She Walks In Beauty – My Mother

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I looked over my blogs and noticed I hadn’t written a lot about my mom. My dad, yes; but my mom, not so much. As much as my dad was formidable, boisterous and gregarious, my mom was the opposite. She is quiet, hardworking and constant. And funny. But her humor is subtle and understated.

One of the funniest stories I remember I wrote in another blog: My sister and I were at my parents’ house one day. Standing at the kitchen counter, we were engaged in a serious and riveting conversation about what we all discuss in the kitchen: hemorrhoids. Who knows who was the afflicted, but our conversation covered causes, symptoms, side effects and various and sundry methods of treatment. My mother entered the kitchen while we discussed the burning, itching and pain. She listened for a bit. And, in a humph, she pronounced her expert therapeutic remedy: “Just put a little Vaseline on it; and, for Pete’s sake, stop licking it!” No, Mom, we’re not talking about cold sores. Although she didn’t intend that to be funny, it certainly was.

Living with my dad was no picnic. I remember the tumultuous times which she endured with dignity and strength…but there were times when he pushed her across the line. That’s when the plates and pots began to fly. I’m sure that quieted him down. I suspect she regretted those times, but she was human…she is human.

My dad liked to be the center of attention, and I think my mom was content to be in the shadow. As I remember all my dad gave me, all that I attributed to him to the creation of my personality, I realize the things that are the dearest and the most important to me are the qualities and characteristics I received from my mom.

Three biggies I got from my mom – faith, family and literature – continue to dominate my world. Her faith in her church is such a stronghold that it even kept me grounded, well as grounded as I could be (as a restless and reckless hare) until I found my own faith. Only God knows how much I owe to her prayers. My mom is so Catholic…not the devout zealot who prays and penances painfully, but the one who echoes and reflects the beauty and joy of the old denomination though aware of its shortcomings. A sensible saint.

My mom taught us “Ohana”. Family…like what little Lilo said, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” My mom taught me Ohana generosity. When a neighbor girl would come over hungry, I thought my mom may shoo her away, but she didn’t, she invited her in and fed her. That one act of kindness taught me to always keep my door open. Even when there were times when I didn’t have enough, I tried to exhibit her Ohana generosity.

Growing up there was one book – one book –  that I remember reading, my Mom’s literature book from her Honolulu Catholic high school. In this book, I discovered Shelley and others whose poetry became seeds, seeds which would bear fruit in my own writing and can be seen in my little library that I am creating. One of my favorite poems from that book, She Walks In Beauty, defines my mother:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
-Lord Byron

My beautiful mother’s raven tresses she cut after she got married. But her cheek and brow remain “so soft, so calm, yet eloquent” and her smiles still win and her tints still glow as she embarks into her ’90’s. Now she has some peace, and her love continues in innocence.

Thank you, Mom, for these priceless gifts. Gifts I hope to pass down to my children. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Teen Times, Vol. II – Fortnite

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Fortnite, or correctly spelled: Fortnight. That deliciously English word which means a unit of time of two weeks; ergo, fourteen nights. No doubt my first acquaintance with this word was in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice: “I  honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight.” I’d add to Jane’s observation, and wager to say that one cannot know what a man really is even by the end of a score or two.

Other English writers have toyed with this verbal antiquity.

“Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Dr. Johnson

And…

“I can’t see that she could have found anything nastier to say if she’d thought it out with both hands for a fortnight.” Dorothy Sayers

And even our friendly American humorist, Mark Twain, dropped an f-bomb…

We have been housekeeping a fortnight, now long enough to have learned how to pronounce the servants’ names, but not how to spell them.  We shan’t ever learn to spell them; they were invented in Hungary and Poland, and on paper they look like the alphabet out on a drunk.” 

I think my kids feel pretty smart now that they know the meaning of this interesting word, but they didn’t stumble upon this word from reading the classics or from their vocabulary lists or even chatting with their English buddies. No….they know what the real fortnight means because of the current bane of my existence: Fortnite, the Video Game.

The first indiction of the Fentanes Video Game Experience began harmlessly with Duck Hunt, but before I could even reload, we were running the hallowed hills of Halo,  partnering with the precious Pikachu in Pokemon, dodging desperadoes in Call of Duty, meticulously making maps in Minecraft, learning harmony and happiness in Harvest Moon, seriously slugging siblings while playing Super Smash Brothers,  liberating the princess as Link in The Legend of Zelda, and the winner of them all, spending hundreds of dollars for air time for the World of Warcraft. WOW, really? Video Games 1; Mom 0. Game over, Mom, acquiesces to video game reality.

Before the second indiction began not too long ago, video game playing had subsided to a few hours of Pokemon and Harvest Moon. But, recently, a new phenomenon took over my household: Fortnite. The only good thing about Fortnite is that it doesn’t cost any money, at least not my money. That’s all.

My son and I watched Psycho last weekend. Still don’t really like that movie, but you’ve got to hand it to Janet Leigh and her ability to produce blood-curdling screams. The selfsame screams are uttered by my daughter during Fortnite. You’d think she was being stabbed in the shower. I’ve watched them play, all they are doing is running and shooting up some people every once in awhile. I leave the room and then the blood-curdling screams begin, the frantic orders to comrades to “Watch out, watch out!!!” “He’s behind you.” Followed by more blood-curdling screams. To add to this mayhem, unnamed female offspring wears a headset, which causes her to amplify her responses to the game. Hence, mother stomping into the living room at 10:30 p.m., and yelling “quit screaming” which, of course, she does not hear because of said headset. I don’t know why the expression on my face doesn’t cause her to scream.

Fortnite is the latest craze of video games. I’ve about had it. About a fortnight ago, I ran into my upstairs neighbor. I’ve been meaning to apologize for the Psycho-like screaming, and wanted to reassure them that I was not harming anyone in anyway. The neighbor kindly responded, “No, I don’t hear anything. Do you hear us when we play Fortnite?” “No…, I don’t, the insulation must be good,” I bemused. “Thanks.”

In the three decades of my child-rearing experience, I have come to appreciate video games and the entertainment they provide my children. I remember fondly the years of Halo and Super Smash Brothers because those are the years all my kids were together as well as many of their friends. Video games were one of many things they had in common with their friends, friends they still have, one who has become a family member. Now that the aforementioned unnamed female offspring has been working for about a fortnight, we’ll see if she continues to give her time to this game.

I admit I have no halo as a mom, but my call of duty is to raise kids, and part of that responsibility is to pick the battles in this battlefield, a battle royale. I am happy to report that none has yet been arrested for grand theft auto or any other felony that I know of, and though the fallout has been minimal in permitting extensive video game playing, I am grateful they don’t overwatch them. I consider my kids to be in a league of legends, and hope someday, they will triumph in the trenches of life.

 

 

Teen Times Vol. 1

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I have found communicating with one’s offspring to be daunting at times. When they’re small children, conversation can be simple: “Gotta go pee-pee?”, “Time for nap” and “No, don’t put the fork in the socket, honey.” Simple supervisory skills.

As the they get older, and if they’re still not as smart as you, you can figure out how things are. But it does require knowing your children and what their proclivities are. But then they hit pre-teen, and with technology the way it is, you’re gonna fall behind. I did Twitter, but just got depressed; I am on Instagram, but the kids aren’t really there anymore. It’s all about Snapchat…and I’m not going there. So they have this Snapchat world that you kinda have to watch from a distance.

Then there are the full-blown teenagers, the attitude has come, the manners have gone, and any motivation or inclination to do minor work has vanished. Communication becomes very difficult. I have one teen with whom I can have normal conversations, hopefully that will not change, I have one who must have mentally muted my voice, and I have one with whom I can start WWIII with that hate-filled word, “Hello”. Texting is the go-to form of communication for my teens. However, how my texts are perceived by them is a mystery to me, even after 30 years of child rearing. For example:

Sample Mom Text: What time will you be home?

In the English language, this kind of sentence is called an interrogative sentence, a question, if you will. Typically, these kinds of sentences elicit a response, and furthermore, in our sample text, a response dealing with time. This text, in its basic and unfettered form, would seem innocuous; however, in the mind of a teen, our sample text can create benign annoyance to outright hostility. Also, this sample text has elicited declarations of independence from said teens who are over 18. You know where I’m going.

Lately, I’ve been spending two nights a week at my mom’s “mom-sitting” while my dad’s been in rehab…no, not that kind of rehab. One of those nights is a Sunday night, and consequently, my two school-aged daughters must get up, get ready and be prepared for pick up around 7:30 without my gentle nudging, aka “get your butt outta bed, it’s almost time to go” encouragement. 🙂

This particular Monday morning, I sent out some preemptive texts at 6:55.  I sent this harmless text: “Awake?” Interrogative, yes, so I get one response, not good, both should be awake by now. Ten minutes later, I send this declarative text: “Be ready in 20 minutes.” Same respondee, text one, “Whooooa?”, text two, “We’re not ready.”

As I wait for mom’s caregiver, I send another text, testing the waters of readiness, 7:27 am – “Ready?” Faithful respondee, “No, E in shower” My calm response: “Whaaaaat!!!” E must think that “Be ready in 20 minutes” means “I have ten more minutes before my shower.” I have to drop off two teens at two different locations in two separate cities, and get to work by 8. The Plight of the Hare. Ain’t gonna happen this morning. Que sera, sera! We’ll all be late today.

I finally get over to pick them up, I futilely text, “here” and wait. We get on our way at 7:49, faithful respondee needs to be at school by 8:05 and her silent (mentally mute) sister needs to be there by 8:12. I’ve been using my son’s manual transmission Toyota, so today necessitated me to fall into Mario Andretti mode. I bobbed and weaved, shifted and downshifted through residential streets to deposit Thing 2 by 8:00 and managed to fly up Sharp Park, make the lights on Westborough and get Thing 1 dropped off a little late. Meanwhile, I get to work late, there goes my break.

Since I have an advanced degree in teen times, I didn’t stress out. I chocked it up to experience, and determined the next Monday morning to send out preemptive texts earlier. I tell my older daughters who have young children to enjoy the baby years since time flies by so fast. Folks, these teen times too will pass, so my advice is to fasten your seat belt and enjoy the bumpy ride.

 

 

Come Harvest Time

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Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Last year, I bought this old Plymouth Voyager mini-van. What attracted me to this vehicle was not only the low price and the low mileage, but the fact it had a cassette tape player. Yay for me, I could play my favorite Cat Stevens cassette. But, alas, the tape deck doesn’t work, and the radio only gets one decent signal – KEAR, Family Radio’s SF Bay Area station. I don’t mind KEAR, so I’ve been listening to the Bible readings, the Bible contests (which are hard), Alistar Begg sermons and various types of Christian music.

Two wonderful songs have come my way through KEAR: “I Take Refuge in You” and “Come Harvest Time”. I absolutely love when new things come my way that resonate deep down, and these two songs do so. Another beautiful providence. Glen Campbell sings “Come Harvest Time”, and I knew I had heard it before, but never listened. Funny, the difference between hearing and listening! That I love autumn and harvest time is no secret to anyone, and this song poignantly tells the story of human sowing and reaping.

As we get older, we begin to reap that which we’ve sown. My weight doesn’t budge because I’ve sown poor eating habits. My pocketbook is “holey” because I’ve sown poor financial management habits. However, I’m seeing some glints of golden grain in some of my parenting endeavors. My kids, who have been through a lot, are always surprising me with acts of kindness towards others, smart financial choices, varying degrees of compassion and good common sense.

One son is just completing his first journey to Europe and North Africa. He kindly kept me abreast of his and his girlfriend’s activities with pictures of churches in Barcelona, of  a sultan’s lunch spread in Fez and of the first Catholic Church in Lisbon. Despite the horrendous heatwave the Iberian Peninsula experienced this past week, he was able to hold up, and I’m sure he’s relishing the thought of San Francisco’s chilly fog as he makes his way home. I showed my Portuguese mother the pics from Lisbon. She was so excited about his trip.

This kind son asked me, “do you want me to get you anything?” I answered, “No, that’s ok, maybe something churchy for Grandma.” He immediately sent me a pic, a pic of a simple, silver Portuguese rosary from that first Catholic Church in Lisbon, with the text, “I got her that, don’t tell her.” This text conversation was going on with “Come Harvest Time” playing in the background. And what came over me quite strongly, was that….this is my gift. That my son already thought of his 90 year old grandma and purchased a gift for her that will be close to her heart…literally. A glint of golden grain, “Come Harvest Time”.

I know I’ve made many mistakes in my life, especially as a mom. But I am determined to make up for them by praying for these ten souls (actually they’re many more now with grandkids, girlfriends and a great son-in-law) and imploring God to bless them much like Jacob did when he wrestled with the Angel. By God’s grace, I will not grow weary in this endeavor.

 

Come Harvest Time

 

 

Females and the Facilities

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We’re having a nice morning. Every one is well rested, all have the day off, and, miracle of miracles, it is sunny in Pacifica. We may even go swimming later.

Two of the five Fentanes females that live under this roof were gone for two of the three days this weekend. And the Fentanes female, who shall remain nameless, and who does a lot of the housework, (no guilt intended…well, maybe a little) cleaned the kitchen, even mopped the floor, and spit and polished the bathroom. The weekend has been very productive, housework wise for this Fentanes female.

In an attempt to extend the cleanliness of the apartment, the bathroom in particular, housecleaning Fentanes female asked very nicely, even sweetly, to her x-chromosomed brood, “Ladies, do you think today it’s possible we could keep the bathroom looking like it does at this moment?”

I did not intend to create a ripple in the cosmos, but the effect of that question on those eight ears, was remarkable.

“Mom, we’re girls, we’re not guys. We can’t keep the bathroom clean.”

“Ahhh, yeah…no.”

One was speechless, and the other one was so engrossed in some life or death battle on Fortnite that there was no response.

What is it with females and the bathroom facilities? It seems like the room is an extension of their very lives. The make-up, the towel mountain, the bras…geez, I’ve got like two, I’ve never seen so many bras. And the hair. I’ve already had maintenance out twice to unclog the sink. He asked, “What’s down there?”

“Uh, lots of hair and maybe the Alexa remote, I have no idea.”

I grew up with Noxema and Oil of Olay. Now there are five varieties of just Vitamin E oil, two large containers of coconut oil, an array of shampoos and conditioners. The White Rain (you know, the 99 Cent Store variety) is mine, of course. Razors, rings, soaps, solutions, brushes, bras, I tell you, I am amazed at the stuff that’s out there. Fake eyelashes that look like spiders. Not what I like to see on the counter first thing in the morning.

We live with one son. One young man who possesses one bottle of shampoo, one toothbrush, one hair cutting kit; that’s all. I think the girls believe the bathroom is an annex to their closets and make-up bags.

One of the characteristics you need as a mother is patience and flexibility. I’ve learned when to throw in the towel, or just pick it up. I’ve lived with personalities that never change. So, when it comes to my females and the bathroom facilities, I accept the things I cannot change and wait for the serenity that God is going to grant me.

To my surprise, after their showers, each of the girls picked up after themselves. Later in the day, one of the females eagerly asked, “Mom, what do we get for keeping the bathroom clean?”

“A clean bathroom,” was my serene reply.

 

 

 

The Old Man Walking Down The Road

Here is an excerpt from my self-published book, “The Plight of the Hare & Other Stories From the Shoe”. Illustration by Breena Nuñez.

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I was driving home one Sunday after trying to go to church. I was angry we hadn’t made it to the service because of the little war that erupted in the car. While driving, I noticed an old man walking on the road. The road was a busy four-lane street without sidewalks. He was walking in the direction I was driving, and I was coming up behind him. From the back, I noticed his ill-fitting suit and his brown derby securely on his head. He reminded me of my old, agile Portuguese neighbor whom I’d admire from my window as he repaired his roof.

I passed the old man and glanced at him in the rear view mirror, thinking maybe I would see that old Portuguese face. I knew I wouldn’t because that neighbor had already left this world. And this man was very much alive. He was defiantly smoking a cigarette while walking at a brisk pace. He wanted to cross the four-lane road, and I glanced in my mirror again to see if he was successful. I thought maybe I would stop to help. But, he was determined and sure-footed. He didn’t need my help, he would make it.

This old man, his clothing, his hat and his defiant manner reminded me of my carefree childhood when men like him were all over the place. The most discomfort I felt was the anticipation of doing chores, or the consequences of not doing homework. My most pressing concerns were whether that cute guy was going to be on the bus or if I had a ride to the dance on Friday. What a stark contrast to today! Driving home with a car full of children worrying about a bank account empty of funds, my concerns had dramatically changed. There are creases on my brow from the sheer weight of my responsibilities. Men, like that old man walking down the road, had the same creases. My father had the same creases.

My father told me of a time when the weight of his responsibilities were at their heaviest. Confronted by his boss to quit drinking or to quit, he purchased a six-pack to think it over. After that was gone, he got a ride to the Russian River where my mom and we kids were. In the cabin, he was lying on his bed contemplating the wife, the kids, the mortgage, the houses, all the cares; and these responsibilities pressed hard. He could hear the kids splashing and laughing as they swam, careless, without worry, while he was carrying the load, however imperfectly, on his fragile shoulders.

Fast forward forty years, my children were silent in the car because they knew I was mad. I looked nervously at the little gaslight that comes on when the tank is empty reminding me of the many empties in my life. Now the burden was on my even more fragile shoulders, and I felt like my father did. But that old man reminded me of the kind of folks who were around when I was a kid; they had their creases, their responsibilities, but somehow they made it. That six-pack was the last my father bought, and he made it, too. I looked back one final time and saw that the old man made it across. So I drove home that quiet Sunday afternoon, believing I would make it too, like my father and like the old man walking on the road.

Adolescent Absurdities

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Teenagers…gotta love ’em! I mean you really have to love them because there are times when you don’t want to love them. You folks with newborns and babies – yeah, you guys who haven’t slept in months – sorry to break it to you, but the baby phase is easy. Exhausting, but easy.

Let me share some of the absurdities one has to live with when living with teenagers. I’ve taken some dramatic license. Mind you, there was a time I had five teenagers under one roof. I don’t remember much during those years…we all survived though. There’s a definite difference between boys and girls. Boys are quiet, destructive and obsessed with rock music and video games. Girls make up for the quietness of the boys by talking incessantly. Ellie, even last night, was talking in her sleep.

Let’s take last night: Ellie got up early yesterday to go to Dream Machines in Half Moon Bay. When Eloisa, the baby and I returned from church around 7:30 pm, Ellie was home and already unconscious. I understand, it was a long day for her. In order for Ellie to sleep, she must have “Monk” on replay. Since I was babysitting, I thought I could bypass the “Monk” marathon and put on a nice movie. Where was Ellie’s firestick? Now, Ellie is very, uhm, very possessive of her firestick. Rarely can anyone watch TV in the front room without her express permission to use the firestick? But Ellie was unconscious…I couldn’t wake her, I didn’t want to wake her. So I looked around for the coveted firestick…there it was, in her hand as she slept. Yikes! Because her sleep was so deep, the grip was not tight. I slowly and deftly removed the firestick from her slack grip. Whew…. I  got myself a big glass of milk and settled into the couch to watch a show with the baby. I settled Peyton with his bottle, and I gently grabbed the firestick, pressed the button, and whispered, “Alexa….”

“NOOOOOOOO!” came from the unresponsive body. “Give me my firestick!” Rather than wake up Smaug entirely, Peyton and I went into my room and watched that groundbreaking, critic-acclaiming, culture-shaping, lofty film, “The Incredibles” and called it a night.

During adolescence, I fear the processes of logic may either be underdeveloped or suspended until the kids are nearly 20. Another example: because yesterday was so busy, I asked my offspring – female offspring – if they had clean clothes for the next day. I didn’t have time to do the $40 worth of laundry at the laundromat, I didn’t want to, I was tired. I know I’m a bad mom. Anyone who has raised girls knows that clothing is a very important priority in their lives. I sympathize, but my priorities are usually bound and have paper pages. I was a weird teenage girl. Anyway, one of the female offspring was devastated that I was not doing the laundry. Mind you, this same child just got dressed to the nines for church. I told her why don’t you wear the same pants you wore to church. You think I had taken the kitchen knife and stabbed her. “No! I already wore them 3 times, they’re dirty.” I explained that there must be over 100,000 articles of clothing in this apartment. She could surely find a pair of pants to wear tomorrow. (I live with four of my daughters, and, for the most part, all of them can wear the same size.)  I added that I will do the laundry tomorrow night. Now here it comes…wait for it:

“You say that all the time, you never do it.”

Huh? I responded more to myself than to her…”I never do the laundry?”

“You never do it when you say you will!”

OK, so I’ve never done the laundry, when do you do it? Who does do the laundry…all of it? The towels? Your laundry, mine, your sisters, etc? Who does it? The conversation abruptly ended.

These kinds of situations are common and leave me scratching my head. Also there are things my kids say that now just render me dumbfounded:

“Where are my jeans with the holes in it?”

There are approximately 20 pairs of these kinds of jeans in my apt. I do not answer.

“Why don’t you ever do anything for me?”

I was giving this kid a ride somewhere. But I do not respond. I am mute.

Why aren’t there any clean dishes?”

Not a peep.

“There is no food in the house.”

Nothing. See previous blog, “At Least There was Milk in the Fridge.”

In my advanced middle age, I am learning to conserve what little energy I have. I don’t respond to these or the many other questions or statements of silliness that I’ve heard uttered from my offspring’s mouths. I chock it up to adolescent absurdity and move on. Life is way too short.