Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Foto: Just sayin'.

Just sayin'.

Happy long weekend, everyone!

For my friends heading to the OCTA (Ohio Community Theatre Alliance) conference: break a leg, and have fun.

I'll be thinking of you; can't wait to hear how it all turns out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On being an inspiration

My next door neighbor and I are good friends.

Anne and I are surrogate sisters, I guess. She lost her youngest sister to suicide nearly a year ago, and I lost my only sister eight years ago to a car accident. So, even though we are very different (my sister and I were opposites in just about every way, too) and we don't spend a lot of time together, there's an underlying understanding that we care about each other and we'll always be there for each other.

The months of the past year have been awful for Anne. She's struggling with her sister's death, trying to cope with the complicated combination of grief, pain and anger. She's swimming in a sea of thick, suffocating mud. Some days seem utterly impossible.

I know how she feels. I know what it's like to wake up and just want to go back to sleep forever. I know what it's like to want to scream at anyone who will listen. I know what it's like to walk through Kroger with unexpected tears streaming down your face just because you caught a glimpse of your sister's favorite cereal.

I know that living with heartache really does mean that sometimes your heart aches.

Anne is very public about her grief and how she's struggling, and I think that's very good. She talks to me. She talks to her husband. She talks to her counselor, other neighbors, her children. And I have to think that every tear that is shed, every memory uttered, brings her closer to
learning to live healthily and happily in a redefined world. A world without her sister.

I'm not/wasn't so open about my grief. Somewhere along the line -- before my sister died, and even before my brother died, I learned to cope with life's sorrows by swallowing them deep down and burying them. It was all I could do, really. It was the only way I knew to get myself up out of the corner where I huddled and be a wife and mother and daughter and friend.

And people just seemed to like the fact that I was doing so well accepting the tragedies I'd faced -- and with such courage and grace.

It was just easier for me that way.

Which makes me feel just a little bit uncomfortable when Anne tells me and others that on her darkest days, I am her inspiration. When she says that, I want to confess that I shouldn't be her inspiration because I haven't ever really dealt with the losses I've faced. My sister and brother died just two years apart and then my mom died right after that too; there just was
no way to deal with it all, so I stuffed it away.

But I don't tell Anne that because I want to be strong for her. She needs me to be strong. I'll do anything for her and I'll be anything she needs me to be. My friend - my surrogate sister - needs to get through these dark days and I'm going to be there for her.

And if she needs me to be her inspiration, then by God, I will.

I realize that the ball of hurt and anger I've swallowed can't stay inside forever. My friend Gordon wrote about swallowing grief in one of my favorite essays, ever.

I'll paraphrase, but it goes something like this:

There, in the pit of your stomach, grief becomes an emotional bezoar, knotted and tortured and matted with undigested sorrow. But grief will not be denied. Sorrow will not go away but will remain in your belly, a tumor that no doctor can feel.

And someday you will have to cough that fucker up.

And when that happens for me, Anne will know it. Maybe by then she will be in a place where she can help me wade through that sea of suffocating mud, and help me learn to live healthily and happily in a redefined world.

Maybe, just maybe, Anne will be my inspiration.

After all, that's what sisters are for.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Foto: This isn't very, um, professional.

Made me laugh!

I was going to title this post "Only in America" but it turns out this is a London-based company. Cracked me right up. I'm just so tempted to call them just to hear someone cheerily answer, "Good Morning. Stiff Nipples , how can I help you" or, "Hello, Stiff Nipples! Ready when you are!"

Stay cool, dear friends! Keep that AC crankin'!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sand Dollar Memories

Every time we walk along a beach
some ancient urge disturbs us
so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments
or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers
like the homesick refugees of a long war.
Loren Eiseley

As we walked the in the sand our first night at the beach, I noticed broken sand dollars dotting the sand everywhere I looked. Beautiful, large sand dollars had washed onto the beach, but must have broken as the tide tried to sweep them back out to the sea.

As we enjoyed the evening air and the mixture of melancholy and inspiration that only the seashore brings, I was taken back to a time when I was a girl, visiting the same coast.

I had forgotten how enthralled I had been with collecting sea shells, and how I considered finding a sand dollar the best treasure of all.

Every day that summer years ago, I'd scan the printed tides tables for the precise hour and minute of low tide, and then force my grandparents to adjust our plans so that I could be on the beach, searching for treasures.

But I don't remember seeing so many broken sand dollars when I was there as a child. I only remember searching the beach at low tide and coming away with beautiful treasures.

Like those days long ago, on each day of this recent vacation I woke my two youngest boys at dawn's low tide. We'd find our flip flops, don our hats, and tiptoe out of our hotel room to scour the beach like paupers searching for food.

Our morning ritual made me wistful about my children and the memories they'll someday have - not only about this vacation - but their childhood memories in general. It occurred to me that while there are many childhood experiences we adults vow we'll never allow our own children to experience, there are other things that we feel our children must experience or somehow their childhood days just won't be complete.

I found that ironic as I walked along the foggy beach each morning with my boys zig-zagging beside me in the sand.

The funny thing is, I wasn't a very happy child. As a kid I encountered some fairly earth-shattering experiences (I mention this only to illustrate a point) and yet I have a lot of trouble remembering details about any one of those bad things that happened to me. Just as I don't remember so many broken sand dollars along the shore.

But if asked about my childhood days at the beach, a trip to visit my favorite aunt in Madrid, or treasured trips to the movies with my older cousins, I remember it all with great detail and with sincere passion.

I hope my children remember our vacation and our mornings together searching for sand dollars.

I hope they remember the closeness we shared those mornings - and not the complaining they did when I woke them too early.

I hope they remember the excitement of looking to see if anyone else was out there as early - and not my grousing about putting on hats.

I hope they remember the aroma of the morning sea air and the feel of the cold, wet sand under their feet.

I hope they remember a mother who scooped them up and embraced them out there next to the sea, holding them a little too tight and a little too long.

I hope they remember searching the beach at low tide and coming away with beautiful sand dollars, and I hope they too forget seeing the broken ones along the way.