Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alex “Bug” - Angel of hope and healing....

Ten years ago today, God sent the tiniest messenger to remind us of His immense love.  This little bundle came to us in the form of a baby girl, swaddled in dreams, new beginnings, and kisses from heaven. I think she may have been a bit reluctant to leave the comfort of her heavenly home, as her momma spent 24 hours in labor!  But, then, she had no idea how wanted and loved she already was.  I don’t think there could have been a more eagerly anticipated child.  For a number of reasons.  First, the previous year had been one of heartbreaking grief with the death of two very important members of our family.  Second, her poor momma suffered horribly in the summer heat and signs of toxemia, led her doctor to sentence her to the sofa for the last weeks of her pregnancy.  The days prior to  our little one’s birth, I sat with her during the day, watching over my own child like a lioness protecting her baby cub. I waited on her, made her lunch, watched others babies being born on A Baby Story presented by the Lifetime channel. We talked about her own birth,  all the new gadgets available for mom and baby these days, and, the importance of names.  When I asked my daughter what name they had selected, she sighed and said, “Mom, we need to see what our baby looks like in order to pick the right name.”  I laughed, “Don’t babies all look alike?”  Several times a day I would climb the stairs and enter the wonderland nursery decorated in “John Lennon Collection” accessories; fairytale animals, soothing blues, greens and yellows, the words of John’s tune, Imagine, in my head as it sprung to life and dreamed of the day when our baby cried the sweet sound of possibility into the room and our lives. 
The evening arrived and so did our baby girl.  As, she encircled her tiny hand around my finger, she wrapped herself around my heart, forever.  When her parents announced her name, Alexandria Catherine, they were right.  She WAS an Alex!  Often, when I was privileged to baby-sit my new granddaughter, her parents would leave, she would be in my arms.  When they returned home, much later, there we’d be, in the same position.  I’d spend hours staring at her sleeping face, sniffing the freshness of her little fuzzy head, and kissing the teeniest rose bud lips, over and over, resuscitating with her oxygen and filling myself with healing.  She was a reason to move out of the sadness, and leave a new legacy... one of courage, happiness, love, and joy.
As a baby, she was sensitive to her environment as well as the moods of those around her.  She was affectionate, loved to cuddle, and was the best at “eskimo kisses” and “snuggle-buggys”.  Perhaps this is where her mom came up with her nickname, “Bug.”  At an early age, she showed signs of this ethereal love of mankind, religion and God.  Every night she slept with her rosary, given to her by her great-grandma, often seen during the day as well, clutching it in her little hands, and praying!  I recall a time when she was 4 years old, she overheard a conversation between her mother and I. Tugging at my shirt, she said to me, “Mimi, I will pray for you.”  She dropped to her knees, grabbed her rosary and offered up a plea to God, for her grandma!  This love of God, spills over in her compassion for others.  She cannot stand to see her friends in trouble, her sisters hurt, or any living thing suffer.  She is quick to pitch in and defend, help and support.  Curious about everything, at 5, she studied her book of the Saints, knew their names and what they stood for (great-grandma again).  At 6, King Tut was a fascination, and I promised her, someday, I would take her to Egypt.  Age 7, it was dinosaurs and land animals;  8 brought an interest in sea animals and marine biology.  Until she learned she would have to move near the ocean. This was just too far away from her family!  Her family is the most important thing in her world, and I think it just might always be.  Recently, she is fascinated by disasters, and real-life mysteries.  She can site every detail of the Titanic’s demise, personal tales of human loss, and all the particulars of this cataclysm.  She is obsessively curious about what happened to Amelia Earhart and will tell you, rumor has it, a makeup case was found on the ocean floor in the South Pacific.  She questions everything about the Lincoln and the Kennedy assassinations and cross-examines every theory.  She reads, researches, and her thirst to figure it all out is unquenchable. As I glance at my own bookcases, I see this desire to find the answers to life’s mysteries, a genetic trait, inherited, from her Mimi (me).  Her mom encouraged her to pick up a fun fiction book at the library the other day.  Not for our Alex.  Her selection was a book about Katie Couric, her life and career in journalism.  She also, delightedly shares a love of writing with me.  Her written project, last school year, produced a ripple effect in dropped jaws at the imaginative nature of her assignment.  In school she is smart; elementary age, summa cum laude status.  Her curiosity is not limited to learning though, and she participates in dance, basketball, baseball, cheerleading, choir, and this year has expressed a desire for swimming and Girl Scouts. Whew! 
She is also very much her mother’s daughter.  Emotional, a sap for the sentimental stories of life, a classic girly-girl.  Although, she never was much interested in Barbie Dolls, or traditional girl toys, preferring books, science oriented toys and craft projects.  But, like her mom, she can put together a trendy outfit just glancing through a closet, has an eye for design, and inherited her mother’s voice and love of music.  When her great-grandma asked her to sing a solo at her great-grandpa’s funeral this Spring, this brave little girl, stood before the crowd of mourners at our church, and in her perfectly pure voice, sang, You are Mine.  Again, jaws dropped at the priceless gift she gave her grandpa, of not only her talent, but also the bravery in walking through her own grief and fear, to honor him and her family.  This integrity, ethics and understanding of the Golden Rule,  comes from her daddy as well as inheriting his honesty.  She can be counted on for the truth!   
Ten years old...she is growing up.... Sometimes that makes me sad, but mostly I feel excited to witness the evolution of this already awesome human being.  She makes me smile in her explorations and I can see she is torn between the two worlds of being a little girl and having fun with her sisters, and acting like a big girl with her friends.  Happily, the frolicking in the water at the pool, beats out the walking around the perimeter, gossiping with the older girls about the little 13 year old dudes.  She did share with her mom, one “hot” little 13 year old had a “four-pack”!  Guess the six-pack doesn’t sprout until about 16 or so!  Thank heavens!  
Today is so special.  Her god mother drove all the way from her home in Chicago, a whirlwind trip in one day, returning to work tomorrow, just to celebrate this birthday with her! A very unique and caring lady who is important to all of us as well, and we love her so much.  Alex seems to be surrounded by that kind of unselfishness and love.  I think that has contributed to her own tenderness and desire to pay it forward. Currently, she has this affinity for the Peace symbol.  It adorns her clothing, her back pack, her folders, and her walls.  Perhaps, she assimilated that from her “give peace a chance” John Lennon nursery, ten years ago.  Or, it’s another genetic thing from her Mimi’s late 60’s hippie experiences during the height of the Vietnam War. Wherever it comes from, a desire to be fashionable or a part of her genetic make-up, to me, she symbolizes, peace, love, healing and hope. 
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite things about Alex. Her voice.... Truly, it is like receiving a call from an angel.  The sound is so incredibly melodious and soothing.  When she calls and leaves a message, I have been known to save it for those times when I need a reminder of the blessings in my life.  The drive to become a better person, instigated by such a tiny being, has never been more apparent then when I reflect back today, on the birth of my first granddaughter, a true gift from God.   Happy Birthday, Alex Bug! 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It is rare that one can see in a little boy the promise of a man, but one can almost always see in a little girl the threat of a woman - Alexander Dumas

Three Little Divas...
Yesterday was a day of celebration at the wedding reception of my cousin’s oldest daughter.  The reception hall was huge and packed with family, former coaches, teachers, and many of their young friends. The newly-weds both grew up in the same small community where everyone knows everybody.  I personally have been trying to escape from this intimate environment almost all of my adult life. I finally recognized I needed to stop pounding my fists against my perception of the bullet proof dome holding me here. I have surrendered to the knowledge, God opens doors in His time.    Ahhhhh.... there is a degree of serenity in that release. I can see the benefits to small town living.   Being a big fish in a teeny metro area is attractive to some.  Additionally, the “it takes a village living” mentality provides a level of support, comfort in time of need, and sharing joys with others occurs more often here.  That bonding is difficult to find when you are just a number, in the masses.  I can also see, it could instill a sense of security, appreciation for simple pleasures, and values, in the young people who are raised in these rural areas today.  And, I think, that it can make for much more grounded early beginnings, than when there are so many diversions; kids grow up too early, feel pressured, competitive, and entitled. (Am I convincing myself here?)  That sense of community was clearly reflected in attendance at this wedding! A chunk of the town showed up to congratulate and celebrate! 
The bride and groom are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous young people that would shame the Barbie and Ken on top of any wedding cake. Seriously, they could have been models for a Vera Wang gown and a Ralph Lauren tuxedo.  A beautiful young couple bravely stepping into a new life phase.  And, everyone there had a blast celebrating that passage with them!  This paternal arm of my family (I have so many family branches it takes intricate diagrams to explain, so I rarely do) are close knit, love to party, and the joy of children are a huge part of their lives.  So, the little ones were in attendance and whopping it up with big people as well.  I heard they even savored some “Shirley Temple Cocktails”, a treat that had me reminiscing about my own childhood and my desire to be a big girl. They rocked out to Lady Gaga, and slipped along the dance floor to the Electric Slide. What a breathless, sweaty, treat it was to join them!  
Now my cousin is a total man’s-man, and his children, all three, are girls!  These exquisite little beauties are championship softball players too, so that likely fills some of his need for his macho sports fix. Along with their sports, these young ladies enjoy fashion, a great stiletto and revel in being girls.  Lovely, athletic, feminine, sensitive, and competent would be good descriptors.  During the father/daughter dance, I was chatting with my aunt who had tears in her eyes when we watched her son, so tenderly holding his smiling daughter as they rocked back and forth on the dance floor.  I could envision him using this same movement to soothe her when she was a baby.  The mutual adoration was apparent. My aunt said, “You know he is crazy about his girls.  He told me, Mom, I wouldn’t trade any of my girls for a boy.”  Amazingly, you know he means it.  In the past, I asked my cousin if my son-in-law could talk with him about raising girls, since he is in the same boat with three little divas of his own.  Rick, said, “Sure.  But, I will have to tell him, how much I have enjoyed my girls. I can’t imagine having more fun with boys.” Of course, I shared that last night with my son-in-law who rolled his eyes some, but then echoed my cousin’s statement about not being able to picture a life without his little women either.  And, I know even with all their occasional drama, he sincerely means that.  A father is a daughter’s first love and the relationships they enter in the future, tend to mirror what they have seen as an example with the first man in their lives.  My grand-daughters are blessed to witness a man who loves their mother deeply, provides a framework for them to cultivate personal interests and social skills while instilling manners and values.  And, he does all this with no formal training in the care and upbringing of emotional, creative, fascinating, intelligent little beings with hormones far different from his. I think he and my cousin were given this gift because God knew they could handle it, and they both do it so well.   
Looking out from the dance floor at the crowd in the room, I saw a sea of females... All ages. It was interesting to note, they outnumbered the men in the group.  Now, the men were either off doing their guy thing in the bar with the television tuned into some sporting event, or my conjecture about a shift occurring in females outnumbering males, was verified at the wedding last night.  I had this conversation with my daughter last week, and she not only rolled her eyes, I think she said something like, “Oh, brother, mom.  You are taking your new age mentality too far!”  I told her, I read, the number of male births is declining.  In the United States, it has remained at 49% girls, 51% boys, for decades.  I find the theories on why boys outnumber girls pretty interesting.  The first is,  males are more fragile and male infants are less likely to survive their first year.  Also, its no secret, a man’s expected lifespan is less than a woman’s.  The slightly higher conception rate is nature’s way of equalizing. The second theory is Y-bearing, male-producing sperm, may have a speed advantage over X-bearing female producing sperm, more often winning the race to fertilize the egg, and resulting in more male conceptions. I am sure you can see where I am going with all of this....   Spending your time on earth as a male, competitive since sperm, trying to be top-dog, the first to arrive, grab the brass ring, have it all, doesn’t leave much time, or room, for relaxation, reflection, or fun.  This can wreck havoc on an already fragile male, lacking the stamina and resilience of his female counterpart.  My hypothesis... are you ready for this? When a male’s lifetime is complete and he has his respite time in heaven, he decides girls really do have more fun and this time around he's gonna switch genders!  And, of course those of us who have savored the fruits of being a female, aren’t willing to give the male gig a shot, next time around.  We want to come back as females again. Therefore, the birth rates are shifting!  It’s something to think about.... 
Seriously, there is no better time to be a girl than this century, especially in this country.   We have so many choices available to us these days. Education is obtainable for woman, which in turn provides us with the ability to support ourselves. The glass ceiling has been shattered and we can truly follow the career path that suits our talents.  We can buy our own homes, cars, vacations and jewelry. We can choose to marry or not.  We can choose to have children, or not.  And, we can choose to love a man with all our soul, because we see his soul, not because we need his protection, wallet or social standing. Our foremothers, endowed us with resilience and the ability to bounce back from loss and disappointment. We are innately born into a state of generosity, nurturance, and sustainability.  And, we know how to have fun.... something our male counterparts seem to struggle with. In April of this year, I was fortunate to hear Paul Young, the author of “The Shack” speak.  The controversy the book created in the secular and non-secular community was a mystery to me.  In my opinion, any message which provides healing and comfort is a gift.  During the Q & A session, someone probed why Mr. Young made God a woman in his book.  He said something I thought was quite profound.  He stated, the book was written as a healing tool, full of metaphors about his own life.  He went on to say, most of the suffering in this world, is generally at the hands of men; war, abuse, crime, and religious restrictions.  He needed to make his God, a being of comfort; gentle and nurturing, full of unconditional love.  For him, that embodied the female gender.   
Bevy of Beautiful Females
 2 to 70 something!
On the dance floor last night, I saw this bevy of beautiful females, ages two to seventy-something, all at different phases of their life cycle, dancing and rejoicing at the union of two, happy young adults. It was interesting to step back and silently witness the chapters of the book of “female” unfold. The exuberance of youth, the self-consciousness of puberty, the arrogance of teen, the adventure of young woman, the protection of  mother, the acceptance and confidence of middle age woman, and the wisdom and understanding of mature woman.  I felt comfortable, honored to be a part of and protective of the sisterhood.  And, I felt a sense of gratitude at the good men, who have the ability to accept the awesomeness of the girls they have been entrusted to raise.  And, proud of their bravery in not being intimidated by the threat of a woman.  For, it is a greater threat   to mankind if we allow such a perfect creation to be minimized by perceived gender preference or entitlement.