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The art of true dog-gone happiness

January 29

 

Sadie our dog discovered snow for the first time today! Even though she had seen snow before she was never really interested in playing with it because it was unknown; and therefore scary to her.

Before, she would just sniff at it momentarily when it felt different she would just go do her duty and proceed to try to run like a bullet back into the house.

But today Chris and our youngest son Alexi decided to throw snowballs for her to catch.

She would jump up to catch them and they would disappear into snow dust as she tried to grab them between her teeth! She would go nuts after wards sniffing around trying to find the "ball"!

It was so funny to watch her searching for it!

The interesting thing was she wasn't upset or angry because she couldn't find exactly what she was looking for. Instead she would roll around in the snow totally enjoying the new experience.

She would sniff it, taste it, paw at it and totally take it all in!

If only we humans could totally give in and enjoy the things we have, instead of being angry at the things we don't have!

See Sadie could have been so upset because she didn't catch the "Ball" that she could have refused to enjoy all the other things that were going on around her.

But instead, she decided that if she couldn't catch the "ball" she could still enjoy the snow!

I wonder how many wonderful experiences I had missed because I was too busy lamenting what I didn't have? Sometimes when we are wishing for our boat to come in we are at the airport wondering where our boat is!

We need to embrace the moment to fully appreciate everything life has to offer!

It is do funny how some people say dogs are just dumb animals, yeah, right! There was absolutely nothing dumb about our big goofy dog as she was having the time of her life rolling in the snow!

We humans were the ones that could learn a thing or two from the way they take every little bit nature has to offer in!    

Hey guys can I play too?


The gift of forgiveness

 

January 27

 

I went to a woman's conference at my church today. I don't think I was in the right spiritual frame of mind because I felt like killing one of the presenters!

Yeah, I know that's not the reaction were supposed to have when we go to a church sponsored event!

This woman had the nerve to go on and on about how anything bad that has ever happened to us was for a good reason. (This was the part where I wanted to go Hare-Kari on her!)

As an adult I often times questioned the reasons why I had to go through so much pain and hurt as a child. After counseling sessions I was able to put a lot of the pain behind me and move on.

But now to hear that woman say those things kind of brought some of the pain back. As far as I could see, no good had ever come out of it in my life.

When I got home I was madder than a wet hen!

My poor husband once again served the place of the messenger and got shot!

I walked back and forth waving my arms like a turkey trying to take flight. I vented about how nuts this woman was to not only think that way but to have the gall to present it in a motivational talk?

Who did she think she was anyway? My husband just stared at me intently. After I was all vented out from my turkey dance I flopped down on the couch in our bedroom and just looked back at him.

"Why are you looking at me that way?" I asked, feeling another episode of frenzied turkey flight attempts coming on.

"Aside from the fact that you look ready to fly south for the winter?" he chuckled "Hon, whether you realize it or not a lot of good has come from what you have gone through," he answered.

I started to stand up to start my turkey hop bit again when he gently put his hand on my shoulder and sat me back down again.

"Hear me out!" He said. When he was sure I wouldn't flutter again, he continued," Honey, you are the most compassionate person I have ever met. We go to the stores and total strangers will tell you their life stories out of the blue. Do you think they do that with everyone?

Most of these people don't even give me the time of day! As a matter of fact some of the old ladies hide their bags when they see me coming! Any time I go somewhere all I hear is how nice my wife is. How sweet she is and kind and loving! No one ever says that about me! Do you know why they say that about you?" I shook my head at him still not buying what the woman had said.

"It's because you care and the reason you care is because you have gone through so much hurt and pain. You can really relate to them. When someone tells you they are in pain you know exactly what they are feeling, therefore you know the right thing to say and do or at least you know enough to just be quiet and listen to let them vent!

Do you think you would understand them if you hadn't gone through all that crap? Would you understand when a young girl tells you she was abused? Or when a person feels unwanted or abandoned?

I don't understand it. I may be able to try     and offer advice, but I have no clue as to how deep the hurt is, not too many people would.

But you do. Do you think if you had grown up with two loving caring parents, a nice home and all the things you needed, you would understand these people in need?

Would you even care about them? I don't think so! It's because of all the suffering that you went through that made you the wonderful, caring person that you are today!"

As I sat there listening to Mel I realized that maybe he was right; at least a little. I guess a lot of good had come out of all the bad experiences in my life.

As a result of it I had tried to be a more compassionate medical assistant, police officer and teacher. I had done all I could to ensure that the victims and their families were treated with respect and dignity. I always went out of my way to listen to people when they talked to me. No matter how weird or unconventional they might seem.

I also tried to remember things they told me, so that when I ran into them again I would be able to ask them how it was going, if their aunt was better, they were better, whatever it was they had shared with me. I was beginning to realize that had I not gone through that, there would be no way I could relate or care about them as much as I now did.

Dang, I guess that lady was right!

In my life I had tried to help a lot of people out without even realizing it. I had finally figured out it was because I had never had anyone there for me. So I had decided to be there for anyone who might need me.

Once again it all came down to how we looked at the experiences life dealt us. I had chosen subconsciously to use what I had learned to help others along life's path.

Suddenly I wasn't angry anymore! As a matter of fact I felt pretty good about myself and life in general! I just wish I had been able to thank that lady for her wonderful lesson she taught. But I will make a point of thanking her the next time I run into her. Good thing I didn't try to kill her like I wanted to, boy that would have been so embarrassing!

Man I'm so hungry! Why do I feel like having a turkey club sandwich?

Ha! Ha! Yeah, yeah, I know, I am weird! Don't you love it?


One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure!

January 23

 

Mel and I went for a ride today in the country. It was so beautiful with all the freshly fallen snow. The sun was glistening so brilliantly. It looked like someone had spread diamond dust on all the streets while we were sleeping!

Mel and I love to go driving around looking at the big, gorgeous houses. We sometimes wonder what the families that live in them are like. The funny thing is we live in a huge 11-room colonial. No it's not a mansion. It's just an old 102-year old house build at the turn of the century.

It still had most of the original woodwork on the inside and you could see the splendor this house might have known at one time. When my husband bought it, it was still in decent shape. Unfortunately because he and his first wife were not on the same page they really didn't invest much time or effort into improving it or maintaining it.

After my husband's divorce, he moved out and left the house to his ex-wife. Four years later my husband and I were going to get married and we started to look for a house to buy.

We saw the most beautiful house in a nice quiet neighborhood! It had a long driveway that looked like a side street! When we went to look at it, I was hooked! It had 6 bedrooms, a finished basement and 3 bathrooms! With all our kids we knew it would be perfect! Plus the owners were in such a hurry to sell due to her husband being transferred to another state that it included a pool, ride-on lawn mower and the price was drastically reduced!

My husband and I thought this would be a wonderful place for us to start our new life together. All we had to do was move in. It was in mint condition. I kept thinking it was a dream. I had lived my whole childhood in run-down, roach infested tenement buildings. You couldn't sneeze without your next-door neighbor yelling, "God bless you!" or "Shut up!" through the walls. I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming about the wonderful new life I was about to embark on. Well, I guess I pinched myself once too many times, because I woke up!

Mel's ex-wife decided she no longer wanted the old house. She told him she wanted to start over in another town away from where they had lived together. So now my hubby was stuck with the house and since it was still in his name he had no choice but to take it back.

At this time the housing market had dropped drastically and he would have lost almost 40 grand had he tried to sell it. So me, trying to be the good understanding wife, agreed to move in to his old house. Yeah I know it was a dumb idea from the jump! Having to live in the same house where he lived with his first wife was bad enough but actually that wasn't the worse of it!

The kicker was she wound up buying a house less than a 1/2 a mile away from us! So much for starting over somewhere else!

I wanted a nice quiet neighborhood. White pickets fences, nice neighbors, tree-lined sidewalks, but no, it didn't happen quite that way. Instead, I got a drug-dealing, prostitute-infested neighborhood.

Our welcome wagon when we moved in? Someone called the cops to complain about us because we were making too much noise lugging all our furniture into the house!

Welcome to the neighborhood! Wait it got better, uh, I mean worse! I thought my hubby was going to pull his hair out when he saw the condition of the house! To say it had been somewhat neglected is a slight understatement. Okay, it's a huge understatement, but you get the drift!

So in a matter of a week, I went from planning a church wedding, buying a new house and going on a two week honeymoon, to total chaos!

I cancelled the church wedding. We eloped to New Hampshire with nine kids and a nephew in tow for a civil ceremony!

I had to forget about my dream house in the quiet neighborhood. We spent our honeymoon removing a ton (This is not a misprint, we had a truck with a scale to verify this!) of junk from my hubby's old house. We also had to repaint and re-wallpaper every single room in the house!

Way to start a new life, Huh? To say I woke up was again a major understatement! As a result I still dreamt of my new house in the Currier and Ives postcard.

When my husband and I go on our drives the thing that hits me is that every time my Mel or one of our kids points out a house and says how nice it is, I always have to say,

"Yeah but ours is nicer!" My kids usually laughed at me and my hubby just nods his head.

On this particular trip we went through the same scenario. Right on cue as my hubby pointed out a house I said my line. He looked at me kind of funny and asked me why I always said that.

I thought about it for a moment and then I told him that I guess I had grown attached to our house.

Don't get me wrong. Many a day I had wished that a freak tornado would strike our town and destroy nothing but our house! (Obviously when we aren't home and Sadie is with us!) I went through a lot of self-doubt and anger at having to live in a house that was bought for another woman. You know what I mean? Feeling like I was competing with the memories that were created there before I arrived. It would have been nicer for me to buy a new house we could just have moved into without having to rebuild, I mean repair!

Now I guess after putting so much time and effort into the house, it kind of became a part of me.

No! Not like a fungus, more like a mother giving birth. As I explained this to my husband he grew quiet for a bit.

I asked him why he really didn't like to do anything to keep the house up or improve it. He looked at me quietly. He finally told me that he had put so much love and hard work into buying the house in his first marriage just to see it all come to an end. His first wife really wasn't interested in making the house better. He also told me that after all the stuff we had gone through because of the house he had grown to hate it! I was shock!

"How can you hate the house?" I asked him, "It had nothing to do with what went wrong in your marriage!"

"I know that now!" he says" But it's only because you put so much of yourself into it. You kind of turned it from just an old house into a nice home. I guess that's why you love it so much. It's your labor of love!"

As we continued on our drive I thought about the value lessons I had just learned. For one thing I had reconfirmed the fact that one person's trash is truly another person's treasure.

Another thing I learned was that we really do appreciate the things we work for a lot more, than things that are just handed to us.

Even though I wasn't there when my husband bought his house to help him out, I was there to help him rebuild. In turn I was able to heal myself from the trauma and negative effects of my own divorce.

I helped him to rebuild not only the house but his life with his children and his family, along with my new life with my children.

In a way my working on the house turned it into a new home. Notice the difference. A house is just a cold structure. A home is a place to feel loved and secure. It was funny, because as I was thinking this my hubby said "You know that house has your personality now. If you left tomorrow, I would be reminded of you constantly even if I didn't want to!" I found this strange. In my previous life if you walked into my old house you wouldn't really see much to indicate that I lived there. I mean I kept it clean and organized but there was very little personalization involved.

It's ironic, because I worked hard to buy that house. Even when my ex-husband really wasn't interested in buying it, I still did all I could until I found a bank willing to finance us. But it never ever had my personality. It was just a house, nothing more. It was aesthetic and impersonal in appearance.

Now I wondered if those people in the big fancy houses really understood how lucky they were. Do they see them as homes or just a place to "lay-over" in between flights? I guess the reason I really loved the house was because of all the love that was there. The love I felt from all our kids. It's was overwhelming at times, the crazy, good times we had there as well. They were priceless!

Yeah, I know I fought hard for it. There were times when I really felt like throwing in the towel, back in the beginning of our marriage. But for some weird reason, mainly the love I felt from my hubby and kids, I never did.

I hung in there. No matter how much we fell behind financially. No matter how many times things that were promises never happened, trips were postponed or getaways cancelled, I hung in there. No matter how many people kept trying to sabotage our life together or destroy what we were building, I hung in there.

I still don't fully understand why except for the fact that, the house, like my marriage and bringing my new family together, was truly my labor of love.

It was my on-going work of "art". But most of all it was a work in progress. I was never one to walk away from an unfinished project. The fact that I got divorce from my first husband killed me because I really thought that I could make it work. Fifteen years later I realized that I couldn't make something work unless both parties wanted it to work and I had to walk away. I promised myself that if I ever got married again I would never walk away again.

I never break my promises and I wasn't about to start now!

My house was still in need of some repairs. My neighborhood was still not the best. I still didn't live in the country. But at least I had kids that loved me, and a place I could finally call "home". "Home" that word sounded so awesome!

I won't pinch myself this time, because if it is a dream, I don't ever want to wake up!


The true ring of freedom!

 

January 20

 

Today was Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday.

It's amazing how far we have come in less than 40 years! My kids knew a lot about Dr. King from what they had read in history books; and through the obligatory book report due during black history month. But a few years ago Mel and I went to Atlanta on a business trip and decided to take our kids with us. Due to scheduling conflicts with my stepchildren's mom and our older boys, Chris, who was 14 years old at the time, was the only one who accompanied us on that trip.

We decided to drive down so we could sightsee.  My husband planned it so we had time to stop in Washington D.C. for a whole day before we continued on to Atlanta.

It was really an eye opening and moving trip.

We went to the Lincoln Memorial and stopped at the reflection pool.

I told my son how this place had been filled with hundreds of thousands of people of all different races, marching hand in hand. This had been the place where Dr. King had made his incredible "I have a dream" speech.

For me it sent shivers up my spine because even though I am not African-American, The fact that I am Latina meant that speech was for me as well. My son listened intently to all the tidbits we told him but it wasn't until we were in Atlanta that it all hit home for him. We took him to the Dr. Martin Luther King memorial. There he got to walk through the museum that contained a lot of Dr. King's personal artifacts. He saw his shirts, his brief case and Bible. Suddenly as he walked through the halls of that museum Dr. King was no longer a myth or a legend. For Chris, Dr. King became a living ordinary man who accomplished extra-ordinary things. He was in awe of Dr. King's intelligence and his articulate speaking style. He was mesmerized by his passion for his cause and the desire to have equality for his people. When we were ready to leave we stopped by Dr. King's final resting place, with its ever burning flame. I personally felt tears of gratitude for the commitment this man had made to ensure that future generations would know true freedom and opportunity. I didn't think Chris would grasp the depth of this man's sacrifice, but once again my son surprised me. As we turned to leave, he grabbed my hand and softly said," I guess one person can make a difference!"

I just looked at him and smiled while nodding my head. On the way back to where we were staying, Dr. King's life played back in my head. Here had been a man who although truly gifted and brilliant had still been just a simple preacher; He, along with the courage of Rosa Park, had in reality changed the way we viewed America. He showed the world that with peaceful resistance, not violence, he had been able to lead his people to that mountaintop.

As a Latina I too will forever be indebted to Dr. King's legacy. I know that we will never view the world the same way again.

Our trip to Atlanta was supposed to be just a simple family get-away; instead it became an awakening to the depth of our true potential. Potential that is only limited by our own beliefs and thoughts. The next time I feel like I can't make a difference or I have nothing to contribute, I'll think of Dr. King. I'll think about what this country would be like if he too had thought that he, being only one man, couldn't make a difference. 

Let freedom ring! Let freedom ring! From every mountain top, let freedom ring!


Being sad is so hard.

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January 19

 

I seem to have sent out invitations for a pity party for one. Funny thing is I didn't realize I was hosting this event! It just sprang up on me! The problem with these types of parties is that for one thing, you have to have them alone and two, they are so depressing!

For some reason once in a while the long winter nights seem to get to me. It seems that it's dark all the time! I get up, it's dark! I get out of work, its dark! I go to bed yeah you got it, its dark! I feel like I forgot to pay my sunshine bill and someone shut it off!

Maybe somewhere in my family tree, I really was related to a tree. You know what I mean? The leaves fall off, you go into a deep sleep, look kind of dead and don't come back to life until sometime in April!

I feel like that! The hard part is that my family won't cooperate with me when I want to host this type of party! No one will leave me alone to wallow in my own self-pity! They won't stop being funny so I won't have to laugh! They won't feel sorry for me! I have it tough! Not even the dog will help out! She's all happy and joyous, dancing around when she sees me! (Either that or she has to go potty really bad!)

But as I sat there trying to feel sorry for myself, trying to be depressed, it dawned on me how much hard work it really was.

Don't get me wrong. I know that there are a lot of men and women who have serious mental illnesses. These ailments require treatment and consume a large part of their lives trying to overcome them. But it seems that nowadays people claim depression almost as freely as if they had a tension headache or a hangnail. Depression is a serious ailment. Yet flip through any women's magazine and they flaunt it like the latest fall fashions. They try to make it "chic" or the "okay" thing to do or be! Depression isn't something we use to hide behind because we have guilt over our past mistakes. It's not something we evoke because we are having a hard time balancing work and our family life. Most certainly it's not to be used as an excuse to get rid of our husbands/wives, shun our responsibilities or to overeat, overspent, cheat or over-indulge! Using it for these reasons is a total insult to the many people who have serious mental issues to contend with. When you are down, think of how much effort it really takes to keep feeling that way. If a friend tries to cheer you up, you laugh, but then you revert back to being down again. I think of how much time we waste holding on to feelings of despair instead of rejoicing in the happy things in our life. Think for a moment of all the things in life that are ours free of charge. For example, the feeling of wiggling our toes into cool green, grass or feeling the gentle kiss of a warm summer day's breeze. You ever have to pay for taking in the intoxicating smell of the ocean?

Have you ever been awed by the breath-taking view from a Mountaintop? How about being infected with the sweet, contagious laughter of a child or reacting to the soft touch of a loving hand.

Okay some of you are saying that all these things can be bought, but it's not the same and it's not what I am talking about!

God put these things here for all of us to enjoy. Free of charge!

Yet most times we are so obsessed with what the world places value on that we totally miss the opportunities to enjoy them.

Do you remember what you got for gifts your last birthday, last Christmas? Probably not!

Do you remember when your child first walked? When they spoke their first words?

When you got your first kiss?

These milestones will forever be etched in our hearts and in our souls, because they are priceless!

If only we could remember these things when we are trying to get down and sad, maybe we wouldn't feel so bad!

 

Okay, hear, Ye, Hear, Ye!

I hereby declare this pity party for one officially cancelled!

What do you say, Sadie girl, want to go for a run?


Living in the moment!

 

January 18

 

Its days like today that make me wish I lived in Arizona! I feel like Frosty the snowman on ice! Wouldn't it be neat if we could have a winter wonderland with 70-degree weather? How can something so beautiful be so dang cold?

My kids laugh at me because they know I probably wouldn't be happy in an all summer climate. (But it would be nice to find out, wouldn't it?)

The awesome thing about living in New England is the change of seasons. We have gorgeous breezy springs, hot sizzling summers, crisp, fresh falls and beautiful shimmering winters! What else could one ask for? The challenge arises when we don't enjoy the season we are in, because we are too busy thinking of the season that was or is to come.

Compare this to the different phases of our life. We have infancy to childhood, through adolescence to adulthood and beyond. We need to stop looking back in melancholia to the past or longingly daydreaming about our future.

Have you ever done that? Daydream about how great things were in the past? Or how great things will be in the future?

Ever notice something strange when we do that?

We missed what was going on today!! We should use all our senses and take in the moment we are in, right now!

The reason the past looks so good is because we missed half of it daydreaming about the future!!

Now that we are in the future, today, we're still not enjoying it!

If we keep that up, pretty soon we're going to have no "future" left to look forward to! How sad would that be?

We shouldn't mourn the passing of each era. Instead we should savor it, catalog it and make a wonderful memory out of it!

Just like snow reminds us of warm cozy fires and family gatherings at the holidays, so too should each piece of our life emote wonderful memories of times gone by.

The past should be used as a guide to help us make our "today" better! It shouldn't be looked upon in sadness or regret but used as a wonderful gauge to build a brighter today!

Some people might say I think like this because I had a perfect childhood.

Please, I don't even want to hear it! I grew up in an abusive home. I got abandoned by my biological mother at the age of two, was physically and emotionally abused by my adoptive mother.

I was also abused by her husband and two of her boyfriends before my 9th birthday.

Yet after having healed and putting all that emotional baggage to rest, there are still wonderful memories that occurred during that time in my life. How sad if all I did was focus on the negative! The same man that abused me when I was five years old introduced me to the beauty of classical music.

One of her boyfriends, who also abused me, showed me that I had a gift for art.

It took me a long time to be able to separate the two. Can you imagine the great loss to me if I refused to see the difference and only focused on the abuse?

Granted, it was hard at first to let go of the anger and resentment. How someone I loved so much could betray my trust was beyond my comprehension. I remember how certain symphonies would make me cringe when I was younger. I avoided them for a long time. I also did not do any kind of drawing or sketching until I was "found out" by my hubby Mel.

No one in my family knew I could draw. I had buried that God given talent because to me it represented one of my abusers. But luckily with Mel's help I was able to refuse to mesh the bad with the good. I dissected the malignant memories from the positive ones, just like a surgeon removing cancerous cells from healthy ones. Would the doctor take out all the cells just because bad ones were attached to them? No, of course not! He would only remove the bad ones and leave the healthy ones behind so the tissue could heal quicker. So too, was the healing process in my life. Once I removed the bad from the good, I was able to appreciate the positive aspects more fully. As a result of doing this, my son Chris not only loves the classics but he knows them intimately. He is familiar with the great composers. He can play some of them on the piano and comprehends the deep spiritual messages behind those pieces. Had I not overcome this challenge I would have taught my children nothing but contempt. Contempt for some of the greatest works God gave men inspiration to write. Think how sad it would be if my negative experiences had clouded my love for Handel's Messiah? Oh, what a loss to my soul!

The other day I hear on the radio that Beethoven's father was an abusive, mean alcoholic. It was said that he would come home drunk late at night and drag his little 6 year-old son out of bed. He would force him to practice in the cold and dark by candlelight until the sun came up! Neighbors stated that they could hear the drunken man yelling at the crying child. He would tell him how horribly he played and how awful his music was! What unbearable abuse for a young child to endure! Yet Beethoven turned all that hate and anger into some of the most beautiful, inspirational music known to mankind! Imagine if Beethoven had given in to the hatred for his father and the things he taught him?

What if he had decided to hate the music and stop playing, writing or composing? I shudder to think of the great void in the musical world! I can never make it through Beethoven's 9th symphony without welling up in tears over how beautiful and moving it is. Once, my son Chris played that piece at a church event when he was 11 years old. To see my young son so focused on bringing forth that great heavenly sound from that piano was so humbling yet rewarding at the same time.

I also had the opportunity to showcase two charcoal sketches that I did of my husband and one of my oldest sons at a church sponsored art show. Even though they were crude and my hand was untrained the fact that people knew who the men were in the drawings was really cool. I was overwhelmed when two gentlemen who were artists in their own right, told me to never stop drawing. They both told me separately that I had a gift. They encouraged me to keep using it.

For all the harm my abusers had caused me, I found some good that had come from them. Just like Beethoven had found some good from his abuser.

With tears streaming down my cheeks as I listened to my son, I was eternally grateful that I had removed the malignancy from my life!

Here's to you Beethoven, I know you're playing in heaven for the big guy now!


Snow day memories

January 15

 

I woke up this morning to find the beginnings of a snowfall on the ground!

Even though I haven't been a kid for a long time, well, at least physically, I still get such a tinge of excitement at the prospect of a snow day!

There is something so magical and unbelievably beautiful about freshly fallen snow.

Even our somewhat depressing urban setting became a beautiful snapshot of life after a snowfall.

They canceled school today too! My kids where so excited!

Funny thing is I can't get them to get up for school some days, okay almost every day, because they are so tired! Yet as soon as the newsman said no school, I felt a few drafts fly by me.

It turned out to be my kids going outside to play in the snow, or maybe the draft was the fact that they left the door open. Again!

I looked on in envy wishing it was me out there in that winter wonderland having fun like when I was a little kid. Okay, maybe not like when I was a little kid, since my mother rarely let me go outside to play. She did not want me to get dirty or basically to have any fun!

But unfortunately duty called. Being a grown-up really stunk! There were always chores to do, work to complete and bills to pay! When did someone decide that in order to be an adult we had to suck all the fun out of our lives?

Honestly kids grow up so fast that before you know it they are coming home to visit you with the grandchildren!

I was amazed at how much they had grown already as it was! How much more did I really want to miss because duty called?

Maybe on second thought work could wait just a little today! Really was the world going to come to an end because I did not do my housework this day?

Hey, you know what wait for me guys! Sledding is definitely the best bonding tool a parent can have!

Last one down the hill is a soggy snowman! Ah, motherhood, don't you just love it?

I take back what I said the other day about kids who were treasures belonging to someone else! Kids truly are the best treasures, especially my kids! Oh, boy this too has passed and in only a few days!

How cool is that?

 


Fallen fences, open horizons!

January 12

 

The strangest thing happened today. Sadie our dog, decided to wake the dead with her infernal barking! She usually doesn't bark needlessly. She only barks when she wants company (all the time!) or when she wants to play (all the time!).

Once in a while she does bark when she feels we need to get reacquainted with that deep piercing pain in the deepest realms of our inner ear canal! Today was one of those days. I thought maybe someone was trying to break into our house. We didn't exactly live in the best part of town and house break-ins were common in our neighborhood.

Get this, my husband Mel, a solid man at 5'9", who's also a cop, tells our youngest daughter, Jessica to go check why the dog is barking! What is wrong with that picture?

"Great, you're the tough cop and I have to go check? Some good you are!" She said to him.

My husband figured since it was only 5:30 pm it couldn't possibly be a crook, so it was safe to send Jessie! I have to admit our daughter is no shrinking violet!

Now don't get me wrong, she was every bit the girly-girl! She has great long jet- black hair, beautiful long lashes that accentuate her big brown eyes and long legs that just don't quit.

With that said she could still put most of the linebackers at Lowell Catholic High School, the school her older brothers and sister attended, to shame!

So off she went assuming her killer Tang-Soo-Do fighting stance!

God help anyone who dare try to break into our home!

Suddenly we heard a loud outburst of hysterical laughter coming from our kitchen downstairs.

"Oh good", I said, "At least the crook is Bozo the clown!" Looking somewhat irritated at my husband for sending Jessica by herself to check.

He shot me back a mischievous look through his dark brown eyes.

We could hear the laughter getting louder and louder as Jessie climbed the stairs back to our bedroom where we were putting laundry away. She could barely breathe from how hard she was laughing. Her face was all red and she was trying to stop laughing long enough to let us in on the joke.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Oh, my goodness," she wheezed," We have the craziest dog in the world!"

"Ok, agreed, now tell me something I don't know!" I replied.

"No you don't get it, you know that small fence we have in the kitchen to keep her in there?" I shook my head. Mel was supposed to go out and buy two fences to corral the dog in the kitchen area.

Picture this. He returns with two fences that are barely two feet tall.

I tried to tell him that there was no way our new puppy Sadie, who was only two months old, would be held back by those tiny little fences. He assured me that she wouldn't dare jump over them! I tried to tell him that it would take weeks of training before she would respect the barriers and not jump over them. Mel was busy installing the fence as we spoke, and our cute little Sadie kept her eyes intently on my hubby as he worked.

"See," he said, with a big smile, as he finished putting the last fence up.

"See what?" I said, as I laughed and pointed to our puppy already sitting next to him after she effortlessly scaled the fence.

"Stupid dog!" he explained.

"No, correction, smart dog!" yelled my youngest son Chris, from the other room. And they wonder why Dad is always grumpy?

Now back to the fence.

"So, what about the fence?," I asked.

"Well Sadie must have knocked it down and instead of walking over it and escaping she just sat there barking at it to let us know that it had fallen!"

My daughter kept giggling at our dog's folly as my husband and I had a good laugh at Sadie's expense too.

Later that night I started thinking about it from a different perspective. It had taken a lot of training for our dog to not jump or knock down that fence. It was to the point that the fence really was not needed. She respected the barriers and knew not to go over them.

When she was a puppy she had no fear. She wasn't going to let a little thing like that fence get in her way. But our constant reprimanding and countless time-outs finally convinced her that the fence was insurmountable. She also learned or was tricked into believing that only bad things awaited her on the other side of the fence. In reality we hadn't broken her of a bad habit we had actually broken her spirit.

I wonder how many times we, as humans don't move ahead in life because of perceived barriers we have been conditioned to believe lie in our way? How many times have we sat there complaining, wishing, moaning, barking, and maybe even pleading for a way out?

When we were children, no matter how dysfunctional our homes might have been, we still had dreams.

We had no fear. The world was a big wonderful place just waiting for us to conquer it. But little by little we allowed others to place fences around our dreams, slowly making our possibilities smaller and smaller.

Sometimes we looked for ways out of our confined situations. But most of the time we placed limits on ourselves as far as where we could go or what we could achieve.

How many chances had we let go by? How many opportunities to break free of our limited thinking? To finally rid ourselves of negative ideals sold to us when we were younger? It filled me with sadness.

For Sadie it wasn't so bad. For her, the kitchen meant warmth, food, water and shelter from danger.

But to a human, that self-imposed confinement would certainly mean the death of all our dreams and hopes.

I made a promise to myself that night. When my gate fell, any gate, I was going to run like the dickens after bigger wider pastures. Heck, I wasn't going to wait for them to fall I was going to knock them down!

I was going to explore new possibilities and reach for new horizons!

I was never, ever going to just sit there barking at my fallen fences!

I was never going to allow anyone to come along and put them back up again. I would never again impede my growth or expansion as a human being over limits imposed on me by other people.

I guess I was a little disappointed in Sadie!

The least she could have done was snuck a candy cane off our tree!

Yeah, I know Mel would have freaked! But I would have secretly been proud of her!


It’s just one of those days!

Personal

 

January 9

 

Whoever said Children are our greatest treasures was probably talking about someone else's kids!

Today was one of those days where all nine of the kids could just not stay out of trouble!

To start, James and Alex, two of the oldest, who keep forgetting that they are older and therefore should know better; were horsing around and doing their best imitating of a wrestling match when they wound up bumping heads! Hard!

James got a black eye the size of a golf ball, while Alex got a bloody nose, which by the way just happened to bleed all over the freshly laundered sheets on their beds!

Not to be outdone, Derek, the oldest,(notice a pattern here?) was chasing Alexi, the baby, around the dining room table when he decided to try to scoop up Alexi and carry him off! Well Alexi had other plans, he duck down under the table at the last minute. Derek, coming at breakneck speed couldn't stop in time, so he decided to try to hurdle,

(Yeah, you read that right), the table to keep from crashing into it! 

As he was airborne his foot got caught on the top of one of the chairs and he fell forward landing squarely on top of the dining room table!

Alexi, who realized this was not going to be a good thing, came running out the other end and never stopped running; all the way upstairs and into his room!

Down came Derek and down came the table as the middle section buckled under his weight!

The crazy thing is that all this happened in the five minutes I thought it would be safe for me to go take a shower! What was I thinking?

The irony is that because it was a huge house and our vent fan in the bathroom was so loud, I didn't hear a thing!

I got out of the shower and went downstairs to find our dining room table neatly made up with the white table cloth, candles and all! The problem is it's on the floor with no legs! Yeah, no way we would ever notice that right?

People, this was all before breakfast! Suddenly Eric comes downstairs looking like he was going to audition for the main part in a re-make of the elephant man! He is covered from head to toes in hives.

Not only that, he is so itchy from what ever made him breakout he can't stand still!

He's walking around trying to scratch his back, squirming and wiggling all at the same time! He looked like he was trying to break dance!

I was about to go get some calamine lotion for Eric, when the Bobsey twins, Chris and Jessie, both came running down the stairs giggling hysterically. In our house this was not a good sign!

They came tearing around the hallway covered from head to toe in baby power looking like Casper the ghost and company!

Right on their heels was Jose swinging a white sweat sock filled with talcum powder. He realized too late that I was standing in the hallway and had just wound up to hit Chris with the sock. He tried to adjust so as not to hit me and wound up hitting the side of the door-jam causing a cloud of white powder to rise up! Now I was standing there with my still wet hair now caked with the white powder! Breathe deeply! Wait I can't I am chocking on the dust!I turned and walked back into the kitchen to find Sadie the dog with her head stuck in the huge peanut butter tub, I had just bought. Chris and Jess froze in their tracks as they ran into Eric still doing the itchy dance. At this time I had Alex with the bloody nose, James with the black eye, Eric shimming, Derek was on the floor nursing his swollen foot, while Alexi was asking him if he wanted him to kiss his boo-boo. Jose, Jess and Chris were still just standing there waiting for me to lose it, which I did! I started laughing so hard I had tear tracks running down my powder caked face.

The kids all looked at me like I had lost my mind. Okay I had lost my mind years earlier but more so at that particular moment. The kids started laughing too and honestly what else could I do at that moment? Oh, Lord I guess this too shall pass!


Ever wonder why?

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Ever wonder why is it that dogs and kids only like to go outside when it's snowing or raining?

Have you ever tried to get them outside on a nice sunny day?

What happens?

"It's too hot, I'll get all sweaty, and the bugs will bite me and my all time favorite,

I might get my clothes dirty!"

Yeah, right, this from the kids who think that taking baths are optional, and wearing the same socks for a few days is a way to conserve water?

But then it's okay when they decide to go outside in torrential downpours or blinding snow blizzards?

Now picture this, nine kids decide they want to go out to play in the snowfall; not just any little bit of snow, but a foot on the ground more to come all day long, snowfall! What's the big deal?

Well, that does not bother me as much as the 50 pairs of pants and shirts they put on to stay warm!

This another one of those epic moments, it takes them hours to get ready! They have to figure out where they threw their boots from the last time they used them. They need to make sure they are wearing every clean piece of clothing they own and a few that does not belong to them to boot!

Finally they are ready to face the elements and they are out the door.

Okay this isn't that bad, the house to myself for an hour or so right? Some hot chocolate, a bit of ESPN and I am in heaven! Nope!!

Ten minutes later, theirrr back! 

What happened?

I got to pee! So now I have a squirming child, doing the pee-wee dance, as I try to extract him or her from the clutches of all the clothing!

To the bathroom we go, done in two seconds and ready to go back outside again after we re-package the goods, I mean the kid!

Back to peace and, quiet, right?

Nope, they're on the shifts system, here comes another!

 

By the time the last one is done going, here comes the first one back again!

So much for peace and quiet!

After a couple of cycles, they all come back in, tired from playing. They peel off the fifty layers of clothing, which by the way now adds another summit the size of Mt. St. Helene's, to the laundry room!

It's a conspiracy, I tell you! Even the dog is in on it too! Sadie, our golden brown and white Pit bull that we owned at the time, only had to answer the call of the wild during monsoon season or record-breaking blizzards!

The funny thing is when it's balmy and nice out she does her duty in 2.5 seconds then runs like a canine possessed back into the house!

Bad weather comes around? Oh, no!

She thinks she's Sachawea with the Louis and Clark expedition. She has to scout out every inch of ground in our backyard! While she is doing that, I am standing there looking like a soggy paper bag waiting for her to be done!!

It's a plot I tell you! They are trying to make me crack under the pressure!

Well it won't work, I tell you, I will never break; you hear me!

No, it won't! He! He! I'll show them! I refuse to get upset! I refuse to crack!

Uh, gee! I think I need to get out more often. No, silly dog, I am not taking you out now, back off! I really do have it hard you know!

Okay maybe not that hard but honestly can you all get on the same shift please??

What do you mean you are going back outside?

  


Traditions

 

January 6

 

Happy Wise Men's day!

Yeah I know it's not much of a holiday in America, but it's a big deal in most Latin American countries and Puerto Rico.

Mel told me that when he was a little kid his parents, who were from Puerto Rico, would have him put straw in a box and put it under his bed the night before.

The story was that during the night the wise men would come and their camels would eat the straw. The Wise men would leave you gifts as thanks for feeding the camels!

I thought this was neater than Santa Claus!

Not because I didn't like the jolly old elf.

 

But just think about it, if we celebrate on the sixth of January we would make out like bandits from all the markdowns the stores offered after Christmas! Oh, did I write that out loud?

 

My brother-in-law Jose Enrique shared a real neat story about this holiday. He told me that a long time ago (no it's not a fable, it's for real!) when he was a young man, he had gone to the countryside in Puerto Rico to visit some friends and relatives. When he got to the small town he was invited to a party at the home of this sweet little eighty–eight years old lady.

He was amazed by what he saw that night! First of all, just about everyone in the town was at her house!

It was the tradition to pray the rosary in honor of the pilgrimage the three wise men made to Bethlehem so many years ago.

After the rosary was prayed, the guests were treated to a huge buffet with tons of yummy foods and desserts.

He said there was singing of traditional songs, dancing and that everyone had a blast!

 

Later on he asked the old lady why she celebrated this day in such a big way.

She said that her husband had started the tradition over 60 years ago when they first got married.

Now that he had passed away she continued the tradition in his honor.

She told my brother-in law that in her long life she had been blessed with a wonderful husband, good health and great children. She always had all the things she needed and a few of the things she wanted. She felt it was blessings they had received because of their faith in the birth of Jesus Christ and the wise men that honored him at his birth.

Jose Enrique was so moved by her genuine faith that he decided to follow the same custom when he got married and had a home of his own.

He mentioned this to the old lady the next day before he left to go home.

"I know it sounds silly, "She said, "but I had been hoping others would want to continue our tradition," she told him through tear brimmed eyes, "Now I have found you!" She gave him a big kiss and a hug!

 

He has continued that tradition for the last thirty-five plus years.

In those years, he told me, he too had been blessed with wonderful children, a great wife and a huge extended family that loves him.

He has felt the love and respect of countless nieces, nephews and all of their friends and his children's friends.

The Lord had blessed him with a beautiful home, health and the opportunity to enjoy four wonderful grandchildren.

He too, firmly believed it was all due to his faith in the Savior and honoring that gentle woman's tradition.

"You want to hear something really weird?" he asked me, "That lady passed away later that year! It was as if she was just waiting to pass the tradition on to someone!" Jose Enrique's eyes watered up, still moved by the memory of that wonderful woman.

 

It's funny; nowadays some people think stories and traditions have no place in our modern world. We try to be so P.C. (politically correct) that we suck the joy out of a lot of everyday things.

It's such a shame!

The ones truly missing out are the ones that don't believe that faith in something bigger than our selves!

Belief in a supreme being, whatever that being is or whatever faith we choose to follow, can enrich our lives; it can fulfill us and help us overcome life's challenges!

I am glad that even though I am not Catholic, I am open minded enough to respect and cherish others' religious beliefs.

We can be so enriched by each others' experiences!

 

I truly enjoy this night with my-in-laws and look forward to it each year!

I also know that as a result of their example their great kids will choose to continue the tradition. Not just the tradition of prayer and rosaries, but the tradition of love of family and faith in things bigger than ourselves.

What a wonderful legacy it is for this simple man! Even though Jose Enrique had fallen in life and made many mistakes when younger; he was still willing to continue searching for the light!

You can really feel the sincere love he has for the majority of people he meets!

No wonder my kids love him so much!

It helps that he's also one of the funniest men I have ever met!

He has faith and a good sense of humor, with that combination how can you go wrong?

Anyone got any extra hay lying around that I could have?