October 28, 2007

Auntie Sharon's Reunion.

Nice weekend. Auntie Sharon came to visit from Georgia to attend her high school reunion and her mother's 85th birthday party. Auntie Sharon and I have been friends for almost forty years, having married brothers the same year, bearing baby girls the same year, getting divorced the same year, and then living together. I am Auntie Ellen to her daughter, she is Auntie Sharon to mine, and our daughters are like sisters. She is the one person in the world who knows me best, having been with me during my failures and successes, being my closest confidant for so many years. I think we both know that the other will not judge or criticize and that we will love and care about each other no matter what happens. And she moved to Georgia a few years ago and I miss her very much.

She invited me to join her at this weekend's events, the pre-reunion barbeque and the reunion both, maybe to be able to spend more time together or maybe because she feels more comfortable with me around. I enjoyed meeting her school friends, many of whom went all the way from Catholic grammar through high school together. It was a happy group of people, joyful at seeing each other, and it was a pleasure for me to be a part of it. I went to public schools and didn't have much of a good time, so I didn't attend my reunions. I remember graduating from high school thinking that I was the only one so miserable and then I read a book I think was called "Class of '67" which told the story of the popular kids, the cheerleaders and football players at a posh school who felt just like I did, kinda lost and isolated. So it was fun to relive high school with these people who clearly had memories they cherished and enjoyed reconnecting with old friends.

Surprisingly, there were a few people at the reunion who recognized me from my work. One man saw me and hugged me immediately, saying that he appreciated how I helped his wife through a major spine surgery many years ago. One lady, a friend of Sharon's mom from church, realized that I worked for the doctor who operated on her recently deceased mother ten years ago and then we both teared up, her for the memory of her mom talking about her love for me - and me remembering how sweet her mother was and how fond I had been of her. She and I talked like we've known each other for years and I hope I've made a new friend. My job is often stressful and overwhelming and difficult, but hearing how these people benefited from our care helps me realize that it's a blessing to be able to be part of helping people get well.

Then the party today for Sharon's mom was full of very old friends and old and new family members. The day before the party, I took the birthday girl shopping for new shoes to match her red party dress and I teared up, right in the middle of the shoe warehouse, when I realized that I had never been shopping like this with my own mom.
Sharon's family has always accepted me and my daughter as one of their own, welcoming us to family events like we were really related and I've always appreciated their kindness, especially during the many years when my own family excluded me. They're a loud and vocal Italian family who clearly adore each other, and it's always fun for me to join their parties. There were a few people with more years than Sharon's mom and a brand new baby, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

So what's the moral to this story? Family is where you find it, good memories are priceless and better when shared, and old friends may move away but their love transcends the miles.

October 23, 2007

More Party Pix

The Band - Felonius Funk

My favorite Hilton bartender Richie

The Dancers

A week in the life.

For all of you who have written and asked what I've been doing, here it is. I didn't work last week. My beautiful curly-haired daughter and her handsome (and really nice) husband went away for a few days to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary and their 4-year-old (and fabulous!) twins stayed with me. Just for a moment, it's nice to stop and think of that happy marriage, how they've been together for ten years and are still really nice to each other and seem to love and appreciate each other more and more as they have traveled thru the years.

Having the twins stay with me for four days was oddly relaxing. I expected to enjoy them and I thought I would get tired and worn out, but just the opposite, it was rather invigorating. It's like they walk in the door and any troubles disappear. I stop worrying about my retirement or the war or the environment and just live in the moment. Which is what I've been trying to do for many, many years and it's taken these little people to show me the way.

So we went to their dance class where they jumped and did ballet moves and sashayed about the floor very happily to upbeat music. They rarely got any steps "right" but they surely didn't care about that! We also went to Lake Balboa and walked around once, seeing herons and ducks and geese (who did run after us, but we were faster) and one day I walked and they scootered around Mason Park and then I made a Halloween cape for the little guy and we put together a lot of puzzles and went to the pet store to replace the fish that went to visit her grandmother but didn't come back and they went into the haunted house that was made of dog food and we just had fun every day, all the time. I did put the garage door down on the hatch of my car (ooops!) and we had to take it to the dealer so I bought a big box of donuts for the car guys and told the kids that they couldn't eat their donuts until we arrived, so imagine them in their car seats, holding onto a little white bag with their donut inside for the whole drive! And the day I took the picture above we stayed in our pajamas until lunch and just played inside all morning. Aaaahhhh, one of my best vacations, ever.

And now LA is in the midst of a fire that has scorched Southern California for the past three days and it's really scary, like the air is a weird color and it hurts to breathe and hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated and lots of houses have burned to the ground. And my very smart daughter, who has some issues with asthma, especially with all the smoke in the air, reminds me that it certainly could be worse, that we could be one of the unlucky ones who have lost everything and I'm grateful for the reminder and for a daughter who is so compassionate.

So what else has been going on? Oh yes, the last Cocktail Party was fun, as usual. I put some pictures on the post above for you to enjoy. I'm thinking of doing a Karaoke night for all of you, somewhere locally where we can have the whole room to ourselves and sing (or not) as much as we want. Sound good? And my favorite yoga teacher told us at the Sunday class that she is taking some time off to "tend to herself and her relationships" which sounds very wise and mature and maybe a reminder to all of us busy people to rethink our priorities. Oh, can't forget that the Wowettes and I celebrated the 2nd anniversary of Wow by having a typical date with each other, dinner and a movie, to celebrate the joy of having women friends. The ladies were beautiful and smiling and happy and I was delighted to be in their company.

So I end this by saying that life goes on, sometimes exciting but mostly not, so taking the time to enjoy the little things in life and see it all through the eyes of a child might must be a good thing to do. And that to make time, even one minute a day, to count our blessings will make all that we have seem so much richer.

October 8, 2007

It was a good weekend in Chatsworth.

It was a windy weekend in Chatsworth, a small suburb of Los Angeles, California. It was a little more than balmy, but not like a hurricane. Just those Santa Ana winds clearing the smog from the air in sunny LA. I'd had a bad week,just way beyond stressful, and I didn't realize how tough it was until I started to recount what happened to the patient new boyfriend and realized it had been almost miserable. Or as close as one can get to that in this sunny city. I work for a few doctors who take care of some serious things, like brain tumors and head injuries and spinal cord injuries, and sometimes we all feel really good about our work and sometimes, like last week, it's just overwhelming.

Lucky for me, I had my four-year-old twin grandbabies, one silly but very busy little boy and one curly-haired talkative little diva, for a sleep-over on Friday night. Those sweet little people always make me forget my troubles and have fun. Just can't help it with them around. Their mother, my beautiful curly-haired daughter, was getting ready to host a New Member tea on Saturday morning for her MOMs club, which stands for Mothers-of-Multiples and means they all have or are expecting twins or triplets or, eek, quads, so you can imagine how much the guests would appreciate a morning out in the company of other adults. Making dinner for the little people and giving them a bath, if I can catch them as they run around naked while the water is filling the tub, made me forget everything. Worries about the war, the environment, the economy, etc. etc, just flew away, like the smog in the wind, and I was peaceful again.

And, speaking of adults, I hosted another of my Free Cocktail Parties Saturday night. I invited lots and lots of single people in my age group and tell the hotel we're coming and ask a few people to show up early to greet the guests and then I just stand back and watch it happen. I'm not an artist, more of a thinker and doer, but there are times when I can imagine what it must be like to create a beautiful painting. The hotel lounge fills up with people, one by one and two by two, and each person adds a new color and flavor to the mix, creating a constantly changing painting all night long. Or at least until midnight when the band stops. Oh, there were a few complaints, since the band was playing blues and not rock-and-roll and they were a bit loud, but I asked them for dance music and they rocked and then we all danced and had fun and laughed. And isn't that just good medicine? The women were beautiful, the men were handsome, and the band sounded fine.

And then, on an even balmier Sunday, I went to a really nice yoga class taught by the delightful Jennie at the Total Women gym in Northridge (yes, the site of 1994 earthquake, which we who live here aren't likely to ever forget) and then the very patient new boyfriend took me to a concert that was one of the over 335 concerts all over the world that were dedicated as part of the Sixth Annual Daniel Pearl World Music Days network. Both professional and amateur artists performed as part of the musical movement promoting tolerance, international friendship and "Harmony for Humanity". It was a lively eclectic mix, from classical to jazz to ethnic music and dance that was spirited and heartfelt and lovely. I can't possibly imagine the loss of a child, but Judea and Ruth Pearl, while mourning the death of their journalist son by terrorists, created a foundation to honor him by using music to promote tolerance and respect for differences. A lovely and moving time was had by all lucky enough to attend. I imagine we'd all hope that our lives would have meaning, both while we live and after we're gone.

I ended this lovely weekend by watching Desperate Housewives in bed and it was really silly and I felt refreshed and renewed and ready for a new week. And when I woke up today, it was still balmy in Chatsworth, but the wind has stopped, replaced by a bright sun and blue skies. Look around, I say, it's good to be alive.

October 3, 2007

Assumptions, expectations, and reality.

We make a lot of assumptions. Assumptions are beliefs we hold to be true, like the other drivers on the road will follow the traffic rules, our job will still be there when we get to work, our children will grow up and have good lives, the TV shows we watch will be on at the usual times. So assumptions are really based on conclusions we make from our past experiences, like all dogs are vicious, that our father will continue to be irrational, that Richie the bartender at the Hilton will always smile when he sees me, and that children cry on airplanes.

So when we get into a new relationship, we often assume that this guy will behave like the previous ones and sometimes we're surpised when he doesn't. But worse, we often assume that he has the same rules in dating that we do, like we should always spend Saturday nights together or that we should see each other a certain number of nights per week or that he should call every day. And when the guy doesn't do those things, we feel hurt. I have one friend who has a script in her head that dictates what the guy should do on the first three dates. When the guy doesn't pick a certain type of restaurant on the first date or bring flowers on the second date, she assumes he is a jerk. And he has no clue what she expects.

But really, think about it, what if he doesn't have a list of our assumptions? What if he's never had a relationship when seeing each other on Saturday night or calling every day is assumed? In the previous post, I talked about a women friend of mine whose boyfriend only made plans with her after he made other plans and didn't make time on the weekends to see her and she was really quite upset, thinking that she wasn't important to him. I urged her to have "the talk" about it and she did and was quite surprised at his response. He didn't get defensive or bring up things about her that he didn't like, which she assumed he would because that was the behavior of her previous boyfriends. What he did was to tell her that he didn't know those rules or her assumptions, because she had never voiced them and he had never had a relationship before that required what she said she didn't get from him. And he was happy to comply and made a commitment to see her every Wednesday night and at least one full day on the weekend. And that he had searched all his life to have the intimacy they were starting to develop, but that he just needed her to tell him what she expected and that he would do his best to meet her needs.

Assumptions turn into expectations and we feel hurt when our expections are not met. And it's all unspoken and usually we don't even realize what our assumptions are or that our assumptions are not another person's assumptions. So it's important to figure out what our assumptions are and then we can tell the other person what we expect. Or we can realize our assumptions for what they are, some preconceived ideas about how we expect the other person to behave and then we can choose to put them aside or, drum roll here, we can tell the other person what they are and ask him to comply. Another win-win situation here!