Where are the instructions…to parenting?

It was our recent trip to the country’s largest IKEA that prompted this blog!

It was our first time walking through this monstrosity of a home goods store. We didn’t think we were going to buy anything, we just wanted to walk around, but we grabbed a bag. By the time we got to the checkout stand, we had a bag, shopping cart, and a flatbed cart! A few cool things later and a dresser. We get the dresser home and open all three boxes with mixed parts and minimal assembly instructions when it struck me!

This is like parenting!!!!

Just figure it out along the way. Try and fit some pieces, and it will eventually come together and hopefully not fall apart when you are done.

A friend of ours once said when he purchased his first flat-screen TV it came with a two hundred page handbook, but when his wife gave birth to their firstborn, the doctor handed him his son and said: “Congratulations, it’s a boy.” He was like – wait, how do I do this?  What does he need?

No handbook, no instructions-

In a recent conversation with a new mom, she expressed the dynamics that come with being a new mom. She loves her baby very much, but the demands were something she had no idea would consume her every waking moment. So much so they made some real-life changes to make sure they have the support they needed.

No instructions, just trying to do their best with love.

What folks don’t tell you when you start on this incredible rollercoaster ride called parenting, it is one of the hardest jobs out there! With no set instructions!

Oh sure there are plenty of parenting books, I think I’ve read them all, well all related to raising sons and how to be a good parent.  But what they do not to tell you is what to do when all those books fail, when all those suggestions don’t produce the results you were hoping for?

You see, there are no real instructions…

I once asked a dear friend whose children are now adults which phase of parenting was the most challenging, and he said when they are adults! Wait! What?! I thought when they became adults, we were done with our worries and sleepless nights and crying out to God…well, it turns out it’s when you do that the most. He went on to say, they are adults, you have no influence or control over their lives. You advise if they ask and you can only hope they see the train that’s coming towards them on the tracks.

There are still no instructions!

Remember, when you see a family facing a challenge with their child, know this, that experience they are having with that particular child, there are no set instructions. Each child is an individual, and they assert themselves how they think they should.

Like our children, we guide them, set boundaries, love them, feed them, protect them, encourage them, cheer them on when they are trying their best. Stand by them when their world comes undone and dust them off when they fall.

There are no instructions in this, just love, hope, and prayer.

As they continue to grow in stature, and in maturity, they will still need those same things, so hold on to those extra pieces.

We create instructions for each child as they grow. We match the parts that fit them and glue together the pieces that work and pray that it sticks. Hopefully, when we are ready to release our children to adulthood, we have a beautiful piece of human life full of compassion, empathy, kindness, respect, selflessness that comes together as a strong part of your family portrait. All put together with no set instructions- only those that you created along the way that belongs to your individual child.

 

Lesson-
Prayer is the glue that keeps most of the pieces together. It takes a village to raise a child. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you can’t figure out what to do. Someone has already read through the instructions before you.

 

‘Til Tuesday

*Original Post August 2017

– Annette Ortiz Mata

They belong to me…

This week I celebrate my 53rd birthday.

I always take this time to reflect on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am going.

I reflect on the goodness and mercy of God in my life

I reflect on the life lived out loud in joy and in sorrow.

I reflect on the enormous blessings that is my life right now.

I reflect on the people who surround me, the ones that have touched my life and the ones that I need to reach out to.

I reflect on the dreams yet to be fulfilled, and the prayers left to be answered.

And I am still.

This past year I have seen the skillful hand of God thread mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, and wholeness into my life.  I have seen him mend relationships, restore hope, and heal hurt.

I have witnessed the beauty of my family becoming whole.

These men in my life (pictured), my husband and two sons belong to me, but more importantly, they belong to God.  He’s entrusted me to love them, cheer them on, and believe them.  He asks that I respect them, honor them, and laugh and cry with them.

So what I know for sure as I turn 53…that I have a lot more life to live and so much more to learn.

When your birthday comes around, stop, and reflect on all that you’re becoming.

Happy Birthday!

Lesson:  

A birthdate is simply a reminder that we were formed for a purpose!  

“Til Tuesday

-Annette Ortiz Mata

Hold him…

There I was sitting across from my son getting ready to be as vulnerable as possible, not truly knowing how he would receive my heart.  And so, I leaped!

I was nervous, but I needed him to know of my inner sorrow so that I could heal our brokenness.  And then it happened…healing and wholeness.

We made a commitment to each other.  A mandatory daily hug.  Something as simple as a hug, intentional, and willing.  You see the last time we approached each other, it wasn’t in love, but in violence.  Healing comes with touch, and touch can be as simple as a hug.

Every day since that talk, we have hugged, intentionally, and with purpose.

I was reminded of the Rabbi who told me to “hold him, and he will be healed.”  My “aha” moment came when I realized I had stopped holding him.  “He’s too grown they said. He’s a man now.  You must let him go.  He needs to man up”.  Yet all he still needed was to be held.  So!  Our challenge is not to let a day go by without a hug.  Without the physical contact of holding each other, letting each other know that we see, feel, and love each other.

I didn’t come to this realization lightly.  It took a lot of self-reflection on my part.  My fear of rejection created a wall around myself that even protected me from my own children! Thankfully I was still enough to hear the voice of God say to me…

I see you and you belong to me!

Healing comes in unimaginable ways, and for that, I am forever thankful!  God’s plans are always so much greater and way better than our own.  So I live my life with an open heart and mind, allowing for love to live there each moment of the day.

Who in your life needs a hug?  Will you allow yourself to be hugged?

Lesson:

Let your heart heal and allow yourself to be hugged.

-Annette Ortiz Mata

 

My heart grew twice…

 

  Paul was barely a few days old.  Due to being a premie, he was not allowed to be out of the NICU for very long, and I wanted Rob to meet and hold his baby brother.

As I gently placed Paul in Rob’s arms, I asked him, “how do you feel?” and immediately he said, “my heart grew.”  (image is the actual moment they met)

Well, as you can imagine my heart burst!

What Rob didn’t realize was that my heart too had grown.  It had grown twice.  First, when I held him in my arms 23 years ago and again 8 years later the moment, Paul was born.  I knew that feeling. I knew exactly what he was going on in his little 8-year-old chest. 

It was real!  

You see, when love is felt in an imaginable way, your heart grows.

Becoming a mother is an experience, unlike anything anyone can prepare you for.  You walk around with your nerve endings exposed.  Your emotions raw and your sense of safety and security for your child heightened to the point of alarm.  You live in a perpetual state of reaction. And you are constantly having a conversation in your head “what if,” at least I do. Maybe this is just a Puerto Rican thing…if not, can I get an Amen!

Being a mom is a selfless 24-hour job of constant prayer and worry.  

Being a mom is hard.  We are disappointed, hurt, and honestly sometimes forgotten and overlooked.

Being a mom is rewarding.  Their triumph is your win. Their success is your smile, and their health is your comfort.

Being a mom is lonely.  We make out mistakes and hope not to be judged too hard. We learn the ability to love and dislike at the same time.

Being a mom is overwhelming – our dreams and desires are deferred solely to be transferred into their happiness, their dreams, their joy, their peace, their freedom.

Being a mom can oftentimes be the biggest joy and the greatest heartache.

Yet one thing I know for sure,  your heart doesn’t stop growing.

Your heart doesn’t stop loving.

Your heart doesn’t stop believing.

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the moms out there doing their VERY BEST!!!

We see you!

‘Til Tuesday

-Annette Ortiz Mata

He’s not broken…

This week I struggled…

You see the senseless tragedy of Wednesday, February 14, 2018, known as Valentine’s Day and the celebration of Ash Wednesday for Catholics and Christians around the world, is now a date where countless of families will remember the loss of their child, their loved one.

The irony of both, Valentine’s Day, a holiday of love, appreciation, and endearment and Ash Wednesday, a day of peace and repentance, has now been overshadowed by the hurt and brokenness of one young man. He was broken and unnoticed. He was broken and in pain.

He was broken and somehow no one cared.

We as a society only want to deal and relate and socialize with what’s whole, beautiful and loveable.  We don’t look around and see all the broken souls that are unloved, uncared for and are driven to kill.

We don’t want to engage that broken child, it’s too much trouble.

When was the last time we stop to ask someone “are you okay?”, “how are you today?”, “do you need anything?”

I have not stopped thinking about the great loss of humanity.  The families whose new normal is a painful, unbearable, grief-stricken reality.  These families will never be the same, they will never be able to imagine, dream, hope, hug, kiss, laugh with the child they lost.

I’m tired of the rhetoric. I’m tired of the conversations. I tired of the TV commentators, the TV specials, the Town Hall meetings.  We must stop talking and take action.  Yes, these killers are undeniably mentally ill, but their weapon of choice is never a knife, but a gun.  We must stop pretending as if guns are not the problem.  We must stop pretending that we are not killing our children, hundreds upon hundreds of children where it’s  supposed to be their safe environment.

I have come to accept that I have stopped being a responsible parent. You see, each time I send my son off to school I have no guarantee that he will return.  I have no guarantee for his safety.  I’ve come to accept I am putting him in harm’s way and that makes me an irresponsible parent.

Their new normal alongside the fire drill, the earthquake drill, is the active shooter drill.

Those students went to school with hopes and dream, they were unbroken.  They were full of aspirations and confident in knowing they are loved.  Yet, it took one broken soul to change the trajectory of their families.

It took a broken life, to break the unbroken.

I learned very early in my life to pray before I set foot out the front door.  It’s a tradition I still hold today with my grown sons.  I guess my mom knew something back then that has manifested itself today.  That each moment is not promised. That each day is a gift.  That we will encounter many broken people in our lives, but we must choose not to be broken.

Take a look around, someone is waiting for you to ask them “are you okay? How are you today? Do you need anything?”

Lesson:

Our world is broken, our children are broken, our system is broken.

We must do better!

We MUST begin to care!  

Til Tuesday

The Waiting Room (Part 2)

When his name was called, we walked into the lab room.  They asked my husband to hold Rob in his lap and hold down his little arms so that they could draw a significant amount of blood.  My husband’s legs began to shake, his tears just flowed as he watched Rob so quietly, without a whimper, allow the phlebotomist draw blood from his tiny arms.

We were then escorted to the exam room, where a team of doctors along with Head of Pediatrics were waiting for us. They poked and prodded, they took notes.  They told us that he looked incredibly healthy for a patient with such devastating bloodwork.  Before we left, we were given explicit instructions that every week for the next 8 weeks we were to take Rob to the pediatrician’s office for bloodwork.  They needed to keep track of his blood cell count.

And so we did.  

During that time we traveled to Florida to visit with family and celebrate Rob’s first birthday. Rob became incredibly ill. He developed a high fever that sent him into a seizure.  An ambulance ride, more doctors, more blood work, turned our visit with family into a medical emergency. This birthday and everyone thereafter was memorable.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, the last test showed a marked improvement, so much so that the doctors at Cedars did not believe that there was any need to continue with the bloodwork, but simply keep an eye on his yearly checkup blood tests.

Until he turned 4 years old and everything changed…again.

It was a usual four-year-old checkup.  This time Rob was talkative, aware, inquisitive and a lot of fun.  This bloodwork was not good.  They didn’t even let us go home.  The pediatrician asked that we go to the hospital immediately.  I looked up at her and said, “can we wait a week, please give me a week.”  She looked at me puzzled.  Not really understanding how I would consider delaying something so serious.  But she obliged.  That week was the week I prayed, pleaded, fasted, anointed and believed that my son was healed, and he was whole.

A week went by and that Saturday morning we had our follow up blood work.  Before we left the house, we prayed over Rob and anointed him with oil, and he immediately said, “why are you putting oil on my head?” I said, “because we are going to get our miracle.”  It’s was a 25-minute car ride yet it seemed like an hour.  We drove in complete silence.  When we arrived at the pediatrician’s office, this time there weren’t smiles, our nurse was quiet, the mood was solemn. They drew blood and asked us to please wait.  The doctor came in and said she needed to double check something. At this point, our hearts were pounding out of our chests.  Upon her return, she said, “I can’t explain this, but last week Rob had full blown Leukemia, and today his results are of a patient with a cold, you can go home – he’s healthy.” My husband immediately walked out of the exam room and out of the building…he needed to be alone.  I knew he needed the privacy to weep.  I picked Rob up, held him tight and told him, “we got our miracle.”  My beautiful curly haired boy is now 22 years old.  A strong, healthy young man that has seen his share of trials.

 Yet, I can never forget that afternoon, 22 years ago when I  screamed, why me, why him, why us?

I now know why. God trusted us with him. God trusted us with this trial. Rob was never ours, to begin with. He belongs to God, and we will forever be thankful that God chose us to walk through that valley to acknowledge his great love and mercy.

Can God trust you?

Lesson:

Why me, why him, why us?  Why not. Surround yourself with people that will hold you up when you can’t stand on your own and trust a living God that will carry you when you can’t walk

‘Til Tuesday

The Waiting Room… (Part 1)

It was like any other 10-month-old check up.  We walked in, greeted all the wonderful staff and were escorted to our exam room.  We stripped Rob, the nurses weighed him, check his growth, and conducted his usual blood tests.  Nothing unusual, nothing exciting, but as new parents, everything was fascinating.  I recall my husband always kissing Rob before he placed him in the car and as soon as he took him out of the car.  There was nothing we wouldn’t do for our beautiful son, our first born, the son that I was once told I would not be able to conceive (that’s another blog).

After a pretty uneventful drive home we went about our day.  Playing, feeding, singing and laughing and trying to get him to walk...until the phone rang.  The pediatrician’s office calling the same day?  That’s strange, they usually call a day later with blood test results, but this time it was different.

There was something wrong.

Our sweet little baby was sick, and the news that awaited us on the other line was devastating.  We had to take him to Cedar’s Sinai Pediatric Oncology, you see our son had all the signs of Leukemia.  His blood work in the past few check-ups was not improving, and now we needed to see the big guns. We could no longer wait, the appointment was scheduled for the very next day.  My body went limp. I fell to the ground, my pediatrician asked me if anyone was with me.  All I could do was cry.  You see my family was no stranger to this pain, my mom lost a child (a brother I never met) at 2 years old with Leukemia and she was never the same.  Rob was 10 months old, the exact age her son was diagnosed.  I just couldn’t believe this was happening to us.

 I cried bitterly, screaming, yelling, telling God you cannot take him from us, you can’t!  You gave him to us…how could this be happening…

why me, why him, why us...

I walked over to his crib, picked him up while he slept and held my beautiful baby boy tightly as my tears gently fell on his thick black curly hair. I looked down at him full of wonder, and yet my heart was full of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the diagnosis, fear of what his tender little body would have to endure.

And there we were, the next day, sitting in the waiting room of the Pediatric Oncology department. Waiting for our son’s name to be called to go meet the doctors that would now take over his care.  Waiting to walk down a long hallway to begin the bloodwork process.  As Robert and I sat silently in the waiting area, across from us was a Rabbi, he immediately sensed our sadness, our fear.  He walked over to us and said, “Hold him.”  Excuse me?  I said.  He repeated, “Hold him, he will be healed if you hold him.”  Then he kindly walked away.  I looked down at Rob and picked him out of the stroller and held him, I held him tighter than I ever had.

Why me, why him, why us?

To be continued.

Is there someone you need to hold?

Lesson:

Some tests are truly unbearable, this was one of them. We were barely holding on, but we did. Hold on, during your trial. Hold on, in your time of testing.

In everything give thanks.

‘Til Tuesday

They are completely different…but their hearts are the same.

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I sat and watched as tears flowed down his tender face as he watched his older brother remember his Uncle.  His older brother stood tall, spoke with grace and tenderness about the sweet memories he had with his Tio, yet the tears flowed uncontrollably.  I sat quietly as the tears streamed down my face for the soul-pain and heartache they were experiencing.

 It was palpable.

I knew, and I know the loss of their Tio will be a marked moment in their young lives.  They will be all the stronger and confident for having known and experienced an unconditional love that they in return gave to him.

My sons are eight years apart, not by choice, but by God’s design.  They are completely different.  One came out of the womb with a strong mind and will and the other came out quiet and tender.  One was 6 weeks early, the other two months early.  One has dark brown hair, the other lighter brown hair.  One is muscular and has a very sculpted physique, the other is long and lean still growing into his definition.  One loves reading and debating.  The other loves art, painting and making you laugh.

As different as they are, this weekend they proved they are very much the same.  Their hearts are full of compassion and love.  I witnessed tenderness, compassion, empathy, respect, and honor emanate from their young lives.  I saw young men freely hug the elderly, assist and laugh with everyone and anyone that would come to pay their respects for their loss.

We sat and admired from afar as they manage their own grief and watched them laugh out loud and dance with their Titi.  Love, love came through their souls though they were weighted with sorrow.  They know that joy will come in the morning.  We taught them that. We taught them to love each other and others.  We taught them to respect themselves and others.

Though we have a long road ahead of parenting, this moment and detour warmed a mother’s heart.  My prayer of having children that cared for others and loved deeply was answered in that very moment.

Lesson –

Don’t overlook the teachable moments with the children in your life.  One day you see the application of the lessons taught. Don’t give up on our kids.   

“Til Tuesday

Grace Extended…​

Grace – (n) – mercy, clemency pardon

It seemed unimaginable. First came the phone call. The voice on the other end, desperate, screaming, crying, scared.

Mom, please tell dad to hurry, I’m hurt, I am really hurt.”

What! Where? How? Where are you? – All questions I asked out loud and tons more racing through my head. He was supposed to be at the movies with friends and their mom. He was supposed to be safe. He was supposed to be okay. He was supposed to be getting frozen yogurt after the movies? Where was the mom? How did this happen? What is going on? Questions continued to race through my head. I called the mom, and what unfolded from that moment on …

was a nightmare

It was a regular Saturday afternoon. A text inviting my son to go to the movies. He mentioned it to me and flat out said, “I don’t want to go.” I encouraged him to go and be sociable, be kind, do something other than staying at home and playing Xbox. So he obliged. My husband and I and our youngest son went out to dinner and visited my mother-in-law who at the time was in the fight of her life. She was battling one of many forms of cancers that would invade her body. It was a quiet day with not much fanfare. We went about our day and arrived home around 10p. My husband was getting our youngest son ready for bed, and I was wrapping things up in the office.

The phone rang, and all I heard was my husband yell, “where are you?” And then he just left, ran out the door. Startled by all the commotion, I ran after him asking what was going on, “Robert’s hurt, I have to find him.” Immediately the phone rang again, and it was then I heard the desperate cries of my son pleading for help.

By the time I reached him up the hill, the ambulance, fire department, police were at the scene. I got out of my car and ran a few feet, I felt as if I was running in slow motion. Everything seemed like a blur. This possibly couldn’t be happening to us. Where was my son? Is he okay? How did this happen?  Where was his car? Why did she take off? How did he get here? A police officer approached me and said, “Ma’am I need you to stay over here, we need to ask you a few questions, where is the driver of the car he was in?” Driver? Car? What? The confusion was apparent. It quickly became clear that my son has been severely injured,

and crime had been committed

It all started when my son suggested they go “egging” after the movies. She obliged. They parked his car away from our home so that we would not know that he was in the neighborhood. They started throwing eggs at the neighbor’s car. The neighbor came out, yelled at them, got in his vehicle and a car chase ensued. This led to my son panicking and asking to be let out of the car. What transpired afterward was life-altering. In her panic, she let my son out of the car without a complete stop. His right leg was caught in the rear wheel of her car, and she dragged my son and drove over his ankle, breaking it in half.

 And drove off. 

Up to that point, we weren’t sure of the gory details of deceit that took place. Calling and asking if they could have frozen yogurt, parking the car away so if we got home we would think he was still out.

As I walked into the hospital ER room, the officers were talking with my son, my husband. The family responsible for the tragic accident were present. The mom throwing up in the shrubs, the daughter weeping in the waiting room. I couldn’t speak, I just looked at them in disbelief. Knowing that my son was hurt as a result of their actions and the seriousness of his injury

and what that would mean moving forward.

The officers took us aside and after collecting all the information from my son, and the eyewitnesses that saw exactly what happened, they concluded that all stories lined up and there was only one person responsible and that person, had, in fact, committed a crime. One officer took her outside and questioned her, and the other officer stayed with my husband and I. We sat in disbelief, how could a simple outing go so wrong and why did you leave our child alone on the roadside hurt, bleeding, screaming and

take off!!

The officer approached us both and said that a crime had indeed been committed and that it was our decision whether we were to have the mom arrested and press formal charges. Arrested? Formal charges? A hit and run which is how the officer characterized the crime which is a felony in Los Angeles, CA punishable by one to three years in jail. She’s mom, a grandmother, someone from our church. Someone that cheered my son at most of his football games. Arrested? How did this happen? Who is this person? I recall sitting in shock, looking over at my husband, trying to process all the information the trauma surgeon had just shared with us, looking over at her daughter, hearing her weep, terrified on the outcome. My youngest son, laying in a row of seats crying. It all seemed like one big nightmare, and it was. Right then and there we needed to make the most critical decision of our lives, do we press charges and drastically change and devastate another family’s life, or do we extended grace.

We extended grace.

It was a moment that changed the trajectory of our home, our lives.
It was a moment that proved that dads are superheroes and moms have strength beyond their wildest imaginations. The year that transpired after that moment was life-altering for the better. Our son’s resolved was shifted, our home was redefined…It was our moment to rise up and extend grace as much as it has been extended to us. It was a moment when who and what we believed in was tested beyond words.

Lesson:

“There will be moments, moments that no one and nothing can prepare you for, that will truly take your breath away, but God holds you in.

This was one of them.”

’til Tuesday…