Tag Archives: Loss

Faith of Our Mothers (and the New WOW)

It’s the faith that can move mountains, because the love is so fierce.

It is faith shockingly unafraid to walk through the valley of death if the trek can make certain their son or daughter stays alive.

Mothers go without to ensure that their children never do.

And while they know better than anyone else how to go for the jugular, over their dead body will they ever let someone ELSE cut you to the quick.

No, there is NOTHING so powerful as a mother’s love.

It is Mothers Day and I think of all the moms who are both mom AND dad (like my mom had to be.)  I wonder what it must have been like for my mom to realize her daughter had a dream to go to college (no one in our family ever had) and to muster up the faith to say yes.

My heart pains for those mothers who have lost babies…or any child of any age.

And I think of those of us who never had the privilege of being a mom.

Funny, I never really gave it a thought in my twenties and thirties or even my forties. But now that that ship has TRULY sailed, I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I had been someone’s mom.

What a privilege!

And what potential heartache.

There’s just no guarantee how it is all going to turn out, is there?  Which is yet another example of the faith involved with this most holy calling.

When I lost my Toastmaster’s speech competition a few weeks ago, I was honored to watch my friend, Bryan Courtenay, win. He delivered his personal redemption story, which began in a dirty bathroom. The main character was slumped over the toilet bowl after securing his fix.  In the next scene, he paints the picture of his mother banging on the window of a car, trying to revive that young man who had overdosed.  It ends in prison, and the photo of a dead-eyed man’s mug shot.

As he unveiled the mug shot, to the gasps of the audience (who didn’t realize he was speaking about himself the whole time), my eyes were on his mother. She wept through the entire presentation.

Even as I type this, my eyes well with tears for the pain she endured…

…but I bet she’d endure every second of that pain again for the beautiful outcome she now enjoys.

The faith of our mothers, or those who have been like mothers to us, has likely sustained each of us in ways we’d be overwhelmed to see. 

Perhaps in heaven a video reel will play showing the number of times their prayers, and tears, tipped the balances, empowered angels on our behalf, and forestalled tragedy.

Moms who taxied us to rehearsals or sporting events.  Who dug deep and shelled out for those designer jeans or sneakers we HAD to have.

They made us eat our vegetables, say our prayers, clean our rooms and write thank you notes.

They cried with us, then cried some more on their own when our hearts were breaking.

For the nurture that comforted us and for all the maddening times as teenagers when we screamed “I hate you!”  For the treasure of another Mothers Day spent in your presence…thank you for the gift of YOU.

And for the faith, which so beautifully worked by love, to bring us to this very day.

Happy Mothers Day to all!  Here are my non-Mothers Day closing thoughts on FAITH, and a wonderful new WOW:

 

Ah!  So yes, keep the faith – but don’t be stuck on HOW it is going to manifest.

Have a beautiful, flexible week –

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Leaky Eyes, Acceptance (and the New WOW)

Lately my eyes have been tearing up over the simplest things.

Like the photo of my cousin’s daughter, Veronica, who was just inducted into the Junior National Honor Society.  She is so young, and lovely, and smart – with a future full of promise ahead of her.

Hand me the Kleenex.

On the plane ride to California, I finished the book A Man Called Ove to heaving sobs, snot and the quizzical looks of surrounding seatmates.

On the flight home, once again Mark handed me tissues as I whimpered and cried off my makeup through the movie Wonder.

What is going on with me?

As I pondered the word ACCEPTANCE these past two weeks, the common denominator in all of my recent tenderness relates to accepting the fragility; the fleeting and temporal nature of life.

Does this happen to everyone when they hit a certain age?

The creases around my eyes and sagging jowl belie the years gone by.  However, my spirits perk up when a new friend, in her 40’s, says, “I thought we were the same age.”

Still, time IS marching on.

We all have an expiration date unknown to us, but its reality beckons us to make the most of right now.

That closing scene of the Thornton Wilder play Our Town always slays me. Here, let me just play it for you:

By the way, the film Wonder features this scene, making it a double-whammy emotional gut punch.

Could my tenderness relate to the landmarks of time?  This very week would have marked my 15th anniversary.  Instead, in another month I will mark one year since my marriage ended.

I accept the passage of time and that creating a new version of happily-ever-after is up to me.

As I embrace this tender truth, I find myself looking at people directly in their eyes to make a true connection.  Calling people and having long-overdue, hour-long conversations.  Buying Hallmark cards in bulk to let the people I love know that I deeply love them.

For in the final analysis, what will matter?

My answer: How much did I learn, and how much did I love.

At church, we recite the Aramaic “Prayer of Our Father” that touches me deeply, especially:

“…detach the fetters of faults that bind us, like we let go the guilt of others.

Let us not be lost in superficial things, but let us be freed from that which keeps us off our true purpose. 

From You comes all working will; the lively strength to act; the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age. Amen.” 

“Let us not be lost in superficial things” massages my heart.

I gulped down the disappointment when losing what I imagined would be my trek to the International Public Speaking Championship. Just a week later, my heart swelled at this comment from one of the attendees at my Fear Factor workshop in Berkeley last week:

“Brenda was such a wonderful and genuine presenter.  I was moved and will grow and grow as I process her message.  One of the best professional development sessions I’ve ever attended.  Thank you!”

Uncanny!  In the same week, the gift that makes me feel alive to use, both rejected and applauded.  A contest? Superficial.  Impacting a person’s life for good? Deep.

It first hurt, then helped to realize that perhaps my dream of a championship remained rooted in the last vestiges of low self-esteem and ego.

Accepting that my real dream is to encourage hearts and open eyes offers a new level of freedom and fun that I am just beginning to enjoy.

Time marches on.

Though shockingly middle-aged, I feel like a kid just starting out.

I see life through new eyes; accepting the past and ready to embrace an unknown future, but with a daily intent to love the bejeezus out of everything and everyone I encounter.

More on ACCEPTANCE and the new WOW here:

Ah, and of course, after I recorded I was reminded of the scripture:  Faith works by LOVE.  Not by striving, obsessing, hard work or good intentions.

May we each FLOW in FAITH as we grow in love this week.

And are any of you feeling the passage of time and tenderness attached to it as I am these days?  I’d love to hear from you.

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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My Messes Are My Message (and the New WOW)

To live in harmony, I’ve had to make peace with the messes in my life.  Yes, I’ve looked at them through the lens of bitterness and victim-hood, which did not serve my hope for a happy future.

Instead, I have chosen to see messes through the lens of gratitude and a believe that a Divine thread has woven them into the blessings that sculpted the person I am today.

So, as I shared with my fellow Toastmasters in my first speech this past week: There are three primary MESSES in my life that have made me who I am.

No one wants to ride the seesaw with a 100 pound kindergartner.  Yes, you heard correctly.

Born a month too soon in 1963, Sal and Bette Costello weren’t sure I was going to make it!  Hooked to tubes in an isolated area, four-pound me needed to reach five pounds to finally go home with mom and dad.  When finally released, the need to feed was never a problem again.  Getting me to STOP was.

…and there I was in kindergarten, 100 pounds.  Twice the size of most of my classmates, I had to have special clothes and shoes made for me; I couldn’t run (without peeing my self) – but my mess became my message.  I learned that what I could create between my two ears and come out of my mouth could build the bridges that my lack of looks couldn’t.

This mess birthed in me an empathy for the underdog; a sensitivity to those whose feelings might be hurt. It’s a mess that made me.

For mess #2, we must fast forward to age ten. My mother had long ago put me on a diet, so my weight was no longer an issue.  I was in 5th grade, just starting to discover boys…and I was particularly excited for the annual roller skating party where I knew that Aldo Falasca would be and who I hoped would invite me to a couples’ skate.

We whirled around the rink, girls giggling and boys showing off…and I heard my name called over the loudspeaker.  Had I won a door prize?  I excitedly skated to the office and saw Mr. Coccaro, a friend of the family, with a somber look on his face.

I knew something very bad had happened.

Before a word was said, I blurted, “Was it Mommy?” He shook his head. “Daddy?””

He nodded.

At the very age I am today, one fatal heart attack stole him from our little family and with it, robbed me of so much security.

But eventually, my mess became my message.  We all suffer loss in life – mine just occurred earlier than most.  And what it taught me is to never take someone you love for granted, because their tomorrows – and yours – are not promised.  Oh, I’d give anything to have that stolen time with my dad back, but what a valuable lesson to learn:

That love and gratitude reside in your heart to be expressed…and that if you live a life of love, you live a life with no regrets.

My third mess was the heartbreak of being single when everyone else was married.

My sister was married at age 20, and I had lived through ALL of my twenties and most of my 30’s with NO Mr. Right (and truthfully, very few dates.) I had, however, been in almost ten weddings (to my chagrin) and well-meaning friends encouraged me that, “When you least expect it…”

Ha!  I went to every outing – including the grocery store or hopeful visits to Home Depot expecting…and expecting…and expecting.  Nothing materialized.

Fortunately, I had a full life filled with friends and family and challenging work.  In fact, in 2001 I was writing an annual report for the local government.

Printing companies from around the region competed in a bidding process to win the job and, once awarded, the vendor called to arrange a meeting.

“Oh, it’s not even ready yet.  When it is, I’ll call YOU.”

The printing rep called again in a few weeks and by this time, under pressure to meet my deadline I responded with more agitation:  “I will call YOU when it’s ready; please don’t call me again.”

You know how you create a mental image of a person you talk to on the phone?  This guy was to me Danny Devito from Taxi.  Short, gruff, tubby and probably with a cigar sticking out of the side of his mouth.  I was not impressed.

Then the day came for the file to be picked up.  And this was NOT Danny DeVito.

No, this was more like Tom Selleck from Magnum PI.

I couldn’t find my powers of speech.  I fumbled to act professionally, while searching that left hand to see if it was adorned with a ring.

When I least expected it…

…three months later we were engaged.

Fourteen  years later, I am still in love with that printing salesman.

My mess is my message: If it is in your heart, it is your destiny.  Don’t waste time being sad because what you desire WILL eventually come to you, because I believe with all of my heart that desires are planted there to be fulfilled.

It’s the waiting, though, that makes you grateful when the dream is finally fulfilled.

In closing, is there something that might be a mess in your life today.  Hold on, my friends. It could actually end up being your message.

And that’s how I ended my speech!  Thanks for letting me share it with you, and I do believe that making peace with your past and seeing through the lens of gratitude makes for a much more HARMONIOUS life.

Drum roll please for the new Word of the Week!:

Ah, WISDOM!

The scriptures say if we ask for it, we will receive it liberally.  Here’s to huge doses of it for all of us this week!

xoxoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Ode to a Fabulous Woman – and a Comforting WOW

The preamble to this week’s WOW is a tribute to my dear mother-in-law, Jeanne Viola, who went to be with God on Valentine’s Day.

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Though I spoke about her on the video, there are a few more things to say.

She was a devoted Mother. (By the way, you NEVER called her Mom.  I slipped a few times and you could feel the sharp intake of breath around the table at the error!)

My husband, Duane, always sums it up this way, “She was always there for me.”

She held the family together like glue. Christmas Eve was a sacred family event for her.  She expected everyone to be in attendance, to be on time (she’d tell you if you weren’t) and to eat their fill of her world-famous stuffed calamari.

Duane would ask her to hide some of it just for him.  I bet the others did the same!

Even in her late 80’s, she purchased and wrapped presents for each of her children, their spouses, grand-kids and great-grandchildren.

She was one of the first aerobics instructors in the area, a belly-dancer, a truth speaker and the epitome of strength…but at the same time, child-like in her love for porcelain dolls, presents and parties.

Here’s more about my beloved Mother-in-law, and the new WOW:

Let’s all take comfort in the Presence of the Divine this week.

You may call it Energy, or the Universe…I respect whatever you may call it.  I’ve learned that my God is big enough and not at all touchy about these things.

May you be wrapped up in a soft and warm sweater of love this week.  And for those of you with broken hearts, may the Presence of love take you a step closer to healing this week.

Love,

Brenda

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