Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mother to Son-My Birthday Sentiment

My son, Tristan, and I on our Maui trip in 2008. Guess who looks like they're having so much fun? 
Today my youngest child, my son, turned twenty-years-old. I experienced a multitude of emotions but as I reflected on the past twenty years I realized that a mother's love is an equal mixture of pain and love. 50% love for an only son that I am incredibly proud of and 50% pain from the longing I have for us to be closer. We used to be best buds, he and I, but as it is with all mothers we have to pass the proverbial ritual of letting go. Mama's boys are not attractive and this I know from experience. But during the letting go process I made mistakes, some monumental, that drove a wedge between my son and me. These mistakes haunt me in the middle of the night like spectral images behind my closed eyelids. I can't pinpoint the exact moment when our lives shifted and we transitioned into strangers. Lately, the moments we spend together have a distinct air of acquaintances being forced to interact with each other and I wonder if the sound of my breaking heart penetrates the wall he's put up between us. I'm often told that all twenty-something year-old sons act distant and will eventually come to their senses. As I patiently wait I try not to punish myself by accepting penance. Do all mothers  experience this torment? 

When I learned that I was pregnant with Tristan I was twenty-three years old with two little girls in the toddler stage and suffering in an abusive marriage. I could have chosen to take the easy way out and decided to be rid of the baby but that wasn't my style. I took responsibility for my actions and faced the consequences but I mentally denied that he was growing inside me. And maybe it was the ambivalence I carried along with my unborn child for 9 months that led me to this time of penance twenty years later. Everyone told me my third pregnancy would be easy and quick, that labor would be a piece of cake since I've already given birth twice. Stupid me believed them. But Tristan proved them wrong when he was the longest, most difficult, and extremely painful birth. Even then I felt I deserved it and refused pain medication as a sick form of self-flagellation. Lame, I know.

The night he was born I held him in my arms and wept for hours asking him to forgive me. Tears saturated his newborn skin running in rivulets down his chest and creating pathways of my pleading to his little heart. "Forgive mommy's stupid selfishness and pride, I will make it up to you the rest of your life. I promise. Just please forgive me." It is the same refrain in every mother's heart whose abiding love for her son forces her to face mistakes with contrition. 

I refuse to give up and will continue to build a bridge of hope and redemption with painstaking care from my heart to his. I am holding on to the belief that one day he will realize that even though I'm not the world's perfect mom the love and respect I have for him are. And a mom's perfect love and respect for her twenty-year-old son are invaluable compared to the iPhone 5 he asked for. Happy Birthday, Trey! 

Since I don't have videos of my kids I spent my quiet time of reflection today by perusing pictures from our Maui trip in 2008. Only two of my kids were able to join me but I'm grateful that Tristan was there to make memories. Watching my children grow makes time appear ethereal. 
Tristan with his sister Maricelle and I. 
My gentle giant. He refused to venture out and enjoy the beach with us until our last day in Maui which makes this photo priceless.  
Another priceless picture with Tristan. He's smiling.  
Mom loves you Trey. Maybe next time YOU can take your old mom on a vacation! HA! 

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Rylee Wishes

We spent a summer Sunday afternoon having "Gramma Nette and Rylee time" at our special place-the Cerritos Library. I had high hopes that she'd cool off by running through the water at the dolphin fountain, relishing in the hallmarks of summer like most of the kids that afternoon. But my stubborn granddaughter refused. I forgot to bring her bathing suit and she didn't want her clothes soaked. I never know whether I'm getting the girlie-Rylee or the tomboy-Rylee so I just rolled with it. She preoccupied herself with the koi pond instead and asked for a penny to make a wish. I gave her 3 pennies and these were her wishes:

(Online accredited universities have education classes) for people who love kids and want to become teachers.)

Wish #1: "I'm wishing that my mommy will give me a present."
Wish #2: "I'm wishing that my mommy will be excited when I see her."
Wish #3: "I'm wishing that I will make my mommy so proud of her."
To my precocious grandchild, Gramma Nette's wishing you will never stop believing that wishes do come true.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Google+ and Me

I'm baaaaaaaackkkkk! But not quite and it's lovely. Ten months ago I pressed the delete and/or deactivate button on all social networking sites I got sucked into like a Dyson vacuum. As recent as a few days ago I ran into a friend who asked, "What the heck happened to you?! You dropped off the face of the earth!" I almost responded, "No, I just dropped off of Facebook."  (If you care to know why you can read it here, if not, move along...)

Since then I've had numerous people tell me I was making a big mistake and hurting my photography business by not having a Facebook fan page. Several times I've sat in front of my computer attempting to create one and couldn't stomach it. I know a business fan page is different from a personal FB account but I was incredibly leery of anything connected to Facebook. I suppose I approached it the way I do with all my relationships. Once I'm done I. Am. Done. There is no going back.

Then I heard about Google+ and I perked up. It was like meeting a potential date several months after you've extricated yourself out of a highly-dysfunctional relationship. I was intrigued by a recent article about Google+ and the appeal it might have for those who are looking to start over. (Raising my hand and pointing at me.) The CNN article called it a "social reboot" and you could read about it here

I already knew that I would use Google+ strictly for my photography business and last week I was finally invited by my friend. It didn't take that long for me to maneuver my way around it and I was relieved and ecstatic to see that it was made just for me! 

Why Google+ is the "cheese to my macaroni": 
  • I confess that I am a shameless compartmentalizer. I compartmentalize everything in my life, especially people. You will never see me mix crowds. One set of friends do not know another set of friends. So Google+ and its circle concept is brilliant! I have created several circles already. And the beauty of it is, when I want to share or post something it doesn't need to be disseminated to everyone and their mama. I have control over who sees what! (Have I also mentioned my insatiable need to control things? I'm working on it.)
  • There are NO annoying friend requests. I don't have to feel guilty for ignoring a friend request from a co-worker or family member. One difficult lesson I learned is accepting friend requests from co-workers past and present. Big no-no! I don't have to hear, "Hey, what's up?! How come you ignored my friend request?" Or, "Why did you delete/block me from Facebook? WHY?! Why?!" I also learned the hard way that being honest with people and telling them my reasons only created more drama, not to mention long-winded posts on my Facebook wall. It never bothered me when people deleted or blocked me from Facebook so it boggled my mind to know that I offended many when I did a full sweep of my friends list. Instead of friend requests, Google+ allows people to add me to their circles but I don't have to add them. And vice-versa. Can I get an amen?! 
  • Google+ IS a second chance at social networking but now I'm older and wiser with a bit more self-restraint. I have a business to promote and that's it. I'm not compelled to update my status every day or feel I have a platform to rant on. I know I didn't have to do that on Facebook, either, but I couldn't stop myself from doing so. Also, I don't have to be subjected to check-ins, game stats/invites,, hallelujah I have forgotten the other irritants of Facebook.
Does Google+ have any cons? I'm sure there are but for me I'm still in the euphoric stages of the relationship. I will let you know once the rose-tinted glasses come off. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brief Interlude

In the past year weekend getaways have become elusive amid family obligations as Ray and I each carry the responsibility of the dutiful child attending to our elderly parents' needs. His friends invited us on their annual camping trip to Dogwood Campground near Lake Arrowhead for the weekend but we could only afford a few hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I was also on grandma duty for the weekend so Queen Rylee graced us with her sweet innocence and provided entertainment. She begged us to take her to a playground and I promised to present her with a vast one. It's been years since I've stepped foot on a campground or been in the vicinity of Lake Arrowhead. Our brief interlude from reality was like playing hookie from high school during final exams. And looking at the campground and nearby Lake Gregory through Rylee's fresh vision made the experience feel like it was my first time. 
She didn't waste time collecting sticks and rocks-a recent fascination for her.
She wanted to take them all home.

We drove to nearby Lake Gregory and Rylee ran straight for the water




Thursday, July 7, 2011

Homeless Outreach

While the entire country geared up for America's Independence holiday celebrating with the 4th of July accoutrement(s) of choice I was being stretched and humbled. My celebratory mode was in the off position and I looked forward to my three day weekend with anticipation rivaling a prison inmate on his last day of confinement. My week was burdened with an extra load of worry and concern for my grown children and the difficulties they were facing. The old me-the one with a proclivity for escapism-wanted to run away and disentangle myself from the manacles of anxiety and fear. The kind of worry that is elicited by a mother's helplessness when she has no control over the pain her children have currently endured. I know it is inevitable and experiencing it is akin to a rite of passage in adulthood ceremoniously heralding their waning youth but it troubles me nonetheless. 

I would be lying if I said I spent the holiday weekend reflecting on the meaning of America's Independence day. I couldn't get past my own self-absorption. So I find it ironic (or rather poetic) that I was invited to attend a homeless outreach and take photos. In a providential conversation I had with Laura (an employee at an orthopedic clinic I interact with for my job), I discovered that she performs with a band ( at a homeless outreach held in Calvary Community Church in Fullerton providing food, haircuts, clothes, and showers. She invited me and I accepted without hesitation. I brought no expectations with me except my camera that I lugged around hoping to create images saturated with emotion. Instead, I found myself drenched in overwhelming sentiment as I observed the pure hearts in servitude to the needy and homeless. It was my first homeless outreach and I sensed it wouldn't be my last. It was the sucker punch I needed to free myself from the self-imposed, self-absorbed, and self-inflicted imprisonment of selfishness I languished in. How dare I bitch, moan, and complain about how I can't go shopping for new clothes and shoes (don't count the box of shoes in my trunk, or the closet of shoes, or the racks of shoes I currently have), can't afford a haircut, can't escape on a weekend trip, can't go to concerts, can't go on weekly girls' night out, can't buy books, can't have fun, can't have excitement, and can't eat out at high-end restaurants! Who am I to grumble about my current living situation when I have a roof over my head, a bed adorned with clean sheets to sleep on, and food in the refrigerator? 

These were the questions repeatedly piercing my heart as I walked through the outreach watching those who were grateful for the clothing donations, warm food, haircuts, and friendship they were given despite the stigma of homelessness. Was it providence or coincidence that the first person to strike up a conversation with me was a homeless man who was a photographer for 35 years? He approached me because he recognized the lens I was using. "A red ring on that lens means you are serious about your photography." We proceeded to have the most intellectual exchange about Nikon vs. Canon, 16-35mm lens vs. the 70-200mm lens, and film vs. digital cameras. I meant to take a photo of him but never had the chance. 

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to strike up too many conversations with the people or the volunteers whose grace I covet. The young people serving food and providing haircuts brought to life the words of serving so often preached from the bible. Their actions became a cohesive movement of service that I could not help but be enthralled. My conversations with God lately have become a total bitchfest (yes, I said it and it's true) about how he MUST send me on a mission trip to a far away land NOW, like SOON, like c'mon already, send me! As I walked the perimeter of the outreach I was deeply ashamed about how my insolence mixed with a tincture of arrogance must smell so putrid to God. For he did exactly as I had asked-he sent me on a mission trip a mere couple of miles away in a little city called Fullerton. 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8


Creation Day Band

The smiling faces of the volunteers