Good-Bye 2011…Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Generally, I don’t have much affection for New Year’s Eve. I think it’s an overrated, hyped-up holiday. I usually don’t do much on this night, other than maybe pour myself some champagne at the stroke of midnight and then go to bed.  However, this year, New Year’s is different. That’s because I am happy to see 2011 go.  I am starting off 2012 doing something different. I am setting up my karma for a good year. I hope.

2011 was not a banner year for me. Wait, that’s a drastic understatement. 2011 sucked. I think just generally a lot of stuff in my life accumulated and overwhelmed me. Probably the biggest challenge this year, was losing my grandmother and the months leading up to her death. There were blessings in being able to care for her, but there were a lot of stresses too, including watching the toll it took on my mother.  It wasn’t my grandmother’s failing health alone that was difficult. In the first few months of 2011, Juan and I spent days at three different Kaiser hospitals, and spent regular nights at urgent care for our kids.

This year also brought a change to our living arrangements. Over the summer Olivia began living with us full time and since October, Erica has been staying with her mom more often. I will spare you the details, but I am sure you can imagine that the circumstances leading up to the changed living arrangements were not pleasant. Something about teenagers and parent/child conflicts contributing to family tension.  Add the unique challenges of living in a blended family and our home was not the sanctuary for me that it has been in the past. We are working on changing that, and I hope that our shared custody living arrangements will resume in 2012.

Looking back on this year, there were other events which contributed to the malaise of 2011. Diego had a difficult time in school, I spent over three months studying for that damn exam, and I experienced more than a few challenges parenting teens in a blended family.  I intended for 2011 to be a year of compassion for me, but I don’t think I was too successful with that. I don’t like resolutions so I don’t make them, besides I have enough to do on my list of 50 Things I want to Do Before My 50th Birthday.

I want 2012 to be a better year for me and my family.  Last year I approached the beginning of 2011 differently. I was in a funk.  As is typical for me I didn’t do anything too special to end the previous year and didn’t really celebrate welcoming in the New Year. So, I am approaching 2012 with my heart, mind and arms wide open. Tonight, Juan and I are going to a special New Year’s service at our church, then we are heading out to enjoy a nice dinner.  Tomorrow, we are hosting an open house for anyone who wants to drop by and I am serving all kinds of New Year’s good luck foods.  I can’t help to hedge my bets a little.

Happy New Year. Hello 2012!

What about you? Are you happy to start a New Year? How do you celebrate?

Sunday Offerings – All Saints Sunday

Today at church we celebrated All Saints Day, honoring all those connected to our church family who have died since November 1, 2010. This service is usually very solemn and somber. The music offerred at this service is usually very moving and emotional. Today was no different. The music, traditionally a requiem was called Lux aeterna by Morten Lauridsen, and performed by a chamber orchestra and our church’s choir. It was stunning. But, this requiem, or mass for the dead, while emotional, was not somber. Rather, the music was uplifting. So too, was the sermon. Consequently, while this day marks the death of loved ones, and my grandmother’s name was among the many listed in the litrugy, I did not feel sad during the service. Our rector’s sermon, entitled, “Life is Changed, Not Ended,” spoke about giving your grief to God, transforming it to love and empowering change in the world. Actually, that’s probably not a fair summary of the many nuggets of truth from his sermon. Here’s a link to this sermon on All Saints Sunday, so you can hear it for yourself.

And here’s a bit of the beautiful music from today’s service.

Lux aeterna

Mommy Melt-Down and a Teachable Moment

One of the most important jobs I face as a mother of two boys is to help them become men. Independent, strong, sensitive, caring men, who are good, capable citizens, and can cook, clean, and do their own laundry.  One of the jobs I face as a parent in a blended family, and co-parenting with the other parents is completing and communicating the hot lunch order.

Let me explain.  Our shared full-custody with the Nico’s dad and Erica and Olivia’s mother has evolved to a week on/week off arrangement. When the kids were younger we would split the week between the two houses. Now that they are older, the kids want to stay longer periods of time at each house. Nico’s hot lunch order form is submitted to the school on my off-week. I never know if his dad has ordered it during my week. The hot lunch order for Erica falls on my week. I order it for her, and if I can remember, I email the order to Erica’s mom.  I am pretty organized but, it can sometimes feel like a Herculean task to keep the lunch orders straight.  So, on days like today when the lunch order slips through the cracks, and I am frantically trying to make breakfast, and I am making last-minute alterations on Nico’s too tight uniform pants, because he left his other ones at his Dad’s house, the atmosphere is ripe for a melt-down. A Mommy Melt-down.

Nico is a wonderful 12 year-old boy. He is loving, kind, smart and funny. He moves at his own pace, but sometimes that pace is not fast enough for me.  When, 10 minutes before we were supposed to leave the house, I realized he hadn’t gotten himself dressed, we couldn’t figure out the hot lunch order and he came back empty-handed when I asked him to get the bread out of the refrigerator, I lost it. I reverted to parenting from the 1960’s. Humiliation as a motivational tool. When Nico’s eyes filled with tears, I dug deeper. “Why are YOU crying?” Ugh. Not one of my finer parenting moments.

How many times did I hear that as a child and know that no matter how hard I tried to keep from crying, those words only turned on the water works even more. Here I was parenting in the same style I had grown up with. My parents are loving, good people. But parenting as I was growing up was  different from today. I don’t even think they used “parenting” as a verb. I think it was called disciplining. Haven’t you seen Mad Men? So, in this New Year, where I try to have more compassion, faulting him for his tears, not living up to my expectations, isn’t exactly compassionate is it? How can I expect him to always remember the hot lunch order or his uniform, when I  have trouble in the shifting between two households? If he can’t find his way around the kitchen, and assert some self-sufficiency, whose fault is that? Mine. (Well, his Dad’s too.)

I need to do a better job.  When I am in the kitchen cooking, he can help.  And if the uniform pants don’t come back from his Dad’s or the hot lunch order isn’t communicated, I need to help Nico figure out what to do to fix it. Sure I can take it on myself, but then I am not doing my job either because I fail to teach him to do things for himself.  I will be setting myself up for another mommy melt-down when he doesn’t behave like the self-sufficient, independent young man I expect him to be but have failed to help him become.

Tonight, I will sit down with Nico and tell him I’m sorry for this morning’s meltdown. I will tell him I love him and what I expect of him.  I don’t think this would have been part of the 60’s era parenting style, but it’s a new era, and for me personally it’s a new year, a year in which I try to live out compassion in all that I do.

December Holidaze

December started out with a bang and is going out with a sigh. It has been a completely packed month, filled with emotional highs and lows, hot and sunny days, cold and stormy nights, and of course, the usual holiday frenzy. When the month began I had just finished my November blog-a-thon and admittedly, I was pretty burned out at the challenge of posting everyday. I eased up on my blogging and tried to gear up for the holidays. Then, I encountered some personal challenges which knocked me to the ground. I can’t really blog about it since I am still processing what it all means, but let’s just say, it has forced me to look at things with a new lens. I thought I had a lot of my life figured out, but don’t you know, that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans? So, as I tried to work out all that this means for me, for my marriage and my family, I still had to get through the holidays.  “Get through” may have been the operative term. I struggled. Three Sundays in Advent passed without me “feeling it.” I wrote about it here. Processing my personal crisis dominated my thoughts and emotions, but with this process came a new perspective, and a word which I have come to understand and try to emobody…compassion.

I read in this blog that bloggers are trying to take on a word for 2011. I don’t know if I can be limited to one word for a whole year, or what it really means to take on that word, but if I have to take on a word for 2011, it will be compassion. I thought I understood its meaning and application to my life, but not until this month have I begun to grasp compassion. Compassion for my husband, my children, the human family, and myself.

It has been an  eventful month and it gives 2010 new significance in my life.  I know that 2011 will bring its share of challenges and joys, but I also know that facing each struggle with compassion will help me through it, and in fact grow from it. Happy New Year!