Tuesday, December 21, 2010

a good mother

Listening, watching, holding, laughing,crying, reading, singing, cooking, feeding, calling, cleaning, driving, organizing, talking, being are all action words. Words that express a way of being.
So much of mothering is hard work with very little reward on a daily basis.  You may get a smile or a kind word or a look may pass between you and a child these things mean 100 times more to a tired mother than the child giving them intends.  Basically you are there to provide all the creature comforts from the first minute of their lives til forever. It is no small feat. 
Being a mother is innate and learned. There are things that just come naturally to some that must be learned by others. It is a process. I didn't have a mother so I had no daily example as I grew of how to be a mother. I feel a bit handicapped in this arena sometimes. I work extra hard at mothering to be "a good mother ".  Of course there is no one way to be a good mother.  A friend of mine had me write a list of what being a good mother entailed. It was a long list. He read it. Then he said I had set my self up for failure because no one he knew could be that person I described in my list.  Not having a mother I didn't know that.  To my way of thinking that list was my check list.  If I worked through it I was pretty sure that my kids would have everything or close to it that I didn't have and they would not be as handicapped. HA!!
My view of course was skewed by the very fact that I didn't have a mother to emulate. There are things I didn't do basically because no one did them for me so I didn't know how to do them for my kids.  No amount of observation or being with other mothers with children or reading the books on parenting and mothering seemed to help. It was hard work. I found reading about something very different than bringing it into my daily experience.
I lacked the confidence that my love, the very thing that powered just about everything I did for my children was, in the end, enough. Because I never had a mothers' love I didn't understand that a lifetime of doing doesn't always translate into feelings.
No matter what your children say or do as they grow and learn how to be on this planet, loving them unconditionally is beyond important. In my opinion, it is the single most difficult task to master and the most rewarding. Given an unconditionally loving environment my experience finally and thankfully tells me they will come back time and again.
Precious moments were lost in my need to get so many things done in order to accomplish my check list of how to be a "good mother".

Monday, December 13, 2010


I can actually hear in my mind what it would sound like walking through the woodland winter brush right now. Each step breaking the frozen grasses and twigs that crunch under foot. I can see and hear two deer crashing through the brush for an animal that needs to be wary this time of year they are not doing a very good job of being quiet

Snow is gently swirling around the backyard. It is not ready to land nor is it actually cold enough to really have a snow storm so for the moment it is like living inside a glass snow globe. I enjoy the pretty white flakes as they hesitantly fall from the sky.

 I realized once again that I have a "Winter Wonderland" right outside my window.    The mighty white pine's limbs sway gently in the cold wind that blows around our home. In any given moment you will see natures glorious ornaments flitting from limb to limb.  A male cardinal sits stoically in red splendor on a branch protectively watching his mate as she pecks at the birdseed around the feeder on the ground.  She fluffs her warm olive brown feathers to keep out the wind, cocking her lovely orange tufted head as listens to the sounds around her. There is such a contrast in the colors of these two birds.
The goldfinches flit in and out of this little scene seemingly always on high alert. The sun shining on their golden wing and neck markings in sharp contrast to their cousins the housefinches whose muted warm browns and purples,  pretty in their own right, perch on the feeders' edge busily eating in a group.
The red headed woodpecker takes charge of the one elongated feeder his size challenging the other birds to naturally stay away until he has had his fill.
Suddenly they all fly to the safety of the white pine and I look around there in the corner sits the neighbors cat eerily eyeing the scene from a completely different point of view!

Friday, December 10, 2010


What I hear about most these days are conversations having to do with preparations that make the "holiday bright. " The traditional decorations, list making for presents and cards, menu's for the family get togethers and every other little detail that goes into the making of a holiday season. Each and everyone of these things are the same and yet different for all families. I remember when one of my girls was in high school she called me one evening to complain about how we didn't have any unique traditions and "it wasn't fair". I remember feeling crushed. I had worked so hard as a young mother to make Christmas as well as all the other holidays special for my children. We always had holiday music, a tree, decorations and an elaborate christmas stocking for each child with individually wrapped gifts in them and gifts of course under the tree. But as far as anything unique? I think we were pretty "traditional" We read the "christmas story" went to the community church tableaux, and had a similar meal each year. I thought it was nice. But now she will grow up and have her own Christmas holiday traditions that will make her holiday bright in the way that she would like to see it shine.

Since my divorce,  the kids have either celebrated twice in one day or just gone to one of our homes for the holiday. This year my holiday is focused on making a a great christmas holiday season for my aunt who is probably experiencing her last Christmas season this year.  I also am excited to  be able to have some special times with three of my kids that will be around Christmas week. I am constantly working on not getting attached to any of the ideas that I have about things that we can do when they are here so that I can go with the flow so to speak.
I am particularly finding it hard to let go of the idea of having a fire in the fireplace on Christmas night and laying around playing games and visiting in case it doesn't happen but I think it will work out.

Each day I am open to what comes into my life at any given moment. It is an exercise in giving up and letting go, not having expectations.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ebb and flow

Watching someone you love as they prepare to give up life as they know is poignant. I have heard it said that we are all dying from the day we are born. We don't think of it that way, but it is true. We talk about living in the present and some of us manage it.  Most of us rush around busily doing all the things that we are meant to do that qualify as living a good life.  We forget sometimes to take the time to breathe and listen to others. I am seeing more and more the import of these two processes in my life. Breathing and listening. My aunt is actually living more and more in the minute without even trying. She forgets so much these days. She is so happy to see me each time I walk in to her apartment. She will tell me all the things that she thinks are appropriate responses to her existence and then if given a bit of time she will explain just how hard it is to be her in this moment. It is so sad. But in minutes she will feel what I can only term as guilt and she says that she is so grateful for all the help, love and care that is shown to her. She says over and over how wonderful it is to live in Cairnwood Village with such nice friends around.
A while ago she could remember stories and such from her childhood but even that is fading. We can talk a bit but often it is going over things again and again. It is cute and sweet.  It is so painful to watch her give up one independence after another and her determined fight to hold on to each is monumental. The giving in, the letting go is hard for her. In the end really? it is all about love. She is frail. She is pale. She is resigned to live out her life here in her chair. This is not the independent, hearty business woman I have known my entire life as my aunt. This is a little old woman who is done. She feels she has outlived her usefulness. She says she is bored.  She is tired of this phase of life. Her hearing is going. Her memory is weak. She says she wants to go to sleep one night and not wake up. Unfortunately her spirit is not cooperating with her on this project.

The Launching Pad

I am here in my home town to "be with my aunt" who is turning 91 on December 23rd. She lives at Cairnwood Village. This is a wonderful place for many people who have grown up in this church community or others like it around the world. In my little circle of friends and family we call Cairnwood Village "The launching pad" because so many of the people there are in their 80's and 90's and soon to be leaving this realm of the planet. The idea behind the building of Cairnwood Village was to help young families to be able to buy into the community so they could raise their children in the church community. So the older people 'got on the list' and when they were older than 60 sold their homes and moved into Cairnwood Village and the young people bought their homes and started their families. The system worked well for a long time. The waiting list for Cairnwood Village is long. Someone has to die for someone else to "get into the village" so the availability is a bit of a bittersweet proposition. I know that there are a number of people that are on the list now that would like my aunt's apt because it has two bedrooms and great window view.
The residents of Cairnwood Village eat together twice a week in a big dining room. A catering service comes in for this purpose and tickets are sold. People from the outlying community can purchase tickets as well and join the residents at these two meals. Sometimes programs are held after a meal. These are varied during the month but some are good old stand bys as well. There are movies, talks, bingo games, sing alongs and slideshows. These are excellent and so enjoyed by the residents of Cairnwood Village.

Many other community functions happen in Cairnwood Villages' dining room as well. Teas are often held here for visiting ministers and their wives when they come to town once a year. The older people love to have these ministers available and these are well attended by residents. Receptions after funerals used to be held in the choir hall of the church now often are held in Cairnwood Village so that many of the elders can attend with ease. Besides these days many of the memorial services held in the Cathedral are for former residents of this little launching pad community!
I have been coming to Cairnwood Village for over 20 years to visit my two aunts Joyce and Doreen Cooper. My aunt Joyce died 15 years ago and so I have been visiting Doreen there for the last 15 yrs and gotten to know many of the other residents there as well. When I walk in I can be assured of a  sweet welcome from many of the residents and interest in all that I am doing. They love to have me stop and talk and tell them about my travels and such. It opens up their world and it is refreshing for them because most of them can't or don't get out much anymore.
They used to have a program in the high school where "hours" were worked off cleaning bldgs in the school campus, then someone thought of the bright idea of having the girls come and read to the older people in Cairnwood Village or do something for them...a kind of community service. So the detention program wasn't so awful anymore and more of the kids actually enjoyed their times at Cairnwood Village making cookies, chatting up the old people, playing games and reading to them. I wish this was done more often as these people are so intersted in what all the kids are doing and they love sharing their memories with them as well. Its a good mix.
My aunt needs are mounting daily. She is reluctant to give up her independence and daily she is giving up one or more things and it is hard for her to do this cheerfully. She fights each one to the last minute and then gives up. It is sad to watch. The latest is that she needs someone to escort her to the two dinners each week. She gets confused once she is up there as to the ligisitics and protocol of the whole dinner. So my son now goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays to take her to dinner. She is secretly delighted with this and only complains now and then of needing a babysitter and how ridiculous this is, but she also holds a certain clout  with the other ladies of Cairnwood Village too because she has the preferred dinner companion. All the old ladies at Cairnwood Village vie for my sons attention. He is very popular and such a personable young man. He can entertain them all with ease and he seems to actually enjoy his little visits there too. He even stayed for Bingo last time.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Me with
Michael and Ben at Michael's Wedding
I always wanted to have a large family.  I wanted to be the kind of mother I wished I had had. In short I wanted to be a perfect mother. A good mother. My mother died in childbirth.  I lived with my loving aunt and her family for my first 9 months. After that amazing experience I spent 13 yrs living with one abusive step mother after another til I moved out at the age of  fourteen years old. I knew how I wanted to be because I had a daily example of what I knew I didn't want to be like for almost my entire childhood.
Brittany, Brooke, Chandra and Deborah
 Loving my children came easily to me. That was only half the battle. To actually do the work of mothering I spent an enormous amount of time reading books and talking to other mothers of various ages. What I know now that I didn't know then was that being a motherless daughter makes being a mother a bit more difficult. I had no daily example of what to do in any given example. I had no frame of reference. I had no memorybank to pull  "oh my mom used to do thus an so"  from, so I was a bit lost as a young mother and afraid to admit it or look incompetent. So I over compensated and tried to be perfect in every way. Me and Mary Poppins pratically perfect in every way!! Hahahaha. NOT!! (as my kids would say) 
Brooke, Debs, Chandra, Brittany Tonight is going to be a good good night!

 I knew how to cook, clean and take care of a house. That was easy. That was something I had been doing since I was nine years old. I was Cinderella. That wasn't a story. That was my life as a child. I knew how to be a housekeeper. What I needed to figure out  was how to add my love for my kids into the knowledge and ability to keep house. I needed balance. I wanted to learn to play with my kids and relax. RELAXING is key I think. Taking time to just stop and spend time with your children is so important. Finding a balance seems to be the work of mothering. I am not saying I didn't do it...I feel I didn't do it well enough.

 You know how people always compliment parents and say " You should be so proud of your kids" or "Wow great job on your kids" or " You have done such a good job raising your kids" I have always felt awkward recieving compliments on my  mothering. I don't feel like I deserve the compliments. I feel like my kids deserve them. In some respects they raised me! They were wonderful children to have and  yes grow up with ! Yes! I meant grow up with. I feel like I grew up with my kids. Infact I feel like I still learn so much through my relationships with them now.
One thing is for sure, they are loving, responsible, affectionate, hilariously, friendly over achievers who are well- loved among their family and friends. This is a wondeful testament to them. I love them.

Brittany, Chandra, Me, Maureen, Debs and Brooke


being a mother

Growing up ! Wow. Lots of ideas pop into my head when I think about that phrase and what it has meant to me. It, growing up, I mean has been a long process and a path that has been quite difficult for me. I was born into a nice little family. Mother, Dad and two older sisters. I had a great family support system in place while in utereo. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and we lived not far from all these relatives so there was a lot of "family" life. The night I was born my mother died delivering me. It wasn't a common thing then either. She hemmoraged from an amniotic embolism.  They could not stop it. Irreversable. And so my life as it could have been changed totally in the first hour that I was born.
Growing up "motherless" is a lot of hard work. There is always research. Granted when you have mothers you are still researching what the latest ways to discipline our kids are, what the best ideas about education are, what clothes you should buy for your kids,
what doctors are the best....all these things are important but many many other women have input from their mothers...women that have raised them that love them, honor them and trust them and visa versa. I didn't have that relationship. So I spent an inordinate amount of time watching other girls with their moms and mothers with their mothers and learned "how to be"
Being a Grandmother is rewarding in many ways one of which is watching my daughters and son lovingly mother my grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Sometimes I find myself suddenly awake in the middle of the night. I can't figure out why. Lately, I have been laying quietly in my bed listening to the surrounding sounds outside our bedroom screendoor. I know you are thinking screen door in November right? Well we are at our place in Costa Rica right now. Most of our days are spent outside and every night we fall asleep to the sounds wafting up from the pastures around us and the oceans constant crashing on the rocks at Bejuco Beach.
Last night though I was sure that someone was walking around outside.  Quietly opening the sliding screen door, not wanting to waken my husband incase there wasn't someone there, I walked to railing and peered over. There below me was an armadillo snuffing around in the dirt below. When they walk around it does sound as if someone/human is walking around. It heard me I guess, looked up and went about its business finding insects in the holes he was making in my garden below. Ok, no worries it can't climb up stairs,well at least I think it can't. I will have to find out.
The sun came out this morning casting its golden glow on our pastures. If you look down from the terrace to the property below, you can see the morning mist as it lifts and the golden glow of sunshine that replaces the mist. The sunshine covers the tips of the pastures trees and shimmers in the balmy waves of air that hover in the morning over our pastures as the glow floats up the mountain side of our property. When the grandchildren are here this is what I hear each morning as they suggle into bed with me..."Gran! Gran! its almost the golden hour hurry so we don't miss it."
Then they run to get their little purple plastic chairs and we sit and watch the change from dusky cool dawn to sunlight early morning. I miss those little ones in the morning. Another day in paradise begins.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Six years ago when I seriously began writing, my first grandaughter, Lara Olivia Perry was due. I flew to the west coast hoping to get there in time for her birth but was a few hours to late. No worries I was there for day one. I got up each night with Chandra and Lara so that after nursing, her mama could go back to sleep. Lara and I spent many a late night those first three weeks, walking around in the dark, whispering about all the adventures she would have growing up or rocking in the slider as I sang her to sleep. Then, taking her into my bed we would sleep until she woke again for another nursing.  I loved this special time with Chandra and Lara.
It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life where I could be the kind of mother/grandmother I always wished my children could have had when they were little. My mother died in childbirth having me. My two maiden Aunts Joyce and Doreen were the closest thing to a grandmother that my children had around them growing up. They were amazing and so loving to my children. They are well loved to this day. However, it is not the same as having a mother who knows what it is like to be a mother, around you when you become a mother. It is different.

As far back as I can remember I wanted to be called GRAN when I reached that delightful time of my life.  When the time finally came I told my kids that I wanted them to teach Lara to call me Gran. My son in law Hilton, who loves to joke and entertain us all in some fashion or other all the time, started calling me Old Gran.  Actually, I am the younger of the two grandmothers these children have, by 12 yrs! Lara would laugh at her papa, copying his tone and would try calling me Old Gran, only she said "ole" instead of old and it stuck so now I am Ole Gran. Its cute.
Lara nicknamed herself Lamilu a couple of years back and many of us often shorten it and call her Lami. I liked it so well that I used it for my email lamisolegran@yahoo.com  Now Taelyn McKenna Rae has joined the ranks and calls me Ole Gran as well. Being a grandmother rocks.
I have to my way of thinking, 7 children Chandra (32), Ben (31) , Michael (29), Brittany (27), Brooke (24), Deborah (22)and Anthony (20) a foster child we had for almost three years. Luckily we are still in contact and he is coming to visit us this year in Costa Rica.
I am happily married to Edmund Rhodes. He has two daughters Eliza and Ashley who has one son, Liam.  The past few months we've been travelling around the country-side visiting various families and enjoying our kids and grand kids.
Now we are back in Costa Rica. We own and operate Rhodeside Bed & Breakfast  and Espresso Cafe (http://www.rhodesidebedandbreakfast.com) on the west coast of the Nicoya Peninsula. We love it there.

The parrots outside are chattering at the magpie jays who are nattering at them as well. My Ani bird is quietly perched on the railing watching me. I call it my Ani bird because over the last year or so it has taken a shine to me. It flies onto our porch early each morning standing at my screen door singing to me until I get out of bed, then it cocks its head to one side and flies away as I head into the bathroom. This is how I start most mornings here in Costa Rica.
So that is my start!
Lami's Ole Gran