Monday, September 2, 2013

The Movable Feast

Ours is a large boisterous opinionated family who celebrates often and has a healthy share of disagreements too.   Somehow we always manage to “land with our feet on the ground” and hearts full of love.  It may take a while, but we always seem to get there.  My goodness, did I get the wrong title for this blog post – family, togetherness, love and food?  Actually they are very related and here is how.

Since the children were little, Sunday dinners have been a tradition at our house – the one day we gather, eat and share what is going on in our busy lives.  When the tradition started, ,my parents lived next door, and they joined us.  Raymond’s mom always joins us too because she lives down the street.   Our children can, and often do, invite friends, and we can too, but Sundays are sacred – well as sacred as anything can be in this household.

I used to worry, as our children married and our grandchildren arrived, that we would never fit into our less than adequate dining room.  We have now installed an outdoor kitchen (much cheaper than knocking down walls).  We also redesigned an old table my mom used in her classroom to be our outside table – 13 can easily fit around it and more if we squeeze together, plus we have two additional outside tables.

Then this summer, with an unexpected windfall, we built a pergola over the outdoor kitchen and table so we finally have a central eating area for most of the year.  Raymond can even cook outside in the rain because we built a roof over where he cooks.  So PROBLEM SOLVED? 

Actually no.  Right now we have a very different situation.  Two of my children either are divorced or in the process of divorcing, and one is estranged from his siblings.  This leaves us with a big open dining space and very few diners. 

They come over frequently, and we are blessed to have very close relationships with all our amazing children. However, for the moment, Sundays aren’t as sacred as they used to be.   We are learning to be more spontaneous and flexible, enjoying them as they can and want to interact.  Sometimes that means several smaller dinners in the same week, and that’s ok.

It just seems a little weird that when we finally established a workable area to dine, our numbers shrank.  I am very hopeful the numbers will grow again, and we’ll be ready because after all -  it’s always a “movable feast.”

Loving, Leaving and Letting Go

When my children were little, I thought of myself as the ultimate teacher and protector.  As they grow older, I see that I am more often the learner and can only protect them through positive thoughts and prayers.  Recently, my youngest daughter, Samantha, taught so many of us about love, endings and letting go.

Five years ago, family and friends gathered on Oahu’s beautiful North Shore to celebrate her marriage to her long time boyfriend and best friend.  Everything about their wedding weekend was magical and filled with love and hope.  This is the daughter who lives across the street from us, and we have taken many trips with the two of them.  However, now as we approached this anniversary date five years later, love and hope have been replaced by sadness and disillusionment.  He decided that he couldn’t stay in a committed relationship.  At first, our daughter did everything possible to be the partner that he thought he wanted, but even though they were best of friends, she couldn’t help him find his way back to her, and she finally let him go. 

She has always been the child who wore a strong protective armor so most of us were very surprised about the ending of this special relationship.  Of course there were months of tears, anxiety and extreme sadness, but then she decided it was time to move on.  She is blessed by a wonderful sharing group of supportive friends and family who have helped her realize it’s important to share and be vulnerable.

As the date approached, she seemed strong and confident, but I ached for her and kept her constantly in my thoughts and prayers.  The night before the anniversary soon to be erased from all our calendars, her presence was so strong that I couldn’t sleep.  Finally, I gave up and reached for my phone.  I never check emails in the middle of the night, but for some reason I did.  And there was her email that forever changed how we would deal with the ending of this marriage.

In her beautiful email to loved ones, she reached out and said she had learned through this difficult time the importance of sharing.  She 
assured everyone that her love and marriage was real, and that they had spent many wonderful years together, supporting and loving each other.  She also said, that “although at times it feels like someone is missing” she was moving forward. 

Then she asked us to hold our loved ones and spend time reflecting why we loved them.  She asked us to put a little of that love in our palm and release it for both of them so they could move on in “peace, forgiveness, and resolve” as they moved forward in each of their separate journeys.”
Her style and spirit flowed out of the letter, and I felt such pride in her strength and sweet vulnerability. 

Raymond and I did walk to the beach, hold each other, and put some, actually a lot, of love in our palms to complete her wish. 
I have to admit Raymond had a little harder time than I did with forgiveness.  After all, it’s his baby girl and the protection part is really strong. He kept having a vision of a skunk and this young man in the road and only being able to save one, and let's just say it didn’t have a good ending for the young man.  However, he has always been able to move past anger and disappointments, so I have great faith that he’ll rework this vision too.

Whoever said, “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” might be right, but the losing is so hard.  Some of my hardest lessons have been about letting go of anger and hurt, and Samantha taught me so much about letting go.  She says she is moving forward, and I’m so happy to be able to continue on this journey with our smart, stylish, spirited daughter with that great big heart.  . 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tuesdays with Nana and Abo

Ever since our three oldest grandsons were little, my husband and I have usually taken them on Tuesdays.  We picked them up after school, took them to their various activities, helped with homework, fed them lots of food and basically gave their hard-working parents time to relax and have a mini-date.  It’s always been something we looked forward to doing.   The only downside was their parents picked them up around 8 and had to load all their backpacks and clothes into the car, take the tired boys home and then try to settle them down again.
So…when we retired we offered to continue our Tuesdays but have the boys stay overnight and take them to school on Wednesday.  I’m sure you aren’t surprised that the parents were really happy with this plan.  For the past year, we have been picking them up at three different schools, feeding them, taking them to their various after school activities, feeding them more, doing homework and putting them to bed at our house.
Feeding the boys is a big job, but Abo is the best cook ever.  We always have food for them as soon as they finish school.  One thing we learned from raising our big family was food helped calm everyone and put them in a better mood after school.  It was amazing what we could accomplish when their stomachs were full.  It’s equally true with our grandsons.  Sometimes, Abo cooks and sometimes we go for Subways.  It depends on what is happening the rest of the afternoon.  Then after homework, activities and baths, they eat again.  Plus the table is full of healthy snacks like veggie trays and fruit.  They are growing active boys, and they are never really full.  But the best part for the boys is the morning.  Abo cooks each boy his favorite breakfast.   Noah likes his eggs fried and baked a little in the oven, Lucas likes waffles, and Joshua likes eggs but isn’t so particular about how they are cooked.  They all love bacon.
As for clothing, we have PJs here and I wash all the clothes they wear.  Actually, I learned this was a necessity.  The boys, now 15, 13 and 11, pack their own school clothes, and it can be very interesting.  Sometimes they pack two pairs of pants, no shorts, three socks…well you get the idea.  If I have everything washed, then my daughter doesn’t have to take home a bag of dirty clothes, and we can handle the clothing emergencies in the morning.  The boys all have a drawer here with some extra clothes too.  Our grandsons up north have their own drawers too. 
We live in a tri-level home and just to give you an idea of how hectic our Tuesdays can be, I accidentally wore my pedometer one Tuesday and accomplished almost 8000 steps from the time they came until they were tucked in that night.  Amazing since we try to walk 10,000 steps everyday.  If we had the boys everyday, we wouldn’t need to exercise.  No wonder their parents are so fit!
Basically from 2:30 on Tuesday until Raymond starts cooking breakfasts around 6 AM and I run the boys to three different schools ending around 8:00 AM on Wednesday we are on the go.  AND WE LOVE IT.  It’s such a special time with our grandsons.  We really get to talk with them, learn more about what they like, and take pride in what special young men they are growing to be.
The only downside is on Wednesdays we are usually very very tired.  It fills both of us with renewed admiration and appreciation for both our daughters and their husbands for the hard work and great job they are doing to raise our grandchildren., AND it reminds us how much help we received from our parents during this busy busy time in our lives – it all seems like a blur to me now.  It probably was!  So now I have a new retirement rule!

Retirement Rule #5  Plan to retire while you are still young enough to be the grandparents you always wanted to be.  And be sure you take time to rest and recuperate after grandchildren adventures.