LUGGAGE Lady

Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Archive for the category “Parenting”

The Price of Bypassing Motherhood

Bypassing-Motherhood-Luggage-Lady

“You chose not to have children?”

“So…you don’t like kids?”

“What do you talk to your husband about?”

“Is there something wrong with you physically?”

“Being a parent requires an enormous heart — not everyone’s cut out for it.”

“What on earth do you do with all your free time?”

“I used to be selfish too — then I became a mom.”

“You’ll change your mind.”

“I can’t imagine worrying only about myself.”

“You’ll never look at the world the same again.”

“What a lavish lifestyle you must lead with all the money you’re saving.”

“Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?”

“I can’t fathom missing out on a child’s unconditional love.”

“My children are my — everything.”

“Maybe it’s the mother in me, but I care more about our planet than ever before.”

“You don’t know true love until you hold a child in your arms.”

“I never knew I could love something this much!”

“Do you have nieces, nephews — a pet at least??”

“You wouldn’t understand — you’re not a parent.”

⚓️

It’s true

I chose to bypass motherhood

Or maybe it was fate

Either way

I’m extremely well versed in what some believe I’m missing

And yet

The undistracted affection I’m able to give my soulmate

(a man who grew up motherless and fearful he’d never find genuine, lasting love)

Feels good and right and true

Like I’m pointed in the precise direction I was meant to go all along…

But going against the norm makes me an anomaly

Or — more truthfully — a permanent outsider

Swiftly discounted for failing to follow life’s greater purpose

My choice sparks conflicting emotions

Pity, concern, envy

Conclusions drawn in hushed whispers

(the poor, unfulfilled, self-centered prima donna — is she really taking another vacation?)

💔

Whether spun of carefully weighed risks

Or faith-laden leaps

We all weave unpredictable tales

If your journey has brought more than the occasional misstep

Perhaps a blindsiding detour or two

Stay strong

You may feel as if you’re traversing a deserted road

One you never imagined you’d be navigating

But others have survived these challenging curves

Growing more resilient around each bend

Breathe deeply

You’re not alone

I see your light

Can you see mine? 💕

positive-people

 

When Parents Opt Out

Precious times two

“They say that abandonment is a wound that never heals. I say only that an abandoned child never forgets.” ~ Mario Balotelli

💔

Working the last few flights of a three-day trip, I’m organizing the back galley when two little girls, I’m guessing to be around seven and four, come back to say hello.

“Are you our flight attendant?” the older one asks.

“I am.” I smile, a stack of napkins slipping from my fingers.

They rush over. “It’s okay, sweethearts. Don’t touch the dirty floor.”

Too late. They’ve already scooped them up, proudly dropping them in the trash.

“You look really pretty,” the younger girl says.

“So do you,” I say. “I love your shirt. Pink is my favorite color.”

She giggles. “Mine too, but this is actually my pajama top.”

“Well, it’s perfect — and it matches your shoes.”

She beams.

“Where are you going?” (I’m thinking Disneyland based upon our destination.)

“California,” the older girl says.

“Southern?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Are you getting off at the first or second stop?”

“The next one.”

“Then you’re going to southern.”

“Okay. ” She shrugs. “That’s beautiful.” She gently taps my bracelet.

“Just like both of you.”

They blush in unison, and I follow them to their seats, eager to compliment the folks responsible for raising such charming children.

“Are these your daughters?” I ask the woman they quietly slide past.

She purses her lips. “Oh, no.  I’m just escorting them to a new home. They’re foster kids, and I’m their case worker.”

My lungs lock. “Well, they’re adorable,” I choke out the words.

Her eyes dart in their direction. “Yes, I suppose so.”

I flee to my galley, tears of disbelief pooling. They should be going to Disneyland — NOT a “new” home!!!! What happened to their parents? Why are these precious dolls floating around the system? And what if things don’t work out this time? Should I call my husband and tell him I’m bringing home two angels to shower with love — and anything else they’ve spent their tender years going without?? I write down my name and number to give the social worker.

But my head interjects, giving my heart a run for its money: This is none of my concern. Who am I to interfere? I probably wouldn’t even qualify as a legal guardian — I’ve never parented anybody!

And so…

I do nothing but serve them drinks and peanuts, all the while marveling at their sweet demeanor and impeccable manners.

An hour later they wave goodbye, sparkly-eyed and grinning. They seem so happy so — well-adjusted.

They’ll be fine.

I tell myself

over and over

just fine…

gulp

blink

blink

💔

🌺For many, Mother’s and Father’s Days trigger more feelings of loss than joy. I dedicate this to ALL those who’ve had to grovel (like my husband) for the parental love I’ve taken for granted.🌺

***Luggage Lady is off to the Balkans. I’ll return with more stories soon…😘

(Photo: From our 40-mile hike to Machu Picchu, Peru 2013 💕 Incidentally, this darling boy had two doting parents hovering nearby…I just loved the picture.)

Everyday Joy

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“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” ~Mencius

💗

Boundless wonder

Spongelike senses

Candid smiles

Blessed innocence

Carefree laughter

Giddy enthusiasm

Enraptured

Awestruck

Cherishing

Marveling

Celebrating

Everyday Joy

♥ ♥ ♥

(Photo from Havana, Cuba, San Francisco de Asis Plaza, United Buddy Bears Exhibition , promoting peace and tolerance between nations. The precious little girl was ecstatic over a photo her gorgeous mommy had snapped of her with the adjacent red bear.)

💗

Here we are — as you can probably guess from her attire — by the United States bear.

UnitedBuddyBears

Somehow… I’m Enough

Wedding fif

Celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary recently, someone asked, “Did you guys ever think you’d make it this far?”

As a flight attendant/pilot couple, we’re well aware our odds of marital success are lower than the dismal average. So we take pride rather than offense when such questions arise. But my lungs deflated when my husband replied, “Personally, I can’t believe she didn’t bail the second I started flapping my jaws about my past.”

I forced a smile. But for someone from a cohesive family, including parents who will celebrate their 52nd anniversary next month, enduring a childhood rooted in abandonment and abuse is anguish I will forever struggle to comprehend.

* * *

Mothers are supposed to hurl themselves in front of speeding trains if it means saving their children — right??? But what if you’re a mistake, whisked from your birth mother to an adoptive mother who subsequently opts for “children of her own,” leaving you in the hands of a broken man when you’re just seven? And what if this sole parent turns to the bottle to satiate his anger and to you with raging fists when liquor fails?

My husband needn’t ponder — this was his childhood. And the hardship didn’t end there.

As is frequently the case, the booze triumphed and rendered him an orphan at twenty-three. He pursued his flying dream relentlessly, but the major airlines required a medical history he lacked. In searching for this, he discovered a clerical error: His birth name had been left visible in the adoption records — a unique one, courtesy of his Czechoslovakian mother.

He was twenty-six when he found her. Living with a man in his early thirties, she was terrified that the sudden appearance of her secret son might result in yet another failed romance. After meeting him, she interacted sporadically before vanishing again. As a parting gift, however, she shared his father’s identity —  and the uncanny addendum: He was also an airline pilot!

Optimism skyrocketing, he couldn’t wait to meet his genetic blueprint. Unfortunately, their relationship was doomed from the git-go. Dad was married to a younger woman who couldn’t stomach my husband’s existence — forget subjecting her pre-teen children to such a scandal.

* * *

I’m ashamed to admit, the first time he told me his (less cheeky) version of the story, I quickly located my nearest exit. Don’t get me wrong, I was smitten from the start. He was (and is) my bona fide flyboy in shining armor — and yet?? Even now, in those unguarded moments when I spy a darkness in his eyes I can’t seem to brighten, inadequacy looms:

What if I make a mess of the love he’s gone a lifetime without

Letting him down like countless others?

What if I inadvertently poke holes in an already battered soul

Because my heart is too small?

What if I’m not worthy of the gem that he is?

💞

Then he pulls me into his resilient embrace

Eclipsing words

Halting time

Heartbeats melding

Thumping a tune of

Perpetual devotion

And I know

Somehow… 

I’m enough

* * *

♥ I dedicate this to every person struggling with family or abandonment issuesparticularly during the Holiday Season. I know how hard it is to open your hearts and let another in, but please know that what you’ve endured doesn’t define you. You prove this time and again with your steadfast attitudes and successes. YOU are precious gifts, inspiring others to overcome obstacles while finding the courage to forgive and trust again. And I, for one, am oh-so-grateful for your presence on this earth! xoxo ♥

A Butterfly’s Rousing Journey

ButterflyBlog

Butterflies know precisely when to leave the safety of their cocoons, gloriously unfurling an exquisite new form and fearlessly trusting those untested appendages. When I sprouted my post-college “wings” and headed starry-eyed to the City of Angels, I did so with slightly less gallantry. My mode of transport was an Olds Cutlass Sierra, and my trailblazer spunk came with a convenient disclaimer: If things didn’t pan out, I could skitter back to my midwestern “cocoon” — no questions asked. How different that departure might have felt had I known there was no return option? And what if my destination required me to abandon my comfort zone completely, trekking to a destination foreign in every way, with little more than the clothes on my back and a hope-laden heart?

How much would you sacrifice to seek freedom and opportunity?

For Shermin Nahid Kruse‘s parents, who emigrated from Iran to Canada in the late 80s, the answer was — everything. Today, their accomplished daughter attributes her success to a baba and maman who gave up livelihood, family, and country so she and her sisters could pursue dreams unencumbered by their homeland’s oppressive regime.

From the tender age of eleven, Shermin embraced her new environment with grit, grace, and adaptability. Now, in addition to a resume that leaves me wishing I could package and sell such ambition, she’s written a compelling book that interlaces mother and daughter perspectives of Iran before, during, and after the Islamic Revolution.

Her novel, Butterfly Stitching, makes one feel like a privileged friend, granted special access down a hidden corridor to a colorfully complex and otherwise inconceivable world. She skillfully drops her readers into tenacious Persian women’s shoes, swaying at once to the tight-knit cultural beat with our senses delightfully piqued. We shop at bustling markets, prepare and savor ethnic meals, host secret parties, dance to illegal music, recite forbidden poetry, paint heartrending emotion, suffer a passionless arranged marriage, find and lose true love — all while somehow maintaining positivity against a backdrop rife with fear, repression, betrayal, and bloodshed.

If you’re like me and routinely invent excuses for postponing goals, her rousing journey will replenish your soul’s gusto, transforming yesterday’s paper-thin excuses into possibilities. Thanks to this inspiring author and dear friend, I shall never utter the words “I can’t” again!

♥♥♥

What leap of faith have you taken to achieve your dreams? Tell me about it and possibly win a signed copy of Butterfly Stitching!

♥ LL

(Photo from our latest travels: The Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland)

Redefining Happy

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The greatest privilege of being a flight attendant is crossing paths with passengers who completely transform your day life…

🌻🌻🌻

Born three months early and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Jon’s future appeared hopeless. The doctors told his parents that his brain’s frontal lobe deformation was such that he’d likely never be more than a vegetable.

They were wrong.

Jon rolled down the jetway in a motorized wheelchair which allowed him to stand upright, looking like Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man movie. His megawatt smile and larger-than-life personality swiftly amplified my superhero impression. When I asked where he was headed, he proudly informed me that he’d been selected as one of only seventy college students nationwide to participate in a five-day leadership conference. He’d be giving several motivational speeches.

“I love talking. Put a tree in front of me, and I’ll talk to it.” He laughed. “My plan, once I get my master’s, is to be a motivational speaker. I’ve already produced a few short films, and I’m writing a book.”

“What’s it about?” I asked, thinking I had a fairly good idea.

“It’s about how the definition of happy is completely inaccurate,” he said, upending my presumption. “Happiness isn’t a single emotion. It’s the ability to appreciate all emotional states, learning and growing from both positive and negative experiences. People buy all these self-help books on how to be happy when they really just need to constructively connect with the world around them. Happiness isn’t an adjective — it’s a verb.”

“Impressive wisdom coming from a college kid.” I winked.

“Well, I wasn’t always so smart.” He fidgeted with his cell phone. “In high school I got a little depressed, focusing on all the stuff I couldn’t do. Fortunately, my mom is a very smart lady. She let me wallow in self-pity exactly three days before dragging me out to visit a kid born with my same condition. There I was, staring into the eyes of a boy roughly my age, except he can’t move, can’t speak, can’t feed himself — nothing. He wasn’t as lucky as me!”

I nodded, fingernails sinking into my palms to keep the tears at bay.

“Anyway, like I was saying,” he continued, “happiness boils down to how you choose to interact with the world. A perfect example occurred just this morning coming through security. When the TSA spoke to my travel assistant, their tone was totally normal. But when they turned to me, their voices slowed and shot up several decibels, as if they were speaking to a kindergartener. Was I going to let that ruin my day? No way, Jose! I started joking around with them until they were clutching their bellies. By the time they finished scanning all my metal parts, I’m pretty sure they saw me as someone not all that different from themselves.”

He shrugged. “And that’s my secret to happiness. When others treat me with indifference or disrespect, I surprise them with a story, a joke — whatever I think is going to dispel the negative cloud the quickest. Most people are so accustomed to confrontation, they don’t even know how to process this. Then, something shifts, and their entire disposition changes. That’s super cool to watch.” His smile illuminated the cabin.

“You’d make a great flight attendant.”

His eyes lit up. “I’d even sing!”

How Lucky Am I to Call You Dad?!

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To Male Role Models Everywhere: What YOU Do Makes a Lifelong Difference

***

Exemplifying strength, security, and wisdom

Your jovial ambition buoyed all who gazed into those steel-blue eyes

A man with boundless know-how

You were educator, innovator, mentor, entrepreneur, comedian, athlete, handyman, storyteller — and moral beacon

I believed in you

And you instilled tenacious courage in me

Exhibiting integrity in every facet of your life

You demonstrated the importance of preparation, sacrifice, faith, and hard work

Cushioned by your tireless guidance

I stumbled

I blossomed

I made choices that surely left you wincing

Still, my gallant cornerstone remained in the wings

At-the-ready

Yet intervening only if solicited

A consistent male presence enhances the well-being of every child

But paternal dependability fortifies a little girl’s heart beyond measure

Shielding her from pathetic sorts who prey upon the vulnerable

A flourishing confidence that protects her long after she grows up and moves away…

♥♡♥

Thank YOU for

Bestowing a love I never doubted

Safeguarding my reputation by imparting self-worth

Anchoring our family in your committed embrace

Being the first to volunteer and the last to quit — bettering every community you touch

My heart swelling with pride at the mere mention of your name

For loving my mommy over fifty years and counting

Towering valiantly as the grandest role model I’ve ever known

How lucky Am I to Call You Dad?!

We Can Never Go Back

1970Tractor

Every summer growing up, my family journeyed from Chicago suburbia to my grandparent’s farm in southern Illinois. They called us “city kids,” and we couldn’t wait to indulge in the expansive freedoms of country life. Grandpa’s antics left us in constant stitches while Grandma’s love-laced culinary prowess nourished both body and soul.

We’d spring from the wood-paneled station wagon t0 a sporadic chorus of moos, oinks, and cackles, while honeysuckle, tomatoes heavy on the vine, and sweet corn tickled our noses. I’d affix myself to Grandma’s elbow, an eager sponge mirroring my mentor’s every move. From sunup to sundown she labored, transforming each morsel of food consumed with tireless hands.

Woven into the daily demands were simple pleasures, like piling onto the front porch swing at the end of the long day. Grandparents first, followed by a layer of grandchildren, and topped off with the latest litter of purring kittens. The swing’s chains creaked in time with chirping male crickets claiming their conquests. An occasional freight train rumbled down nearby tracks as we kids marveled at stars not visible back home. Sometimes, a puff of cool air bored through the wall of humidity, teasing us with anticipation of a brewing storm.

When bolts of electricity splintered the horizon in flashy zigzags, we’d count out the seconds until thunderous vibrations rattled the windows of the tiny farmhouse. Scooching closer together, Grandpa would captivate us with another tale — some more far-fetched than others — but any eyebrows raised in Grandma’s direction only elicited a collaborative grin. They did eventually own a television, but I never recall watching it. Even as children, we were astute enough to know what we’d be missing out on in the real world.

All these years later, the wisdom seeded in the heartland of my youth seems more relevant than ever:  Log off, power down, and cherish life’s golden moments because summertime slips away in a blink, and once the harvest arrives — We Can Never Go Back.

An Unbreakable Circle

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In Honor of My Mom’s Birthday…

No matter where I venture in this world

You travel with me

A secret strength embedded in my soul

An infinite friendship

Illuminating my path

Your tireless support

Elevates my spirit

Like a mesmerizing sunset stuns spectators to silence

While poets and artists struggle to capture the true essence

Standing back in wonderment

Hearts flooding with optimism

Our connection enhances my existence

In ways words and pictures cannot adequately depict

Boundlessly maternal

You gracefully care for all fortunate enough to cross your path

A gift to the universe

Mine by extraordinary fate

Intertwined for eternity

The enduring bond of love between mother and daughter

An unbreakable circle…

Proof of Existence

 

Proof-of-Existence-Luggage-Lady-Blog

MotherhoodThe ultimate contribution to the universe.

Mothers are creators and nurturers, rightfully referred to as “wonder women,” fulfilling an esteemed role.

But what of the woman who is either unable to deliver life — or who chooses a child-free existence?

What becomes of this tragic lady who will never know the unconditional love of a child reliant upon her for — everything? And what about those adorable intangibles: comparing dimples and eye shape, stubbornness and wit. Did the little one inherit that trait from her grandma or her auntie?

In failing to experience the true essence of what it means to be female, is she destined to be an outcast who lacked the foresight to fret over who would care for her in old age? Having missed her opportunity to be part of the “social norm,” how will this fruitless soul leave her mark?

Fortunately, she has nothing holding her back from lofty dreams. And, if this unencumbered road makes the stalls and failures more biting, it matters not. She’s privy to oodles of free time with the luxury of beginning anew again and again…

But can ensuing accomplishments ever equate?

Because in the end

Whether a consequence of fate or choice

A haunting question lingers:

Can one be considered a successful human being without leaving genetic proof that she existed at all?

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