Category Archives: motherhood

Olympic Dream

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Olympic Rings by Public Domain Images

I have a confession to make. I cry during the Olympic games. It’s not out of sadness or regret. Rather it’s when I see a flip or a twist or an unbelievable move executed perfectly my throat gets tight and the tears flow from the sheer beauty and excellence I have just witnessed. Yes, we are Olympic nerds and the 2018 winter games are upon us. Bring on the podiums!

I’m not sure I was such an avid follower of the Olympic games when I was younger but back in 1984, the Summer games were being held in Los Angeles where my husband and I were living at the time and we decided we couldn’t be in the same city of such an enormous event and not be part of it. We became Olympic volunteers. That was one of the best decisions we ever made. For 16 days we were immersed in the blood, sweat and tears, the hopes and the dreams, the highs and the lows of athletes from around the world, many who could scarcely believe they had made it to the world stage. The energy in the city was electric.20180214_165449 Strangers cheered events together in bars and pubs, restaurants stayed open way beyond their usual times, parties held by dignitaries and celebrities to celebrate these athletes were everywhere. We had amazing access to backstage activities as well as the drama and excitement of the competitions. It was one of the most thrilling events I have ever worked.

My assigned job was in one of the Olympic villages. I ran the video viewing room where athletes could come and watch themselves on video after their event or watch their competitors to prepare for their match with them. It was wonderful to meet athletes from around the world, cheer with them as they watched themselves and feel their excitement at even being considered an Olympic athlete no matter where they placed. Having family from different countries means I cheer for USA, I cheer for Canada, I cheer for Morocco. But I also cheer for the newcomer, I cheer for the underdog, I cheer for the veteran who knows this is their last Olympic games. It is a time to celebrate excellence but also to celebrate effort.

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LA Times Day 6 Olympic cover circa 1984

What the average spectator does not get to experience is the amazing camaraderie behind the scenes. Young men and women from all corners of the world becoming friends, sharing wins and losses, trading uniforms, t-shirts, pins. It is a beautiful, glorious blending of the world’s colors, just like the Olympic rings represent. We still have our own uniforms from that wonderful summer of 1984 and the pins we collected and the uniforms we were given. The memories of that time stay vibrant. It breaks my heart to have recently learned that for many athletes this celebration was a facade that hid their private hell of abuse. And yet despite that they only showed the world their strongest and fiercest selves.

 

Since I have become a parent, the Hallmark type commercials during the Olympics illustrating a parent’s commitment to supporting their children’s athletic dreams often has me in tears. Parents who patiently spend hours with their children teaching them their sport from toddlerhood, driving at all hours to practice near and far, toting coffee and snacks, often fighting traffic and fatigue but always encouraging their child’s passion, never knowing where that road will lead but having faith in the process. I have siblings who were sport parents and I too have been one and I can attest that we all had those secret Olympic dreams for our children too.

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Medals by Gadini via Pixabay

What had my eyes welling up this Olympic Opening Ceremonies was the powerful message and symbol of peace for the world. For months we have been on edge, hearing sabers rattling between this country and that one, fear of nuclear attack and retribution. Yet at these games, a divided country showed up as one united country wearing the same uniform, marching in together. Was this a savvy political strategy? Perhaps so, but it is one I found that I liked very much. The possibility of world peace was personified right before our eyes. I find it hard to understand why we could not all stand and cheer for that.

One truth these experiences have revealed to me is that we don’t need to look far to find common ground. The Olympics bring together athletes from different cultures and hundreds of stories to perform the same sports. Every person who has ever worked an Olympic games as a volunteer or a judge or an athlete feels the magic that continues long after the closing ceremonies. My brother volunteered in Vancouver 8 years ago and his experience mirrors ours in so many ways. It’s a unique bond. For now, though, it’s time to get back to watching today’s medal round events. That is, if the tears don’t get in the way.

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Vancouver Olympic Flame 2010 by Makfish via Pixabay

Tattoo

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20170613_192600I have a confession to make. I just got my second tattoo. It’s the symbol of a  lotus flower with it’s roots deep in the mud. I chose that symbol based on the Buddhist belief that without mud you will not get a lotus flower. In other words, the beauty of our life is grown out of the proverbial mud we must slog through to find what is truly important in our lives.

As a younger person I never thought I would be one to get a tattoo. Tattoo’s have certain stigmas attached to them. The person who decides to get one must be wild and even a little dangerous. There are actually some tattoos that scare the heck out of me and I would never want to meet that person in a dark alley. For some reason the tattoo says more about the person then any other attribute. But mostly it is the fact that those with tattoos agree to have a small needle jab ink into our skin to create some amazing works of art that seems to set those without tattoos apart.

Tattoos have been around since the beginning of the human existence or at least for several millennia and possibly longer. Mummified skin has been found in countries spanning the globe and in almost all societies. Tattoos could be status symbols, amulets against evil or for safe childbirth, the product of religious ceremony and culture or the result of the drunken longing of a homesick sailor for his mom. They can also be a symbol of personal rebellion against the status quo or maybe a badge of honor after a life changing experience. If life’s battle scars make one a warrior then maybe getting a tattoo to mark that battle is like a signpost on the road of that person’s life. I have seen tattoos that illustrate the struggles and triumphs that person must have experienced. Of course I have seen just as many butterflies, flowers, skull heads and hearts, random symbols that can only have personal meaning to the one wearing them.

Our family faced a crisis when my son was in high school and it was news that devastated us and thrust us into an alternate reality where the norm was long hospital stays, endless drug therapies and days on end when family members resided in different cities as we fought off that specter. We had just begun to recover from that year long event when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We faced another year similar to the one before but this time I was angry and determined to avoid the disruption we had previously experienced. That was easier said than done. Halfway through the 8 month treatment, I was not so defiant as I fought just to stay above water day to day. My son had moved on to college by that time and carpe diem was the philosophy I watched him follow. So I was not surprised when he called to tell us he was getting a tattoo. Nor was I concerned. In my mind, we had just had the very hard lesson for the past

IMG_1491 (1) two years not to sweat the small stuff and getting a tattoo was definitely in that category. My daughter started her tattoo journey by celebrating her high school graduation and then again for her college graduation.

I got my first tattoo the year after I finished breast cancer treatment. It is the Celtic symbol for healing and that’s just what I wanted for myself and my family. I often forget that I have it because it is located in a place I only see in a mirror. But I recall the prayer I offered up when that ink was being needled into my skin. And I think of the prayer I offered up when the lotus was being tattooed on me as well. Now that is in a place I can see daily so that I can remind myself on those tough days that at the end of it I am likely to find a lotus blooming. Or at least have the faith that there will be one.

Everyone has scars, the worst of which are often hidden. Perhaps tattoos are a way for some to reflect the focus, the work, the energy it takes to move beyond those scars to continue on that long and winding road of life. Tattoos are not for everyone, no doubt. There are many other ways to mark the signposts of our lives or symbolize the fights we have survived. Or to celebrate life’s beauty or the birth of a child or yes, to honor your mom. My family has chosen to wear tattoos and we all have at least one. Maybe that does make us rebellious or wild. I am okay with that if some get that impression. I see it more as my children marking the signposts of the life they have lived and are living, including that time we all traveled together to the edge of the abyss. Thankfully, there was a gloriously blooming lotus flower waiting for us there.

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Photo by vibrantskys via Pixabay

 

A Thousand Cranes

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Photo by jwskks5786 via Pixabay

My son and daughter-in-law have just returned from their honeymoon in Japan. In their account of their amazing and extensive travels, they told me about the Children’s Peace Monument at ground zero in Hiroshima and the young girl who inspired it. Suddenly familiar memories came flooding back. In the early 80’s I was enthralled with a fusion jazz band aptly named Hiroshima. They sang a song about a thousand cranes based on the true account of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki who survived the initial bombing of Hiroshima only to sicken and die from radiation induced leukemia seven years later. Sadako believed the ancient adage that if she could fold a thousand paper cranes she would be healed. Although she was unable to finish the thousand cranes, her friends and family continued her work and spawned a global peace movement.

When 9/11 happened I remember vividly sitting down at the dinner table that night, saying a prayer for the victims and crying. My children were 9 and 13 at the time and needless to say there was a lot of confusion and worry about what was happening and could something like that happen to them. There were many conversations in the days that followed about fear, death, mortality and living your life as you choose despite the fear or the terrorists would win. Since that life changing day, I have burned candles daily with that same fervent and innocent faith of Sadako Sasaki that my prayer for peace and safety would be answered.

Sadly, devastating bombings have continued since that fateful day in August of 1945, one just last week in Manchester, England. Today in Kabul. Yesterday in Baghdad. Paris, Cairo, Brussels. No place is immune. Sadly children are once again victims. Our human sorrow seems to be never-ending. We are at the mercy of those who believe in a cruel and evil god. It is not the god of people who love their children and families and work hard to build a life together. This god has no faith. This god has no religion. This god has no heart.

If I could fold a thousand cranes to fly into this evil and sweep it away with the power of two thousand wings, I would do it even if I grew too old and my hands too stiff to fold. I will never stop fighting for a safe world for my children to live freely and love openly and raise their own children and build a happy life.

20170525_203049In an account following the A-bomb drop on Hiroshima, the crew of the Enola Gay, the plane that carried that devastation, recall being caught in the shockwave of the explosion that rocked the plane and knocked them off their feet. They looked back over their shoulders to see that huge white mushroom cloud unfold. They understood what they had done but could not imagine the extent of the horror their mission wrought. The irony is not lost on me. Drop a bomb to stop a war. Adults start wars but it’s always the children who suffer for those sins.

I think of today’s suicide bombers who detonate themselves and forfeit the chance to look back over their shoulders and struggle with what they have done. Instead I believe they come face to face with their evil god and only then realize the magnitude of their mistake.

In the helplessness of yet another tragedy, I steadfastly light my candles every evening and offer up a prayer for peace on earth. For harmony even among differing beliefs and for the chance for all children to grow and realize their potential. For the safety of my children. For the safety of all children, young and old. For the hope that the power of the peaceful will eventually override the power of hate. That we will finally achieve that nirvana here on earth. Peace.