Sunday, February 28, 2010

Team Sara


Remember that it is a Pet Eat Pet world? Since our dachshund, Sara, ate my son’s pet mouse, Shadow, the tears have stopped. When the mouse cage is cleaned, the two surviving rodents are kept in the bathtub while the Weiner Sisters bark like crazy by the door. Sara occasionally scratches, begging for another fresh mousey meal. Today when Daniel, who took Shadow’s death the hardest, was cleaning the cage he took an extra step to make sure the Weiner Sisters did not get near his beloved (disgusting, smelly, beady-eyed) mice. Cute.


However, I remain  a devoted fan of  Sara’s team.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun"

In these pictures, what do you see? I see my healthy, near-thirteen-year old son attempting the unicycle for the first time. It warmed the cockles of my one-wheelie heart to watch him jump in the saddle. Wobble. Crash. Tilt. Lean. Fall. Repeat.

Lucas wants to master the unicycle, despite his frustration. When I think how we seriously considered taking him off of life support at the ripe old age of five months, many small situations in life become meaningful moments that would otherwise pass by. As a baby, he underwent two open-heart surgeries, was ventilator dependant and eating from a feeding tube. His start was a fragile, bleak struggle. When I flashback to his first year, how can I not be thrilled over a simple unicycle attempt? Can you imagine the mess I will be at his high school graduation or wedding?

What did my husband see when he saw these photos? Let’s just say he was not happy the Honda was the launching pad for our Unicycle 101 lesson. I thought that if Lucas dents the car, it’s instantly customized; like a spoiler, or bumper sticker. He did not like my explanation. I understand the rule of respecting and caring for our stuff, and I usually agree with him on issues like this, however, this time I had to take my own path. A dent felt like a silly concern in the middle of this exciting moment.

I defer to Katherine Hepburn who said “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” Not a scratch was made (this time) and I stand by my decision to embrace any dents that come with this joyful, simple experience.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Invisible Gold

Inviting God into the classroom is one reason why I send my kids to a Christian school. I work at the school so I can afford it (yea, tuition break). I imagined my college degree would go monetarily farther, but this job has provided riches that my paycheck does not reflect. Here is the gold.

A few times a week there is an opportunity in our fourth grade class for the kids to put their prayers out there for all to hear. Heads are bowed, fidgeting (almost) stops and respectful silence is heard as the teacher allows those who want to pray to do so. You would be surprised that most like to pray out loud and at the sweet requests they make. Oh, to have the heart of a kid! Being reminded of how simple and innocent we all once were is priceless.

Consider earlier this week the prayer of a little boy who struggles, “Please God help me get my homework done so I can play with my dog.”

Or the girl that prayed, “God help my mom to not be sad.”

My past favorite is, “Please God, help my Uncle to stop drinking beer.”

In my world that is laden with adult worries, it refreshes my soul to hear prayers spouting forth from the heart of a ten year old. It feels and sounds like invisible gold.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One in a Bazillion

Having never blog surfed I spent a night visiting Blog Land while my guys were out of town. What a huge sea of topics and talent … mommies, sick people, crafts, religion, business, family, pets, babies and recipe blogs ...WOAH! Stop! Blog overload! I ended up cross-eyed and overwhelmed knowing I am just on in a bazillion bloggers in cyber space.

Next day in line at Vons my old friend Melanie was behind me. She’s another two-boy mom. She mentioned they had been college shopping and just returned from San Luis Obispo where they loved the campus and her son hopes to be accepted. However, 41,000 applications were submitted for the Fall! Now, he has that one in a bazillion feeling. In this economy, with the jobless rate higher than Cheech and Chong, I bet folks seeking work feel that one in a bazillion shadow next to them with every application or interview. Ever bought a lottery ticket dreaming to hit the jackpot? Then reality slaps that one-in-a-bazillion truth at you. It’s a real buzz kill.

In this complex world it is easy to feel ant-sized, like you are just another number, face or applicant. Combating that one-in-a-bazillion human feeling is overcome by staying focused, ignoring the numbers, gripping tight to hope and avoiding comparison. Otherwise aspirations shrink. I trust that on planet Earth, God created only one you and one me. Only you possess your good looks, dreams, passions, talents, hopes and fears in your one-of-a-kind mix. There is also only one of you with your fingerprints, dental records and bad habits (the human DNA trifecta). God holds a bazillion blueprints and one has your name on it. Whether it is a college or job application, buying a lottery ticket, or putting your creative self out there, trust that in a world this big God makes room for everybody.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hook-A-Sista-Up

Last night I joined a mini-Facebook high school reunion at a local bar. Always nice to reconnect with old chums after twenty-four years. School friends commented on how weird it is that Louie is my brother-in-law (see picture). I agreed. You see Miss Piggy’s husband Scott, aka Louie, was my close high-school buddy. Somewhere in the archives of my life sits a photo of us from 1985, at the Sadie Hawkins dance dressed in matching western shirts on a bale of hay. You should see the look on Louie’s face, hamming up the hokey hill-billy charade. Hee-haw! This Louie guy is a hoot! It was never a love connection, but a fun date nonetheless. Later, in 1986, at San Diego State where Miss Piggy and I attended, I introduced them and both being the creative types they clicked. They were “just friends” for five years, then married in 1995, in Italy, of all places. My big fat Italian clan loved that! It felt good to hook-a-sista-up.

But wait, even more interesting is Louie kept the sister hook up going. Louie had a best friend and college roommate named Dave, but I’ll call him Minnesota, because he’s from Minnesota and says things like “flayg” for flag and “bayg” instead of bag. Needless to say, we have a lot of fun with his accent. Minnesota couldn’t afford the trip home for the holidays one year (life on a college budget, we’ve all been there) and stayed at Louie’s grandma’s house with him … but we really mostly hung out at my parents’ house (free beer). Minnesota is a great guy and blended right in. He actually won that year’s Ugly Ornament Contest at the Crosetti Christmas Party. My clan loved and welcomed him because he was a hilarious, creative, cute, kind and respectful. Who can resist that? Not young Cutie-Pie. In the end, it is Louie and Miss Piggy that get the kudos for this hook-a-sista-up story, as Cutie-Pie and Minnesota married in 2003. Perfect match.

As I sit back and think about this, it’s sort of odd that my sisters married friends. And now we are all related.  And then I think about it again and it’s not so weird. Maybe this is how it happens in families with all girls. I mean, help a sister out already! My grandma Noni (oldest of four sisters) married my grandpa Frank after her sister Ruby dated him and decided she didn’t like that Frank fella. Ruby passed on Frank, but Eva  (aka Noni) thought he was cute and they fell madly in love. Good thing, cause here I am today because of it. This is my favorite hook-a-sista-up story.

Girls, come together on this concept because you never know what wonderful things might happen when you hook-a-sista-up. Remember how I met my techie Prince at my Cousin Paul’s 25th birthday party? Hook-a-cuz-up.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stupid Vaccine

Last night I set my alarm for 5:15 AM for a little exercise with my neighbor. I settled into bed wearing my exercise pajamas; comfy pajamas with a sports bra underneath that allow me to get up and go because all I have to do when the loud beeping cuts into my REM, is sit up, put on my shoes and I am ready to power walk. This morning as I was ready to head out the door, I took a look-see at the kitchen clock that read 4:25AM!! I did a double take. Then a double-double take. A word that we are not supposed to say in our house repeated in my head. I realized that this is not the first time I could use a Stupid Vaccine.

Now I am not a rocket scientist, but I possess a college degree, lead a functional life and my smart skills prevail 99% of the time. Okay, 98%. However, there is this measly one or two percent deep within me that could use a Stupid Vaccine. You know, some sort of shot or potion that once ingested stops brainless, avoidable mistakes. Yes! Then dim-witted errors will cease… for at least twelve months. Just like a flu shot.

With a Stupid Vaccine in my system I could have avoided backing into Overboard’s Mercedes in my Chevy Tahoe. Six months after that accident, it really was needed because I backed into a brand new car in the CVS parking lot. Oh, I can’t forget when I smashed my car bumper into a brick wall a year later. You might say “I hit the wall” and now I drive a little Honda CRV (no damage done to date. Fingers are firmly crossed). But where was I? I am so tired, my choo-choo train of thought is jumping track. Oh yea, the alarm clock error.

Thankfully, the timing (no pun intended) of my mistake occurred on an overall exciting day. My husband and boys leave for a three-day trip to snow camp. Oh, how I love the YMCA Adventure Guide program! The toothpicks holding my eyes open (remember when Fred Flintstone put toothpicks in his eyeballs to stay awake?) will be removed as my guys back out of the driveway. Then it will just be me, The Weiner Sisters and surviving rodents. A Stupid Vaccine is only a dream, and dreams are free! As for tonight I plan on creating an Olympic-sized restful evening. Nighty-night.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Just as They Say, It’s a Pet Eat Pet World

Has this ever happened to you? Our pet ate our other pet! Ack! How do you prepare for the sad face of a nine-year-old boy with this news? Um, I still don’t know. I mean, it’s sort of funny. While it’s super duper bad to my kid, I want to laugh. I hate playing it straight, when I want to cheer out loud. I’m just no good at keeping a straight face in this way.

In December, you might recall that my husband and two sons left for Petco to buy dwarf hamsters and returned with three rodents … beady-eyed-stinky mice. I figured it was a boy thing and I was outnumbered, so I did not put up a fight (but was grossed out none the less). Shadow, Frostbite and Jerry squeaked right into our lives. The kids loved to cuddle (yes, I said cuddle!) and play with them (don’t worry I make them wash their hands and arms after) … well, as much one can play with a mouse. Sara and Goldie, The Weiner Sisters, could not contain their dachshund-hound instinct and Sara’s incessant cage-side barking tempted me to feed the mice to our friend’s pet snake. But again, the kids reeealllly enjoyed their mice and I had nothing to do with mice care. Nada. Zip. This was a father-son-rodent bonding experience.

A little back story… at the park months ago, Sara caught a pocket gopher, both dogs played tug-a-war while I was freaking out. It was like witnessing a murder. I had to kick Sara (the dog to the right)  in the head a couple times before she would release the dead critter. Traumatized, I had my first hands-on experience with unstoppable animal instinct. Bad memory.

That history aside, on Monday morning we awoke to Lucas announcing the Mice cage had been overturned in the garage and the three mice amigos were MIA. Two were scurrying around under cars, and were caught. But where was Shadow? It was decided that the Great Hunting Weenie would be allowed into the garage to sniff out Shadow, and then we could swoop down and put the mouse back in her cage before Sara started snacking. This grand plan went over like a lead balloon; no luck. The day went on.

Later that day, we found Shadow AFTER the Great Hunting Weenie. Sara ate Shadow. Maybe ate is not the correct word, more like chewed on Shadow like a teething ring, then dropped her on the tile floor; a sad moment for a nine year old who deeply loved the killer and the killie. He cried and when I put him to bed, he cried again.

Crying was not part of my personal Pet Eat Pet story. All I could think is one dead, two to go! Hmmm….maybe, I should let Sara hang with the mice more often. No, I wouldn’t do that. I am just thinking out loud. Toodles.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maybe God put a few bad people in your life, so when the right one came along you'd be thankful. ~ Andrea Kiefer ~

We attended a couple’s dinner party on Saturday night, and being the eve of Valentine’s Day the question was asked, “How did you meet your spouse?”
Unexpectedly, I met my Prince at my Cousin Paul’s 25th birthday party. Ralph was a bit tipsy and wore a painfully loud fluorescent Hawaiian shirt. We chatted it up and he asked me out shortly after that. Our first date we shared Italian food, laughter and then I realized that he was a Nice Guy … a handsome, true Southern Boy, with electric blue eyes and big white smile. I had not yet come to appreciate the Nice Guy; my heart had not hit rock bottom and I declined a second date with my Prince. I went back to the Meathead. Instead of analyzing why I was drawn to bad boys is not the question. The answer is that after disappointments and repetitive bad choices, I made a conscious decision to give a Nice Guy a chance. Being cheated on by a rough-around-every-edge Meathead, I’d had it! Bring on the polite, sincere Nice Guy barrage!

I was mentally ready to glide beyond that first date with this different breed of man. It was like charting new waters; I wonder if this is how Columbus felt? A little scared and unsure where I was headed…maybe at twenty-five years old I was maturing? Whatever it was, I hoped to pursue that Ralph fella, who was conscientious, self-disciplined, had a real job, integrity, could iron his own shirts, and possessed amazing musical talent, goofy humor, and sweet innocence. I nervously phoned him ten months after that first date, hoping and praying he was still single. He was surprised to hear from me, as he admitted he was going to call me that very same week. Freaky!
It was meant to be. Our love fell into place and he asked me to marry him eight months later. Of course, being a gentleman, he secretly asked Tary permission to marry his middle daughter. Tary was thrilled!
"Heck ya, take her, she's all yours! Now let's pour a drink and celebrate." And they did.

The photo to the left with our fathers is from the night before our wedding over fifteen years ago.  Looking back I realize, maybe God really does put a few bad people in your life, so when Mr. Right rolls along you’d be thankful. I am.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yo Adrian!

Once I submitted to the fact that I was not going to work last Thursday, but would be staying in with my sick kid, I relaxed. Remembering that Netflix arrived yesterday changed my sour attitude into unicorns and rainbows. A grey afternoon to cuddle on the couch with Lucas, the Weiner Sisters and watch Rocky, the original from 1976. An unbeatable classic. I recall seeing it on the big screen at eight and blubbering crocodile tears at the end. Thirty-six years later, I am still a ball of wet mush as Adrian sneaks inside the ring at the end of the fight:
Rocky: Adrian?
Adrian: Rocky!
Rocky: Adrian! Hey, where's your hat?
Adrian: I love you!
Rocky: I love you.
Adrian: [grabs and hugs Rocky] I love you!
Rocky: I love you. I love you.
Adrian: I love you. I love you!
Rocky: Yeah.

Tissue, please. Feel the love?
Another favorite line still trapped in my memory was when Salty Dog trainer Mickey commanded Rocky to stay away from Adrian because “Women weaken the legs.” When did that become a bad thing?

What a tender, innocent love story. Rocky keeps hanging out at the pet store daily, making up jokes for her and buying turtle food from Adrian, hoping she will go out with him. They just don’t make them like that anymore! Now I sound old… but really, there was mild language, and zero sex and no million dollar effects. Just one long steamy kiss and it was so breathtakingly romantic and sweet:


Rocky: I wanna kiss ya-ya don't have to kiss me back if ya don't feel like it.

At that moment in the movie I think, “Kiss me, kiss me!” Sylvester Stallone is so young, so buff and so handsome.

And did you know that his dog in the movie, Butkis, was his actual pet? Sly had to quit smoking cigarettes when making the film because he was getting out of breath! Did you know that his screen play was rejected over and over before a small studio picked up it? He directed it, wrote it and starred in it! The film only took 28 days to make.It was voted the Best Movie of 1976, winning three Oscars and putting Sylvester on the Hollywood map. Are you a child of the 70s? Rent it, with or without a sick child. I guarantee you will enjoy the slow moving, heartwarming story of that Philadelphia underdog, The Italian Stallion.

Mickey: Your nose is broken.
Rocky: How does it look?
Mickey: Ah, it's an improvement.
Ah, a crusty old friend and an unbeatable spirit. More true love.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Middle Wheel

Contrary to popular belief, being the middle of three sisters has proven to be a treasured spot in the family line-up. We “middles” are a bit different, but in the end, it pays off. Take for example, my older sister, Miss Piggy, as I call her because she collected pigs for years. We are only 22 months apart and were close growing up. So close that she pushed me around … she was bigger, bossier and meaner than Nelly Olsen from Little House on the Prairie. Learning submission early in life ended up being a humbling, helpful quality. Through Miss Piggy’s domination, I learned to run away fast, the knowledge of when to concede and valuable skills like pulling down chairs to block her as she chased me around the kitchen.

Uh, hummm…..where was I?

I was going to explain the benefits of being a middle child and how it came to be that I received a unicycle. By his gift selections, my father, whom I will call Tary wanted a son. I call him Tary, as in Tareyton 100s, because he smoked them constantly when I was young. I have never called him this to his face, but every childhood memory of him has a hot cigarette drooping from his mouth and the imprint of a pack in his jeans. Christmas 1977, Tary surprised us with two red unicycles from the Sears catalog. It was a shocker gift. Miss Piggy and I never mentioned wanting one among the Barbie Dolls and saddleback Dittos. Another Christmas he stunned us with the hot new toy, Stretch Armstrong! It was never on our list. One year it was two remote-control sports cars, another year a race car track with cars that we had to change the tires on (cleaning them was the fun part). It was set up in our garage and being six and eight, we loved it. But, where was I? Unicycles!

Tary’s older brother, Uncle John, had recently built wooden stilts for his kids as part of his boat-building years. Yes, he was that guy on the block with an upside-down boat in his driveway. But he’s a whole other story. If we were going to join a circus, Dad must have figured we’d all have to pull our weight. The answer, of course, was unicycles for his two older girls. I found the unicycle to be a challenging lone wheel; the seat was a hard, uncomfortable plastic. When I put all my weight on it, I was sure to fall off due to the thigh and butt pain. I had to learn to sit up tall (tall for a 4-foot shortie, like me) and barely keep my can on the seat. In the beginning, Miss Piggy and I practiced together, hanging onto the side of our Volkswagen Van while wobbling up and down the driveway. Progress was slow. Miss Piggy did this for about four sessions, then gave up. She did not have an athletic bone in her body (despite Tary’s efforts). However, it was more fun falling off a unicycle than being pushed around by her or having to listen to Cutie-Pie (my adorably animated younger sister) sing songs about the bathroom … ”La Bonya” (Italian slang she made up for toilet) was her favorite opera creation and a family hit. You know you are cute when you sing about toilets, while standing on the table and everyone coos over you, applauding like crazy. I don’t know that kind of cute. Neither does Miss Piggy. It’s a special place for the youngest in the line-up.

Miss Piggy abandoned her Unicycle and went back to I Love Lucy reruns (one of our favorite pastimes), or helping mom with the laundry; matching socks, or folding Tary’s trick-or-treat-bag-sized tighty-whiteys. Me? I had time and drive to master riding around our cul-de-sac. It took a couple months of practice to ride without falling off. I met my goal. After that, interest waned and I moved onto a 360-degree turn on my roller skates with the hot-pink wheels. The unicycle was a distant memory as my Xanadu years were in full swing and skating tricks kept me content. Miss Piggy and Cutie-Pie took up most of Overboard’s mothering energy and I was left to unicycle, skate, dream big dreams and develop chameleon-like social skills. If it was not for being the overlooked middle child, many unique talents would have never developed.

My well of family stories is miles deep. The truth of why the middle sister slot is such a lovely spot goes on and on; my unicycle story does not end here. Come again and cruise along on my single wheel to hear true tales of Tary, Overboard, Miss Piggy, Unicycle Rose and Cutie-Pie, “that loud Italian family on the corner.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dreams Are Free

Consider my single-mom friend, Stephanie, who grew up in the South and posted this on her Face Book page, “If I was rich... I'd check the kids out of school, drive to LAX, fly to New Orleans, buy all our clothes there & show my kiddos Louisiana at its best :)."

We both know that she is staying put. However, I love her “dreams are free” train of thought. I get it.

Early on in our marriage, I asked my husband what he would buy if he won the lottery. He was hesitant to answer. It was like pulling taffy to get him to share his wildest materialistic dreams. For some reason, playing out this unlikely scenario was absurdly pointless because he knew in his scientific-man-brain that it would never happen. My husband and I are quite different yet also alike; we share family values, humor, open mindedness and the love of God, power walks and Thai food. When we married, I don’t think he realized that as a child I loved pondering questions like, “If you had to lose your sight or hearing, which would you choose?”, and, “If you could fly like Superman, where would you zoom to first?”

Here lies a difference.

When I asked him, “How would you spend your 20 million dollar lottery winnings?” he went blank. I admit that it excites me to dream big. And, why not? Dreams are free. They cost nothing! Dreams bring hope and smiles and joy. And they cost nada. Free! I had to tell Ralph this (a few times) before he realized that it is okay to mentally wander into places that you know you will never physically visit. My lottery winnings? I am buying a house on Bass Lake and taking our families on an all expense paid cruise. I would donate a heap to my favorite charities and I’d purchase a home with a guest house. I would write $5,000 checks to at least ten deserving friends and buy my husband a flashy sports car within the first week. He appreciated that.

This conversation usually ends in frustration. Why? German, logical, cautious Ralph wants to save the money and keep it a secret. The Italian in me wants to share, spend and enjoy it. I love that Ralph has solid, honorable values ... however, they are not fun floating around when you are making up glacier-sized dreams. After years of  asking him the lottery question, he will now go to the make-believe place where he buys his AC Cobra, cruises it around on weekends, starts a consulting business and invests like crazy. Absorbing the truth that dreams are free can open up a world of amusing possibilities and unlikely conversations.
Try it.
If you could hop your family on a plane right now, where would you go?  Louisana?
How are you spending your 20 million dollar lottery winnings?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Women's Retreat Nuggets (It's All Greek To Me)

At the Retreat (see highlight photos), Sister Deborah, the amazing Tai Chi Nun, spoke about understanding the imbalance of the American system. She described it this way. We are all on our own surfboard (I like to imagine a unicycle), balancing our way through the ocean of life. It is inevitable that waves and big swells rock us. They arrive in the form of conflict … death of a loved one, health crises, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, addictions, problem kids … the list is endless. The reality is that every human is putting out effort to stay balanced on their surfboard so they don’t fall off, become caught in riptides or rough waters. It is a daily struggle to remain steady. When waves or imbalance arrive (as they inevitably will), if we haven’t stored up reserves to see us through the conflict we will fall off, become lost, or worse, drown.

To me it simmers down to the Drama History class I took in my third year at San Diego State University. There I learned the Greek Motto “Know thyself and nothing in excess.” I personally adopted the motto and have kept it tucked in my mental back pocket with favorite Bible verses, my collection of HOPE (see post dated, January 25th , 2010), grocery list, and the fear of earthquakes.

Know thyself:
You are only called to be the unique, amazing, gifted YOU. If you don’t know who she is then make an effort to find out (Warning: this could take a lifetime).

Nothing in Excess:
*Enjoy wine? I do. Have a glass or two, but if you polish off the bottle, you have crossed over into excess (learned this one the hard way) and you end up feeling awful.
*Love exercise? Get a healthy amount, but don’t go nuts. On the other end don’t ignore the fact that you must keep fit to stay mentally and physically healthy. Get moving…or slow down depending on how much you do.

All parts of us need to be respected and we do this by keeping everything from passions, playtime and food, to relationships, exercise, insecurities, ego, rest time, God time and love time in check. No one will do this for you or me. This past weekend I realized there are areas of my life that are off kilter, so I will work on keeping my balance, whether it be on a surfboard or unicycle. But before I get started, please pass the wine :o)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Glass Half Full in a Week That Feels Empty

At every turn I am met with another friend, family member or friend-of-a-friend battling an illness or form of cancer. I could name these folks that are fighting something, but am sure you have your own list. Words that have been in my vocabulary this past week include: MRI, tumor, chemotherapy, shunt, radiation, lesions, pneumonia, physical therapy, chemotherapy, PET Scan, lungs, and biopsy.

Depressing.

I think worry and sadness cause writer’s block. There is still much I want to share with you from the Women’s Retreat, but honestly, I can’t pull it together. I feel helpless and pray. Then pray some more.

Amongst the cannonball-sized pearl necklace of concern around my neck, I realize there is a healthy exception to what feels like the sickly norm. This exception, my friend I call Nana, celebrates her ninety-second birthday today. Foxy Grandma could be her name. She has all her marbles and still drives! A couple weeks ago, Nana and I entered a football pool together and our square won! So, she is not only spry, but lucky too. She walks with little assistance and she remembers not only my name, but details of my life. Remarkable! My own Grandma, bless her soul, referred to me as “That Lady With the Baby.” My Grandma's body was in decent shape, but her mental train left the station years before she passed. Because of this, I appreciate Nana's snappy cognitive state and sweet smile even more.

Instead of recognizing the half-empty glasses surrounding me, I wish to acknowledge Nana Alicia’s amazing ninety-two years of life.

 Happy Birthday and Cheers to you Nana! Clink!



Monday, February 1, 2010

Overboard on Retreat

Friday, January 29, 2010
“Retreat” is defined as a period away from normal activities, devoted to prayer and meditation, often spent in a religious community. Today I leave for a three-day Catholic Women’s Retreat atop a Santa Barbara mountain. A beautiful, reflective spot.

Some funny stories are sure to be born as I am sharing a room with Overboard, who does not seek or crave time alone. Let me introduce Overboard to you. She’s my zany Italian mom who doesn’t know when enough’s enough. May that be hugs and kisses (it’s hard to walk past her in the house without her grabbing onto you with two fists clenched to your upper arms then smacking a kiss on your head or cheek) or controlling all manner of situations where she wants what she wants. She is extremely  festive, Italian spirited and loves themed clothing. She collects Fitz and Floyd figurines by the hundreds, and goes overboard on just about everything she does … be it feeding the masses, spoiling her grandsons, volunteering, party planning over the top, assisting elderly family members, binge shopping or styling your hair. She gives it 150%.   Her idea of serenity is a visit to the Chumash Casino to play the noisy slot machines or making homemade lasagna for twelve. Everyone soothes their spirit in different ways. The room we are sharing on this retreat is sure to feel the tug of our different directions along with lots of laughter, as she’s a character. Overboard is playing a key part in this retreat, being in charge of “environment.” That means she is responsible for decorating the Meeting Room and floral arrangements. You see, Overboard is gifted in these artistic areas (along with bulk cooking and gift-basket making) and has been feverishly preparing the last few months.

Sunday, January 31, 2010
I am back … “Awakening Faith, Hope and Love ~ Exploring the Landscape of Your Soul” was the retreat theme. The speaker, Sister Deborah, is part of the Sisters of Social Services of Los Angeles, and an expert in the field of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Interesting combo: A Chinese medicine nun. Her talks  were eye-opening and educational. I had never felt Chi before. Chi is the inner energy generated inside each of us. When doing the meditative exercises on the Santa Barbara mountain bluff, it felt like I was holding a magnetic ball that had shape and a pull to it. Energy. I am not making this up either; I felt it.

A highlight of the weekend was the suite Overboard and I shared. Since she was in charge of all the decorating, she was upgraded to a suite, so I piggybacked on her hard work and relished the walk-in closet, private bathroom and sitting area.

I could go on about everything I learned … the spirit of sacred silence, understanding balance in our lives, building reserves for life’s lows, and channeling The Divine within. Another time I will impart these golden nuggets of inner peace and truth. For now, I will share with you my Church Laugh (see blog entry on Jan 10, 2010 for definition) that played out the first night. Overboard hung all of these amazing inspirational handmade paintings and quotes throughout the Meeting Room. Take a look-see at the photos. Friday night, one hundred women gathered in the Meeting Room listening intently to Sister Deborah explain Chi, when out of nowhere, the fruit of Overboard’s labor, a large piece of artwork, fell off the wall … “Ka Flump! FLUMP!” Maybe a bad tape job? Perish the thought! Overboard is a woman who travels with a pair of scissors, glue-gun and no less than four types of tape! (No exaggeration and I’ll go into the boxes of craft and office supplies she traveled with on an Alaskan Cruise at another time.) All eyes looked to the empty wall space and acknowledged the floor art. My insides felt for her, as I was sure she was disappointed.
Fast forward one hour on this first retreat night. The sea of women split up into assigned small groups. After that, all one hundred of us filed back into the amazingly decorated Meeting Room to find our seats. Sister Deborah had just started speaking when an even louder, longer “Flaaa-BUMP! Thud! Gasp. THUD!” resonated in the room. Everyone, including Overboard and I, turned around to see an older woman on the floor. Her chair had broken from under her. Upon realizing the cause of the horrible sound, Overbaord leaned into me and said, “Thank God … I thought another picture fell.”

The show went on, but I spent the next five minutes holding my scarf over my mouth to hide the howls of laughter that begged to escape. It struck me as funny, you know, Church Laugh funny. Tears were streaming down my face, my body jiggling soundlessly as I replayed her reaction to the old lady’s fall. Normally, Overboard would be the first to help an old woman stand up, it is her nature to try and rescue and assist anyone at anytime, but I’m guessing her relief of the lack of falling art took over. I struggled to maintain respect and hide my giggles.

Another unique part of bunking with Overboard meant our room smelt flower fragrant as she had a bucket of flowers to create bouquets. The downside of this? When I used the bathroom on Saturday morning, I had to do a double take as I was inches away from parking my bottom on unopened stargazer lilies stored in the toilet bowl vase. Only ingenious Overboard could think this one up!

I will write more on the retreat later. For now, I mentally prepare for a week being casted as a single mom as my husband is flying to Kentucky (Thank God for Overboard, she drove him to LAX at 5:30 AM!). It is always humbling and exhausting to be both parents. How do my single-mom friends do it? Maybe they channel alot more Chi than the rest of us.