Fortunate beyond measure…the joys of being a grandmother

There is a four-letter word that is one of the sweetest sounds ever to my ear  - “Tutu” which is what my two grand daughters call me (Hawaiian for grand mother, the name stuck when Lana was a toddler after I brought her a book about a Tutu who taught her grand daughter Lanilai how to do the Hula). Or if they are feeling sassy, it’s “Tut” or “Tutukamen.”

Don’t get me wrong, being a mom is the most amazing experience ever and my children have been my greatest source of love, joy, and heart opening – and grief and every emotion imaginable when they are going through a hard time, whatever their ages – imaginable.  Having children is literally like having pieces of your heart running around outside of you. 

But being a grandmother… well, its’ all the joys of motherhood, but without quite the same angst and responsibility.  And having seen it all, been through it all, weathered it all with my own kids, and having grown a little older and hopefully a lot wiser, being a grand parent is… what can I say?  Pretty much pure joy.  Not that, as one of my fellow grandmother friends puts it,  “worry wart grandma” doesn’t sneak in now and then.

Of course it does. Having grandchildren is also like having pieces of your heart running around outside of you.  Especially the tender, vulnerable, wide open to all that life has to offer, pieces. Just as with your children, you want to protect them from life’s challenges, but you know you can’t. And so you just love them, and trust their journeys, and allow your heart to break open, again and again, with both happiness and sadness.

Being a grand mother is indeed a joy beyond measure…. and being blessed to experience both an aging parent and growing young ones together is a double joy, one that I am infinitely grateful for. There is something indescribably precious about witnessing the beginning years of life, and the ending years of life, hand in hand. Learning from both, feeling tenderly protective of both, marveling at the mystery of Life itself as it flows through our bodies, young and old.

Blessed be.

A summer update: steps along the journey of caring for an elderly parent

We’ve noticed a shift in my almost 89-year-old mum in the last couple of weeks. Suddenly, she seems older, frailer. She’s feeling it too.  She talks more frequently about feeling like she’s on the way out. She expresses how she just can’t seem to find her energy, and doesn’t know who she is anymore. Her level of forgetfulness is definitely worsening. We have honest conversations about death, and choices. I give her lots of hugs.

Our visits to the doctor are getting more frequent. We’re investigating how her heart is functioning. A new round of tests and specialists. And in the midst of this, a move to a new care home this week. Her current place is just a bit too far from us, and it’s on a busy street, the sound of traffic bothers her. Her new home is only a few minutes away from us, with a lovely quiet back yard that looks out onto a field of beautiful trees. She finds so much solace and peace in nature. A lovely living room with the type of furniture that reminds her of home back in England, with a piano she can play.

It’s a big decision, the upheaval of a move when she is already frail, and has experienced so much change in the last six months since her husband died. And yet, in spite of how she is feeling, she is up for it, which gives me hope.

I spend time with my granddaughters, and watch them grow and change, delighting in the new persons they are becoming, and mourning just a tad the little girls they used to be. With my mum, it’s the opposite… she becomes more childlike, more dependent, and there is more mourning than delight in watching her change.  And yet, I remind myself, this is just the natural rhythm of life… and all I can do is be lovingly present for it, in whatever stage, and adapt to what is needed of me to support what is happening.

It’s a bit scary sometimes, to be so needed by her. I go away for a few days and she misses me terribly.  Tells me she feels like she can’t function without me, that I’m her other half. We have some short week-long trips away planned this summer, a dear friend’s daughter’s wedding in Boston, our yearly pilgrimage to the Yuba river. I worry a bit. Am I doing the right thing by going away? Can I, should I, do I want to, put my own life on hold? It’s hard to know… and so I take it one day at a time, being grateful for this bitter sweet time with her, loving her, being gentle with myself, and trusting that I will know what to do at each turn of the corner on this journey we are walking together.

Hovering on the brink of overwhelm

I’m flying to San Diego tomorrow morning for an afternoon of prep with my co-trainer Rosanna Balistreri, followed by a full day of training on Saturday, our inaugural workshop for CITA– our newly formed interpreter training collaborative. I’m trying to coordinate moving my mum to a new nursing home (another story), get her to a Dr’s appointment this afternoon, get a haircut, arrange for her visit to a cardiologist while I am gone, and of course, pack, do laundry, squeeze in a few important phone meetings, etc. And I’m writing a blog post!

Come to think of it,  I’m not on the brink, I am in overwhelm! What to do?

As always, my first response (after I let my shoulders down from my ears!) is to stop, sit back and take a few deep breaths.  It’s always amazing to me how such a simple thing can be so powerful. The list of tasks is still there. Nothing has changed in terms of what needs to be taken care of. Yet somehow, I feel calmer, more in control. Those few breaths give me the space to step back and examine what lies before me with a bit more perspective.

Whom can I delegate something to? What can I safely postpone? What absolutely needs to be done today? Maybe nothing will change, and it’ will all still need to be taken care of, by me, today. But the simple act of asking those questions gives me a feeling of relief, and choice. 

So my dear reader, next time you are hovering on the brink of overwhelm, or have actually gone over the edge, take a moment, breathe, and give yourself a bit of space to see what lies before you and make some empowered choices.

The spiritual meaning of freedom

On this Fourth of July as we celebrate Independence Day here in the United States with parades, speeches, flags, fireworks and family barbeques, I’m pondering what independence really means, not just to us here in this country, but as a human race.

It is a big question to grapple with. For inspiration, I turn to Ernest Holmes, founder of the spiritual philosophy know as Science of Mind, from a talk he gave on July 4, 1937.

I believe his words are as relevant today as they were almost 80 years ago. He paints such a big picture of what freedom, which is intimately related to independence, really means. “We all seek a sense of security, freedom and liberty”, he states. Yet why do we continue to suffer and impose suffering? Why do we so easily trade one form of bondage for another, perhaps in a subtler disguise?  After a detailed study of the last 7,000 years of human history, Holmes notes “…how extremely difficult it is for the human mind to conceive liberty without license, without egotism; and we can only give birth to freedom when we have conceived liberty.”

True freedom -- true liberty -- has something cosmic behind it”, he declares. The evolution of human freedom, he goes on to explain, is a slow process. If we want freedom, we must understand that freedom can never come by the imposition of a will of the minority over the majority. It is born finally, and only in such degree as some system is devised whereby individuals are allowed complete freedom so long as they do not, in their freedom, impose bondage on someone else.”

Big ideas indeed to ponder. I feel humbled as I contemplate his words, aware of the enormity of this human experience on planet earth. I am hopeful that we will one day realize this understanding of cosmic unity, so that all peoples, everywhere, can be truly free.

If you would like to read the whole transcript of his talk, you can find it here.

A summer cleanse: Reboot your system & find out what your body truly needs to thrive

Even though I would describe myself as something of a “health nut”, I’m not big on fasts and cleanses.  I get spacey and hungry. It feels too confining. I immediately feel victimized and deprived. And I eat really healthy anyway, so why suffer? That’s been my reasoning.

So this time, when I saw the email announcement for the summer cleanse from my local holistic pharmacy, I was intrigued.  The summer cleanse is all about decreasing inflammation. As Lilly Mazzarella, Certified Nutrition Specialist & Clinical Herbalist
Owner & Head Practitioner of Farmacopia, explains, “There’s flame retardant in our breast milk, PCBs in our subcutaneous fat, and pesticides accumulating in our thyroid glands. Our fingers absorb