Why don’t WE get to Adorn the Cross???????

I don’t really love Lilies… I mean if the choice is between giving me lilies and giving me nothing then give me lilies. But give me the kind that instead of the long green stem they have long green glass, and instead of big white fragrant flowers they have a small synthetically made cork, and instead of their stems full of chlorophyll let them be filled with a fermented substances made from grapes. Yeah, wine! Give me some of that! It won’t last as long in my house as freshly cut Lilies but I’ll appreciate it more.

                Lilies! We adorn Churches with them at Easter and coffins with them at funerals because as we all know they are the resurrection flower. They are the ones that get to adorn the cross when Christ rises. They are preferred. I am not one.

 Lilies are on discount now. I won’t buy any. I think. I don’t have any room with the four dying poinsettias that are still crowding up my house….and I hear possibly poisoning my children. But mostly I won’t buy them because I’d be buying them without loving them. I want to want them but I don’t want them.

Some people really like Lilies. St. Therese of Lisieux writes about Lilies, Lilies and Roses. After confessing her surprise in finding “Our Lord treating certain privileged souls from the greatest tenderness from the cradle to the grave” and not others in the same way she is shown by God that “every flower He has created has a beauty of its own, that the splendor of the rose and the lily’s whiteness do not deprive the violet of its scent nor make less ravishing the daisy’s charm. I saw that if every little flower wished to be a rose, Nature would lose her spring adornments, and the field would be no longer enameled with its varied flowers” (4). Hmmm. For sometime I have felt her words to be true but there was always something in them that made me ask “But, but what if I don’t want to be a violet? What if I don’t want to be the smallest seemingly most insignificant flower? What if I want what others have? What if I’d actually like a whole field full of lilies? A whole field full of lilies would be BEAUTIFUL, even if I don’t prefer lilies. God would love that if I would, surely. How can St. Therese be right? Why is she right? I know she is but I can’t feel why.” Even as I felt and knew her words to be true I fought them. I wanted, and still do sometimes, what others have.

We all know some Lilies right? They are successful. They have it all together. They know more than you! They have more than you! They are more beautiful than you! They are probably closer to God. They are perfect. You are not perfect are you? You are just barely hanging on aren’t you?

Well, it turns out that Lilies are easy to grow. That’s right! LILIES ARE EASY TO GROW!!! Lilies need to be left alone. Their bulbs must be 12 inches to 16 inches away from other bulbs. The don’t need a lot of care. Yes, they may be big and beautiful! They may have more glamour, more jewelry, more money than you. They might know more than you. They may even think they are better than you. But you know what???? THEY ARE EASY TO GROW AND THEY HAVE TO LIVE FAR AWAY FROM OTHERS!

Well, my husband helped me see what this actually means for me. Although he is completely unaware, his love tonight showed me that it is actually better to not be a Lily. Tonight something happened that made me realize that Lilies are so far up high, so close to the sun and the warmth that they are left alone. They can’t even see that us smaller flowers exist. That’s why they hurt us sometimes, with their shade or with their beauty.  When I came home in the middle of an anxiety attack, feeling attacked, feeling unloved, feeling like I couldn’t breathe,  I needed my husband. I really really needed him. I got him too. He listened to me. He consoled me. He patted my leg. He hugged me. He let me cry. He tried to stay up late to talk to me. He was all mine. I got all his attention!!!

I was some small flower, one that needed attention and affection and love. A lily doesn’t need that. A lily is already almost done. It just needs to be left alone.

Now I finally realize, God might help certain souls reach perfection quicker.
But it’s the fragile flowers, the difficult children that get the special attention. I love attention!! That is me!!! I’m a little flower always in danger and almost always withering and wilting but there is always someone with me, guarding, protecting and watching my every second and at the last minute able to give me just what I need to lift my petals back up and beacon the butterflies. Thank God I’m not a lonely Lily.

 

Letting the Lilies Talk (especially the Peruvians)

…it’s really not a loud talker but still has a lot to say.

‘O Tiger-lily,’ said Alice, addressing herself to one that was waving gracefully about in the wind, ‘I wish you could talk!’

‘We can talk,’ said the Tiger-lily: ‘when there’s anybody worth talking to.”

Alice was so astonished that she could not speak for a minute: it quite seemed to take her breath away. At length, as the Tiger-lily only went on waving about, she spoke again, in a timid voice— almost in a whisper. ‘And can all the flowers talk?’

‘As well as you can,’ said the Tiger-lily. ‘And a great deal louder.’

Do you remember this from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland? That’s a trick question because the answer is “NO.” No you don’t. If you remember it from Alice in Wonderland you are thinking of the Surreal Disney movie. Disney conflates two books into one movie. It’s scary and weird and wonderful and I let my children watch it. Anyway, the ride is better than the Disney movie and the original book is better than the ride. The book is really for grownups, as is the sequel. The Garden of the Live Flowers is from Carroll’s second Alice book, Alice Through the Looking Glass. Alice finds herself in a garden filled with all sorts of flowers. It is the Tiger-lily, who first talks to her.

Tiger lilies talk by leaving pollen on your face after your only starring role in a musical in high school. (Give my Regards to Broadway, if you want to know, I wasn’t the star. I was the costar. I was Betty and I sang. And that was as far as I got in my dream of being a singer.) Anyway they talk so much that in all your congratulatory pictures you have an orange streak across your bottom jaw making it look like someone did a really bad make up job on you. People prefer, I assume, the Tiger-Lily because it’s big. A big talker. It says “I’m important!” It is. It is important but not the most important.

Lilies as a species are talkers, similar to some women, like me. I’m pretty sure that women are intentionally gifted this ability, to talk. We are good at it. We approach people. We make people feel important. Sometimes, we misuse it and we make people feel little. By “we” I mean “I” and By “people” I’m mean “person” and my “person” I mean “my husband.” When I have a problem I want to talk about it. I want to talk LOUD about it. I want to be the tiger Lily and I want to talk because my husband is “worth Talking to.” But what happens sometimes is I talk and talk and talk about it until there is nothing left to say…and there is never NOTHING left to say. There is always a lot left to say. Even when it’s 3:00 am and my husband begs to sleep.

Yes, it’s true. I’m looking for a specific answer. I’m looking for my husband to say something similar to “You are absoulutely positively correct and I am completely utterly wrong….FOREVER.” I have heard my husband say this exactly….uh…exactly zero times. Even if he said it, it wouldn’t make me stop talking. Why? It is like those incorrect bumper stickers. You know those bumper stickers that say “War is not the answer?” They miss the point. War is the answer. War is how someone answered the question of terrorism, of slavery, of elitism, of communism.  It has been the answer for many centuries. War is the answer for many governments. War is NOT, however, the ultimate solution. There is a HUGE difference between an answer and a solution. (yes take those bumper stickers off and change them to War is not the Solution if you insist on keeping them.) By wanting my husband to acknowledge my greatness and his littleness I’m looking for an answer not a solution. He never has and never will tell me that I’m absolutely right because he shouldn’t because it’s not true and because that really solves nothing. Sure he says “si tienes razon” and “perdona” and “lo siento.” Yeah. I’m right sometimes but in those moments I am not absolutely and positively correct. Why not? Because I’m being selfish. There’s a part of me that, when he says such things, feels, even if I don’t think it, a selfish satisfaction and superiority. I want to be right and I want that acknowleged.  Yeah, I’m not looking for a SOLUTION. I’m looking for a specific answer that may, or may not solve our problems. If I don’t get the answer I want I keep talking. The quieter he gets the louder I get! I don’t rest, usually until I’ve spread my staining pollen all over his opinion and closed him up completely.

The tiger lily isn’t the only talking lily though. The Peruvian Lily speaks subtley. Peruvian lilies talk by lasting a long time even without water and slowly dropping their petals one by one. They last a long time. They aren’t the most glamourous or sophisticated flower. They might even be one of the least expensive. But, like every flower, like every person, they have their purposes.

A year or two after we were married my husband brought me home some Peruvian lilies. I like them but they have never been my favorite flower. He gave them to me with these words, “I bought you these because they were in our floral decorations at our wedding.” I smiled and thanked him but inside this is what I was thinking “poor him. He can’t distinguish between Freesias and Peruvian Lilies… I never had these flowers at my wedding. I hope he doesn’t make this mistake again or I’ll have to correct him.” Sure enough a year later he brought me another bouquet of Peruvian lilies out of the blue. But I didn’t correct him. I just kept thinking “why can’t he remember. When will I ever get freesias? What if he finds out he’s wrong. He’ll feel so bad. Maybe I should tell him.” I never told him. I felt bad for him. I also figured that I could pretend they were at our wedding.

Well, Lo and Behold, while I was looking for a picture of my wedding bouquet for my last post I stumbled upon something surprising. There, in the middle of our table up on the dais at our wedding meal, was a huge flower arrangement. In the arrangement there were, you guessed it, lots of Peruvian Lilies! I looked at other pictures and other arrangements; in the church and on the tables, Peruvian lilies. There were freshly trimmed, regular size Peruvian lilies waiting unostentatiously, humbly, to be noticed. I don’t ever remember telling the florist I wanted Peruvian lilies. They were there and I NEVER saw them. My husband saw them. He has remembered them for seven years. Just before our anniversary this year he gave me another bouquet of Peruvian lilies. “I didn’t know it was that small when I bought it. Sorry.” he said. But it didn’t matter if it was a small bouquet because for the first time I fully enjoyed those Peruvian Lilies and was able to really let myself see the thoughtfulness of my husband. It’s taken me seven years to see that I actually really do like Peruvian Lilies.

Alice Through the Looking Glass, was written seven years after Alice in Wonderland. Strangely, in that time Alice ages only 6 month. I have been married seven years. My body has aged 20. I’m lucky if I’ve matured mentally or morally at all. Have I matured even just 6 months in my ability to love? I’m not sure. Loving has become more complicated, harder…sure I think I love more….but with the diapers, the dinners, the shopping, the messy house, the business trips, the play dates, the doctors appointments, the packed lunches, the ironed uniforms, do I find the time to express my love more? If I don’t am I really loving more? Do I smile and thank my husband for all his attempts at loving me even if they aren’t what I think I need? No, not all the time. Should I? Yes, all the time. Because, as it turns out, it is possible that he knows better than I sometimes. (notice I’m not saying inevitable) It is also possible, maybe probable, that I talk too much and don’t listen enough. It’s the Peruvian lilies who really have something worthwhile to say and it would behoove me to listen.

Someone Stole my Wedding Bouquet!!!

purple bluish Freesias

Almost Seven Years Ago:

Some lady I don’t even know STOLE my wedding bouquet!!!!! That’s not exactly true. I will tell you the truth or how I remember it. My wedding bouquet had purple Freesias. It had other flowers but it’s the freesias I miss. Freesias smell exquisite, maybe almost like apple blossoms. They are elegant and can have more than eight blooms on one steam. I don’t think I have had any purple ones since my wedding day. I left my wedding bouquet in my hotel room the day of the wedding and pretended I didn’t want it.

I was angry because I was sad. I was sad because one of my family members didn’t get to be in my wedding pictures. We lost him just before we headed out of town for the photo shoot. He had gone off to buy something to settle the stomach of his pregnant wife. (More flowers. I see flowers everywhere.) We were late and could not wait for him any longer. When we returned to the hotel before the reception, I left my bouquet in the room and was asked if I wanted people to save it for me. I was angry and I wanted to suffer and let my anger fester. The “I love being the victim” in me said “no.” I immediately regretted it but didn’t say so.

When we came home from our two week honeymoon my mother-in-law told me that the lady who cleaned my hotel room took the bouquet home with her. I waited. I just knew what she was going to say. She was going to tell me “She saved it for you. You can go to her house and pick it up.” I waited. She said, “She loves it.” Possibly she also suggested that she had given it to her daughter. I felt sick to my stomach. I still feel sick to my stomach, seven years later, about rejecting one of the most beautiful bouquets I will ever know because I wanted to wallow in my anger. (I also want to find that lady and tell her “Give me back my flowers!!!” Nope. I’m not even happy that at least someone got to enjoy them. But I know it was my fault. Still “Give me back my dead flowers!!”)

A Couple Nights Ago:

I usually call my husband on the phone, while he’s working, a lot, 10 times a day. It’s annoying. I know and I still do it. Well after coming home from my daughter’s dance class, I realize that I want fried eggs for dinner with toast and bacon. We only have four eggs left. So I call my husband:

“Hi, can you go to the store on your way home.”

“Sure,” he says, “send me a list.”

We go home and instead of writing him my list of two things: eggs and beer, I write this “You are so wonderful!!!” No I don’t, I write this, “never mind, I don’t see why I have to write and send you the list or even where to send it.” Actually that’s not what I write. This is what I write “No entiendo por que te tengo que enviar una lista…ni a donde, olvidalo.” It’s a lot harsher in Spanish. (My husband is Spanish so he’s use to that harshness anyway…I like to pretend.) Then I make myself a rum and coke and begin making steamed broccoli and hot dogs for the kids. When I am about 10 minutes from being done with dinner the phone rings. It was my husband. “I’m in Albertson’s what would you like?” I should say “OH YOU ARE SO WONDERFUL!!! You don’t need to get anything!!!” or I could say “You could buy yourself a treat and me some flowers and beer?” He would happily do it. But this is what I say, “I sent you a text about this. I’m already making something else for dinner.” “Oh, sorry” he apologizes. He is home 7 minutes later. And I behave..until…

….The kids are in bed and I am starting to get hungry. One of my favorite shows is on t.v., Parenthood. It’s not perfect but it’s sweet and funny and about me so I watch it. I don’t really feel like getting up to make dinner.

“What should we have for dinner?” My husband asks and then he says some magical words that fill the air with little sweet silver chimes, “Should I go get P.F. Chang’s takeout?”

“Oh YEAH!!!” my head screams. “Really,” I ask, “You will really go get me some P.F. Chang’s?”

“Yes.” Says my Spanish Crown Prince.

“But you don’t really want to. It’s late and you had a long day. Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” he assures me again.

“I can just make some more hotdogs,” I say. What am I saying???? Why would I want gross hot dogs????

“No, I’ll go to P.F. Chang’s,” he says definitively.

“No, I’ll just make hotdogs, that’s much easier for you.”

“Okay,” he says good naturedly as always “hot dogs will be good too.”

(Feel free to compare T.S. Eliot “A Game of Chess” to my part in above conversation here)

What the Heck? Now I am angry!! I pour myself a second Rum and coke! Why am I angry? And get this. What do I start thinking? You betcha: “Why doesn’t my husband ever do anything for me? Why couldn’t he just go to Chang’s?” See how crazy I am? (This is a learned crazy which might have to be another post….or a whole entire other blog). So I stop and I think while I’m making “gross” hotdogs. What has my husband, let’s call him Manolo, what has Manolo given me this evening? And I see it. Much, much, MUCH more than I have given him.

I have given him grief and he has given me kindness. First, he answered the phone for the 8th time when I called him instead of just ignoring it. Second, he went out of his way and went all the way to Albertson’s for….as I made it turn out…for nothing. Third, he offered to leave the house just when he was starting to unwind to pick me up a delicious meal. Fourth, even though he can tell that I’m in the kitchen trying to bang hot dogs around (it’s hard but it can be done) to show my frustration, he is still nice to me and comes into the kitchen and gets some chips and napkins for us. Yes, I’ve rejected flowers from him this evening. Many times!! But I’m not about to reject this whole bouquet of compassion, patience, generosity that he is still offering. He’s a good man.

I sit down next to my husband happily and eat a YUMMY hot dog smothered in hot mustard. Then I hold his hand. It’s never too late to accept another wedding bouquet! I am so overwhelmed by the intoxicating smell of my purple Freesia bouquet that that second Rum and Coke goes untouched for the rest of the night.

P.S.  It turns out that Freesias are the flowers given for the seventh anniversary. It is fitting then that we will be celebrating that within the next few weeks. (hint hint)

Flowers From My Husband

“Tell me about your husband?” asked the well known radio host of the woman who called in to request a song.  I was driving back from my night class and was trying as quickly as possible to get home to my newborn and my husband. By “quickly as possible” I mean I was going 79 in a 75 zone, yes that’s as quick as possible for me. “Well,” said the caller, “we’ve been together for 25 years. He’s not the romantic type so I don’t get roses from him, or whatever. But he gives me so much love. He helps me with all the chores and with the kids. He is just a blessing.” “Oh,” said famous radio lady, “so his roses are all the wonderful things he does for you.” “Yes,” agreed the caller and an unmemorable song played.

Then came the epiphanies. First was this “Yeah, YEAH!!! I don’t need flowers from my husband because all the unselfish things he has done since we were married are flowers and even better flowers than the kind that die after a few days! I’m going to tell him that I never need flowers again!” Then came this “uh…but…I still want flowers….I may even need them….but just on my birthday, and Valentine’s day, and our anniversary…and after we argue…and occasionally on days when I feel sad and every once in awhile just to surprise me…and…when the kids undo the piles of laundry I’ve spent hours folding…and when the kitchen table looks bare….and when we have empty vases….” It didn’t really go on that long. Our flower vases, I’d say, are filled approximately 3 times a year.

What I realized, however, after making and breaking a promise in my head to my husband, was the simple concupiscene with which I was born, what my friend recently called “that darn old original sin,” the desire to be and not to be good. It is the same problem with which St. Augustine struggled when he supposedly said, as we have all heard a thousand times “Oh Lord Make me chaste but not yet.” So, after a good hard think in the car I came to this conclusion. “I want to be a wife who is completely  aware of and grateful for all the wonderful things my husband does for me but I am not.” I am not.

So, I started brainstorming how I was going to become this wife I so much wanted to be and so much didn’t want to be. First I thought I’d make lists of all the big things my husband had done for me the flowers he gave me: started a job in a very unpleasant environment, moved to America without knowing English, was open to having children right away, married me. As I started going back in my mind things got more and more involved and I started recognizing things he’d done for me that may have been humiliating and hard: asking my father for his blessing, telling his mom that we were going to be chaste until the wedding. It turns out in many traditional families you aren’t “supposed to” mention such things, even if those things are chaste things. “Wow!” I realized “he’s suffered for me.” If I have suffered for him, I barely have. (At least that’s how I feel now sitting alone in a office with a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant but that’s not how I feel when I’m trying to nurse baby and my other kids are fighting on top of me…or when we are staying with my in-laws. They are wonderful but I’m a grump.) I continued thinking I could possibly make a list of all the daily gifts he gives me. Each gift, I could liken to a real flower that resembles his actions. Then I thought “I’ll write a book called Flowers From My Husband. I’ll have to learn a lot about flowers….”and” I admitted to myself  “it will be a really boring book.” Then I arrived home and forgot about my boring book and my broken imaginary promise.

My idea, however, was rekindled a week later. I was again, listening to the radio, but this time Catholic radio, I heard someone mention that Saint John Bosco was given a glimpse of heaven. According to the man on the radio Saint John Bosco was shown that we each have a garden in heaven with the most beautiful jewels and flowers that are so beautiful we can’t even imagine them here. “The beauty of your garden depends upon the life you lead” said the man. I love flowers so I was naturally drawn back into likening my husband’s nice deeds to flowers. “Ah ha.” It dawned on me “I’ll write a journal and post it on the internet. I will call it a blog.”

So, here I am six years and three children later FINALLY writing my blog AND it might NOT be boring. I’m not going to list my husband’s good traits and deeds in every post. I will, however, mention them and I will probably liken them to flowers. I will try, honestly try, not to be boring. It has taken me six years to figure something out. My husband’s kindness toward me is proof of his selflessness in reflecting something much greater. I very seldom speak of God because some (not all) of God speak, I feel, can easily become too emotional, too fake, too self serving, too stupid and I could easily fall into that. I do intend, however, to give credit where credit is due although I may not be explicitly zealous about it. There is only one possible way such a hot tempered, mediocre girl could have ended up with such good handsome Spanish Man, and that way isn’t the personal classifieds. (yeah, who uses those anymore?) That way is nothing short of a very loving God.

Once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year (if I get too busy) I want to recognize the beauty and good in my husband and in my life so that I can be that wife and mother I want to be but don’t want to be. (I’m not going to pretend that I don’t enjoy being mad or angry or playing the victim…I totally do enjoy that…..a lot!!!) That brings up another thing I hope this blog does for me. I hope it shows me how to accept love. I hope I will learn, for example, upon coming home and seeing my husband folding clothes I should have folded weeks ago to think, “How nice of him. He folded the clothes. He is very good to me.” Instead of what I do think which is “He’s doing something nice for me? No. He must be trying to tell me that he thinks I’m a bad house keeper.” See, I like being the victim….some sick Screwtape Letter satisfaction comes from that.

But back to the point:

In essence I hope to reveal to myself the things I forget to see thousands of times a day, the things I should remember every moment of every day, the flowers MY husband gives me…