All posts by twinztalk@aol.com

My Morning at the Mall…

One of the benefits of spending a good deal of my lifetime alone has been I’ve become hyper aware of the world around me.

I notice things: the tiniest details, subtle actions of others stand out, volumes are spoken via the unspoken word.  My daily life has given me pause to recognize a continuity in the every day actions most would consider mundane; to intentionally see connections most would casually overlook.

It’s not always easy, and often painful to see a reality that might be better left ignored, but when I zero in on the positives…

Where so many focus on the negative (news reports, gossip) I am delighted at what I see.  I try to look for the sweet spots–because, they’re there you know?

Underneath it all, yes, but more often?  Right in front of our eyes.

Had to get my car serviced this  morning.  Only takes about 90 minutes, but the thought of sitting in the lounge area at the Acura dealership and watching a mind numbing hour of America’s brain trust hosting “The View” (while munching on pastries courtesy of Acura) felt unbearable to me.

There had to be a better way to spend the next ninety minutes?

Miguel offered a shuttle to take me home, but then realized the shuttle was already out.  A helpful young employee named Jose stepped up and offered me a ride up the street to the mall, “If you want?”

My love list grows every day.

It was a hop, skip and a jump to Nordy’s yet still, I learned a lot about Jose.  My new friend had been scheduled for the late shift today (didn’t have to start till 10am).  He felt better, “Got some rest.”  Studying Criminal Justice takes up his evenings. Wants to be a cop but “the competition in Orange County…”

Everyone has a story.  Each is important too.

His was sweet and humble; somebody raised him right.  He asked about me and I told him I was at the other end of my career.  He nodded and then shot me a look of sincere admiration; this young man wanted to be, some day, where I was today.  I could see he was aiming for it, that his goals were well thought out and in place and I encouraged him to stick with it.

“It feels like it’s gonna take forever, but time passes anyway.  Might as well make it count.”  He seemed to appreciate my advice.

Walked around Nordy’s and saw  pair of heels I liked.  $119!  Ah well, when would I wear them anyway?  My tummy grumbled and I wandered up to the food court.  I stood there dumbfounded.  When had they remodeled the food court?  Where did Mickey D’s go?  There’s a Thai restaurant now?  Looks tasty, but I don’t know how to order there…how long has it been since I’ve been up here anyway?

It looked nice.  Spacious.  Pleasant to the eye.

Took out about half of the table seating and put in some comfy couches and cushiony chairs.  There’s a Starbucks now too, and a Blaze Pizza (wish my friends had gotten their Pieology Pizza in there instead–that would have cool!).  Looking around, I noticed there is less attraction for idle teens and more for grown ups seeking a moment of peace; the obnoxious monitors with loud offensive music videos were still hanging above our heads, only now they were airing the news (just as offensive, but somehow more tolerable).

Got something to eat from Paradise Bakery (glad it was still there, but they stopped serving those long crouton things).  Dang it! Sometimes change is not good.  But the server gave me the bad news with a smile.

Made all the difference.

Went to sit down and eat and my eyes were drawn to a mom as she handed her toddler a green smoothie, and then we all watched as it promptly slid through his hands.

A young attractive woman immediately jumped up from her cushy chair and ran to help.

She asked the barista for a wet towel and had half the spill wiped up before the mom even knew what had happened.  Gratitude and emotion spread across the face of a mother who had had a rough morning.

I smiled at the exchange.

Heard a loud groaning to my right and saw about half a dozen handicapped young adults pass me by, being escorted by three women, to a cluster of tables.  Their care takers were patient and careful with the wheelchairs. I noticed one walking slowly; a young man, about twenty, was holding onto her shoulders as she guided him.  He was blind.  She was his eyes for the day.

The sight before me filled my own eyes with tears.

Still hungry, I ate one of the six chocolate chip oatmeal chippers I bought my son (shhh…don’t tell him).  Just as I was savoring the melty chocolatey goodness, a teenage girl (working the phone case kiosk) left her post, walking past me, and into the bathroom.  No one was manning the goods, but I noticed an obvious calmness to her demeanor; the “goods” would be fine.  She knew it.  I knew it too.

At first I was alarmed.  But soon, I found her confidence rather encouraging.  She’s got this.

My hour was up.  I was bummed.  Don’t get to the mall very often.  Thought to myself, maybe that’s why I enjoyed my time here so much?  We appreciate things more when we experience them less.

Wish my kids had been with me though.  Decolores is having a sale: Everything in the store $12.98!  Niko would have liked the shirts I saw at Macys too.  Next time…

This morning was my time with other people’s young adults.

One hour to notice how the millennials are making a way in a world that is not always that encouraging, how many are making an impact simply by giving a lift to a bored mom at the dealership or a helping hand to an overwhelmed mom at the mall, how they are selflessly showing compassion to others their own age, who cannot care for themselves.  This new generation of adults are getting up off the couch (or cushy chair) and conspiring to make a difference– in little ways, and in big ways too.  They get that all ways count.

Often my sensitivity to the world around me can leave me feeling sad and hopeless, but more often, I am left feeling blessed and hopeful.

I’d have to say, my morning at the mall?  Time well spent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look up…

I love people.

I written about my love list, and the incredible influence others around have on my life.  In fact, most everywhere I go, folks talk to me.

I like that.

Comments come at me in a variety of ways: many are funny, some leave me thinking, “Huh?” Occasionally I get the sad and even tragic, but most often I receive the uplifting or loving kind.

All are important.

I find myself alone nowadays (for a good portion) of my running around, and even though my mind is frequently elsewhere, I try to make eye contact as much as I can.  No matter what these folks have to say to me; whether I know them personally or strangers, I appreciate they are looking at me…

They want to talk to me.  And I want to talk to them.

Their words make me feel; they remind me I am part of something bigger; that my solitude is self induced.  They pull me in.

They remind me,  I matter.

It occurs all the time, everywhere.  In fact, just this past week…

  • A young man at sandwich shop said:                                                           “Hey darlin…have a beautiful day!”  I noticed the birds chirping, the sun shining, the trees swaying.  He called me darlin and meant it.
  • A hair stylist I requested a quick shampoo and blow out from:        “Maybe we should shampoo first?”   Maybe?  I liked her.
  • My 16 year old daughter:                                                                                           “I can’t believe I’m going to be living at a manor house in England.  It’s just so cool!”  (Note to self:  Relax.  She’ll be okay. Treasure time).
  • Doctor at breast center:                                                                                        “We need you to come back for another mammogram.”                          Next day I go back… “So I don’t have breast cancer?”                          Long lonely night.  Life is precious. LIVE.
  • My son:                                                                                                                                  “I can’t do this by myself.  I need your help mama.”  I’m here love.
  • Someone I haven’t seen since high school sent a message via text:   “My mother passed away last night.”  Surge of sadness. Mothers are forever.  Death is a finality we are never prepared for.  PAIN.
  • My attorney:                                                                                                                “We will need a $2,000 retainer for the forensic.”  Ugh. Really?
  • Lady at nail salon falling in love with my foot and giggling:           “Oh! Your skin so smooth! I like that!!”  Giggling! 
  • My son (twice this week):                                                                                  “That was so good mom!  Is there more?”  Yes!!!  and Yes!!!
  • A neighborhood mom (I thought didn’t care for me) stopped by:                 “I don’t know if I told you, but I have Bipolar Disorder.”                    She was apologizing. My heart ached for her.  She invited me to lunch.
  • Got a thank you card in the mail from a dear friend:                             “You ROCK!  <3 you long time!!”   Made my day. Put it on my desk.
  • Received a picture text of a heart from someone lovely:                “This was on the door where I work out.  <3 Thinking of you 🙂    Her heart filled my heart. I’m still smiling.
  • From someone I cherish:                                                                                       “I’m so thankful we’re forever friends!!” Me too.  Every single day.  Truly.  I’m so appreciate her.  <3  
  • From Diane, my father’s sweetheart, who took the phone:                “You stay strong Renee. Mother’s have to be strong.                        And sometimes they have to do it alone. ”  I wept with gratitude. This wasn’t my mom, but she was being my mom.  Folks do that for me.
  • Woke up to a text from a great friend I reconnected with:      “Morning Beautiful!”   She’s beautiful. Dimples.
  • A comment left on my blog for me to find:  “Love You Renee!”     (She might be the best person I know).  Love you too.  Always.   <3
  • After we dropped off donations at the rescue mission my children looked over at a little boy who didn’t get to drive away like we did: Their silent compassion spoke volumes to me.  My kids cared. They longed to help. That’s all that matters.  LOVE.
  • My therapist after I shut down:                                                                       “This season shall too pass.  I promise you.”  Trust.  Faith. Believe.
  • My dad after he met me at the last minute and listened to me vent: “That’s what I’m here for, babes.”  Buried my head in his familiar chest and with a deep sigh of gratitude, reminded myself:                     I am not alone.  I am surrounded.  

In this global community of differing faiths, values, priorities, schedules, rules and roles–everyone is here for a reason; some big, some small, all significant.  No connection is random, unless we choose to see it that way.  We all matter.  That truth is never lost on me.

Look up, listen, let them in.  And learn.  I do.  And I’m better for it.

 

ROOTS AND WINGS

ROOTS

Woke up thinking of a misty rainy wonderful day I spent getting drenched in Switzerland. That memory has been with me all morning.

Do you ever have those moments?  Random, but profound snapshots in time; pivotal emotional echoes of our choices in life?  I do.  Often.

That morning…

we were somewhere in the Swiss Alps.

Heaven on earth (as I like to call it) was clean and green, and wonderfully hilly.  They get rain in Switzerland, and it shows. The mountain sides are blanketed with tall, proud leafy canopies of dark green lushness.  The ground beneath is cleared out too, so you can walk freely in the spring, hike in the summer and ski in the winter.

I learned pretty quickly, nature is important to the swiss.  I couldn’t help but notice as our bus drove through the countryside, each and every single home had it’s own lovely garden:  a carefully tended to tiny treasured plot of land; rows, short in length, neat and orderly, of delicious looking vegetables and vibrantly colored flowers.

I was so taken in by this society’s common vision of natural beauty.  

Found my eyes zeroing in on the soil too:  it was dark and rich.

Wanted to kneel down and run my fingers through it; those espresso colored grains of earthy goodness spoke volumes to me about sustenance.

It wasn’t just dirt.

It was a lifeline of nutrients to a single seed…  and I thought about the abundance of rain that fell there, prompting the roots to stretch their way down deep and take hold, seeking out nourishment and finding it.

A perfect score of five healthy heads of lettuce were burgeoning above the ground . Sprigs of carrots gave clue to the orange crunchy delights that lie beneath…

The view was so enticing, I wanted to stop and make myself a salad!

I was only nineteen, but I remember thinking there is an order here;  a peace, a calming effort on the part of each family to maintain their own perfectly plowed piece of land.  These folks grew their own food.

For someone who spent a great deal of her childhood helpless and hungry, the concept left me in awe.  The swiss understood how nature and nurture go hand in hand, and they acted upon that.

And it all began with the soil.  And the rain.  And the desire for roots.

The air among the alps was crisp and fresh too.   Filling my lungs was like breathing in a slice of green apple.  Refreshing, and I wanted more.

Not certain what the little town was called, but I knew as soon as our bus rolled in around noon, we had surely stumbled upon a Hans Christensen novel come to life.  It was darling.

The winding slate colored cobblestone streets were almost whimsical, lined on both sides with wall to wall (what I can only describe as) human sized gingerbread houses, painted in pastels with dark brown trim.  I saw stores selling cuckoo clocks, and watches, and hummels, and the red and white cross flag was displayed every fifty feet or so.  We were in a tiny swiss village…

at first glance, delightful.  At second glance, enchanting.

The pitter pat of gentle rain wasn’t lost on me either.  It had given the old cobblestones a slick clean appearance; an attractive timeless ardor only a romantic would recognize, beckoning me.

I wanted to wander those fairy tale streets for the rest of my days.

We checked into our lodging for the night (which looked more like a two story home in the country) and then hurried out back to partake in an escorted hike through the woods.  It was beginning to rain a little harder, and some folks thought they’d melt and opted to return to their rooms.  I didn’t care.  I plucked up the hood to my sweatshirt, tucked my camera away, and stuck with our guide.  For me, walking through the dense woods in the rain was a dream come true.

I got drenched.  Soaked down to the bone.  It was magical.

I worked hard to make that dream a reality.  Researched, saved and went.  I appreciated every scent, every panoramic view.  My ears absorbed the harsh unforgiving sounds of the german tongue, and once in awhile, I was reminded that english is rooted in german.

Wherever I went, the tiniest foreign nuances stood out like bold splashes of paint on what was before, simply a dull white canvas.  Soon, I acknowledged to myself, I wasn’t born in a field of rich soil, but as my life became my own, I found a way to begin cultivating and nurturing my own soul, and before long I began to grow roots of my own…

WINGS

Thought about selling my house recently.  Even listed it for awhile.  No bites though.  No worries either.  I’m a firm believer in timing.

Both of my children were relieved when I took it off the market.  Too many changes in their lives of late.  A feeling of home is all I ever wanted for them, and for us.  Need to see that goal through. The laughter of my kids fill it now quite nicely, but once they are dating, studying and working, it will feel like an empty castle.  Lonely.

I do love Ladera though…

It was the late 90’s.  I had stopped by my friend Debby’s house, to say hello and drop off a package of diapers.  She thanked me and said, “Wait!  I have something for you too!”

My thoughtful friend placed a recent copy of our local newspaper’s real estate section in my hands.  Glancing down, I saw a huge article touting the splendor of a new master planned community called Ladera Ranch.

Intrigued I asked her, “Where is this?”  “Behind Mission Viejo.  It’s not built yet, but you can get on their interest list.  This is so you!”

Debby knows me well.  I was looking for a place to raise my kids.  We were renting a townhouse, and working out of our garage.  Kids were walking and talking, and we needed to find new homes for both our business and for us.

When it came to planning for the future, I was pretty much the one who took the reigns–and I was always pushing us forward.

Had a twenty year plan in my head:  We’d own a home.  One we could build from the ground up (with our personal touches), and big enough to entertain friends and family, in a brand new master planned community.  We’d grow with our surroundings.  And my priorities were clear…

I wanted to break the cycle I had grown up in, the cycle my parents had grown up in.  I wanted my kids to wake up every day in the same place, and have a back yard to run around in, with grass and sprinklers and bubbles.  I wanted a swing set and jungle gym to test themselves on. I wanted a routine of birthday parties and trick or treating, lemonade stands and riding skateboards-all with the same kids from the neighborhood, and from school too.  I wanted for my children, all the things their father had growing up, that I never had.   Stability.

So some day, they could grow broad wings of confidence, and soar.

The further I got into the article, I knew I had to check this new place out… and the motto of this new wonderland?

ROOTS AND WINGS.  How perfect was that?

Came on opening weekend, along with 100,000 (!) other potential home buyers, over a three day holiday weekend.  They had to bus us in.  It was a mad house.  Some builders had a lottery system, others you entered an interest form online months prior, and came opening day to see if you made the cut for the first phase.  You prayed for that, because with each new phase demand got intense, and the sales price went up, up, and up.

Our names were called that first day.  More craziness.  The fervor was palpable.  But we wrote that check (with shaky hands) and moved in a year later.  Our kids were two, we were self employed, and we were scared to death.  But if you don’t risk the fall, you never gain the rise.

Life isn’t perfect.  We have faced our challenges like everyone else, and continue too.  But living in Ladera has been wonderful.

No regrets.  Not even one.  Only gratitude.  Debby was right!

Finally, I now know what it’s like to own land like the swiss.  Make it my own.  Put my heart and soul into building something worthwhile. Creating and sustaining a beautiful life.

And so do my kids.

And it all began with a desire for roots.  And a longing for wings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different Kind of Me

Have you ever imagined yourself living another life?  

My therapist asked me this question about a year ago.                            My response was immediate:  YES.

In my other life…

I am the mother of two grown children.  Both away at college.  Happy, successful in their academic careers, self-esteem rock solid from years of security, both emotional and financial.   They are worldly kids (in the right way): well educated, well mannered, well traveled.  But they are sheltered (in the right way):  socially young in regards to relationships, morally respectful with their bodies and the bodies of those they come in contact with, and faithfully trustworthy.

They know and understand the harsh realities of the world, but only through the eyes of someone who can make a difference.  They are committed servants to their own God: an entity we refer to as LOVE.

They are whole children striving to become whole adults, in a splintered world, that is constantly at odds with what I have taught them is right and true; existing in a world of contradiction; a planet of seemingly insurmountable chaos, wars, and evil, and fortunately, a society of billions striving for perpetual hope and love and peace too.

My children must choose a side, daily.

In my other life, my grown children always choose correctly, and I am a mother who has remained steadfast and tenacious in her devotion to her offspring.  I am a mother at peace, for she has done all she can.

In my other life, I was not born to a sociopath.  I didn’t look to his eyes for a twinkle of benevolent fatherly pride, and discover instead the tragic glint of an estranged malevolence.  I didn’t call him daddy.

In my other life, I was not raised under the dark stormy sky of a dystopian society ruled by bipolar disorder-so paralyzing in her depressive state, so terrifyingly reckless in her moments of mania.         I didn’t call her mommy.

In my other life, I don’t have biologicals, and fosters, and adopteds; all in a struggle for a place of acceptance in my world.  To them, I was Renee, and I simply knew them all as: my family.

In my other life, I don’t have to drudge through two years of the death divorce to find an existence that feels finally, alive.  I don’t have an ex who hates me, who resents me, who doesn’t speak to me.   I don’t struggle daily to respond with patience and self-control and grace.  I don’t fight with the profound truth that at one point, we liked each other enough to produce the two purest forms of beauty I’ve ever known.

In my other life, I feel young inside and out, even at 49.

I don’t live in constant fear my kidneys will go on strike after decades (of just getting by) with faulty original parts.  I wouldn’t look in my bathroom mirror and see spotty patches on my skin-like someone put a screen up to my body, and flicked brown paint.  I wouldn’t feel the weight of thick heavy wrinkles, like glossy quotation marks, bracketing my eyes, accentuating my youth is gone.

I would see less of me, where there is now more!  My eyes would focus clearly, on their own, near and far away, once again.

My teeth would be white and straight.

My gray hair would turn back to its former rich chestnut brown, with blonde streaks (in just the right places) and fall naturally into soft curls on my shoulders, like it did when I was in my twenties.

I’d be happier with whom I saw in the mirror.  I’d see what my daughter sees when she looks at her mom.

In my other life, I live in Manhattan, in an apartment that overlooks the lush green expansive park during the day, and a vision of glittery elegance by night.  I’d have parties.  And cozy bedrooms for my kids.

I’d be committed in a delightfully mature and wonderfully warm relationship with a man that made me laugh.  And dinner.  He’d ask me about my day, as he kissed my neck.  I’d kiss him back.  Deeply.

In my other life, I’d have a dog that is potty trained.

In my other life, I’d be a successful novelist, inspirational speaker.

If I had decided to follow my desire to act, I’d win an Academy Award, and name it Oscar.   Of course I would dedicate it to my mother, who during one of her rare moments of clarity, she’d have held my young face in adoration, and convinced me, “One day, you will be a star!” and she’d place those stars just far enough out of my reach, that I’d have to stretch to get them.  Because she loved me.

My other life…I think about it, but none of that happened.

What’s important?  What did happen, to the real me :

  • Two extraordinary kids who choose to be part of the solution.
  • Two families, instead of one.   More to love.
  • Compassion for those suffering with mental illness, and those who love and suffer along with them.
  • How hard divorce is.  On everyone.  Not just the children.
  • Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Health is a gift, not a given.
  • Don’t need a NYC apartment.  I have a beautiful home.
  • I should have said no when I was 24, and yes when I was 25.
  • Maybe love, true love, will strike twice?  Maybe it’s time to date?
  • Nobody is perfect.  Not even doggies.  Puddles happen.
  • If not a successful novelist, maybe some day, one great novel?

Not the perfect life I had imagined, but it’s all about the journey, and growth and learning.  Don’t you think?  

I believe, it has to be.   I have to believe, it has to be.

 

 

A Lifetime of Trips

HERE

Popped into the pet food store to get our dog his poochy preference and pushed my cart up to the counter. The young cashier scanned the bag and asked, “How are you today?”

I responded pleasantly, “I’m good.  How are you?”  He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Eh, just another saturday.”   The mom in me wanted to inquire, but the elderly man waiting in line behind me had personal space issues, and his impatience was palpable.  I thought about the sadness of that young man, all the way to my next stop.

Unlike the former cashier enshrouded in an aura of defeat, this new guy was talking in an uplifting tone, with from what I gathered, a former employee and friend next to him, “You happy at your job?”

The kid hanging out must have been in his early twenties, and was clearly antsy because he couldn’t stand still, “Nah, think I’m gonna quit and fly down to south america.  I wanna travel.  Have lots of family in Peru, Argentina…”  “Brazil?”  “No, not in Brazil, but I wanna go there too.”  “Ah dude, visit that little island off of Brazil!  Dude, its famously beautiful!  You gotta go there!”

Believe it or not, I wasn’t eavesdropping.  Strangers talk TO  me all the time, and AROUND me too.  My daughter says I put people at ease.  Maybe its ease-dropping?  🙂

Either way, I was caught by two young men, similar in age and economic status, with two very different outlooks on their day:

one seemingly had succumbed to his lot in life.  There was no evidence he felt he had any control over his saturdays and really had no umph to change his situation.  The other?  He wasn’t happy and he wanted to do something about it; he wanted to go and see the world so much so, he could not physically stand still.

The only similarity I saw in their approaches:  they were both likely to end up getting exactly what each believed they thought they should.

THERE

Here’s the thing about travel: it’s not for everyone.

My son has been to more vacation destinations, on this planet of our’s, than most senior citizens.  He digs seeing new places (and he is the one person in this family that will purposely set time aside to pull out all the travel scrapbooks and relive our fun adventures over and over) but getting there is a drag for him.

Especially, after nine-eleven.

He dreads the long line through the TSA gate, and taking off his shoes and his belt, and emptying out his pockets, and taking out his laptop, and holding onto his ticket, and don’t even tell him you need to pat him down!  Then there is the waiting:  for the plane to arrive and to board, and being packed in like a sardine, and yucky airplane food, and after hours on a long uncomfortable flight, “Are we there yet?”

But once we’re there, he’s peachy.

Just cannot convince him it’s worth it anymore–unless it Disney World.  Then, he’ll endure the misery (and dread the flight home).

For me and my daughter, it’s all part of the adventure.   Going anywhere excites us!  In fact, we can’t drive past our county airport without longing to pull in, and hop on plane to anywhere!

But, that’s not realistic… so we plan.

I was online quite a bit one afternoon recently, researching new adventures in England.  My soon to be junior in high school is studying abroad for two weeks this summer at Oxford University.  She’s too young to go it alone, so I will accompany her, get her settled in, and then spend that time exploring the UK.   I was planning on having to venture out alone, but now I have three of my girlfriends from high school joining me!  How fab is that?!

We met last weekend and mapped out the beginnings of our trip.  Since I’ve been a few times already, and am familiar with planning trips to foreign lands, I said I would look into the lodging and day trip tours, etc…

Half the fun is in the planning, and now for me, planning for those I am traveling with gets me giddy.  When I took my kids to England on our last trip ( a few years ago) they were old enough by then to have very clear interests, so I made sure to book a tour of the Wimbledon venue for my tennis obsessed son, and then we hopped on a thirty minute train out to WB Studios for my Harry Potter loving daughter.

Made the trip for them!

I don’t get all butterfly-ery in my tummy anymore with anticipation (like I used to), but I do get really excited seeing the anticipation in others I care for.  For me, thinking about the interests of my travel buddies, and trying to match our itinerary so everyone gets to do something they really enjoy, is what drives me when I plan.

And things don’t have to be pricey: the tour of Wimbledon was only 12 pounds (about $15).  As soon as I saw it, I booked it!  That’s how this travel mama rolls.  🙂

When I stumbled across some cool sounding tours in and around London recently, I texted my girlfriend and asked something like, “Would you want to go on a Jack the Ripper night walking tour?        Or haunted London?”  (and since I know she stalks the royals)                  I continued with, “We’re gonna tour Kensington Palace where Prince Wills and Kate live, and if we want, we can have high tea there!”

Her response made me giggle,  “OMG!  for reals?!?! …  Soooo excited I totes threw-up a little in my mouth!!”

THAT’S what drives me now.  🙂

Traveling is a way of life for me.  I’ve always felt that way.

When I was in high school, I had a poster of the Eiffel Tower that hung on my wall.  I knew some day I would go there.   When I was nineteen, I noticed an poster hanging in the Humanities building advertising a 19 day/8 country tour of Europe.  It seemed unreachable at the time.

How could a girl who was homeless at 12, send herself to Paris at 19?  But I did it.  I saved for a year and went.  And you can too!

Not sure if you surmised this yet, but I’m sentimental.

I save everything.

Sometimes, that’s not a good thing, but this time I am glad I did.  Below is the savings goal/plan I placed myself on:

photo-78

I was working as a waitress making about forty bucks a night, going to college full time, tuition and books were my responsibility, bought and paid for my own car, insurance and gas, and I still made it happen.

Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive.  I’ve stayed at luxury hotels at $500/night and I’ve backpacked through Europe (sharing a dorm room with half a dozen strangers) in a $12/night youth hostel.  We all saw the same tourist sites during the day, we just laid our heads on different thread counts at night.

It’s always been about priorities.  As I get older, I want the luxury.  Don’t require it though.

I am really looking forward to my jaunt abroad with my gal pals.  We are all celebrating the big 5-0 this year (well, they are all already in their fifties, I’m still in my forties-HA!)!  What better way to ring in the next decade than to venture out and do something totally different?  Cannot wait!!

Its 5pm, and I am still thinking about that young man who threw another saturday away.  I hope at some point, he gets that it doesn’t matter if he never leaves Orange County.  What does matter?  That eventually, he learns LIFE is a trip every single day, no matter where you are.  It’s the gift of adventure, if only you see it that way.

You just have to make the choice to research it, book it, and GO!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TREE KEEPER

MY BROTHER

His name is Brett Evan.  I won’t list his last name now, but when he was born, it was De Mont, like mine.

I sometimes wondered about that: what his new name was, what he looked like, what his personality would be like?  I sometimes wondered where that little baby boy was, that my mother had given up for adoption so long ago?

We kids always knew about him.  We just never knew him.

US

Do you watch television?  I don’t watch much anymore.  I find the programming too in your face offensive, gratuitously mean, and unnecessarily sad.  I know personally how hard the folks in television work to please the audience, but in my day, shows were shooting for  clean humor, smart story lines, and entertaining mysteries the whole family could watch together.   My twins are sixteen, but nowadays, I still block half the stuff in the lineup.  Its insulting.

Back then, at least they tried to honor the audience intelligence.   Now, so much of what makes the airwaves, is about shame.

There is one show that I look forward to watching, and it just began a new season last sunday:

“Who Do You Think You Are?” on TLC.

Each hour highlights a celebrity exploring his/her family tree.  According to TV Guide:  In each episode, a star takes a globe-spanning journey of self-discovery to uncover the mysteries of his or her ancestral history.  Their familial stories in turn shed light on events in American and world history.   

I find every trek fascinating!

The premiere on March 5th profiled News Anchor Julie Chen.

That strong, independent woman, began her search believing she knew who she was, and from whom she had descended, but instead, Ms. Chen came out of her journey with a steady stream of enlightened tears of discovery, understanding and acknowledgment; a fuller understanding of who her ancestors were, why they made the choices they did, and how their lives impacted her life–which is vital I think, because we are all connected, and those connections matter.

I’ve spent much of my life longing for the individual members of my biological nuclear family, holding onto the bits and pieces I knew to be true; preserving them forever, as precious treasures.  I had no illusions, or delusions, about who they were.  

I knew about them, both the good and the bad.

In the end, I think that was beneficial.  We need to understand where we came from, in order to better understand where we want to go.

From the ages of 9-13,  I lived in an LDS foster home.  I was taught by the church members that our lineage is to be researched, documented, learned from.  Valued.

In fact, I was given a Book of Remembrance when I was about ten, that I still possess today.   Inside the burgundy covers, I pasted Primary awards, old photographs, a letter from my foster mother, and one page was dedicated entirely to a genealogical layout, I myself filled in, with the names and birth dates of my family members.

All of my siblings, whether I actually met them or not, were listed on that page.  I was proud, possessive even, of my biological family.

I must admit though, I’m a bit sketchy on the exact dates of my younger siblings births; I was only physically around when the two oldest boys were born.  For the birth of all the others?  I was dropped here or there, to live with a relative or friend (or just someone who said yes for a month-or six), every time mama found herself pregnant and ready to deliver another baby.  I only learned of the “new baby’s” existence, after the fact.

I’ve written some about my parents, grandparents and some about my kids too.  Tonight, I thought I’d share a bit about those siblings.

I’m the oldest of seven.  Three girls and four boys.  I knew all of them at one point or another, but one.  The middle child.  He came after three of us were already here, and then three more came after him.

Confused yet?  Ha!

Here’s the run down :

Renee Lynn   49                                                                                                                           Sean Lewis  48                                                                                                                                                 Timothy Mark  46                                                                                                                      Travis Kent  45                                                                                                              Kasha   42  or 43                                                                                                                    Tanya Lee  (deceased)  40 this May                                                                Christopher Jason  37 or 38

Mama did tell me when I was a little girl, we had another brother.   He came when I was about four and half years old.  Mama’s fourth baby in four years!  Daddy had skipped out once again, leaving her stranded in Orange County.  Having ran home to her mother up in San Luis Obispo twice before (for the birth of Sean and Tim), she felt reaching out to her sister, Edna Lee, was the only option.  Nena (that’s what we called her) took her in (and me and Sean and Timmy too)to live with her and my cousin Kendra.

Nena said all she remembers of that time was Dick had disappeared. “Your mother couldn’t care for the three kids she already had, and the new baby had to go. ” It was that matter of fact.

“When her water broke, I drove Susie to the hospital.  I left her there and went back to take care of you kids.  I did see your mother sign the release papers…she called and said the baby had been born.  When I went back to pick her up, he was gone.”

I asked my mother once, “Did he look like us?”

Her dark lashes left a shadow under her hazel eyes as she glanced down.  “I never saw him.  The nurse said it was better that way.”  She swallowed hard.  I wrapped my arms around her waist.

My mother’s pain ran deep.

She named him Travis Kent.  Born on March 16, 1970.

I was told he was delivered in a hospital somewhere in Santa Barbara.  Nena said she lived in Lompoc then, but could’t remember what hospital they ended up at.  She figured probably a county hospital, as they were required to accept patients without insurance.

We didn’t know his birthday though till ancestry.com told us.

I thought about looking for our brother after that.  So did Jason, especially with the invention of the internet.  I stopped short though.

We are a lot to manage, even to those of us who grew up together.  For someone who has never met our big brood, we might be seen as an armed S.W.A.T. team descending on an unarmed innocent.   Scary.

But you should know, we are all good people.

I’m not in touch with my other siblings, but I remember how they reacted when I found Jason and Tanya. They were excited, and wanted to be part of their lives, which they thought was wonderful.  Not everyone reacts the same though.  Brett may want to hear the stories of our first act,  but may not want to appear as a player in our second.

And that’s okay.

From what I can tell his mother was a nurse, and his father was in the service.  They appear to still be married.  Lived in Lompoc and moved up to Alaska after Brett was adopted.  He has a sister who is married with two kids of her own.   He loves fishing, football and frosted mini wheats!  Fun!  I was struck by how much he looks like our father.  He is a morph of all three of our brothers: Sean’s hands, Tim’s hairline, and Jason’s shape face.  I was surprised to see, he is the only one of us with our mother’s hazel eyes.  She would have liked that.

Amazing what a glance at someone’s Facebook wall will tell a person.  I looked twice.  I won’t look again, unless he responds to Jason’s inquiry.  The only reason I felt it was okay to look at all was I saw for myself he had registered on an adoption site.  My friend Michelle said, “If he left a clue…”  I’m so glad she wrote that.  I wholeheartedly agree!

When I posted on Facebook a couple of nights ago that Jason had found me through my blog, my friend Linda commented so very poignantly, “Maybe that’s why you started writing your blog?”

My written account of this shocking life of mine, began mostly as a cathartic exercise to purge this pain I’ve been carrying around for forty years.  Folks seemed to be interested right off the bat, and I was heartily encouraged to continue with the storytelling.  That led to Onedropofgrace.com.  Been thinking about Jason since I’ve been writing.  Maybe that was my clue for Jason?  And Jason led to Brett.

We are all connected.  For a reason.  It won’t change who you were,  but learning the stories of the folks you are linked to genetically, will certainly change who you will become.  The folks who embraced you, loved you, made you their cub, those folks are your real family.  We are your biological family.  We could become part of your life, or not.  It’s up to you.  And on our end, its up to each one of us too, individually.

Like Ms. Chen, and every other celebrity on that tv show, and like every other person I know who has jumped with glee as they discover a new connection; as one more branch sprouts on their family tree, you will simply become more of who you already are.

And isn’t it nice when the trees are fuller?

If you are reading this Brett, I’m sure you have surmised by now, I’m the tree keeper in our family.  I’m your big sister.  If you want me to be.  My stories are your stories.  All you have to do is ask.                               No strings attached.  <3

 

 

 

 

Louder than Words

ACTIONS SPEAK

I remember several years ago, I walked into the tech room at Intermedex, looked around at all we had acquired and asked Juan, “How’d we do all this?”  He shrugged and sighed, “Man, I dunno.”

We’ve talked about it in the past, and often we’ll disagree on this detail or that, but one thing is absolute:  It all began with my  dad.  That much we agreed on.

It was my father that got my then boyfriend a part time job at our neighbor’s medical equipment start-up company.  Doug, the neighbor, was out watering his grass when dad asked him, “Hey, my future son in law is looking for part time work…”  Being a college kid, Juan went in with no experience, and could only work a few days a week any way, when he didn’t have classes.  It was a small company owned by two men that only needed someone here and there, so it was a good fit.

Didn’t take Juan long to realize he had a knack for repairing medical equipment, and soon he quit college and they hired him full time.

He tells the story: one slow day at work, there was a box of cables sitting on the floor waiting to be returned to a hospital.  “Let me take a look at it.”  “Nah dude, we don’t repair that stuff.  Hospitals buy new.  Not sure why they sent it in.  It just gets thrown away.”  Juan blew the guy off and looked inside the box anyway.

It was filled with pulse oximetry cables; finger sensors they put on you in the hospital to measure the oxygen saturation in your blood.  Curious, he took one apart, fiddled around with it, and fixed it.

Lickety split!

Soon, the owners were placing ads all over the country and boxes were coming in by the hundreds.  A quick year later, the small company he had been working for was now making over a million dollars a year, off his efforts.

Even though Juan did turn out to be a brilliant engineer, in the beginning, it wasn’t that it was rocket science, it was simply that he had taken the time to sit down and figure out how to repair those particular cables.  Saved hospitals thousands a year in their repair budgets.  Once his confidence grew, so did the list of items he could repair–and he could do those repairs for a fraction of what they cost new!

But he started to get frustrated…

After four years of making someone else rich, my dad suggested, “Why not start your own company?”   I had suggested it before, but that boyfriend of mine had selective hearing.

When my dad spoke, he heard.

Took a year of planning:  coming up with a catchy name “Intermedex” (short for International Medical Experts), designing the logo (I still have the sketch pads), saving and buying the tools needed (gramps offered up a whole box of crimping tools he sent out from Tennessee that Juan still uses today), and one of the most generous souls on earth heard about our enterprise, and let us borrow testing equipment at no charge for an entire year!  Love List….

After I got laid off from Paramount, I spent the summer “building” the physical part of our business with Juan.  We went to Home Depot, spent $100 on a particle board counter top and some 2 x 4’s and came home and built a work bench in our garage.  Together, we sawed, painted, nailed and glued.   Just needed customers now.

So, I walked in one day and dropped a big pile of cables on the living room table and said, “Teach me.”  I became the face of Intermedex, pounding the pavement of every medical facility from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

But, after awhile I missed my job in Hollywood, and bills needed to be paid.  This was his vision, not mine.  I wanted to help, but I liked working in television.  Needed the money too.  We only made $8,000 the first six months and (my now husband got fired the first day our ad appeared, and his former employer then proceeded to sue us).

To this day, I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t afraid.  I knew if we stayed steady, it would pay off some day.  It would just take time.

Called my awesome bosses at Warner Bros, and asked if they needed an assistant for their new show?  “Come!”  I began the following monday.  I will always be grateful.  Worked on a cool show, got my Hollywood fix, and paid the mortgage and other bills so Juan could focus on the repairs.  I still went home every night and typed up invoices, paid bills and returned phone calls to help out.

It’s mind blowing to me now, but back then, in 1994, when we began our venture into small business ownership?  WE HAD NOTHING.

No cell phone, no computer, no cash, no business loan, no experience on how to operate a business at all.  

What we did have?  An idea-a niche.  But I learned he couldn’t do it alone.  He needed help.  Feeling I had no choice, and full of regrets…

I found myself having to quit Hollywood again.  I traded my dream for his, but I was ready to have kids too, and wanted to be at home when they came, so I told myself I needed to make this go.  And I knew I could.

The truth of it all is this:

I spent every day driving around southern california to hospitals, offering free pick up and delivery on all cable repair.  I didn’t know much of what I was promoting, but I knew enough to get in the door.  After that, I bluffed my way through the rest.

The biomedical engineers were skeptical at first, then thrilled.  Cable repair was tedious and they were needed to repair the high end stuff.  If someone else wanted to take the cables off their hands now, cool.

Packages were always getting held up in purchasing too.  If we could pick up, repair, and hand deliver within 48 hours, the nurses were grateful, the hospitals saved money, and the biomeds looked good, it was a win-win-win!

And we began to grow…

 

LOUDER THAN WORDS

Had four ceiling fans installed today.

My brother came about four years ago, on his day off, and did the wiring–all I had to do was go get the fans, and he’d finish the job.

Simple enough, right?

Guess I took too long to buy those fans; sent his employee out (who did a fantastic job) because my brother no longer does the daily work.   Now, he’s the boss.

The electrician was efficient, reliable and pleasant.  Felt like a friend of my brothers.  In fact, the first thing he said was, “So you’re Jeremy’s sister?”  I laughed.  We are nothing alike.  We’re both adopted.

Kenny was here for a few hours, and we chatted, then he and dad chatted, and then we all chatted.  The Dobranich’s are chatty.  Mom used to say, “Your father has never met a stranger in his whole life.”  Dad puts folks at ease right away.  I’d like to think I’m like that too…  or at least, I’ve become like him.

During the conversation, the electrician commented on how fast my brother’s company was growing.  “Gonna have the company info on the side of the vans soon!”  I wasn’t surprised.  Jeremy is very competent at what he does.  He’s approachable, and open and friendly, and reliable too.  Like our dad.

After awhile, somehow what I did for a living came up.  Told him as he was installing my son’s fan, we have our own business too….

Biomedical Engineering.  We refurbish and repair medical equipment.  We specialized back then in cable repair.  Now we do everything.

Got me to thinking afterward…

Four of my dad’s five kids are business owners, in fact.

Each of us began at different times in our lives, and we all have pursued success in very unique ways:  we were in engineering, my sister Kim and her husband designed and built award winning pools, my brother Sean has his own investment company, and Jeremy has a flourishing electrical company of his own (just did some work for that tv show “Flip or Flop”).

Two of us began twenty years ago and grew at a steady pace, while the other two started within the last decade and are booming quickly.  But, we did it.

That is pretty unusual in and of itself, but I think what is truly remarkable is this:  not a single one of us should have amounted to anything.  At one point or another, we were all orphans, with no hope.

Then it hit me, the common denominator:  DAD.  The guy who adopted us.

He likes to brag on his kids.  He’s proud of every single one of us.  But he won’t take credit for any of our successes.  “Nah, I didn’t do nuthin.  You guys did all that on your own.”

But here’s the thing:

While it’s true, expectations were never expressed, college was a good option, but not a requirement.   And yes, dad listened to what our plans were, but he really didn’t care what we did as long as we were happy.  His investment wasn’t in what we did, but how we felt doing it.  If we were unhappy anywhere, he urged us to move on.

Just like he did.

I doubt it ever occurs to him, but he too was a business owner, and influenced us all.  A very successful one too.  And he didn’t even begin his company until he was in his fifties!

Things had dried up in California and mom needed the better health coverage in Arizona so, after thirty years here, they moved there.

Dad wasted no time in finding work.

It was the beginning of the housing boom.  He took a drive or two around Fountain Hills, (a luxury community outside of Phoenix) and noticed these constructions companies needed a clean up crew to come in and take away all the stuff that accumulates on site.

He found a need.  He found his niche.

Bought himself a pick up truck and went around offering up his services.  Dad was approachable and open, friendly, and reliable.  Soon he had a truck with his logo on the side and a crew to help him out.  We all watched as that company our father started, began to grow.  Almost immediately, it afforded our mom and dad a very nice lifestyle, and it lasted until it was time to retire.  He was in charge.

It wasn’t talked about with awe.  It was just what he did.  Just like with all of our companies.  I still remember when my sister and her husband had the walls of their office lined with “outstanding pool design” award after award, for his pools.  We all congratulated him, and then we went swimming.

It isn’t about accolades, it’s about actions.  Dad taught us that.

And while  he was busy living out his vision, his company grew.

That’s how all that happens.  You just keep at it.  Then, one day you look around and you have a nice home with a pool, mom doesn’t have to work anymore, and everyone in town knows Bob from Fountain Hills Construction Clean Up.

We learned, without even realizing it, not through his words, but through his example.   We all have our own companies because we saw him always take charge, take responsibility, never lose focus.

Actions really do speak louder than words.

Oh, and way back then, as a thank you for dad’s encouraging us to venture out on our own?  We bought him and mom one of those new fangled personal home computers everyone was talking about.

Wonder if those things ever took off?  🙂