Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Miss Babygirl

There is something that happens when an animal gets into your heart. The experience brings you back down to your most basic, instinctual level. It makes you get over yourself. It reminds you that pure, simple joy is found in the eyes of this furry creature who sees you as you are and doesn't need to know much more beyond you being willing to share your space, your time, and maybe your food :).

When I first met Babygirl up close and personal, she was in her prime—solid, muscular, territorial to protect her 'people' (she is part chow), alert, and ready to play. She was staying with my best friend for several months, and I had come over to her apartment to visit. She growled at me ferociously, unsure of my intentions toward her pack member and ready to let me know she wasn't taking any shit from anybody.

But as soon as my best friend put her hand on me, gathered my scent onto her fingers, and let Baby know that I was okay—that I was part of the pack—that was it. Then, it was all tail wagging and ear scratches. The next time I came to visit, I heard that familiar growl from behind the door, but as soon as I called her name ("Baby, it's me!"), the growls turned to excitement and I could feel her willing the door to open so we could get on about the business of the love-fest.

Fast forward to several months later, I had gone through a pretty difficult breakup and was overcome with sadness. I didn't want to be in my apartment, so I fled to my bff's place to stay with her and Babygirl. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, Baby stayed by my side while I was there. She seemed to take on my sadness and had a hard time eating. My pain became her burden, my concerns furrowing her little doggie brow. I tried to get her to eat, but I realized that just as my best friend was having a hard time force-feeding me bagels, the dog didn't want to be consoled either. She was content, instead, with watching junk tv with me on the couch and napping in between my crying jags. I told her all my problems and she listened. I asked her questions about why things hadn't worked out, and while she didn't have the words to speak, I felt that she got it somehow. We bonded so strongly during that time, and I knew that she had fully drawn me into her 'pack.' I was one of her people, and that was something that would never change.

On Sunday of this week, many of Baby's friends gathered at a beautiful garden in the city to pay our last respects to this cherished soul. She had reached the ripe old age of 15 and her body had been slowly failing her for months. It was time to send her off with the celebration she deserved. We spread out on blankets under a big tree and the diva herself (complete with feather boa and coat) let us all come and pet her and feed her treats and tell her how much we love her. When I arrived, she was resting peacefully, head all the way down to the ground. I gave her an ear scratch and told her it was me, but then I realized that she couldn't hear me and probably didn't know who it was. So I reached down and put my fingers in front of her nose and said again, "Baby, it's me," and she immediately lifted her head and leaned into my hand, nuzzling it. From that first day years before, she had never forgotten me. I was in her pack, after all.

When I left the park later that afternoon, I went to say goodbye to her. I kissed her head and whispered to her, "Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for letting me be yours." She didn't say anything then, either, but I knew she still got it somehow.

This morning, that beautiful girl crossed over the rainbow bridge with her family around her and with so much love sending her into the light. I am heartbroken and in tears as I write this, but here is what I know for sure and what gives me comfort:

Babygirl was a beautiful gift to this family and to my life. She never judged, never held a grudge, never got angry with us, never wanted anything more than to love and be loved. Once you were in, you were IN. She even tolerated us singing to her, dancing with her, calling her silly nicknames (dupa!), dressing her in ridiculous outfits, and generally cutting up and being fools. In fact, her favorite place was in the middle of a room full of her people, laughing and carrying on. Oh, how she was loved!! She was the focus of tons of pictures and she is part of most memories I have with this family. She loved on all of us when we were sad, happy, or somewhere in between. She saw her mama through some tough transitions. She brought calm into chaotic circumstances. And she was the best friend and most loyal companion you'd ever want.

I know that she is free now from any pain and any limitation, and I hope that there are unlimited doggie treats and head scratches where she is—because she deserves them all.

Thank you, sweet lady, for taking me into your life. You're in my heart for good and I am so honored to have known and loved you.






Thursday, March 17, 2016

On Grief and Loss: Springtime Edition

March came in like a lion and brought with it more sadness and death. I swear, this whole year so far has been a series of obituaries and hard news. I'm not trying to be negative; it's just true.

And as ever, I'm sitting here just trying to process it all. My heart breaks at least once a day (but often many more times over) and tears are not often far from me lately. I feel like that raw place that you keep skinning again and again that never quite heals over.

Now, to be clear, I'm not saying all of this as a complaint—far from it. I really do consider it an honor to 'mourn with those who mourn' (Romans 12:15), but it is a reminder to me that every time you open your heart to love anyone (or anything), you also open yourself up to loss. And sometimes, that's a really hard pill to swallow.

I have a friend who keeps most people and most feelings at a distance from himself, and though he's never overtly shared with me why he does this, I know that he has deep hurts and wounds that have never healed over. He's felt safer retreating into a shell than opening himself up to more loss and hurt, but in doing so, he's also missed opportunities to really give and receive love in a deeper way.

It is quite easy in the face of profound grief, hurt, and loss to understand why someone would pull away and allow those wounds to scab over (though I would submit that true healing can only come from really going through the fullness of our experience rather than running from it). It's terrifying to think of enduring the kind of pain that will last a lifetime.

But then, what is living, really, if we avoid any feeling that might lead to pain? What is the meaning of our time here if not to love and experience all the richness that life offers—even if some of that richness hurts like hell?

Every time I am tempted to wall my heart off and cloister myself in a tower of numbness, I am reminded of a favorite poem by Edgar Lee Masters:

George Gray
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

If I'm being honest, I have fears, too, of losing what I hold dear and of being hurt. Is there anyone who doesn't, on some level? But I am convinced that to try and avoid pain really causes more loss than plowing ahead with abandon and taking your chances. Though everyone's time here reaches an end eventually—and those who are left behind are changed forever as a result—it is important to remain undeterred from the quest to lift the sail in our own lives. It may end in madness, in grief, in realizing your greatest fears, but it may also end in your heart getting what it really needs: a way to fill that hunger for more.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Have a little faith....

"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark." —Rabindranath Tagore

These days, I find myself growing tired (even more quickly than usual) of things that don't feel significant enough to warrant my emotional energy or time. People are getting up in arms about their kid not cleaning his or her room or running 10 minutes late for a meeting or temporarily misplacing their phone. And all I'm thinking is that a little girl has died and two parents are shell-shocked and grief-stricken and what else even matters now? 

I don't really have an answer for that question, because, to them, nothing else really does. Their lives have been irrevocably changed and there is nothing I—or anyone else—can do to change reality. It is beyond heartbreaking, beyond unimaginable, beyond any words that do any shred of justice to the magnitude of this situation. And I know it happens every day to countless people, but these are people I care about, so yeah, it's hitting home to me in a way that it hasn't before. Tragedy is all around, but right now, it's sitting with me in my bed and at my dining room table, and it's on my friends' front doorstep, behind every cabinet door, around every corner inside every room. It has flooded their lives and there is no Red Cross effort that can sweep in and save them from this pain. 

In moments like these, many turn to God, either to seek comfort or to vent their anger—or both. For me, it isn't so much a turning toward as a redirection of prayer and conversation. He is ever present and very much close to me in times of brokenness (and joy), but not everyone feels this way. 

If I'm being honest, I have known despair the likes of which I cannot describe. I have walked through that shadowy valley and was convinced for many years that I would never emerge. I'm not trying to be dramatic. This shit is real. Depression and the crushing pain of grief and trauma can surround your every movement and suck the life and very breath out of you (even in a metaphorical sense). And even in my darkest hour, even when I felt I had no hope and no reason for existing, I still felt a nudge, a gentle urge to try one more day, one more minute. In the face of hopelessness, with little to no evidence that things would ever get better, some part of my soul knew that the sun would, indeed, rise again. 

God is a million things, all at once, every day. He is the reminder that we are never truly alone, the quiet voice in your head telling you to trust your gut, the provider of peace when all around is strife, the warmth and squeeze in a friend's hug, the faithfulness and kindness of strangers, the beauty of trees in a forest, the majesty of the ocean, the joy in a baby's laugh. I have him to thank for everything I am and all that I've been able to do. Yes, I put in the work, but he gave me the assurance that, even when I couldn't see a way forward, I would be protected and provided for along my journey. 

In this time of darkness and deep sadness, I pray that my friends would find His light inside themselves...that they would know the peace that transcends every earthly hurt and find some relief for their suffering. I pray that the wave of holy, divine love that is rushing to meet them at every turn (through the kindness of so many friends, known and unknown) would overwhelm their pain and bring sweetness and comfort to allow them to rest and gain strength for the long road ahead. 

And in my own grief, I, too, am like that bird singing in anticipation of the light. I don't know how it will come—or when—but my heart believes that the dawn will indeed break again. Even a tiny bit of faith right now is enough.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love is.

To quote John Mayer, "Love ain't a thing. Love is a verb." I think about that often, especially on Valentine's Day when sentimentality runs high and there is this notion of 'the loving feeling.' No disrespect to those who are giving cards, chocolates, and flowers or writing sonnets or limericks on construction paper hearts. I'm all in favor of love, but it's the feeling part that always falls flat to me. Besides, in the midst of all of Cupid's arrows being slung hither and yon, I think about people I love who are out there in the muck of life enduring the hardest moments you can comprehend. In the midst of tragedy that hits close to home, your mind starts shedding dead weight and getting down to the heart of the matter. And in between the tears, you begin to formulate a plan for how you can make a difference...how you can take what little you have and try to bring some measure of hope or happiness to your loved one. Flowers wilt in a matter of days and cards get packed into boxes, but real love? It has a chance to flourish in the midst of what feels like emotional ruins. 

In my mind, love is palpable. It is proactive. It is the choice to put in work. It is presence, support, and hugs. It is grief and sorrow for another's pain - and for your own. It is generosity and patience. It is remembering important moments and the random, mundane ones as well. It is swallowing pride and selfish ambition to see another happy and successful. It is protection. It is safety. It is knowing and being known. It is laughter over drinks and dinner. It is giving advice and lending a listening ear. It is choosing kindness over anger when you're in a bad mood. It is organization projects and peanut butter sandwiches and picking up band-aids at the drugstore on the way home. It is acceptance. It is telling the truth, even when the words are hard. It is nicknames and birthday presents and inside jokes. It is the tears running down your face and onto someone else's lapel. It is sacrifice and joy. It is filling up and pouring out. It is admitting when you're wrong and being gracious when you're right. It is the song that sticks in your brain for weeks on end. It is prayers breathed into the wind. It is beach vacations and long drives with the windows down. It is trips to Target and heart-to-heart conversations in a quiet office at work. It is the promise that, even when things are messy, you'll stick close by. It is also moving on and letting go if/when the time comes. It is wishing someone the absolute best and extending true forgiveness after years of anger and frustration. It is celebrating every miracle, big and small. It is light for the path when all around feels like darkness. It is the quiet whisper of birds taking flight in a field. It is the gentle touch and the tight squeeze. It is the strength to keep trying. It is the signs that follow you everywhere you go. It is the push of labor that brings you into this world. And it is the grace that, in your last breath, leads you home. 

'So you gotta show, show, show me.
Show, show, show me
Show, show, show me
That love is a verb.'

Monday, October 12, 2015

101 years

Remembering my beautiful, blue-eyed spitfire of a grandma (whose first name I share) on what would have been her 101st birthday. Born a farm girl in central PA, my grandma got herself on a train to New York City and put herself through nursing school. She remained in NYC and eventually met my grandfather, Dr. Alexander Franco, when they were both working at the same hospital. After many years building a successful private practice, they retired back to 'the hills of home' in PA where they had a lovely farm with horses and big gardens and plenty of room for a little kid to wander and dream and re-enact the opening scenes from 'the sound of music.' smile emoticon
My grandmother was a strong-willed, indomitable spirit. She was smart as a whip and extremely industrious (and yes, maybe even a little bossy). She was a phenomenal cook and seamstress and had a head for all matters practical. She fostered my own passion for cooking and baking for others by letting me help her with everything she did in the kitchen—from preparing big family meals (for swarms of relatives), to baking hundreds of cookies and pies, to scrubbing, prepping, and canning/jarring countless bushels of vegetables from my great-uncle's gardens. She was also the consummate caregiver, always helping the "little old ladies" from church or her garden club (who were often not much older than she) by taking them to lunch and appointments. She made sure others never went without and always magically had some fresh coffee and a sandwich to anyone who drove up the lane to her house 'just for a visit.' She paid attention to the unnoticed, sending birthday and holiday cards to folks many others never took the time to acknowledge. She was a night owl, loved playing cards and monopoly with her grandchildren, and stayed up with me reading on nights when I felt too scared or anxious to sleep. Her heart was much bigger than her little 4'11" body and she always had a twinkle in her eye, especially when she laughed.
Happy birthday, Sarah E. Johnson Franco. I'll love you forever but always feel you closest to me when I'm throwing flour around in the kitchen heart emoticon.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

this is 40

today is the half-day of the year and the 40th anniversary of the day i was born. i am utterly gobsmacked about the fact that i have lived this long, and while i am by no means 'old,' the word 'young' also doesn't describe me any longer. i am somewhere in the middle, i guess. middle-aged. good grief. that phrase feels so far from me, though if i am being honest, i am there. right. there.

birthdays often mean retrospectives (see last year's blog post), and this one is no different. i have been doing a lot of stock-taking over the last month or so as this day has quickly approached. i've made lists, tied up loose ends, and thrown things out. but more than all that, i have arrived.

a year ago, on my 39th birthday, i promised myself that i would work to remain present in as many moments as possible this year. and i was. i took mental snapshots (finger clicks and all). i sat inside discomfort and comfort alike..inside sadness and joy...and i soaked them in. i said hard things. i made even harder decisions. i swallowed my pride, and i patted myself on the back and gave myself snaps once in awhile. i tried to let my emotions be what they were, knowing that it is an honor to really FEEL. i took long walks and fantastic bubble baths. i listened to stunning music sung by some of my favorite musicians. i saw some phenomenal theatrical works and laughed, cried, and gushed to my heart's content. i cooked, ate, and photographed some seriously delicious food. i spent time with people i deeply love and appreciate. i received care and i sowed love into others. i made some new friends and continued to keep the old (remembering that the girl scouts song was always right). i made some mistakes, i avoided some others (whew!), and i forgave myself for not always doing everything perfectly. i found out that i'm more wholly me than ever before in my life. i rejoiced in that realization.

so in this middle place, i meet myself again. my hope for the coming year (and the coming 40 years) is to become more and more me...to share what i love with others and to bring joy to their lives...to pursue wholeness in all things (body, mind, and spirit)...to speak my truth and tell my story (through words, actions, and the food i create)...to love and laugh and cry with more abandon...to continue making balance and fun major priorities in my life (this is worth EVERY effort)...and to remain present in every moment, good or bad. i am happy to say that i am already in pursuit of these things (i'm more about realistic goals these days). i am already firmly on the road.

and though i don't know yet what lies around the next bend and who will meet me there, i know today who my real friends are and where i want to be. i am loved. i live an abundantly blessed life. i am grateful for all the opportunities i have to work on myself and the world around me. so, with thanksgiving and hope in my heart, i acknowledge that every day up until this point has brought me here. and whether the path ahead is smooth or bumpy, i know that the road i travel is mine. the journey is my choice because i believe the end is worth the effort. here's to the next 40, y'all. i said it before and i'll say it again. look out, world. i have arrived.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

39

this past week, I celebrated my 39th birthday. so hard to believe that i've reached the age where i can truly say i'm almost 40. where exactly did the years go?

on the cusp of that milestone, i am scrolling through memory albums and making lists of new memories i want to create...new things i want to do or experience. and really, i can think of so many things that i haven't yet done, so it would be easy to feel pressured or down about how much time has gone by that i have 'wasted.' but if there's one thing i've learned it's that life isn't a waste. for those days i spent lying on the couch watching tv, maybe i just really needed the rest. for the days spent crying or carrying on about something, maybe i just really needed to work some things out. for these and many other things in my life, i am learning to forgive myself. to cut myself some slack and to avoid the waste of worrying. because that really is a shame - to spend even one minute kicking yourself or wishing your past away.

i've made all the choices that i've made and i'll continue to make all the ones to come. i'm owning it this year. good, bad, indifferent - they're all mine.

and as i check off items, one by one, i know i will have a few people around me who truly get it, who love me and are proud of me because they know what courage it takes some days to just get by. and by God, i am grateful for those souls. they have saved my very life on more than one occasion. they are, quite often, the inspiration for adding new items to my lists, for giving me the pep talks when i need them, and for holding my hand when i've disappointed myself. 

and i am learning, even, to be that friend to myself, finally. to be the voice of forgiveness and acceptance over the criticism. to be the one who says 'try again' when all i see are unmet hopes and dead ends. 

nothing is perfect (nor will it ever be) and i'm learning more and more to be okay with that. i've got another year around the sun, God willing, and i'm going to make the most of it. my camera is charged up, my pen is poised, and i have fellow adventurers at the ready. let the next leg of the journey begin. one memory at a time.

p.s.
memories created in the past 5 days of this new birth year:
*watching the sun set over the chesapeake bay on my birthday evening, complete with a few sparklers and fireworks
*falling down in the ocean and laughing as the waves knocked me back again, over and over
*feeling the warm air on my face and the sunshine on my shoulders
*eating truly amazing food - my first 7-course chef's tasting menu - and documenting every bit of it in photos
*smelling the salt air
*finding new fun places in and around my favorite beach spot
*having deep talks and lots of laughter with my best friend
*watching fireworks from locust point on independence day with my fellow baltimoreans
*experiencing some july days that felt almost like spring - low humidity, warm sunshine, and great breezes (what a gift!)

Sunday, March 09, 2014

just a thought

in all my musings of late, i have come to a conclusion. taking the high road can sometimes crush your soul.

that is all.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

the other stuff

the first two months of this year have basically flown by. 2014 started quietly, in my apartment, with my best friend by my side, while my lungs crackled and whistled and struggled to take in air. i wasn't sure i'd ever breathe normally again. when something takes over your body like that, it's hard to remember life without it.

but, here i sit, weeks later, breathing deeply and sitting at my desk on a sunday morning eating some cereal with blueberries, feeling quite grateful to be alive. i am learning, more and more these days, to listen to my body and to heed its warnings. when i'm tired, i sleep. when i'm hungry, i eat. when i'm full, i put down the fork. when i feel antsy, i move. when i'm working too much, i stop. these are basic concepts. and you'd think i'd have figured them out by now. but in truth, the other stuff of life (stress, pain, etc.) often gets in the way of what is really appropriate self-care.

so during the holidays and the beginning of the year, i had a lot of time to think as i lay on my couch trying not to cough. and i realized that the other stuff, whatever it may be, isn't my real life. it's like layer upon layer of paint on a perfectly good piece of wood that doesn't need adornment. so much extra that, rather than adorning, it hinders the original form, muddies its beauty until someone has the good sense to strip it away.

so in the coughing and wheezing and shallow-breath moments of clarity, i came up with a short list of what matters to me (in no particular order):

my relationships
my body
my sanity
my future

none of these things can be truly cultivated, nurtured, and protected if i don't remove the other stuff now and focus on the heart of the matter. so, bit by bit, i'm trying. trying to listen to my inner murmurings, trying to shut out the doubts and fears and worries about letting others down. i got sick by letting me down, and i'm really not interested in that happening again. this year i'm trying to allow peace and restoration to take over my life in an effort to focus on what i want rather than worry about what i don't. without knowing just how deeply she was speaking truth to me, yesterday my best friend randomly started singing the familiar line from a bob marley song:

'don't worry 'bout a thing, cause every little thing gonna be all right....'

and this year i believe that it will. i really do.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

stained

whenever i purchase something new, there is always that feeling of enjoyment that comes from the pristine-ness of the thing and the follow-on desire of wanting to keep it just that way. and when the first mark or blemish appears on the shiny possession, there is a kind of loss that goes with it. for years i wouldn't use things people gave me, for fear of this loss, and i battled over whether to keep the things in their packaging and never use them so that they could stay perfect forever, or to let them become the way everything else in life becomes: marred, dirtied, and (eventually) broken.

a dear friend of mine just had a baby this past week, and when i went to visit him in the hospital, all i could feel was how small and perfect he was. how loved. how utterly wanted and protected. in his clean-slated state of being, he hasn't yet experienced emotional heartache, sadness, loss, or anything that might prick his tiny heart and make him feel tarnished or bruised. and oh, how i would love to keep him from ever feeling that way. how i wish i could preserve his sense of peace, support him learning only positive things in life, make sure that what he experiences from the world is nothing short of love.

but that's not possible, is it? if he (or anyone) is to go on about the business of real life, then the bumps and bruises are inevitable. he will not stay a baby forever, and once he begins exploring the world, he will feel its barbs interspersed with its joys. so the answer seems to point to one path: to live life and run the risk of being stained by it.

and i'm okay with that answer. i'm all right with the idea that nothing is perfect—nor was it ever intended to be. but there are paths in life for some folks when things do go pretty well and intentions are good. there are band-aids and antibiotic creams to treat the scrapes. there are cleansers to wipe away the smudges and splatters. there is someone there to tend to the hurt and the pain and the loneliness. if the attention is quick (if not immediate), the hurts brought on by the world are lesser than if left alone. there isn't time for ick to dry and harden on surfaces (or, worse, do damage on an even deeper level), and things can move along pretty smoothly.

but then, there are people for whom 30+ years pass without things being addressed, without wrongs being righted, without stains and marks being wiped clean (or at least scrubbed to an acceptable shine). and for those folks, the question remains as to whether it's possible to move from a life that feels rather stained and broken into something that resembles that shiny new-ness that once was. to bring back the wonder and childlike awe of new feelings and sights and sounds. to put the past behind you and redirect yourself to a path that is of your choosing and not simply the hand you were dealt. i have to believe that it can happen, but whether it will is another story altogether. the choice lies within the individual (me, in this scenario) to pull out the tools needed to make things right again.

so, here i stand, filled with doubt and trepidation, holding my best 'scrubber sponges' and heavy-duty 'cleaners'. i have only my mind, my heart, the drive to change, and the repeating refrain: it can get better. it must get better. it will get better.

Friday, June 28, 2013

coming into focus

obviously my attempts at writing this spring fell off the wagon. ah well, there's always the summer catch-up to get everything back in gear....

tomorrow marks the start of my birthday weekend. monday is the day, proper, but i don't have time to take off from work and frolic, so saturday and sunday will have to do.

beauty for ashes
this year i'm in the headspace for healing and making reparations. over the next couple of months, i have some mini trips planned to revisit places and spaces that make up part of my past. and it is my full intention to document them (likely through photos, or maybe words) and to bid them a kind of goodbye. sometimes the memories hold us too close and the creation of distance is just what the doctor ordered.

not all of these trips will be happy for me. in fact, they will involve looking back on some real sadness and pain, but i am hopeful that in the midst of the discomfort, i will find some joy. and believe me, i'm open to that joy coming from even my acknowledgement that yesterday is not what holds me anymore. the truth is found, instead, in my todays and my tomorrows.

and so, on the near eve of 38, these are my thoughts. i light them like a candle and let them burn into the ether. and through the smoke and ash, my vision is clearing ever so slightly. here's to less blur and more clarity in my 39th year. let it be so.

Monday, April 29, 2013

eleven years

today marks eleven years since i started this little blog. it's unfathomable to think how far i've come in that time...how much about my life is so very different than it was then. at the same time, so many things are (for good and for bad) the same. i've had some lofty goals, you see, and very few of them have come to pass. i suppose that makes me a fickle soul...or maybe just someone who can't stay focused on one thing for very long.

actually, i think what it really is is that i have things i want to do, but i allow other stuff to get in the way. it's frustrating that i do this, to be sure, but one thing is true: i am farther down the road than i was back in 2002, and i shall not pass that way again....

once in awhile, i take some time to look back and lose myself in words i wrote years before, astonished at how much i need to hear them, even still today. they are gifts to me, reminders not to lose sight of what i hold dear...not to give up despite how hard things can be sometimes, or how much disappointment rears its ugly head. my past is a blessing to me, in spite of it all. it has made me stronger than i realized i was, and it consistently, gently reminds me of how fragile life is [read: don't take everything so seriously, sarah].

here's hoping that eleven years from now, i will look back on this day with a smile and say, 'oh, if you only knew that the very best thing was just around the corner. turn the page and keep reading, girl. it will get better.'

and dear reader, whether you're here for the first time, or the eleventh, or the hundredth, i hope you'll keep reading along with me. i want to know how this story ends....

Sunday, April 28, 2013

sunday, not-so-fun day

i've made a decision: sunday is my least favorite day of the week. my bff and i were discussing this earlier today over lunch. and see, i actually LOVE sunday mornings (the brunching, the delicious sleep, the puttering about), but once noon/early afternoon hits, the all-too-familiar pit begins to form in my stomach. you know the one i mean—that sense of dread that accompanies thoughts of getting up to go to work on monday morning. and really, it isn't because i don't like my job. it's more about the fact that i have to have a job...that i am beholden to anyone or anything.... to make matters worse, even though i am closer to 40 than 30, the sunday night blues from my school days never really left me.

what i need, dear reader, is to win the lottery so that i can set my own schedule, be my own boss, and write my own story from minute to minute. it's not that i feel 'above' having to work, or that i wouldn't toil over something if i didn't have a job, but any such toiling would be over something (or somethings) that was on my own terms.... see? that's quite reasonable, isn't it?

i thought you'd think so.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

'let the river run....'

last weekend, i traveled to the land of the great lakes (well, one of them) to see one of my most favorite people and her almost-9-month-old daughter. leaving my charming city was also on the agenda; i needed to get out of dodge for a few days to clear my head and go to a house in a remote location with a river lazily drifting by out back. a river, i might add, that was more than 3 feet above what it should normally be. this also meant that some fields...and front yards...looked like mini lakes. it also meant that the grasses were already lush and green with spring despite the snow that fell the night before i arrived.

i spent 2+ days in a house with the darling bebé, along with a sweet, huge yellow lab, a brand-spanking new golden puppy, two cats, and a partridge in a pear tree (to say nothing of the mr. and mrs.). in the midst of this little family, making its way in the world, i was reminded of something: i am like that river, solitary and kind of mucked up and moving through life almost without even realizing it. no one depends on me for anything outside of work. i come home and i eat dinner (or not), wash dishes (or not), do laundry (or not), and talk to anyone (or no one) as i see fit. no one will die if i don't feed them. no one will object if there are socks on the floor of the living room. i have no one's mess to clean up but my own. and it's lonely. but it also can bring a measure of peace and calm.

that's the thing about life, i think: you have to find that balance between total independence/solitude and constantly surrounding yourself with other people/animals/things that need your attention. life on either end can be exhausting and make you feel like you're being sucked under by the currents, but if you can find that sweet spot in the middle, you can swim along happily for quite some time.

in the moments (few and far between as they may have been) i have been in that sweet spot, i feel the most like my pure self. there is a kind of sanctity in those times, and if i could bottle them up, i would. but the river of life continues to flow, and with it come the changing currents, the mud and sticks and other crap collected from distant shores, the knowledge that everything is temporary and what is good must be enjoyed now before it gets swept away in an instant.

now hear me: i'm not saying all of this to be negative. if anything, i feel encouraged and reminded that, to find that sweetest place in life, i must open up to the uncertainties...to what lies around that next bend in the river's path. i must continue to be vulnerable and to put my heart on the line for the things that i want. i must seek to avoid regret and invite the cleansing and renewal that new waters bring. it's not natural for me to do this, you see, but i figure if i'm going to conquer my own destiny and find the life i want, i have to plunge head-first into the rushing waters rather than simply allow life to float me along. and yes, that also means that the possibility of drowning is real, but i have those swimming lessons under my belt from 30+ years ago and just enough hope to keep me afloat. it's a start.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

'[none of] my bags are packed; i'm ready to go....'

this weekend i will board a jet plane and leave my charming city for a couple of days. to say that i need this getaway is more than a bit of an understatement. and what's more, i'm going to spend time with one of my favorite people on this earth - and her wee little one.

most of the time, i'm all for facing troubles head-on, but sometimes what is required is departure. at least for a time. my stress built up for too long until i had a bit of a meltdown a few months back. since then, i'm trying to be more cognizant of the slippery slope that often means me sliding quickly into a place of muck and meh. i would prefer to keep my feet on steady ground and take care of myself, you know? i feel like i deserve to give myself at least that much.

so, in the interest of mental health and the aforementioned handling of problems, i've been trying to spend more time outside of my own head, open my heart a bit more, disconnect from the drama around me (because even though i loathe it, it is easy to let it affect you), and do things that i enjoy. novel concept, no?

and now what i know is this: in 2 short days, i will be face to face with a river, a baby, a soul sister, and a margarita machine. what more does a girl need? at this point, just clean laundry and a boarding pass. i think i can handle that.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

neurotransmitters FTW!

some days, i'm just thankful to be alive to see some sort of resolution come to fruition. i mean, really. do you know how many loose ends are lying all over God's creation just waiting to be tied? it's staggering.

the last couple of days have been particularly stressful due to some conversation hanging in limbo and making me CRAZY. crazy, do you hear me? i do not do well with periods of radio silence or failure to come through and return a call. it does not sit easily in my little ocd heart and mind. no, instead i obsess and require myself to take melatonin (or something stronger, if need be) in order to sleep at night.

and speaking of melatonin, other than the fact that it gives me incredibly strange, almost hallucinogenic dreams, can i just say that i love how calm it makes me? how perfectly relaxed and carefree about most anything? as soon as a stressful thought enters into my mind, my brain will literally instruct me not to think about it, and i just drift peacefully off to sleep. brilliant! oh, how i wish i had thought of these little magic pills. i would be SO rich right about now!

and speaking of those beautiful little tablets, i'm going to take one post haste and drive myself straight to wacked-out dreamland. goodnight, internets!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

boston

i am decidedly anti-news. my best friend considers herself a bit of a junkie on that front, but i do my best to avoid the daily influx of mostly useless information coming in from sources 'round the globe. when tragedy strikes, however, i tend to go the other way, finding myself all-too-sucked in by the constant stream of video after video, until i cannot do anything but dream the events through fitful nights of pseudo sleep. 9/11 was the most extreme case of this for me. for days on end, i did nothing but watch or listen to the news, unable to tear myself away from the television and the endless barrage of pain. after that event, i vowed to try and avoid such extreme behavior, in a somewhat futile attempt to protect myself.

what happened yesterday at the boston marathon is yet another reminder that life is a tenuous thing. we are clinging to the brink every day, and all it takes is one lunatic to change it all. in a situation like this, i really cannot avoid the stories, the pictures, the human side of the mess. it is the only thing real that unites us.

so with the others still clinging to the brink, i will do the only thing i know to do: pray for the lost, pray for their families, pray for all those affected by this event.

and my hope is that the lunatic will not win. that the runners' spirits will not be daunted in the face of this terrorist act. that hope will prevail. that real humanity will.

Monday, April 15, 2013

tweetin' ain't just for the internet

i'm not sure whether this is a new thing, or whether i haven't noticed this until just this past weekend, but there are some birds in the city that chirp/tweet/sing 24-7. seriously. these little guys (or gals) have been up at 3:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., 8 p.m., etc. and i'm just wondering whether they're working in shifts or if they just never sleep.

i suppose this means that there is no rest for the weary, the wicked, OR the little birdies?

in any event, it's monday all over again. here's to hoping it ends better than it started...which, if i'm being honest, could apply to anything in life at any point in time. i just know one thing: if i were a bird, i'd be taking a nap right about now.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

v-neck sunburn: a glimpse into something more

my life is, for all intents and purposes, rather boring and limited. i know that may sound like a really negative thing to say, but it's true. really, it is. i hardly leave town. i primarily visit only my 'typical' haunts (i.e., restaurants, stores, etc.), and my phone rarely rings (and when it does, it's often one of maybe three or four people). these days, anything outside of my usual routine feels extravagant, exciting, and/or downright scandalous! and, mind you, this is entirely the result of choices i have consistently made over, well...much of my life.

so yesterday, when i went out into the sunshine with some friends and came home with a slight sunburn, most of which can be found on the lower part of my forearms and on the front of my chest where my button-down shirt hadn't covered my skin, i felt downright rejuvenated. up for adventure. wishing i could do this kind of thing every day.

that's the thing about real life, isn't it? to suck the marrow out of it makes a person want to live even more. it has compounding effects. it is, in essence, the opposite of where i spend most of my time.

so really, i have nothing profound to say, except that i want to make different choices. here's a small hope, put out there into the void, that i will be able to do so. sunburns and all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

To have and to hold....

This morning found me at the funeral of the father of my high school best friend. I sat there in the church, hard pew beneath me, and thought about how time passes so quickly (truly) and how much I wish I had given less of a damn for so many years what others thought and had worried less about what ‘might’ happen if I had chosen my dreams over the safe path. But my road was my road. And my pain was my pain. It’s best, I think, to make peace with that while one can before half your life disappears out from under you. A hard truth to feel…more uncomfortable than the cushionless pew beneath me....

The service was a basic catholic Eucharist, and I managed to hold it together for much of it until the priest was wrapping up his homily. He recounted that toward the end of his life, my friend's dad was trying to communicate something to her mother, his wife of 43 years, but he was struggling to speak. When he finally got the message across, he repeated it to his bride, over and over: 'to have and to hold...to have and to hold....'

In his final breaths, it was the LOVE that mattered most. It was the love for her, for his family, that he wanted both to leave behind and to take with him into his final sleep. It was that love that, beyond the grave, left me in tears that still, hours later, continue to catch in my throat.

Days move quickly lately. Months slip past, almost unnoticeably. Years are gone in a matter of breaths. It is the LOVE that carries us through. It is the LOVE that makes the hard pew of life more bearable for one more day, one more hour, one more minute.

I don't know what to do with myself, half the time, but I do know what I want. I want the 'til death do us part kind of love. I want to make my peace with what still needs to be surfaced in my own life...to put to rest the things that are preventing me from living more deeply, from having what I want out of life.

And although I am sad that it was death that brought me to these thoughts this morning, I am profoundly grateful for the chance to redirect myself while there is still daylight to burn. It's life I'm after. It's love I want. It's continuous perspective I need. I'll take these gifts where I can get them. However they come, let them come.