Sunday, June 6, 2010
The very best family isn't always those related by blood.
The best things and most things worth having are those that don't come easy.
All the bad things we go though are those that make us stronger and better people.
You never know just how strong you are until you have to be.
You should never, ever stop learning. Books, life, people, and yourself. When you stop learning, you start to die a little quicker every day.
Holding things in isn't good for you. I've learned this the hard way.
Religion or belief in a higher power, at it's simplest concept, is a damned powerful thing.
Those that genuinely love you will tell you the absolute truth, no sugar coating or bullshit, no matter how much it hurts.
Those closest to you are far more capable of cutting deeper than any stranger can.
Science doesn't solve everything. Religion doesn't solve everything. The more likely case is that it's a little of both and something that cannot be explained by either independently.
Sometimes, both sides are right.
My education or job does not define me. I am more than a piece of paper.
If I can be half as fantastic as my grandmother, I will be a great person.
I believe all the things in my past, good and bad, have made me who I am today. It's taken me a long damned time, but I think I might like her just a little.
Friday, June 4, 2010
So tell us about your favorite road trips and memories, be they with fighting siblings, lovers or friends.
Additionally, I have decided to make 'This I Believe' a long term topic. Feel free to add your beliefs to the existing ones when you're ready. Until then, get on the road and drive!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
One of the most important, but often overlooked, elements in a relationship is to want your partner's happiness more than your own. This should not be a chore, you should genuinely want to make your partner happy. But you should never feel like you HAVE to.
Do your job to the best of your ability and be proud of the work you do.
Liking cats more than dogs does not automatically make you a "crazy cat person".
No one is more entitled than anyone else in this world. If you want something you must earn it, buy it, or create it yourself. Do not wait for things to be handed to you.
You can believe in god in a vague sort of way, with no organized religion attached.
"Diet" is a four letter word, do not deprive yourself. Eat a (mostly) healthy diet and get some exercise.
Plan for the future but live in the present. Enjoy your life now. There is no prize for dying with the biggest savings account.
"Everything in moderation" is a wonderful motto. It can be applied to almost every aspect of life.
Always try to be the bigger person. It won't always be possible but the important part is trying.
Love will come when you least expect it.
You should not let other people's judgments dictate your life. You will waste a lot of energy trying to satisfy everyone else, and it is impossible to do so.
We will ruin the Earth if we keep going in the same direction. Too many people want to take and take and never give anything back. It is time to recognize that we have to have a symbiotic relationship with the Earth. If we take care of her, she will take care of us.
I Believe that at 30, my life just started. I have already done a lot, have been through a lot, and have learned from it all. Now it is time to take these lessons and use them to move forward.
I believe that it will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better.
I believe that those who truly love you will know the truth no matter what you tell them. When someone asks how you are and you say that you’re good, and they continue to ask you until you tell them the truth, that is a person worth keeping in your life.
I believe that those who have no interest in learning the truth are not worth keeping in your life. But I still miss some of them.
I believe that people are not inherently good or bad, we are just people. And we are all worthy of love.
I believe that our choices can be good or bad, but we often have the option to make even the bad ones good. If not, we can accept the past and choose to make better decisions in the future.
I believe wholeheartedly in hard work and compassion.
I believe that my daughter will be a better person than me. It should always be our hope that the next generation is better than ours. To me, she is perfect regardless.
I believe that we can all heal, but our scars will always be there.
I believe that being ashamed of our scars will not get us anywhere.
I believe that eventually I will be able to enjoy a day without flooding my head with sad thoughts. I have to believe this or I could not move forward.
I believe that there are people worth trusting and loving in this world, but it is not always easy to find them. I will keep searching for more of you.
I believe that when I find peace within myself, the rest will follow. I am getting there.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, which I no longer attend.
I believe in Twitter, Facebook, text messages, pie, and all the other tangible things people say they don't believe in.
I believe in all the things I can see, and more than a few things I can't.
I believe in evil.
I believe in good.
I believe that people are better than we give them credit for, but worse than we may hope.
I believe there is no right way to live your life, but there are more than a few wrong ways.
I believe there is sin.
I believe there is salvation.
I believe that the human experience cannot be explained singularly by science, culture, or religion, but by a combination of all three.
I believe in a thing called love.
I believe there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in philosophy.
I believe that bad things happen to good people, that good things happen to bad people and that there is no reasonable explanation for either.
I believe that natural disasters are natural.
I believe in myself, because I can't count on anyone else to.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
"The lattice is the connective tissue...I see us as one, as a vast matrix, an army, a whole, each one of us responsible to one another, because no one else is."
To be a part of the lattice, you don't need to be brilliant, or rich, or powerful. You just need to believe in the lattice, and be. Those words have stuck with me for years. I am part of a smaller lattice, and that lattice has both made me who I am and kept me strong. It is comprised of the people that I love, people who have passed through my life, and sometimes people I don't know at all. My mother, my sister, my family and friends, my loved ones who have gone on to a better place, every boy I ever dated, the Cannonball Read participants, Pajibans, random people whom I pass on the street or hold the door for me - every one of these people have built and reinforced my personal lattice and brought something new and special into my life.
The framework of my lattice is love, kindness, and caring. When these things are interlocked they become stronger than the sum of their parts and they bear me up. By the same token, I am part of someone else's lattice. I may not even know it. But with each kind gesture, supportive word, or expression of encouragement and love, I am helping to bear someone else up. One of the best examples of this connection is Facebook; how many friends do you have on that social networking site whom you've actually met in real life? Often it is the friends you don't "know" who are there to support you when you lose your job, your home, a loved one, your mind. One small kindness adds another rung to someone's lattice. We are responsible for each other. We are responsible.
I believe in the lattice.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
While in its most recent on air version, there were a number of famous people sharing their beliefs, I loved the idea of a platform where people could share their principles. Listening (and reading the essays) over time, one sees that some beliefs are fundamental to who the people are and has always been with them; like Muhammad Ali's essay, I Am Still the Greatest (which is one of my favorites). Others' beliefs are results of experiences that shape them over time.
So this month's assignment is one dear to me. Tell us what you believe and why.
Monday, March 29, 2010
My dad died on October 2, 2007. It was a normal day, just like any other. A Tuesday. I was at work; I was always one of the first people to get to work, which I liked because I could goof off for a solid hour before my boss got there. It was just after eight when my mom called.
“Your dad is in the hospital again.”
I sighed. This was a pretty common occurrence over the past several years. To be honest, we’d gotten used to it. My dad was diabetic, and not the best ever. He’d gone into renal failure several years ago, and was on dialysis. It took my mom forever to convince him to even go on the donor list; they’d already turned down one kidney (with good reason, actually). My uncle offered up a kidney, but when they started the testing on him they discovered that he was diabetic too.
My uncle, of course, manages to be the epitome of the perfect T2 diabetic.
In August of that year, they gave my dad a kidney. He spent a solid two months in the hospital, with one brief trip home. He was back again the next day, because he had a major low and my mom had to call 911 on him.
He was finally home for real at the end of September. The kidney had finally woken up (translation: started working on its own), and things were looking up. There were about a bajillion tests that would have to be done. For months my dad would have to be at some doctor’s or another at least once a week.
Only none of that happened.
I remember going to the bathroom shortly after I got to the hospital. My mom was sitting in the waiting room, her only comment to me upon my arrival about how quickly I’d gotten there. I didn’t ask what had happened, and she didn’t tell me (until later).
I remember seeing the “Family Room” near the bathroom and thinking to myself that’s the room they take you in to tell you your loved one didn’t make it.
Guess where we ended up?
They let my mom go back to see him, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to see my dad on some hospital gurney, full of tubes, empty of life. So I stayed in that room and cried and cried and cried.
The rest of that week is mostly blurred, and that’s probably for the best. I remember going to the airport that night to pick up my aunt, who changed the flight she’d been about to get on when my mom called to come out East. I remember that my grandparents both came, even though none of us expected to, and all three of my mom’s brothers.
But most of all, I remember the dreams that I had. They were the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had in my entire life. My dad stuck around for that week before his funeral. I don’t know if anyone else realized it, but I am nearly positive of it. I dreamed about him every single night that week, and it was like being awake.
And they weren’t the nightmares you might expect of a girl who’d just lost her father, right when she thought he was taking a turn for the better. They were the most cherished dreams I’ve ever had. It’s hard to explain, honestly. And it’s not even that I remember them exactly, but they were all the same:
I was at home, as was everyone else who was staying at the house (which was way too many people for such a tiny house). They were like repeating the day I’d just had, only my dad was there.
“But Dad,” I would say to him, “you know you’re dead, right?” Not one for subtlety in dreams, am I?
He would answer in the affirmative.
“Then what are you doing here?”
He would shrug and smile, and never actually answered the question, even though I’m pretty sure I asked him that every night.
I’m pretty sure that he was just hanging out, making sure we’d all be ok. I doubt he was ready to go when he died (we’re pretty sure the anti-rejection meds caused a massive heart attack. He’d had silent ones before, several times, and I guess this was the big one). So he stuck around for several days to keep an eye on us.
I remember that he was, well, I’m not sure that happy is the right word for it. But he was happier than I’d seen him in along time. In fact, he was more as I remember him being from when I was little. He smiled a lot more, and he felt a lot better all of the time. That is the Dad who was in my dreams.
He used to tickle my face with his whiskers when I was little. Every winter he’d grow out his beard. That’s one of my favorite memories.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
When I was fifteen, I lost my best friend because a boy told me he loved me and I believed him.
We'd only known each other since we were thirteen and I moved to town, she'd grown up there. We bonded in the way that shy, dorky girls in middle school who have glasses, braces, a large vocabulary and a wardrobe that doesn't quite fit anymore do. She was trying to hide the beginning of a stunning hourglass figure that she kept concealed all through high school, I was already within an inch of my full height and built like a whippet. Going into high school, we both joined marching band which only brought us closer together.
We talked all the time during our Freshman and Sophomore years. We had classes together that we'd spend writing notes to each other that we'd fold elaborately to hand to each other after class. We ate lunch together whenever possible, often sitting on the floor outside the band room to avoid the crowded, noisy cafeterias. We discussed crushes on the junior boys who had girlfriends, and then reassured each other that we were totally prettier/funnier/all together better than those girlfriends. She started a website devoted to competitive high school marching bands in our area and it was the first website I ever wrote for. We spent the night at each other's houses, spent lazy afternoons sitting around the school before band practice started rather than going home, and we longed for the days when we'd have real independence.
Then I got a boyfriend. A boy that another friend had dated previously, but who I'd been given her blessing to date. He was a year above me in school but about a year and a half older, had the kind of wonderfully fluffy hair that I'm still a sucker for on guys, and was moody in that way that's tragically appealing to teenage girls. Being with him was consuming. He called every night and insisted on talking for hours, at school he spent every possible minute next to me, if I couldn't get a ride to come hang out with him at the local music store while he played their store guitars for hours and expounded on all the ways his life was awful he took it as a personal affront. My friend didn't like him, and I knew that. I tried to find time to spend with her when he wasn't around, but he refused to not be around. It wasn't until I was well into college and shed of that relationship that I realized how controlling and manipulative that behavior was.
She never gave me an ultimatum. There was no confrontation, no "you're choosing him over me and that's wrong", no fight, she just drifted away. I kept trying to keep up with her, especially when he graduated and I had my time at school free again, but our friendship never recovered. By the time we left for college we were barely talking anymore, and the fact that she went to a school 40 minutes away and I went to one 18 hours away finished what that relationship had started.
I don't know if we would have made it if I'd broken up with the boy a few months into the relationship, or if I'd never dated him at all. I don't know if my going so far away to college would've ended the friendship just two years later no matter what. I just know that looking back I wish things had gone differently for so many reasons, but most of all I wish I had been a better friend.
But when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you're gonna believe them.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Today, she has been gone exactly a year.
Her picture sits at my work desk more than a year and a half after she sent it to me. At first, it was an absent-minded accident that the picture ended up at my work desk. I had brought the picture to work so I could scan it when my home scanner was on the fritz. I left it propped against my monitor to motivate me through the last days of training; to remind me why I was doing something so foreign to me. All these months later, it's still there even though I need no reminder of the friend I lost too soon.
I could write volumes about her, and yet cannot say anything that doesn't sound ordinary in comparison to the real thing. It's hard to focus on eloquence when one's heart is this heavy and eyes are so blurry. But I don't need to write volumes about her now. If you knew her, you already know. And if you didn't, I don't want to make you sad that you missed out on something so amazing.
A woman, whom I'd never met nor had an actual phone conversation with, lost her incredibly valiant fight with leukemia. Her name was Amanda, aka Alabama Pink. I'd read her blog for a very long time, shared emails and FB conversations with her. I felt like she was a friend, even if only in that odd way of the internet connection. I cared a great deal about her and I still do. She was funny, smart, with a wicked sharp wit, and a humor and grace about the worst parts of life that I can only hope to have should I find myself in a similar situation. She loved her husband and her son fiercely, and spoke about them so beautifully. Put simply, she was a beautiful person, inside and out.
When it was first made public knowledge that she was sick, I hoped like hell that it was minor and fixable. However, as the fog cleared and the picture became clearer, I was scared for her. She was what we in the south call " good people". Bad things shouldn't happen to good people. Every day, I'd look for a new blog from her or her husband, anxious for some news. I didn't know how to go about contacting them and I honestly didn't want to be the crazy lady poking around in someone else's business. When they posted about the genetics of her illness, I became even more scared (possibly because I'm an uber-geek and researched it). Out of all the cancers in my family, leukemia was a new one. I didn't know how to fight it. However, about 2 months after Manda's diagnosis, my father-in-law, a man I love quite a lot, was also diagnosed with leukemia, but a different type. I got a crash course in leukemia at that point. That year became a blur of leukemia updates, hospitals, and hope for Manda and my father-in-law. His CLL is currently in remission.
I followed Manda's journey of hospitals, clinical trials, and the search for treatment. Every time things went bad, I'd try to remain hopeful. After the Johns Hopkins mean doctor, I sent her an email with a funny photo, in what had to be a sad attempt to cheer her up. I didn't know what else to do and I felt like that may be the only thing I could do. She sent me back a lovely reply. Then, she went to Houston and I hoped things would turn out for the best. Her very last blog post about Barbara Bush being right down the road still makes me laugh. I have this idea of what she sounded like and what her laugh was like and hear that sound when I read it. It makes me smile. All of us know what followed. That morning, I got to work and logged onto FB and saw the Pajiba link. Audibly, I said "No". I went Pajiba, her blog, and finally her husbands. I broke down at my desk for a long time. I couldn't stop crying. I felt like a fool crying for someone I'd never met. I didn't know how to explain it. She was one of the nicest people I've ever had the privileged of knowing, even if only in limited capacity. I still think about her often. I'd love to know how she would have felt about the Alice In Wonderland movie. Miss you Manda.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Eddie was a sensualist. Not in the sexual way (although that certainly came into play as we grew older) but because of his love of beauty. All beauty, especially music. He could be brought to tears by a good guitar riff, or a spectacular piano melody. But rhythm was his true love and he engulfed himself in it. One day, when I was fourteen and he was sixteen, he arrived at my house. I was in a mood, one of those moods that spontaneously pounce upon fourteen-year-old girls, and was sulking in my living room. “Field trip!” he announced. We went to New Orleans and walked to a corner near a construction site. He grabbed my arm to stop me and closed his eyes.
“What are you doing,” I asked. “Are you sleepy?”
“Shut up for a minute,” he said patiently.
“If we’re just gonna stand here, I came out for nothing. There are plenty of construction sites in Slidell. Aren’t we gonna DO something?”
“I said shut up. Have I ever brought you out here and not shown you a good time? If you shut up I can find it.”
Suddenly, he did. He opened his eyes and smiled.
“Okay, do you see that big yellow thing over there? The one that’s pounding the street?” he asked.
“That’s the bass drum. Hear it? It’s a real slow beat, in 4/4. Now pay attention.”
I looked at him with my right eyebrow cocked in sarcastic bemusement. I had no clue what he was getting at. My early teenage attitude was on the rise and I was about to say something, but he beat me to it.
“I said shut up. You can give me that shit when we get home, but for now I need you to listen. So, we have a bass. Alright, hear that glass? Like a crashing, tinkling sound. Those are the cymbals. The hammer over there, that’s the snare. The heels, hear em? Those are the rims. Now close your eyes and listen.”
I did. I closed my eyes, before he yelled at me, and leaned my head back for good effect. I stood there, thinking what a moron and then…I heard it. I heard it. I heard the beat of the bass start it off, I heard the clicking of a woman’s high heels at a faster tempo. Someone threw a bag of trash somewhere, crash. Glass broke, cymbals shivered. I heard something new: swish, swish. A street sweeper had come along. I opened my eyes and looked at Eddie. He was thrilled; he’d always wanted to try brush sticks. He pulled me in front of him and began to beat a rhythm on my back. We stood there, audience for the street corner concert, and listened.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
My relationship with my dad was complicated. And the best tribute I could give him came from the words I spoke at his memorial service. So, that's what I'm including here.
This is what is important to me: to not sugarcoat who Dad was. I refuse to present him as some saintly person, as that does him a grave injustice. Many of us loved Dad in spite of his faults, and that speaks volumes about his good traits.
If there is one word that I would use to describe Dad, it would be: intense. He was intensely joyful and intensely angry, intensely generous and intensely demanding, intensely playful and intensely competitive, intensely loving and intensely embarrassing. His sense of humor was often inappropriate. And boy, could that man hold a grudge. Dad took things very personally, and burned more than a few bridges over the years. At the same time, he was incredibly outgoing, and made new friends quickly.
The man had three wives and five children, and through it all, he had one house. The Farm, (as those of us who first lived and visited there called it), was always there; it was the one constant in his life. The fact that he is not still in that house is just wrong.
To say that his death was unexpected is to make an enormous understatement. He had lived through too much to be felled by delayed complications from knee replacement surgery. What he survived included: two boating incidents; alcoholism; one near-fatal car accident, which put him in CICU for a month; and Hepatitis C, which he got from the blood transfusion he received because of that car accident. Here’s the ironic thing: he put off having that knee surgery for so long because he feared the pain of the recovery period; it didn’t occur to any of us that it might lead to his death. Really, how could something so relatively minor affect such a survivor?
Dad was young beyond his years. He truly enjoyed playing any kind of game--especially with his kids. Popular board games included Sorry and Careers, which we would play for hours on end. Up to Seven Down to Seven (which is what my Grandmother Gaumnitz renamed Oh Hell) was the card game that dominated our house. He taught all of us how to play cribbage. Summer days were spent playing Frisbee and our special form of badminton, which involved no net and the goal was to keep the birdie in the air for as long as possible. Dad loved the pool—we would spend all day there and stay until it closed at night. In the winter, he would take us sledding and we would stay outside until we were sure that our whole bodies were frozen. Dad was tireless when it came to playing—particularly with his kids.
Dad loved to cook, and was quick to tell anyone what a great cook he was. For any of you who have tasted his food, you know his unspoken motto: more is more. This goes for flavorings as well as portions. Subtlety was not part of Dad’s vocabulary. There are two stoves at Dad’s house, because he refused to give up his beloved grill, which served up too many humongous breakfasts to count. Dad also hated to waste food, and his immediate family is all too familiar with his worst dish ever: leftover stew. Let’s just say that the rest of you are grateful you never sampled that one.
Dad had issues with privacy; it was a concept he just didn’t get. In addition to asking questions that would have been better left unasked, he often shared things about you that you didn’t want shared. I am sure that Dad never understood why I didn’t tell him more about what was going on in my life, but there was always the very real concern that whatever you told him would invariably be shared with others. Let me give you an example. When I was dating a woman in college, it took me months to tell Dad. Not because I thought he would have any problem with it, but because I knew he’d out me to everyone. Hi, my name is Glen, I’m an alcoholic and my daughter is a lesbian.
You will probably hear from many people what a generous person Dad was, and nothing could be more true. Heaven forbid that you might express interest in something, because before you knew it, it might be yours. One fall, Dad and Idalia came to visit Ethan and me in Northampton. I happened to mention that I liked some items I saw in the various stores we visited. Although I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised to find all those items under the tree at Christmastime. Speaking of that holiday, Christmas at Dad’s was an exercise in excess. Dad loved buying gifts for people.
Added to that, he was a bargain fiend. If Dad found something on sale, there was a good chance he’d buy multiples of it. The worst invention for Dad’s bargain obsession were those warehouse stores, you know, Pace, BJ’s, Sam’s Club. Dad was known to come home with gallons of cole slaw, for example. Something we clearly were never going to finish. We came up for a name for those items: Pace mistakes.
Dad would literally give you the shirt off his back. He has given me some of my favorite everyday items: two beloved baseball caps and a pen that everyone compliments me on when they use it. These were things that he really liked and enjoyed having, but which he thought nothing of giving to me. I’m sure there are many of you who have received random and not so random gifts from him over the years.
So, in the end, I know that Dad will be remembered for the many wonderful things he did for people. Things he thought nothing of doing, as it was simply his nature to give of himself. It’s clear that his tireless generosity will be missed in this world. And although, I will not miss those aspects of his personality which led me to dub him Mr. Annoying Man, it is the loss of the generous and loving part of him that I, and I’m sure many of you, find so unfair and impossible to understand.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
She fought. Oh, she fought. Surgery, chemo, radiation. She stayed optimistic and never indulged in self-pity. I begged God every night for a miracle. When the cancer spread to her brain, I went to the Shrine of St. Katherine Drexel and asked, on my knees, for one more year. In return I would name my first daughter after that good saint.
A year later, when it had spread everywhere, the doctors said they were sorry but there was nothing else to do. They gave her three months. She gathered her family close and said her goodbyes, and she went to a place of peace and love on November 27, 2003, Thanksgiving Day. I had seen her only ten days before, but I didn’t know it would be the last time, the last hug, the last “I love you, heart and soul.” She refused to let her nieces and nephews see her at the very end; the Juice held onto her dignity until the very last and she didn’t want us to remember her that way. So I didn’t know it was the last time. Some day I’ll come to terms with that.
She was the glue, and the center, and the ache never goes away.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
So in celebration of friends, their stories and words that bring people together, we're back! March will have be the first official month so anyone who is interested can submit their stories and newcomers can send requests to join.
The theme for March is 'The Ones We've Lost'. Share you stories of friends or loved ones you've lost or just lost touch with. The stories can be fictional or true. There are no limits to the number of tales you can share each month, or how many chapters you break a certain story into. You must stick to the theme and all stories for this theme must be submitted by the end of March. Don't forget to tag your stories with the this month's tags (below)
Welcome back and spin your tales!