Wednesday, August 31, 2005


One of my favorite weird hobbies is checking out old cemeteries. Some find this interest a little off, but to me it is an unappreciated footnote of history and Americana.

Headstones of modern times can be quite elaborate and artful, but stones of the past hold the greatest appeal for me. Such monuments were carved lovingly by experienced hands rather than churned out en mass by the cold plotting and casting of machines. And designs were as varied and unique as the lives they humbly represent forevermore.

My favorites of late resemble large weathered tree trunks. You don't see them too often and I imagine they were very expensive to commission. They are often taller than I, and several feet around, but astonishingly delicate in appearance. Each crack and crevice of the bark is as detailed as the next. Tentacles of ivy meander up the sides in a few different spots, often sprinkled with delicate flowers, resting dragonflies, pensive toads - preserved in the carved stone. Amputated branches often display the marks of the woodcutter's blade, and jagged fibers left behind by the break. Among it all will be a chronicle of the deceased life, names of family, possibly their profession, dates of birth and death and often their age down to the day. Perhaps a memorializing quote or biblical verse as an epitaph. The last one I ran across, in a damp corner of Mohican National Forest, had established delicate colonies of lichen and moss all over, causing it to look even more real than its artisan had probably planned. The effect standing in memoriam for this all but forgotten life spent was beautifully and fluidly serene.

I am especially touched as well by those monuments for children. Infant mortality was very high a few generations ago, and older graveyards are dotted with their tiny memorials. Crouching angels and lambs perch upon angelically white markers. Small chairs as if to offer rest to their briefly visiting souls before returning from whence they came. Many simply state 'Baby Smith', 'Son', 'Daughter'. Long dead parents undoubtedly grieved their entire lives for these lost little ones.

I once saw a cluster of headstones high on a hill in Colorado. The dates suggested those who rested there were pioneers. A family was laid to rest there. Mother, Father, and four children, all having died within a week of each other. What had happened? Inclement weather? Starvation? Cholera? The flu?

How long had it been since the last person thought upon this family?

I sometimes stand in front of such headstones, struggling to remember something I couldn't possibly know about the people resting below. Each had a life that at its core probably was not much different from my own. Each had duties, joys, concerns, and matters of importance occupying their every moment. As now only this finely crafted marque remains, I try to pay homage by, if nothing else, reading the name. A name that I no doubt will promptly forget. A name which now too is weathering away with the nondiscriminatory frictions of time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

ANGEL - A True Story

It had been another rotten day in a rotten week in a rotten relationship that was once good. In all my 23 years I’d never met a person more infuriating than he. My frayed nerves nagged for the numbing effects of a drink or two, and I left the apartment we shared to check out the new bar at the corner. Hopefully the bartender wasn’t chincy with his pouring hand.

The music suggested a fantastic experience was going on inside, but the place was virtually empty. A man with a face like a horse sat at the other end, seemingly sizing up what he considered to be the end of the road. Two men played darts on the far wall, conversing much more loudly than necessary.

I sat down and ordered a drink. Something with whiskey. I nursed it as I sucked down a few cigarettes and turned the conundrums of my relationship around in my head like peculiarly shaped stones.

I hadn’t noticed, but someone had appeared next to me at the bar, a respectable distance from my personal space. He ordered a Coke, and after receiving it mentioned that I looked like I could use a friend to talk to.

Snapping out of my own thoughts, I looked up and gave him the nanosecond size-up.

I don’t think I’m particularly beautiful, so either I look easy or men just take a shot at anything they can, hoping eventually they’ll strike oil – because I can’t even go out and sulk without some macho Cro-Magnon hitting on me. And I’m pretty critical about anyone that approaches me in a bar when I’m obviously brooding. But he didn’t fit the profile.

Dressed in a dull moss maintenance shirt washed several hundred times before sat a fifty-something black man. His eyes were deep and wide set in high freckled cheeks. His skin appeared weathered, creased with the footprints of many smiles and worries and deep, deep love for someone. Receipts and business cards hung in casually contained disarray in his breast pocket, and a pack of cigarettes with one or two missing. Above the pocket was a patch that said, “Terry”. His words were relaxed and tasted of somewhere southern … Southern Georgia? Southern Ohio? I couldn’t tell for sure.

Against my immediate instincts, I decided he was harmless and managed a thin smile in response. We began chatting easily there at the bar – I don’t recall the beginnings, but eventually we were talking about me and my stewings on that particular night. Not directly, though. Rather, he had this way of making idle comments, which applied to my thoughts in uncanny ways. After a few hours and an ashtray full of cigarette butts, Terry politely wrapped things up. He had to go, having a previous engagement that evening, but gave me his card. It simply said “Terry’s Janitorial”, and had a phone number. He told me to be happy, and he’d see me next time.

As my relationship spiraled downward, I frequented this certain bar more and more. On particularly sour days, I seemed to usually find myself there with Terry again. He’d ask me how things were going with my “gentleman friend” (as he would put it), but not in any fashion coming across as presumptuous. It was as if he were designed to ask these things, and you’d accept them the same as accepting a cup of coffee. He had a way of appearing at just the right times, and I came to enjoy the talks we had, as they helped me think more rationally about the chaos in my life in those days.

One day was especially bad. Things were beginning to dance on the edge of violence. I was thinking of leaving but had no place viable to go, really. I dug out Terry’s card and called the number. There was no answer. I went to the bar, hoping I’d catch him. He was there. “How are you doing, honey?”, he asked. “Okay,” I canned, unsure if I really wanted to get into it. He placed his hand on mine, gave me a don’t-bullshit-me smile, and said, “No you’re not, but we’ll get to that later.” We talked a while about nothing in particular, and then he told me a story about a lady friend of his who found herself in need of a place to stay. He let her stay with him for a spell (completely honorably) until she was able to continue her life on her own two feet. He said he got a lot of reward helping his friends who needed it. I offered no indicative response to that, but I remember Terry ending our talks that evening with, “Call me if I can help you with anything.”

We were an oddly matched duo, having little in common at first glance. A twenty-something white girl, heavy on eyeliner and hair dye and rocker swag, and a middle-aged black man in work duds. But we mixed well. We connected on some level unrecognized to a passerby. Our friendship continued for several months. I called his number several times and never got an answer, or even a machine. But infallibly he would appear in my life within a few hours. Sometimes at the bar, sometimes on the street as I walked to or from work. But somewhere.

As it were, my deceptively deep series of talks with Terry had helped me correct my path, and bring back into focus the long-clouded visions of my worth and life. I eventually took charge of my situation and straightened out my own mess by cutting my ties with said “gentleman friend”. I felt empowered and couldn’t wait to tell Terry. I went to the bar several evenings in a row, but he wasn’t there.

I called the phone number on the card. It was disconnected.

I never saw Terry again.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lord Byron Syndrome

"If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad."
~ Lord Byron

I saw (rather heard) an ad on the tv this morning as I was preparing breakfast for my sleepy family. I hadn't seen the likes of it since the print ads commonly found in the teen magazines that floated around my junior high school.

"Take this simple art test. Draw 'Tippy', 'Cubby' or 'The Pirate' and send it to us. Our panel of experts will then determine if you possess the talent and desire needed to become a serious art student."

Below would be printed cute but generic looking cartoon head shots of a turtle, bear, and pirate, and a convenient large square for you to reproduce one of these characters. (If you call the number given on the tv commercial, they will be happy to send you the test at no obligation).

Um ~ (tapping gently and politely at the windowpane of the house of syntax) ~ excuse me ~ but this whole concept that this fine institution uses has always bugged me. Being able to reproduce someone else's drawing does not make you an artist. It makes you a Xerox machine.

Sometimes I have considered possessing the creative spirit to be more of an affliction than a gift. As Lord Byron so simply and perfectly described, it's as if you cannot function properly in everyday life if an outlet is not found and utilized for whatever creation needing to be let out. From the time I could hold a crayon till deep into my 20's, it was all that I cared to be. Purging the artistic energy forever generating inside was all I had constructive time for, as it was indeed an undeniable calling. The same went for writing. A daily outlet of poetry, prose, short story, or even simple rambling entries in a journal were as necessary as food and sleep for me then.

I married in wild abandon when I was 24. He was a lightning bolt in my life and we fed off of each other from the moment we met. It was passionate and addictive, this relationship we shared. Unfortunately, as with all addictions the give and take became so inbalanced that this succubus of a partner squeezed nearly all the life and energy out of me before I finally got away from him. Along with my self respect, self esteem and joy of living, he stripped the very muses out of me. Their songs within my molecules were silenced; I didn't create anything in any form for a long, long time.

Years passed and life and love renewed itself. In time my creative calling returned to me, but I had become involved in other pastimes and had forgotten how to make the time for them. I did pick up the hobby of scrapbooking, and became lost in the task of designing the canvas in that my precious photographed memories would now reside (complete with journaling, therefore also feeding my writing bug). I spent way too much time on each layout, but things must be just so and no rest will be found until it is - anyone who suffers the affliction will understand that.

Our giant handful of a puppy came, followed a year later by our dear son. Needless to say, time to myself became slim and none. My scrapbooking supplies sat untouched for months on end, just as the paints and pencils and inks of my first few decades. I have since progressively slipped into a nonidentifiable funk. Earlier this year I began to work my scrapbooking back in, but time spent there was still rare. There are many helpful hint books about creating speedy layouts, but I'm not interested in churning out generic pages where any number of photos could be dropped in and work all the same. My method of scrapbooking is exhaustive, each becoming unique as the photos they enhance, and if I only have 20 or 30 minutes to do it I'd just as soon not start.

I began a set of journals for my son when he was a few months old, chronicling his life and current events along the way from a first hand perspective, as well as recording dreams and hopes we have for him. I will give them to him someday. I don't know when - perhaps when he graduates high school, or college, when he gets married or has his own first child. I will know when the time is right. It's a fun and enriching project. But it doesn't exactly curb the pangs in my soul.

The other day, after reading about a blogger friend's experience in which he got up in the middle of the night to paint because the urge was keeping him awake, it finally clicked in my head. Lord Byron Syndrome, I have dubbed it. When you respond to the call of creativity, you will find peace from the purge. If you do not heed, the calls of sirens become the shrieks of banshees and given enough time unrequited will drive you mad. I need to learn how to not only listen, but respond. It is my condition, it is in the fiber of my being.

Since starting this blog I have been feeling much better. My foul mood has been diluted a bit and I'm feeling that some pressure has been relieved from whatever the abscess is inside of me. I'm relearning how to channel, or at least trying. Any creative soul will tell you though, it's not a calling that can be ignored.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Ships Adrift

There’s a boat on the line
Where the sea meets the sky
There’s another that rides far behind
And it seems you and I are like strangers
A wide ways apart as we drift on through time

-- "Ships" - Barry Manilow

I love this song. LOVE. This song. And to those who wander by and make fun of me for listening to Barry Manilow - to you I say, "Pththth."

I have just returned from a nice dinner party. T&M had L&A and us over for sushi, beer bread with spinach dip, and an assortment of wine and cheeses. We laughed, reminisced, and basked in the glow that is only given off by companionships cured with layer upon layer of joy and tears and milestones and memories. It doesnt get any better than that.

These are the people who have been the constants in my life these latest years. I love them. They are my family.

Earlier today I was listening to "Ships" and it got me thinking about those that have drifted in and out of my life. I thought upon my tight knit group of friends from my art class in high school. I can remember sitting in class a few days before graduation, thinking these people have been a huge part of my every day for so long. Now we are graduating, going on to respective jobs or distantly spaced colleges. What is my life going to be without these people in it? As thrilled as I was to get high school behind me and get on with the business of pursuing my dreams, in some odd way the Pomp and Circumstance played at our graduation almost carried the flavor of a requiem for the life I had known with this band of brothers.

In the years that followed, I missed them terribly. But there were new friends to be made.

I had an 18 year reunion with 4 of these people a few months ago. With the exception of one, whom I had reconnected with a few years ago, I hadn't really seen any of them since we walked out of graduation. Yet we all survived without each other. Happily, we are all still well matched as friends.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what mysterious material this gossamer thread is which ties us to those we hold most dear. Of what powerful stuff is made this force which makes years and baggage dissolve and carries us back to the last time we once stood together.

Why it sticks with some and not others, when at one time all stood on equal ground in our hearts.

How is it that one proverbial moment someone is so interwoven in our lives that we can't imagine it without their presence, and next thing you know, they are far away ~ maybe even out of sight. And you wonder how you never noticed.

Whom in my life now, that I hold so valuable and dear, will fall into this category in the future?

We’re still here
It’s just that we’re out of sight

Like those ships that pass in the night ...

Friday, August 26, 2005


I got another email from my childhood friend, and once again am completely stunned at how that even through months of no communication, we still swim in the same pool of musings and wander the same forests of complicated philosophical thoughts. As I read this first extensive communication from him in so long, I found myself more than once wanting to smack my hand on the table and yell, “YES! Exactly!” Isn’t it interesting that he has been turning the same thoughts and revelations over in his head lately as I?

I don’t particularly believe in reincarnation, but some bonds, few and far between, are so strong and timeless that I have to believe we knew each other before we were born – as our souls waited in Heaven to be distributed to their respective human bodies and paths on Earth. Occasionally you can recognize these souls, as a feeling that you’ve known someone forever that you may have only met a few days or even hours ago. If you are really lucky, you’ll find one early, and manage to hang on to them throughout the tempest that life becomes.

I have this rhetoric on my list of things I want to ask God about when I die.

My soul-brother’s comments were so poignant to all that I have lately struggled with placing into words both here and quietly to myself, that I am tempted to cut and paste damn near the entire email right here and now. But that wouldn’t be right. These were thoughts that I’m sure were meant to be shared only between us, and that way they will remain.

Thus, in lieu – since I can’t seem to construct anything to write about of value, detail, or particular interest – I offer a quote a la mode. (My new expression for quote of the day – since everything’s better with ice cream. Well, maybe not everything. Liver and onions with ice cream would be gross, but that is a submission for a post from a few weeks ago. But you get my point.)

This quote comes from a gentleman I met last night at the boat ramp. I was minding the boat as the Hub worked on the trailer, and this kindly fellow was fishing off the dock. He was an older man with a rather large but well-groomed white beard, wearing bib overalls, a t-shirt with a fishing cartoon on it, and a straw hat. Not a Huck Finn type hat, but a white straw hat with a bilious band – the kind you see on men that are hip deep in “new money”, upper crust yet not quite millionaire.

He looked a lot like Uncle Jesse.

Being in the same place at the same time, we got to chatting idly. In the course of our exchanges, my new acquaintance mentioned he’s retired and loving it. That led to a story about his friend, also retired, who has had trouble finding meaning in his new role. He’d been feeling rather useless, and called 911 the other night to tell them he didn’t feel his life was worth living anymore. To that I responded, my goodness, I hate to hear he thinks that way. And Uncle Jesse said, “Me too! Because … ~

“Well, I happen to think my life is worth quite a lot. Or else the Good Lord wouldn’t’ve made me.”

Well said.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


All is quiet and still, so I'm not sure what woke me up on this morning. I get up from the same position I fell asleep in and cast a long gaze out the window. The sun is just beginning to tint the sky above the clouds lazing on the horizon line - the last remnants of some tropical storm or another, passing by the peninsula a few hundred miles to the east.

I watch the surf wander in and out, sliding over the shore. Bits of seaweed trace the contour of where high tide had stretched in earlier hours. The dunes have been smoothed by wind and sea during the night.

I had come here, thousands of miles from anything familiar, to try and forget you - though I knew that wasn't possible. Particularly when I take you everywhere with me. Not literally, of course. But you are nonetheless ever-present. Your memeory, and "memories" of what could have been and what will never be, a perpetual constriction on my heart. The hole left in my world by your absence ever gaping.

I get dressed, having as little interest in what I put on as I do with anything else in life right now. I pad downstairs, grab a cup of coffee and wander out on to the silky sand.

I spend a lot of time lost in my own thoughts these days. I gather with friends, try to drown out the deafening silence with deafening noise. It works for a while, sometimes. But it doesn't last long. My friends hate to see me so sad. Cheer up! they say, and offer some philosophical self-help quip about how holding on to something that will not return can only hinder your own progression. No one seems to understand that I simply can't act as if nothing happened, that you never existed. That I never really loved you because you were here too briefly. No one understands that just because I cannot hold you in my arms, that you cannot still hold my heart.

Seemingly now that you are gone more than ever before.

Everyone seems to know what's best for you when they have no idea what it's like to love someone so much, that you nearly forget how to breathe when they leave you.

The sand is different here than anywhere else. It feels as if I'm walking on tiny pearls, and clings to my feet in white slippers. The perpetual breeze coming in from the sea runs invisible fingers through my hair. The waves are bigger by the shore than they appeared to be from my window, but oddly slow of pace. They rumble in and massage the shore. I close my eyes and let the sound rinse my aching soul. I breathe deep the sweet salty air and feel all other thoughts fall away but the ones which never do - the thoughts of you.

The sun is rising, and it glints at me over the wandering clouds. I ponder the dawn of my new life, what its purpose and meaning is, to have lost so much and lived to tell. I wonder if I will ever be happy again. If I will ever laugh once more, and truly mean it.

I've been praying to God for a long time now, calling out to Him for help in managing my heartache. Sometimes I feel Him with me. Times like this morning. We communicate without words - more with feelings and impressions - and He soaks into me much as the sea vanishes below the surface of the sands as it draws back into itself. I know that the best thing I can do is lay my burdens in His hands. But I just haven't been ready.

I think of you always. I can almost feel your skin, and smell your scent. I imagine your hands in mine. I imagine that you are walking the water's edge with me rather than I alone on this peaceful morning. I wish I knew why you had to go.

The morning sky is bright with color now. Down the beach a man is combing up the seaweed. In the other direction, a couple is combing for treasures brought in from the waves sent by that distant storm. Seagulls scream overhead. The surf carries on its continuous song.

Though I could swear I just took a sip only a moment ago, my coffee is now cold and bitter in my cup.

I look at the large dollup of fucshia and indigo cloud that is cradling the morning sun. I suddenly feel the time is right.

And so, I let you go.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Warming whispers in the din of sorrow

My friend’s cancer has a 15% survival rating 2 years out. We all try to remain hopeful, but there comes a time when reality must be accepted for what it is.

Naturally, I am overwhelmingly sad about this.

God has a way of sprinkling a bit of glitter on my gloomy dance card at times when I really need it. After receiving this latest update, I checked my email before settling back into my day. What I received lifted my spirits twofold, and I’m so excited about both that I don’t know which to share first. When in doubt, chronology is always a logical choice, right?

I first got an e from JC, my friend who received the rainbow moment with me (ref. post "J’s Goodbye"). As I may or may not have mentioned before, following that stunning connection I received a letter from J in the mail, one month to the day after her death. She had been writing it at the time of her death (not literally, rather around that time) and R had run across it while going through her things. She mailed it to me, thinking I’d like to have it. The remarkable factor was that the letter bounced around in the mail system for about a week after it was postmarked, bringing it to me on the anniversary instead of some arbitrary day. The coincidence shook me to my foundation and strengthened my belief that somehow J was still reaching out to comfort those she cared about. I felt comforted and loved. I shared the experience with JC – she agreed it must be more than a coincidence and told me that she was even a little jealous (in a good way), wishing she could receive a sign.

Bear with me now – the following is relevant background merely disguised as a rambling tangent ;). Of all my near and far away friends, some of us still practice the ancient art of putting pen to paper and stamp to envelope in our keeping in touch rituals. In the snail-palling world, there are items of trade known as “slams” or “friendship books”. Basically they are circular-path swapping items, involving entering your name and address and various pieces of information about yourself. A friend sends it to you, you send it to another friend, and they send it to another. Once there is no more room, the slam is to be courteously mailed back either to the original person or to the person the slam has been made for. Slams can circulate for months, even years before returning home – and more often than not (in my experience anyway) they may never even make it back. But they are a good tool for getting to know new friends and having fun with old friends.

Back to my main thread. Monday was JC's birthday, and she excitedly told me of a special gift she received. The mail arrived, and mixed in the typical fare was a slam that was being returned to her. The slam had been made for her by J. She told me she couldn’t help but think that J was managing to send her a special birthday wish. My heart rejoiced that my new friend had gotten her sign from our pal whom I know loved her so much.

Upon finishing that e, I went on to the next. This one was from my childhood friend I dreamt about the other night. I sent him an e letting him know of the dream and expressing the pull to reconnect. He wrote back telling me that it was almost too strange to be coincidence. He had been in our hometown visiting his mother during that time. He was helping her go through some things in the basement, the area we most frequented in our rainy-day, mad scientist spells, and was subsequently spending a lot of time thinking about the “good old days”. He had wanted to contact me while he was home but didn’t have access to email and didn’t know my new address and phone number since we'd moved last summer. He found it remarkable that we were thinking similar thoughts at the same time, though we hadn’t really talked in months.

Did our thoughts have strength enough to somehow connect that night? I don’t know. But it’s good to be reminded that some friendships span all realms and passages of time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A moral dilemma

A paradoxical report was on the noon news today. A story about bio bandages.

Bio bandages are on the cutting edge of open wound and burn management. They help the victim heal more quickly, with less scarring and with more acute sensation regained. This new technology is a coup for those with dermal conditions slow and stubborn to recover.

A dear friend of mine has suffered from the aftermath of necrotizing fasciitis for nearly 4 years. Her wounds were shockingly large, and in hindsight it's remarkable that they were survived. If bio bandages were readily available for her at the time, they probably would have greatly increased her healing and shortened her recovery time. But I know her well. I believe she would have refused these remarkable bandages and opted for the harder road, because her strong convictions would likely outweigh her desperate personal need for a medical miracle.

The bio bandages specifically cited in the news report were grown from skin cells harvested from an aborted fetus at 14 weeks gestation. Many, many bio bandages have been grown and used from just this one fetus.

On one side of the fence, there is the point that though this one life was terminated, it does it honor to use the tissue to enhance and improve, even possibly save the lives of others. On the other side, it could be considered an excuse to justify the termination of pregnancies, or even a catalyst for harvesting fetuses conceived for the sole purpose of termination in the name of science. Fetus factories if you will.

Some say it is the prudent, frugal, and sensible thing to do. Pregnancies will be terminated in this day and age regardless of what is ultimately done with the remains - it’s better than just throwing it out with the other medical waste. Others say it is wrong to utilize any technology gained from termination of human life and is a backhanded barbarism disguised as science.

I’m all about consistency. I’m all about medical morality. And the question is begged: Which is the proper path? I have chosen mine, but that’s not to say the other doesn’t persuade much thoughtfulness.

As the collapse of a civilization draws near, it is said that the distinction between right and wrong, moral and immoral blurs, then turns upside down. Vision can be easily blurred with such an advancement as bio bandages.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Painted Wings and Giant's Rings

I had a dream about a childhood friend of mine last night. In my dream we were kids again. The dream was unremarkable, in the sense that we were just hanging out and doing nothing in particular. In fact it seemed to be more of a rediscovered memory clip than a fabricated vision as dreams usually are.

This friend and I are still in touch, though we do not keep in touch very well. There is an entire country between us now, and we are each involved in our own tangle of events that make up our lives. But there was a time we were inseparable. We hung out every day, walking to and from school together during the year and playing from dawn till nightfall on breaks and weekends and through the summer.

I was never a girly-girl, and playing Barbies and Miss America and House with the other young ladies in the neighborhood was never quite my thing. Boys were much more fun to hang out with. Particularly him, pretty much the only kid around whose imagination was as bizarre and complex as my own.

Between the two of us, we had the world’s nerdiest toy collection. Microscopes, telescopes, electronics kits, chemistry sets, fluorescent paints and crayons. I had a little mono-speaker tape recorder, and we spent countless hours putting together little radio programs and interviews and skits and bits on tinny sounding cassette tapes. We were chased out of the house more than once for making incessantly annoying noises with an audile electronics project or smoking up the lower level of the house with an experiment gone awry. But outside was just as much fun. We would brave through the poisonous ozone layer at a certain points in the neighborhood, taking care not to breathe the noxious atmosphere therein. We would travel the hidden star systems of the suburban streets at warp 1, 2, or 10 by pedaling furiously on our bikes. Dandelion heads still pinched closed made fine space capsules for Dr. Who, and our bat kites were guided by the steady wisdom and foresight of Mission Control far below them on planet Earth.

We had a scrap piece of plywood on which we carefully inscribed a list of games we created. On rainy days or those too foul for outside play, we would refer to the board for ideas on how to occupy ourselves. There had to be about a hundred suggestions penned onto that board, games ranging from unruly pet aliens to inventing new snacks to exercises in testing telepathic skills. Sometimes we’d forget what we were thinking of when we wrote down some name, but that was a perfect opportunity to create a new game for such a title.

Yes, we were a wee bit precocious. But we had the best time, and there were few dull moments. It was in those days that we inadvertently learned of the power of creative imagination. That in every crevice of the world, there is something in which to find interest – and if not in your surroundings, than within yourself. There is neither a reason nor an excuse to ever be bored and have nothing to do.

These are lessons I am realizing I need to revisit and relearn. I am also thinking that I need to reconnect with my friend.

Many times I've wondered how much there is to know

I watched a tv show last night about a photography expedition to the bottom of the Amazon – a near-incomprehensibly massive river, larger than the Nile, Mississippi and Yangtzee combined, miles across and hundreds of feet deep in spots. The water is murky from decomposing vegetation and the constant introduction of mud and silt at the hands of the precipitous weather, and harbors some of the most deadly creatures known. Many of the dives were fruitless thanks to the soupiness of the waters, but others yielded fascinating life forms and discoveries, many previously believed to only live in salt water. Giant manta rays. Knifefish. Armored catfish. Large colonies of sponges.

I would never in my life imagine that there is a species of fish whose diet consists of wood. But there is. Only one species – and it lives in the Amazon. And a bizarrely prehistoric looking beast it is.

There is a small, slender parasitic fish that enters the gills of a host and feasts on its blood. They plague humans as well, entering their bodies through the urethra.


I was struck with the thought of how easy it is to think you are familiar with your surroundings, and how quickly one can become arrogant and superior in attitude as we skim across the sheath of our world. Yet under running the surfaces are colonies of the unfamiliar. Some benign, while others are deceptively dangerous. To dip one’s toes in the water, one must first decide if the thrill and enrichment of new discovery is worth the risk of possible injury - and if so, how severe. How much is one really willing to risk in the face of that which we cannot imagine for simply lacking a point of reference?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Yes, I'm reflecting again ...

I used to think I was meant to be a part of something big. Something that would change the world.

I wanted to be an artist. A writer. A musician. Not necessarily famous by name or face, but known abstractly. “Oh yeah, the lady who wrote blah-blah”, or “Those paintings! You know them the minute you see them, they just have that something.” I wanted to make people stop dead in their tracks and contemplate. Most of all I wanted to feel that I had left a piece of myself in those that I came across.

In my youth I was in a garage band, and we put together some pretty good stuff. But we never went anywhere. I wrote. A lot. Poetry, prose, short novels, analyses. I got A’s in every writing class I ever took. I never sent a manuscript to anyone. I went to a prestigious art college. I sucked the marrow out of life there, and in turn the marrow was sucked out of me. Never would one believe the creative process would be so exhausting, and the pursuit of cultivating it so strenuous.

A common discussion art students have with “outsiders”:

Oh, you go to art school?
So, you can draw?
Yes …
That must be pretty easy, going to art school.

By the time I graduated, I felt as though my creative soul had given birth to a herd of rhinoceros. I just needed to rest. I now have a career in accounting. I live comfortably. I have wondered from time to time if I sold out.

The thing they don’t tell you when you cook up your big dreams in youth (or perhaps we just choose not to hear) is that in the process of living, life tends to get in the way. Before I could get out of town to the place I wanted to be, I ran out of money at the hands of paying for my lofty college education. By the time I got some scratch together, I’d fallen in love and gotten married. Then divorced, and back to having nothing again. Then under construction – Remarried - And so it goes.

With time and trials comes wisdom, and as I grew older and more seasoned, my vision of what was really important as far as imprinting the human race changed. My compassion morphed from utopian to a small-bite, close to home approach. Big differences don’t always seem big at first glance. I think this epiphany first hit me in my teens. I was involved in the youth choir and ensemble with my church. We took a mission trip to Florida, and one of our performances was at the state prison. We were all a little nervous, being fresh-faced kids and having close contact with convicted felons. After our performance, we were to meet with inmates to talk with them. If we were nervous before, this really got us skittish. But it was nothing like any of us expected.

I met Fred that day. I don’t know what Fred was in for. But we prayed for his mother together. She was very ill, and Fred’s face was twisted with worry for her. After we prayed, Fred’s entire body conveyed an air of peace it didn’t have before. He thanked me and smiled. I often wonder what became of Fred and his mother, but I know that I, a young girl from across the country, made a difference in his life that day.

Several years ago my mother asked me if I would help her with something. She is a Girl Scout leader, and her co-lead quit mid-year. My Mom needed help with her troop. I wasn’t in love with the idea – it would involve going all the way across town after a long day at the office, to wrangle with inner city girls from broken homes with discipline and attitude problems. But I did it. It was trying, but these girls needed positive role models. And once they felt me out, I could see the changes taking place in many of them, just from having adults in their lives who cared enough to guide them and help them begin to tap into their potential. I too, after getting to know them, found myself way more smitten with them than I ever expected. I genuinely cared about making a difference in their lives and did my best to plant small seeds of self-respect and self-worth in these girls who got a rough start in life.

My church is heavily involved in outreach ministry, and one of the prominent divisions involves providing comfort and compassion for those with HIV and AIDS. A few years ago the Project organized a Christmas banquet and needed volunteers. I experienced an overpowering pull to get involved with this. In a debate class in school my small group was once given the question, “Should AIDS patients be quarantined?” This was back in the ‘80’s, when little was known about AIDS and everyone was frightened by the very notion. What I learned in my research in preparing for the debate changed my views about it forever. Compassion replaced retraction, and there it remained. The Christmas dinner opportunity seemed to reach into me and pull that back out.

I humbly served turkey to hundreds in a buffet line. Most were no different in appearance or attitude to anyone you may come across with any day. But some were different. Some had a look in their eye that I can only compare with those in the eyes of abandoned pets that had to forge a life on the mean streets for too long. I thought a lot about how lonely it must be, to be sick and no one, not even your family, will talk to you, much less even touch your hand in comfort. How they must be starving for human contact, for just a little acknowledgment that anyone cares for them. After dinner I visited with a few of the guests, particularly drawn to the "sad" ones. We laughed, we shared. We hugged. While some reacted more instantaneously than others, each melted into the hug like a child. They have stayed with me these many years since.

For now my schedule as well as my general sulky mood dictate that I am self-absorbed. But my thoughts do turn outward as well. I think about getting my teaching degree. I think about becoming a den mother when the boy gets older.

I still think I was meant to be a part of something big. I rather consider that I already am. My perspective of what “big” is has simply changed a little from what it used to be.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Empty Chairs and Curious Dreams

I was watching a show last night in which an interesting form of therapy was used to aid people in confronting an issue in their lives. It is called The Empty Chair. A person is to sit across from an empty chair and envision someone they want to confront. They then are to address the chair as if the person were there, telling them what they really want to get off their chest. The people who engaged in this activity had some pretty significant emotional breakthroughs.

Yes, I watch strange shows for entertainment. But that’s beside the point. At least I think it is …

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking about whom I would place in my empty chair. Who springs foremost in my mind as someone I would want to confront about how they have adversely affected my life?

A few people immediately came to mind who have deeply hurt me. Blindsided me so badly that I reeled completely off course for years – even permanently altering not only my path, but my very nature. If you are interested in details, I decline to give any. Too personal, too gory. So stop asking. But these things have raged, smoldered, and tempered over time. Did I really have anything to say to them about it now?

My mind chewed on these thoughts until long past bedtime.

When I fell asleep, I had a strange and vivid dream. I dreamt that the boy found a lizard in our house, round the base of a footstool that we do not own in the waking world. He reached down to grab it and when he did I saw that it was not a lizard at all but a snake. A fiercely beautiful snake, with rough and pointed scales the color of pumpkin and embers and number 2 pencils. As the boy picked it up, it turned vermilion eyes upon us and struck his hand. The boy didn’t cry, only looked surprised. I instinctively dove at his arm to inspect the bite and the serpent then bit me as well.

The creature did have a large, arrow shaped head as venomous snakes characteristically have. But its bite barely gave any sensation at all. I could see its teeth as it lunged, but it merely felt as though I were gently grazed by a teasel while walking through crisp fall fields.

The snake leered at us and smiled. The boy looked up at me and laughed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Secret Ingredient

Upon reading a friend’s blog about his mother’s chicken vegetable soup in the recent past, I was reminded of how some things cannot be duplicated, even if all the components are seemingly identical.

My Grandmother was neat. She couldn’t have been more than 4 and a half feet tall and her entire life and existence revolved around family. She had a perpetual sparkle in her blue eyes, and it was always a hoot to be around her. My Dad is an only child, and while many people are tortured by domineering mothers-in-law, my grandparents welcomed my Mom into their hearts and treated her as a daughter. My entire family was always a place of love and warmth from every direction.

Grandma made great home made beef and noodles. I mean phenomenal. I could eat them till I pop. She taught my Mom how to make them, and she did so often. I could eat those till I pop too. Mom taught me how to make them. When I bother to do so, I could eat them till I pop.

Mom makes them exactly the same as Grandma did. I make them exactly the same as Mom does. Yet Mom's noodles taste slightly different than Grandma's did, and mine taste slightly different than both.

There’s an oft-used cliché of things being made with love. Perhaps the mysterious and untraceable difference between the three versions is indeed the uniqueness of the love of the maker put into each batch. Could such a component really exist and make a detectable difference?

Monday, August 15, 2005


beau' ty – (noun) .... 1 : the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit..... 2 : a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality..... 3 : a brilliant, extreme, or egregious example or instance..... 4 : a quantum characteristic that accounts for the existence and lifetime of the upsilon particle.

I am truly blessed if in no other way, than with this. Our path to parenthood was long and soaked with our tears, but we have been entrusted with an angel. Our little boy is bright, and curious, and gifted with a wonderful sense of humor. And if I may say so, his outside is as beautiful as his inside. Adorable face with big lapis eyes topped with shiny cornsilk hair. A big radiating smile that is given out generously. He teaches us how to view the world through the eyes of a child once again – a gift that we have allowed to atrophy as life and chores and bills and responsibilities have clouded our heads in recent years.

People cross rooms to tell us how beautiful he is.

Our blessings were brought back into light with whiplash speed this weekend as I was reminded of how not all cards are dealt the same. We met a very nice family out on the lake this weekend. Mother and Dad were both very good looking people, and they had two attractive children in their late single digits. They also had a young daughter, aged two. Blue eyes, blonde curls, and a warm smile. She too was very magnetic. But she was different.

Their youngest daughter has Down Syndrome. She clearly displays the classic physical telltale signs. But she too is indeed beautiful. Her parents completely and openly adore her, and it isn’t hard to understand why. She smiled. She laughed. She dealt out hugs freely and lavishly. She played with wild abandon. She turned her face to the sun, closed her eyes and smiled at its warmth – a warmth lovingly poured down by God, no more or no less upon any one of us than another.

My heart aches for her parents. Not for their daughter’s stereotypically labeled “imperfections”, but for the superficial sightedness of the world. Most people will never see the beauty within this little girl for not being able to get past her surface.

I was reminded of a friend I had as a child. My friend had Down Syndrome and was significantly developmentally handicapped. She didn't have many other friends, as most people were put off by her. But we had fun together. She may not have been as advanced as I in classic intelligence, but she had a delightful sense of humor and endless energy. We had a great time together. She taught me how to look beneath the surface. I hope to teach my son to do the same.

Because a person is lacking by societal standards in physical or mental or communication capacities does not mean they do not have a complete and intact soul. Perhaps those individuals are even better off, as their door is perpetually propped to that which makes life enjoyable, while the rest of us have allowed our windows to be painted shut and door hinges corroded into being stiff and stubborn in their willingness to open.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

J's Goodbye

A very wonderful thing happened to me on one of the saddest days of my life.

I found out about J's death on a Friday evening. I'd gotten an email from B about it and while we all knew she was ill, it came as a stunning blow. I just stared at the screen for a few moments, reading it over and over, trying to wrap my head around it.

My daze was broken by a lone thunderclap outside. I looked out and screaming across a bruise-colored sky was a big bright rainbow. This amplified the entire situation to a deafening roar in my head, as J's personality was a true splash of color in the lives of all who knew her. I just stood there and cried.

I had the presence of mind to take a photo. This is the rainbow. If you look closely you may notice it was a double one.

Since the seriousness of J's illness had come into light for those of us who loved her, I'd been casually corresponding with JC, another friend of J's whom I didn't previously know. JC was helping J get news and updates out to people and she and I just began our own string of idle chit chat in the process. In any case, I didn't know JC well but I just wanted to see how she was doing and tell her about the rainbow. I emailed her the story and the photo.

Soon after I received an excited response. JC told me that believe it or not, she too had looked out and seen a rainbow upon learning of J's death.

This is the photo JC sent me.

Since that time, we have believed that God had let J take one last opportunity to let two grieving friends know that she was all right now. This thought is emphasized by the fact that JC and I live states away from each other. Different rainbows, different regions, different times. But the same emotional moment.

For every door that closes, a window opens. I'm happy to say that JC and I are enjoying our new friendship in the shadow of losing our dear soul sister.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The albatrosses ate my breadcrumb trail.

I miss feeling close to God.

While I don’t care for the term “religious” (partly because it has taken on a stereotypical derogatory air in the mainstream in recent years, and partly because it feels like a term for going-through-the-dogmatic-motions with little true worship involved), I have always been a spiritual person. I was raised in a church environment and while God and Christ have not always been a part of my life, I have always believed. Looking back on my life, the times where I have held a close friendship with the Lord have been my happiest, my most peaceful times, and I know that it's a direct correlation to that. And I believe because I feel Him. He has proven Himself to me, where all other beliefs and notions failed.

But I have isolated myself from Him. And I’m a little disoriented on how to find my way back.

A few years ago we were having a very hard time starting a family. I had several miscarriages and the heartbreak would have been unbearable had we not been able to lean on the Lord and receive His comfort. My dearest friend walked a similar path, yet with even more pitfalls. As our struggles went on I witnessed her growing bitter, and becoming angry at God for laying such heavy and frequent burdens.

I became pregnant with my son “by accident” – meaning that we’d just decided to give up and I would go back on the Pill on my next cycle. It was quite a shock and a bombshell we were not prepared to face. (Yes, we know where babies come from. It didn’t seem to be near my cycle time – but apparently it was close enough. Either that or there should be a warning label that chocolate martinis cause pregnancy). I was terrified, feeling ill-equipped to handle another loss, and found myself feeling a little cross, almost feeling as if God were trying to push me over the edge. I could see this pattern of thought developing though, and I didn’t want to be that way. Likewise, if we would lose this pregnancy, I didn’t want to grow bitter or feel forsaken, as I know that is not God's nature. As a safety precaution, I began to hold God at arm’s length away from me – so that if anything were to go wrong I wouldn’t feel apt nor have any argument to blame Him.

I felt that I could find my way back easily enough, as soon as I would have no excuse to be angry with Him in the shadow of unfortunate events.

My pregnancy was a dream and our son arrived, to quote Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. Life became busier than we ever imagined, and I became too busy to find my way back to God's presence. I continued to love God and thank Him for our blessings, but more in the fashion of an out-of-state grandfather that you love, but seldom see and rarely think about.

Time goes by at neck-breaking speed and our son is pushing 2 already. We need to start taking him to Sunday School, and had vowed to by his 18 month birthday if we hadn’t done so sooner. He needs the positive influence that a church family provides. We do as well. Still, each Sunday rolls around and we blow it off.

Writing down that I miss feeling close to God brought that fact back into my line of vision again. But as I search for the trail of breadcrumbs I intended to leave for myself, it seems I either ran out long ago, or (more likely) the albatrosses in my life have eaten them all.

I know I can find my way back easily enough. I know the things I need to do. But I haven’t felt like starting the trip. I’m sure God is sending me smoke signals to aid in my journey back, if I can only get myself to look up from the ground.

Friday, August 05, 2005

And there’s a 5 o’clock me inside my clothes, thinking that the world looks fine, yeah

Remember that song? “5 O’Clock World” by … the Vogues I think it was.

I am pretty regularly amazed at how quickly and precisely a song can take you back to certain point in your life and you remember them like you were just there.

I heard this song this morning and I immediately thought of T-Bone and the days when we worked for Hellboy and Putz. That was such a stressful job, but we made it lively by spreading our special brand of black hole sunshine amongst ourselves.

T-Bone was something. She used to be a Playboy Bunny someteen years before I met her, and she was still gorgeous. Slightly high-strung and very sharp witted. We didn’t like each other at first, I thought she was kind of bitchy and she thought I was stuck up because I stay pretty quiet when I start a new job till I feel everyone out (not literally) and get an idea of what I can get away with saying. But in about 2 weeks we were best buddies. You know how you have certain friends where you can just look at each other and crack up because you know they’re going to say something smart, or simply because they are getting so bent about something that it amuses you?

We used to love that song. It pretty much caught the whole essence of our time under Hellboy and Putz’s iron fist. Don’t get me wrong, they were kinda closet teddybears (well, Hellboy was anyway – Putz was just a putz) but that job sucked so bad. Monotony at its core definition in an office with no windows. Sucked the life force right out of you. The only thing you could do to maintain the will to live was to smart off.

The Drew Carey Show was pretty new and big at the time and that was when “5 O’Clock World” was the theme song for that show, which is probably why we got hooked on it. Sometimes as emancipation hour drew near, we’d begin letting out the occasional hiccupy “HEY!” like they do in the song. It had an inexplicable power to boost our attitude long enough to get us to the bell without going mad.

JB was in on it too, though not as often since he was stuck in that dinky little office upstairs, far away from us. He was Hellboy’s little brother and got shat on a lot. I remember one time I actually met Drew Carey at a Bob Evans. I got his autograph, and one for T-Bone. JB was really bummed I didn’t get him one, and I felt kinda bad about that. To make up for it, T-Bone and I made him some fortune cookies with a recipe I found somewhere and put a bunch of typical insults we threw around inside. Things like, “Suck poop”, “I know you are but what am I”, and “Your Mom”.

Eventually I landed my job at the GC and T-Bone got a job with the post office. We kept in close touch. A few years ago she started throwing up blood and when she went to the doc they found that her whole stomach was full of tumors. She had to have her entire stomach removed. I went to see her in the hospital and she looked terrible, as you’d imagine. I could tell she was in misery. But she smiled nearly the whole time I was there. She told me I made her day.

Later they found that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and was at stage 3. She went through some chemo which really tore her up. One day she was lamenting about her hair falling out, so I told her I’d bring her a Chia pet and we’d spread the seeds on her head. She cracked up and said "Oh, sweetie, you can always make me laugh.”

That was the last time I ever talked to her. Shortly after she was notified that her cancer was too far advanced for them to help her. She pretty much gave up after that. I tried to call but she refused to talk to or see anyone. That's been several years ago now - I don't even know exactly when she died. Isn't that messed up?

I realize I’ve been dwelling on death lately. I’ll get through it. Meanwhile thanks for listening.

Anyway, I heard that song this morning and it brought back a flood of memories, most of them good. I miss T-Bone a lot, but she’s still with me. Especially when I hear that song.

Holiday – eee- eeeeeeee- ee- ee- ee- ee- yeahhhhh …..

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

For those who used to rock ~ We salute you!

I was a definite metalhead back in school, and I was deadly serious about it. I bring this up because I happened to catch a show last night as I was falling asleep on VH1 called “My Coolest Years”. Basically a bunch of 30-somethings are interviewed and talk about all their memories from a certain time and niche in their adolescent/young adult lives. This episode focused on metalheads. I think I laughed through that whole show! I remembered every silly thing they mentioned, most from experience.

Here are a few topics covered and the memories that jettisoned back to me therewith:

Hair. Long hair. Big hair. Layered hair. The hair, the hair. My favorite part. Men with lots of hair. Bangs to the eyelashes. Grrrowl. Hair was a good 80% of your persona back then.

Makeup. Tons of makeup. On girls AND guys. I was never one for pretty boy makeup, but eyeliner on a guy could really twist me up. I remember my friend JC used to have me put my eyeliner on him in art class. Without the eyeliner he really wasn’t my type, being blonde and all. But when he had that eyeliner on – holy smokes. I coulda crawled right under his shirt. Oops, sorry. This is a family show.

The clothes. Spandex. Leather. Jean jackets with little buttons with snotty comments and your favorite band’s names on them and crap painted and written all over the back panel. I still have my jean jacket that Rudy Sarzo autographed on the back. Tight pants. The tighter the better. And how your entire identity was wrapped up in the concert shirts you wore. And if you wore an Iron Maiden shirt, the world knew you meant business. I remember I wore a Maiden shirt to Lit class one day, trying to subtly show #96 my colors. It just so happened he wore a Maiden shirt that same day. I was wrecked on adrenaline overload for the remainder of the week.

Accessories. Hightops. Suede boots with a half a dozen bandanas tied around the ankles. Finding the proper balance of spiked leather accessories so you weren’t too puss nor too much of a total jack a$$. (I remember T used to wear those studded gauntlets with the slave bracelet-type thing on the back of the hand. He looked ridiculous.) Wallets with chains on them. Those skinny black rubber bracelets – at least 30 on each wrist if you were cool. Jewelry. Had to be silver, had to be either very chunky or very swirly. Long dangly earrings. Big ol’ belts with period-piece bling on them that were too big because it was cool to have them hanging aloofly around your hips rather than at your waist. Not like you needed a belt to hold your pants up because they were so tight they were practically underneath your skin.

Showing your allegiance. Drawing your favorite band’s logos on your books, locker, the stall door, your desk, whatever … Making those Devil horns with your fingers when you got cranked up about something. What was that all about? And why does my hand naturally go into that position still in similar circumstances after all these years?

Junkers. The types of cars a metalhead always drove. Unless you were a spoiled rich kid (and there were no spoiled rich metalheads where I’m from – spoiled and rich put you in the prep category), we’re talking usually a Gremlin/Pinto type thing, an old trans am, or a circa 1970 van. Usually more bondo and primer than metal and paint. Always sticky and ashy inside from spilled beverages and cigarettes and whatever else burned in there. Who cares about all that though because everybody knows the most important part is the stereo. You can’t cruise if you can’t crank your Priest to eleven.

Concerts, concerts, concerts. The pivotal moments signposting all metalheads’ schedules. I can still smell the distinctive blend of cigarettes, stale beer, pot, hairspray, leather, sulphur, and patchouli oil. Thrashing your huge hair around for 3 or 4 straight hours. I remember one time R and I about thrashed ourselves right off the balcony at a Metallica show. HAR! Navigating through the 9 million beer bottles in the parking lot when you left, remnants of the tailgaters who got there at 2 and partied all day. Remember the ringing in your ears that was still there the next day? Now that was a good concert, man!

It was just funny how remembering things like that sparks a kinship. I bet you could put a bunch of former metalheads in a room together who grew up to be bankers, teachers, scientists, housewives, factory linemen, nurses, and sports equipment salesmen and have nothing in common in modern times, but if you bring up the metal days they’ll be best friends like that.

Helpful hint of the day: Do not attempt to headbang if you are over the age of 30. About a month ago on the lake A said, “Hey, listen to this!” He turned up the radio and an old Metallica song was on. We all banged our heads for about 5 or 10 seconds and laughed about it. My neck hurt for a week.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Longing for The Sixth Sense

It's been well over 2 months since J lost her battle with cancer. I still can't seem to come to terms with this fact. Rather, I can't be at rest with it.

I've been wrestling with it, pretty much all the time. Some stretches are better than others, but especially lately, with having to process yet another third party friend seemingly fading from my life, I have had a harder time processing this loss than practically any other, save my dearest friend Joe. I know she's gone. I know her suffering is over and she's in a better place. I'm not in any kind of denial, and I fancy myself a very well grounded and realistic person. So then - Why is it that I still hope to see her pretty writing on an envelope when I get my mail? Why do I still look for her when I log on to my messengers? Why is it that when something funny or strange or important happens, I immediately make a mental note that I must tell J about it?

I suppose it's human nature to feel that no matter what the circumstance, things feel unsettled when a friend dies. That it's a common condition, this haunting weight I feel that I didn't tell her I loved her enough, even though I told her every time we wrote, every time we IM'ed, every time we spoke. The letter that J was writing to me the week she died has shaken me deeper as the days have progressed since receiving it. In her final days, she was thinking of me. In her struggle and pain, she was writing a letter to ... me. And had the beautiful heart, the love of a true friend, to ask me how we were all doing here.

Several people have told me that I am so lucky and so blessed to have such a friend (true). That I must have been something very special to her. I guess I didn't realize. I knew my feelings of sisterhood were reciprocated, but I always figured I didn't mean as much to her as she did to me. We were thick as thieves for 20 years and talked about everything, yes ... but ... After all, she had so many friends. Everyone adored her. And yes, I have friends, but - so few I feel close to.

I sent her a huge bouquet of yellow roses for her 41st birthday, a few weeks before she passed. Yellow was her favorite color. She gushed forever about them and told me that no one ever sends her flowers, and that I am such a wonderful friend. Everyone knows roses are the big ripoff, but for that, the happiness they brought her, they were worth every penny. I wish I'd done more now.

Do I suffer from a kind of survivor's guilt? Is it that I simply feel unworthy? Am I hanging on to my mourning because I am ashamed at being so busy trying to be positive for her that I never figuratively drew her into me and comforted her as she was dying? And she was such a little sh*t, not letting anyone know how ill she really was until she was way ill ... Did I even really know she was actually dying, or was I simply refusing to believe that?

Did I waste my final conversation with her?

There are times that I would bet money she is right here. Right here with me. I can practically hear her voice. That kewl kannuckish Minnesota accent, smile audible, claiming something J-ish like, "That is so HANH!"

Damn. I just miss her too much.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Cutting the cord

I heard a disturbing story on Glenn Beck this morning. Without going into too much detail, a woman’s daughter told her she didn’t want to go to dance class because the lady that drove them was a scary driver. The woman called the dance school and they assured her that their driver was very safe. Later that week, or maybe even that day, I don’t recall now, the woman who drove for the school got in an accident. It seems she was passing someone on a solid double line and hit a garbage truck head on. She was doing nearly 100 miles an hour. Needless to say, everyone in the van was killed. Thankfully, the woman heeded her little girl’s voice of concern and she was not on the van that day. But many other children were. As it turned out, the driver was a family member of someone who owned the dance studio and had already lost her license in another state for driving 107 mph on the freeway. Further investigation showed that three 911 calls had been placed about her driving by other motorists that very day before the accident occurred.

Sad. Scary. And infuriating. I hope the owners of that studio get their pants sued off so bad they won’t be able to afford to exist.

Somehow, this got me thinking about a distantly related incident in my life. So distant that probably only readers with kids will see the connection, but that’s life. My blog, my tangents ;). Anyway, we were afforded the chance to go out on the boat overnight Friday sans kids with some friends of ours. They had arranged for their daytime caregiver to have their kids overnight, and their caregiver had agreed to take care of our son as well so that we could go out all night kid-free if we were interested. The Hub posed the idea to me and in almost knee-jerk reaction I put the kabbash on it. Absolutely not. It was a kind and generous offer, not to mention (I admit with a guilty conscience) appealing ~ but we only leave him with people we know well and trust. (Okay, so we just started using a new sitter a few weeks ago that we didn’t know too well but was recommended by friends and is a minister’s daughter but that’s only for a few hours at a time, you got me there – but you know what I’m saying.) The point is I had never met this person in my life. Now I’m sure she’s fine. Our friends trust their kids with her and they’re not the careless type. But I don’t know her and that’s enough. Not to mention the boy has never, EVER been away from us overnight even with family let alone an utter stranger. The Hub agreed, but felt it fair to pose the idea to me.

We get teased a lot about our overprotectiveness.

“Oh, this is your first, kid, right? You’ll get over it!”

“You’ve got to cut the cord sometime!”

“You’re only robbing yourself of a little freedom! He’ll be fine!”

Oh yeah? How do I know that? Who are you to tell me I’m too Mother Hen? What makes you the authority on how valuable my only son is to me? And in a crazy world where many people don’t even know what their own family and friends are capable of doing to their children, and I’m supposed to trust complete strangers with him?

I’m sorry. Maybe we are indeed missing out on some fun by not trusting him with anyone who comes by. But I’m his Mother. We are his parents. It is our duty to protect him as best as we can from any potentially harmful situation, and leaving him with someone we don’t know to me is a potentially harmful situation.

Maybe people who spurt this "advice" to us don’t know that I have against my will submitted 5 children before my son into the arms of God before they were even in mine. And I’m not saying that other parents love their children less than I love mine. But perhaps I am all the more protective and keenly guarded with whom I trust to care for him when I’m not around, as this little angel was acquired with so many preceding tears.

Yes, eventually I'll be letting him out of my sight. But for now I'm his protector. He doesn't know yet how to protect himself, or how to let us know if something's wrong. My boy is my treasure, and it is my responsibility to keep him safe. I won’t let just anyone guard him. If anything would happen to him I wouldn’t be able to live.