grand week in southern California.  Memories that will last a lifetime!  Two days before leaving I fell down a flight of stairs and broke my ankle in two places. This however did not stop us from enjoying the last days of San Diego. However, it did take me out of work for more than 6 weeks.

During my hiatus, Clint and I discovered we had an older sister named Terri and met her at the end of May.  In some ways it’s still very surreal yet very natural at the same time.  We’ve certainly enjoyed getting to know one another and spending time together.  Turns out she lives in Arizona. What a small world!  We’ve since introduced her to the Leboda Clan, which has been a great experience as well.

After watching the summer Olympics Amira decided she wanted to try gymnastics. So for the last few months she’s been taking classes once a week. After her second month of classes her teacher approached me about Amira taking a spot on their competitive team of which she is now training for.

In addition to doing gymnastics once a week she opted to play on the school’s volleyball team this year and did really well.  So excited to share these wonderful experiences with her.

For Thanksgiving we spent the extended weekend in Arizona with the entire clan and had an absolute blast.

As of the writing of this Annual Christmas letter (12/16/12), our family has learned that my sister-in-law, Claudia, has Stage 3 cervical cancer.  She and Clint have agreed to take the doctor’s recommendation for treatment, which will be 6 weeks of combined chemotherapy and radiation.  Her first radiation treatment will be December 24, 2012, with a more than likely overnight stay to track her progress. Claudia has said that she appreciates all the outpour of love, prayers and positive support she’s been receiving.  She is choosing to keep herself surrounded with positive people, as she knows this will benefit her more than anything.  We’re in the process of putting something together to keep everyone informed via a web-page. Once this has been done we will gladly pass the word along. (Update 12/25/12: Claudia received her first chemo treatment Sunday, 12/23/12 and her first radiation treatment Monday, 12/24/12. She is doing well and is looking forward to spending the holidays with her family.)

         As you look back over the year, I hope you look with fondness and gratitude. As you look forward, I hope you look with amazement and wonder.  I wish you peace, good health, and lots of love.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shenanigans Humans' Pull

To be very honest, I am beyond words at the shenanigans humans’ pull, which are a direct misuse of our egos.  An obvious example is the political games being played around the globe at the unfortunate expense of human life.  Whether this be physical, emotional or spiritual at the expense of human life, it is all the same……shameful! Every negative thing we think, feel, say or do is adding to our pain and suffering and the negativity of every person, place, condition, or thing on Earth. To keep acting in these obsolete behavioral patterns when we should know better is ludicrous, unconscionable, and defies common sense.  Playing the same old record over and over for years on end not only becomes monotonous but also borders on lunacy.  Enough is enough!  How can we make a difference?  Believe it or not, we have the ability to do so, by being cognizant of what we are empowering with the focus of our attention and especially what we are communicating to others only a daily basis. As the infamous Mahatma Gandhi so eloquently said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.  Each and every one of us has the very power to effectuate such change.  I believe we have an absolute duty to do so, for each one of us holds the key to the future.  Don’t be lured into the negative menacing of the media, for it will only perpetuate the same decrepit tune. Instead, be an active example of positive actions daily.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Summer, where did you go?

Hard to believe the days of summer are winding down.  It seems as if it was only yesterday I was beginning summer with a mending broken ankle, and now it's coming to a conclusion.

Lets see what did we do? Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Oh yes, I began back to work part time at the beginning of June and by mid to late June I was back full time. However, due to being off for 9 weeks it was now like starting all over again. I needed to rebuild my clientele. Truly we here in America have a short attention span. I didn't think 9 weeks was all that long, but apparently to some it was a lifetime, so they moved on.  Rebuilding a clientele as well as those being on summer holidays it's been rather challenging to say the least, but I'm still hopeful for improvement.

Amira spent the summer at day camp swimming and going on all kinds of fun field trips.  Her camp also had their own Camp Olympics which she participated in and came home with three 2nd place ribbons for her achievements.

For 4th of July/Amira's birthday we had a big family bbq at our house and my sister and niece (who I met for the first time) came in from Arizona to enjoy the festivities.  It was an amazing few days.

August came and went with my birthday mingled in the middle.  This year for my birthday I was not feeling very festive, but rather feeling like I needed some alone time, so I received a massage from a friend at the clinic I work at and then grabbed a cup of coffee and spend it at the cemetary with my mom. Although it's still very hard to go there, there's such an amazing sense of peace and calmness that lingers.  It was just what I needed to sit, be still and shed unspoken tears.

After being inspired from watching the Olympics, Amira decided she wanted to try gymastics. So, three weeks ago we found a gymnastics place a couple miles down the road and she's been going once a week since then and has thoroughly enjoyed every minute.  She's getting so good at doing handstands that I'm expecting one day to find her walking through the house on her hands.

Towards the later part of August she returned to school (4th grade) and has been both excited as well as challenged by the experience.  She was excited to get back to school and learn as she loves it, but has not been thrilled with the idea of having to do oral reports.  Although she's been gradually doing them since 1st grade, this year seems to be more challenging than others......and she hasn't even done the first one yet.  She's in a 4th, 5th, 6th grade combo, so I'm sure she's feeling a little insecure because of the older kids, although the majority of the class is 4th graders.  Moreover, I have a feeling they are introducing new concepts and that's stretching her a little bit.  All good stuff....just hate to see her stress herself out over the oral reports.

Doing another breast health awareness fundraiser towards the end of October. Doing it solo this year as my partner is out on disability as a result of injuring herself massaging.  I do have someone who has offered to help should I have any couples massages, so am grateful. Hoping this fundraiser do just as well as last year and better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Feel the fear and face it anyway

(Disclaimer - as with most of my post they are written from a raw standpoint with little or no editing)

Imagine strolling along life thinking everything in your world is real and known to you. Then imagine a world where you have this unknowing knowledge that your life isn’t completely as real as you’ve imagined it to be.

There were various times throughout my entire life when I had this sense that something was amiss. Imagine as a kid feeling like you were adopted or at best unwanted by your mom. I can remember specifically asking my mom at different ages in my life if I was adopted to which she would admittedly say, “why would you ask that? Of course you’re not adopted”. Although I heard these words there was always something deeper inside me that didn’t entirely believe this. Maybe it was because my mom and I throughout my life had a tumultuous relationship. Some would describe it as a ‘normal’ mother/daughter relationship and maybe that’s true. I loved my mom dearly and wanted nothing more than to please her and make her proud.

I believe we were great friends and could talk about many things, but I would not describe our relationship as one with overly motherly love and physical affection. Really, it wasn’t until nearly the end of my mom’s life that I learned from her own words that she loved me and was so proud of me. She admired my strength and didn’t know how I managed to get through what I’d gotten through. Waiting what seemed like a lifetime to hear such words was bittersweet. In one since I had already formed an opinion of myself based on what I had been told, and to hear those words didn’t seem real to me at the time. On the other hand, I chastised myself for having such ‘negative’ thoughts because after all wasn’t this what I wanted---my mom’s love and approval? I did. I so desperately needed it, and yet my self-sabotaging self, that part of myself that wouldn’t allow me to receive this information, would say, “but why couldn’t she tell me long ago when I needed it?” But the facts remain, I needed it even the moment she told me and yet somehow my wounded self in some ways felt like it was a little too late. Was it? I don’t think so. How many people have wanted to receive such love and confirmation from someone who meant the world to them, only to have them leave this planet and never hear them when they were living. I was blessed.

Why the walk down memory lane? I’m being faced with something that I never thought I’d have to face and a part of me feels a bit miffed that I have to deal with something that was someone else’s decision from soooooo long ago.

Upon returning from a great vacation/dad’s birthday celebration/family reunion with a broken leg, I receive a letter from my aunt (mom’s sister) with an additional letter attached to it. Upon reading my aunt’s letter, I was a bit confused because she was referring to someone I didn’t know.

My dad and I were sitting at my kitchen table when I read the enclosed letter my aunt had sent. The second letter was a letter from my half sister. Yep, you read that correctly, my half sister.

When my mom was 18 or 19 years old, she was engaged, and became pregnant. When she advised her betrothed, he did like so many men, he fled the scene. Without going into so many details, she decided she wanted to give this child a chance at life, so she found an educated family who desired to adopt her child. I’m sure this had to be one of or if not the hardest decision she ever made in her life.

It was agreed upon by all the parties involved to never discuss this situation. However, I can’t help but believe on some levels my mom either questioned her decision or at least mourned the situation as there were certain times during the year where she’d become really melancholy, and when we’d ask her what was wrong she'd tell us, ‘nothing’.

Yesterday was the day. Yesterday was the day Clint and I would walk through a door that would possibly change our world forever. Yesterday was the day Clint and I would make a decision that would ultimately change the lives of our children as well. Our dad was fully behind our decision to face this long family secret. All three of us (Dad, Clint and I) agreed that our half sister, Teri, should know the truth as we knew it, for we all could not imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes looking for her family for almost 30 years. According to the letter I read, she had established a relationship with our Grandma some years back, but was only given snippets of information about us out of respect for my mom.

According to this letter, Teri even knew mom had died a couple of years ago. Although, at this point Clint and I didn’t know how she knew that, we agreed I would initiate contact with her after receiving the letter from our aunt. I can only imagine what she must have felt upon first initial contact, as we were a little nervous and curious as well.

The exchange of emails and information seemed to flow easily between Teri, Clint and I, and then one fateful email came from Teri suggesting she fly to Sacramento to meet us. My first line of defense is to ALWAYS retreat because I wasn’t sure I was ready. Ready for what I’m not sure; I have no doubt all my insecurities and fears were taking over. I even addressed my fears, which I felt so proud for actually verbalizing my fears rather than just ignoring them and feeling like crap inside. Teri shared she was also very scared but excited at the possibility.

Yesterday, Teri was scheduled to fly into Sacramento and informed us where she’d be staying. She invited both Clint and I along with our families, should we choose, to meet her for dinner.

Clint and I agreed we’d go together along with our families. I asked my dad if he wanted to go, and he said that he didn’t……then paused for a second and looked me in the eyes and said, “do you need me to go with you?” I so love this man and his innate sensitivity. I told him I didn’t need him to go, but that I didn’t want him to feel excluded.

Yesterday seemed like a long day filled with too many overflowing emotions and past memories running through the forefront on my mind like the fountain in my backyard……continually running.

Was I afraid to meet Teri? No. Was I afraid we wouldn’t get along? No. Then, what was I afraid of? I was afraid she’d be disappointed in me. I had found out from my own prior research, she was a successful businesswoman, lived in an affluent part of Scottsdale in an enormous size home. Doing what so many of us humans do, I compared it to my own life.

Sitting in my backyard yesterday, where I find so much solitude and peace, I began journaling my thoughts to process the feelings that were causing pain and fear, and as I did, the tears just seemed to flow. At one point, I found Amira next to me hugging me asking me if everything was ok. I immediately collected myself, as parents always feel they have to put on a brave front for their children……silly really, and looked into her angelic face. I told her I was ok, but that I was just processing some feelings. She said, “is it because of meeting your sister?” I told her it was, and then we spent the next thirty minutes or so exchanging our thoughts and feelings about many things. We talked about her nervousness of having to give oral book reports at school and what that feels like for her. I shared that sometimes I don’t feel very good about myself because my mom use to tell me I was fat and ugly, to which she said, “That’s not very nice”. I told her she was right. I then went on to explain to her that the reason I tell her, maybe more than she’d like to hear, how much I love her, how proud I am of her, and how much I think she is beautiful and amazing is because I didn’t hear these words much, and certainly not all of them, when I was growing up. At the end of our conversation, she hugged me and told me, “don’t worry I’ll be there with you today”, which spilled more tears but in a good way.

We both spent extra time primping and pampering ourselves to get ready for our meeting with Teri as the email had came she was in town.

We drove to our designated location and met Clint, Claudia and Anthony. On the way, as I had been most of the day, I prayed for God’s presence to be with all of us on this journey, as well as mom's presence. So began the final steps of life, as we knew it. We reached the door, and all insisted Clint go first. He knocked and backed up towards us. The door opened, and a beautiful tall blonde with a welcoming smile greeted us…………it was like looking in a mirror with the exception of her slender stature. We each took turns walking forward and embracing her. None of us cried, as we each shared later we thought we would. For the next 5 hours we spent sharing stories and laughing. It seemed to flow effortlessly. She kept staring at me and saying, “oh my God, it’s like looking in a mirror seeing you”. She joked that over her lifetime people would ask her, “do you have a sister, to which she would say I sure do and she looks just like me, I just don’t know where she is”. She told us she had a 10-year relationship with our grandma. She described grandma’s house in exact detail. She said the very first time grandma showed her Clint and I’s picture she couldn’t take her eyes off them. She couldn’t believe she was looking at someone that looked like her. She described exchanging phone calls, letters, holiday cards and such with grandma over all these years. Clint and I were shocked because our grandma never had that type of relationship with us. Grandma had that type of relationship with my aunt and her family, but not us.

The evening ended, as we had to get our kids home and ready for school the next day. We all hugged and agreed to meet again today. She hugged me one last time and whispered in my ear, “You make me feel like I can breath”.

I received an email from her this morning saying, “Thank you for yesterday. I love you already.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Processing Random Raw Thoughts

Why do I remain so closed off? Or why do I remain so strong as to not ask for assistance? For some, asking for assistance does not seem to be such a struggle, so why do I?

Fear of being weak?
Fear of bothering someone with my troubles?

These two also keep me from being approachable.  Meaning: giving the impression to others that I don’t need anyone.

Fear is one’s pride or ego, not their heart or true essence.  One’s heart or true essence doesn’t reflect such thoughts, feelings or images to the world.

How does one open up?  How does one also attract someone with a willingness to have his or her heart open too? (Again, random raw thoughts--the answers are seemingly obvious.)

I could probably be a Mensa Member, yet I lack the fortitude to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to open up to attract a partner.  Letting go of any kind of fear has to be the most challenging thing on earth.

I understand the reason, logic and even psychology behind it and even counsel my clients on it, and yet it remains my biggest obstacle in life.

Fear limits all reason and logic.  Even knowing isn’t enough to do anything…..one’s choice to take action is what is required…….feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

There are so many of us that I hear say (self included), “I never want to hurt anyone” or “it would kill me if I hurt someone”, yet in the process we never realize or acknowledge we are sometimes sacrificing ourselves in the process which is ultimately hurting us.  Somehow in our justified reasoning we say, “I’d rather hurt myself than someone else” or “I’d rather take their pain for them so they don’t have to go through that”. Why? Why do we choose to do that?  It’s as if somehow we are being self-less.  Are we?  Is this really being self-less or are we just being self-sabotaging along the way for the sake of others?

In the end, isn’t it their pain they have to deal with or not? 

I don’t think the majority of us intentionally plan to hurt someone, but somehow we do because we don’t take ownership of our own hurts and pains.  We don’t learn to process them, and therefore end up projecting them onto others, thus creating a vicious cycle.

This is not about brow beating one’s self for not acknowledging the obvious; this is a gentle reminder of what one needs to be consciously be aware of in order to change the cycle----should one desire something different.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pain in spite of reason

As we travel through this journey we call life, there’s so many hills and valleys. There are so many unexpected curves, and roads with either short or long distances.

Often times I ask myself, why? Why is it that we have to experience all these things……all these emotions and feelings? Really, what is the purpose? In the big scheme of things, what are we all suppose to be doing on this journey called ‘life’?

I visualize us being in a human maze with no real direction, no real sense of knowing how big or long the maze really is because we don’t get an overhead preview. Would it make any real difference if we did have an overview? Would we rationalize to ourselves when the actual journey of the maze seemed endless that there’s a beginning and an end and we are somewhere in between, with no attachment to feelings, or feeling happy for the experience, frustration for not recalling all the details of the previewed maze, or disappointment because as prepared or as strong as we may have been for the journey, it did not end up the way we wanted?

As happy and optimistic as I may be in my life, I’m certainly not exempt from feeling disappointment, sadness and depression. As much as I can see the good in everything, I’m always surprised when depression and/or stress enter my being.

I think what always brings on these feelings is a result of human interaction. The ending of a job, schooling, project, or any other material thing we can image, doesn’t seem to have quite the impact as the ending of a human relationship, whether an ending of a life, friendship, intimate relationship, etc., the pain seems to always be the same, unbearable.

I’ve recently experienced some physical health issues that have been a result of stress and sadness, and it scared me. Thankfully, it wasn’t my heart as I suspected; it was more along the lines of an ulcer and vertigo. However, not experiencing these physical symptoms before really concerned me. As much as I thought I could talk (reasoning mind) myself out of thinking the worst, my mind (thinking) also scared me to suspect the worst. It’s amazing; really, how powerful our thought process can affect us either positively or negatively.

Of course, reasoning mind says, “this too shall pass”; however, my emotional and physical being is currently experiencing anguish.

I think the worst part for me is the feeling of being once again exposed. When you have any kind of personal relationship, you make yourself somewhat vulnerable by revealing your (strengths and weaknesses) to another, and then when they are gone you are left feeling vulnerably exposed.

“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.” ~C.S. Lewis

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Finally Exhaled

With 2012 starting off like a sprinting race it has been non-stop go, go, go. The anticipation of the “new” to come and the many plans put in place for at least the first half of this year, it seems today (21 days into the New Year), I decided to exhale. Until this morning when I woke myself up with tears running down my cheeks, I realized I had been holding my breath this whole time. I suppose having this feeling of having so much to do (all good and desirable things), and the anticipation of how to manage it all, just momentarily took my breath away.

It’s funny in life how some times, for example, you have no idea you’re even holding your breath until that exact moment of exhale.

I suppose if I was to narrow things down and put a finger on the exact thing that caused me to hold my breath, I’d have to say it’s ‘change’. I can feel change of some kind in the air, and like most people change can be challenging. For me, if I’m honest with myself, I think I love the sense of ‘safeness’ in known routine. I love the since of ‘security’ in predictability. Mind you, I realize these terms of safeness and security are all just relative since change is inevitable, but nonetheless there’s that sense that gives us comfort.

Even if one’s existing circumstances are not as desirable as one would like, there’s still that sense of predictability that seem more tolerable than ‘unknown’ change.

On the other hand, preparing for a significant life altering change (wedding, career, family addition, purchasing a home, etc.) can be both exhilarating and somewhat terrifying all at the same time.

It seems once one goes through some kind of change or transition in their life, things eventually work themselves back into a state of predictability and calm, which is somehow comforting.

In my situation, it’s perhaps that not knowing at the moment what the change is, but rather just a ‘feeling’ of a life altering change is about to happen, which probably explains the unnoticeable breath holding I’ve been doing until this morning.

Here’s to remembering to breath. :0)