A Smile

They say, “A smile is worth a thousand words…” What a genius *they* were. I chose the photo for a few reasons; one it is was a photograph by my oldest and closest friend. Two, I need an updated head shot post life and two children and the pandemic, but I had not been photographed professionally in over two years. Finally it reminded me of what I thought I had lost.

She said my name, I turned and laughed, click. In one click that moment in time was stilled to a screeching halt. If I close my eyes I can see it, I can see it all flash like lightening out the window in the heat of the storm. I see that moment, and I see her and I see me…

The news, the phone calls, the fourteen-hour time difference, the lab results, the surgery, their visit, the return, the results, cutting her hair and her curls falling, falling, falling. Her story, not your story, but still the fall while I was running, running, running. Flying to visit on my first solo trip abroad. The anxiety beating in my chest. Waking up vomiting. Her making me laugh saying, “It’s nice to hear the sound of someone else puking and it not being me.” God she was so funny. Why. Why. Why. Why are good people punished? Is that even something that is valid to ask? Screw it. I said it. It was, it is, and it sometimes still crosses my mind. The flight home and feeling like a chunk of my heart lay in Hong Kong receiving the drip, drip, drip, hoping the life force of chemo would somehow heal the broken body. The waiting, the wondering, and the waiting some more. Time halted with the call; they’re coming home. She’s coming home. Home. What is home for them? The last four and a half months, like a count down before me. The last time we watched a movie together. Choking down popcorn. Fucking cancer. The call from the stupid company thinking that if only they had her take more of their potions it would change things. Leave, my sister alone, for the love of God. That last show. The blood on her tissue. Thinking to myself I should go over and cuddle with her. Texting, calling, and waiting. Curling up in the corner of the hospital bed and holding her hand. Gently waking her to speak with the doctor. Talking, talking, talking, they’re talking at her and she’s not even awake. What the hell is going on? Surgery, for what? No more pain, no more needles, she said no more needles don’t touch her. Losing my mind in the hallway calling mom choking up on the phone. Yelling at, sigh, a priest when he offered me help. I’m not CATHOLIC I yelled. I’m JEWISH. Wow. So that happened. I just sat there taking turns holding her hand, taking turns, and crying and praying that her labored breathing would ease. My God. How selfish could I be, I asked God to make it stop, what is wrong with me? That last moment. I see her hands; I see the soft rounded half moons on her nails. The same hands that held mine. Hands that braided my hair. That took pictures together. That passed book pages. That shared chocolate. That cooled a forehead. That taught me to drive. Hands. Hearts. Hands intertwined. I missed her smile. The audience packed over three hundred souls in the room to honor her. I was numb. I just kept thinking, I can’t lose this one too, in the bathroom praying the blood not to come. Waiting, not feeling right. The blood tests. The ultrasound. Hearing, “I’m so sorry, please wait here.” The look on his face. God, make it stop. Here I go again. Calling out to God and where are… they? The hospital lights dimmed as the drugs smoothed the edges of my raw nerves. “How are you feeling?” she asked, I rolled my head over to her and smiled, “So good.” Hobbling to the bathroom and thanking the nurse for helping me. The blood, that’s to be expected. The color stained behind my eyes. Every month I saw it again and again, and again. The pulsing life force within me that kept me alive, and reminded me monthly I had more to give, I had more to live for, to grow for, I had to reframe my perspective, ‘cuz this ain’t it kid, this ain’t it. What did she tell me?

“Hineni,” Hebrew for, “Here I am.” That was it, here I am, and here I will stay. I am not my sister, and she was not me.

Click. Click. Click.

The rush of the moment. The train station walls illuminated as the dusky lights of night descended upon us. All in a moment, all was still, and the laugh subsided. We sat to take a rest after shooting in the park along the Willamette River. Shooting one another and covering her camera with what we lovingly referred to as the camera condom. The humor from middle school never seemed to disappear between us. Old habits die hard, “Was that a good one?” She chuckles, “Yeah I think I got it, you smiled!”

Click.

“And once again!”

Photo credit to: K. Sciuto. ❤

Yahrtzeit: Six years passed.

There are days that feel so heavy to be a human. I felt those all weighing down on me when I woke up today. Each passing year feels so different.

Some years (pauses), God, I just wrote years, as in plural. As I shake my head at the realization of the length of time, I visualized something. The distance of days, turned months, turned years feels like more and more time built between the two of us. Maybe I need to talk that one out… Regardless, unpacking my thoughts and feelings is a daily task these days.

Back to my thought: the heaviness. Sometimes humanity weighs heavy in the heart. Maybe it’s the turning of the season today, the official beginning of the hibernation period, the winter solstice begins. Maybe it’s the remembrance of what we all lost when you left this Earth? Maybe it’s the fact that so much humanity is ever changing? The world still feels frozen, but why? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m feeling all of the things I allowed to become numb?

Maybe it’s all of it.

It is all of it.

All at once.

The crashing waves. The water washed over me, and I just let it all flow. In ways, like these words. I always turn to here. Let it all out in writing. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t blogged in so long. What do we say when we have too much to say? Or if we find ourselves without the words to fully express our feelings, where do we begin?

I turned a lot to podcasts this year. Unpacking, and repacking what I’m experiencing, listening to, mulling over, and chewing on in my head.

Often I take the feelings, and I weave them into an armor of something in my mind. The fabric of this life. The frayed edges worn with time. Here I stand alas, holding onto that scarf and hoping it still warms me, even after the years have unraveled it’s thread.

Golly, I’m at a loss. I hate that. I don’t like not understanding, or not knowing. That is definitely the type A coming through…

My patience runs very thin these days, it reminds me of ice. Cracking and refreezing, and the water still moving beneath the surface. What is it like to full submerge, and feel that sting? I remember all too well that frigid cold feeling in 2015, of knowing the inevitable was coming, and I was incapable of stopping it. That’s it. Right there. That knowingness of watching the inevitable unfurl. That was the submerge, the slow spiral, and the waking up knowing.

Sometimes I turn, and I think that I see your reflection in the mirror. I hear the same sound in my voice, that I once heard in yours, and the ice cracks. Perhaps it’s knowing that all things have changed, and so many remain the same.

Humanity keeps spinning in it’s web. The universe is still shifting, and yet in the quiet hours of the morning, in the repeated numbers on the clock I have seen the: 222, the 444, and the 555’s, I think of you. The buzzing of a picture frame on my birthday. The song titles you loved, as recent discoveries of unknown artists sing. These are universal signs. The dragonflies that passed us by in Fall. The shooting star that Andy saw last week. The birds that stop, and meet my eye. All of these are natures way of saying, keep going dear heart, I see you there. These reminders repair the frays. I turn my head and the breeze gently sways. New winds begin to blow.

I cried more today, than I can remember in the last 365 days. Maybe it’s because I feel you more, and I feel you less, all at once in the caverns of my heart. Maybe it’s because the fleeting feeling of time ticking becomes ever present with the growth of these two babes. There’s nothing quite like being needed to remind you of what’s important. I heard a new song by Ashley Monroe titled, Gold, and I thought about you. Her voice reminds me of Alison Krauss. These little things help reweave the threads hanging loose.

I don’t know if I believe the phrase, time heals all wounds, is accurate any longer. Maybe it’s more like this: time cloaks the wounds, and your heart grows less heavy. Regardless, here I am. I broke a few stress cycles with the tears today. You would probably say, “Look at you, healing, and stuff, haha, and be healthy you. I’m proud of you.” I’ll go hug the babes, and take a walk now.

I’ll leave you with this Big sis:

Your son’s doing well.

He’s nearing six feet.

He’s driving now too.

Imagine that.

We all love and miss you.

The books you should see coming out in 2021, ahh, I hope you do see.

I saw a hedgehog on google today.

I chuckled aloud, and thought you’re so funny.

Leo said you wink at us when the stars twinkle bright.

I hope that he’s right.

xo,

Your little sister

RAB 2021.

Blow out the candles

They say age is like wine, it gets better with time.

I’m not sure who they are, but I couldn’t agree more. Life’s bit bittersweet with a flaky exterior. If I were to define age it would be the conscious knowledge of a number, and yet the fleeting feeling of freedom. When I was a child, I would wonder who I would be one day. What does it even mean to be? In the Spanish language it conforms to: ser, to be….

To be or not to be, that’s always the question, isn’t it? I have been an official adult for twenty years now. I am not sure of everything I have learned and how I could possibly put it into words. I think the description would need to be written as multiple stories instead.

All I truly feel is: gratitude. This gratitude for just being, going back in time to my writing of the Hebrew phrase: hineni: here I am.

Being here.

Being still.

Being in motion.

Being.

How lucky am I? I think I am similar, and also very much changed. I don’t make room for as many things anymore. I shed them like a cloak each year that I realize the lack of importance they held. Take for instance, doubt.

If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t be here, writing, this, sharing it on the ethers of the internet.

If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t have the memory of us holding hands in a foreign land and comforting her in the largest trial of time.

If I had doubted my gut instinct and not held his hand that one day, I wouldn’t be here with my family today.

If I had doubted my abilities, I wouldn’t have sung in that room with a panel of music faculty members judging my every move, and been awarded a scholarship.

If I had doubted my kindness, I would not have made my lifelong friend again and passed her paper in study hall.

If I had doubted my hope I would not have believed in rainbows after the storm and held both of my babies close to my heart.

If I had doubted my self-worth I wouldn’t face my fears and discuss them monthly with a trained professional therapist.

If I had given into my doubt I wouldn’t submit and submit, and revise, and edit, and resubmit my stories again and again.

If I had given into my doubt, I wouldn’t have crossed the 13.1 finish line and completed a half marathon three years after taking my first steps as a runner.

If I had given into doubt, I wouldn’t have made countless friends and spent hours at a dance studio I called my second home.

If I had given into fear I wouldn’t have a fifteen minute birth story and a beautiful human to care for.

Doubt is like your shadow. It tags along for the ride, trying to pull you back, or pull you down. But at some point, you must know how to embrace it. Remember that first time you discovered her? The shadow friend waved back, didn’t she? Sometimes doubt, and fear can high five you, just to see how far you have come, and give you a nudge to keep going.

Life is like that too. All the shadow friends fall behind, as you turn and face the light. It’s better if you look up most days. Take a power stance, and find the light of the sun, or the moon, and allow its shine to lift you up towards the sky.

Cheers to 38, the strong years, and all the ones that came before. They made me into this human form that helps me charge forth with passion and integrity.

Rain drops on roses.

Church

What does spirituality mean to you as an individual? I was recently listening to a podcast on, “Unlocking Us,” with the Nelson family. They were discussing what spirituality meant to them in their family and I connected to something I hadn’t thought of in a while. There are always these thoughts that linger just below the surface before emerging with impeccable timing. Call it God, call it the universe, call it what you like, but it released something I had been holding onto.

The idea of how spiritual I feel, and have felt when playing music revived itself. They say, “don’t lose yourself,” when you’re mothering. I understand how true that can be. I have worked hard to continue to be myself and evolve with each pregnancy and birth I have been blessed to experience. With each one, I have become a new version of myself.

Is it not amazing to be alive and experience all of the highs and lows of being a human? Over the last eighteen months we have all had a collective experience, and yet an individualized one at the same time. How unique it is that as a whole, the entire earth has bared witness to this pandemic and continued to revitalize and find ways to connect? Albeit connection without touching, at times, but connection none the less. However, I do think that in some ways it has come at a cost and for myself, I have realized how much I have to break away from the technological connectivity I had grown accustomed to…

I often sit on my bed and gaze out the window when I am writing. There is a beautiful cherry tree that continues to grow each day. This tree and I have seen many stages of life together over the past decade. When sitting down to write today I realized something, I am so grateful for this view. The leaves now delicately quiver in the winter wind. They dangle on bare branches reminding me of how much I can dangle on the precipice when I feel at my most raw and exposed. There is something to be said about the seasons and how much it can invoke these instinctual feelings within me.

I often analyze and over think ideas. It is something I have grown aware of with age, and also grown to appreciate about myself. This characteristic, not flaw, allows me to have the ability to be a natural researcher, thinker, and empath. I am constantly considering what I think the other being might feel or be going through. I also weigh choices heavily, and I have learned to release my worries quickly.

The act of mindfulness has been a slow process I have been cultivating over the last few years. It has recently blossomed with my commitment to meditation. Through the act and practice of exercise with a friend’s partnership on social media, I committed myself for four months to a daily ritual. It helped me realize that I can do the same with my mindfulness and take it to another level with meditation. Ultimately this practice helps me two fold: be a more present human being, and be a steadier rock in the turbulence of my children’s springs. I will be the first to admit that their waves of emotion can greatly affect me. As an empath it is extremely challenging for me to not become washed away with their tides, but I am holding firmer ground and breathing deeper now.

Where am I going with all of these collective thoughts? I’m rooting them here, in this virtual ether captured by a moment in time. It had been a while since I sat down and wrote a flow of thoughts without trying to conform the ideas or control the output.

I realized that sometimes we all just need to let things go. Let go and let God. The only thing to fear, is fear itself. What takes up your mental space can consume you, carefully tread my friends and find those spaces that bring you back to what truly matters. This time of year brings back many memories of collective effervescence for me. The act of being together, the act of singing together, and feeling that spiritual moment that you cannot explain. It may look different for me now, but the emotions still rise the same. May this season bring forth a renewed energy filled with hope and light. May we all be taken to, “church,” and find that moment where our souls ring and feel lightened by the load of what being a human means.

Lingering leaves of 2021.

Spring Tidings

The turning of seasons always brings forth a renewal of the mind, the body, and the spirit. It is in the shadows we reveal our true characters. In the depths of winter’s despair I withered, but in the sunlit corners of spring, I can shake the cobwebs of the ego and step into the light of who I choose to become.

I always find it astonishing how change can truly set me reeling or is it realizing? In a fight, flight or freeze state of being I often choose freeze and breathe, and then internally I would like to flee. However, the ties that bind hold me firm and my heart knows what’s best, but my mind does not always follow.

Wading through the world in pandemonium and in the tides of postpartum has not been an easy task. As insurmountable as the mind may be, there are times when I have to face the truth which is exhaustion and fatigue are ill suited when you’re a parent, but they are none the less the cloaks handed out for free during the care of young children’s daily lives.

I saw a meme recently of parental sleep feeling like the following: baby is down for sleep, parent face plants on bed, an alarm or the baby calls and the parent jumps back up. That pretty much sums up how I felt on some days. Everything is magnified during this time, for every human being on the planet. Be it naysayer, be it believer, be it scientist, be it politician, nurse, teacher, or child care worker, everyone is tired. Tired being a relative term with a thousand layers of meaning. However, there is one thing that remains constant ticking by every moment of the day: time.

Time, that elusive shark, always showing itself on the surface and sliding back down beneath the waves. Just when I feel that sense of, “caught up,” I settle back in for a sure fire wash of reality. Often I find myself watching time slip by when I get caught up with my to do lists, or while playing a game of what if, but one things brings me back to reality and that is: love.

She’s that warm cloud of purple that bubbles up and fills my heart when I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes she helps shed tears that relinquish all of the feelings that have been simmering. Other times she makes me laugh uproariously at the hilarity that is a three year old ‘s mind. Most days I feel a warm kindling deep inside knowing that I am loved, and that I get to love others. Then I settle into the realization that in essence, that is truly everything. As Elton John said…to love and be loved in return.

So, when you find yourself being over or under whelmed, or awash with the current rules, regulations, and regularity of your days, stop and remember what love you get to feel and who you get to share it with.

We are in the midst of Pesach. The holiday that always makes me feel the sense of hope and loss intertwined as one. I cannot help but pause and think of what the past year has brought forth for those fellow humans who have loved and lost. I always go back to the voice of Debbie Friedman with her beautiful song, Mi Shebeirach. I included the lyrics below as a source of inspiration to those in need of healing. Spring is here, and with it a new opportunity for life. I hope it is one filled with love and a garden of possibility.  

I wanna hold your hand dada.
Colorful tulips, my favorite.
Filled with the promise of sunshine.
Beauty in the trees.
Tiny blooms for my babe.

Mi shebeirach avoteinu
M’kor hab’racha l’imoteinu
May the source of strength,
Who blessed the ones before us,
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing,and let us say, Amen.

Mi shebeirach imoteinu
M’kor habrachah l’avotein
u
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’leimah,
The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit, And let us say, Amen.”

-Debbie Friedman.

Sisterhood

Every year as December 21 approaches and passes I am filled with more emotions than I can explain. Most of them leave me with twinges of sadness or longing, but today I feel more than that. I feel fully grateful now.

When my sister died, I felt like an invisible tether was cut and my lifeline floated away with her. 

Then, with time’s passing I realized that the many humans in my life could help me regain my tether and form a new lifeline, if I let them. I’m grateful for all the family and the friends that shed light over the last five years time. I have learned more than I could possibly explain, but most importantly I have come to realize that gratitude is the key component to making my days robust. 

I am grateful for the circle of friends, (thank you to Maeve Binchy for your book to reference, but I digress), specifically the women who have become pieces of a sister puzzle in my life. I have learned that no one can or ever will replace or fill the shoes of my birth sibling. But here’s the thing, perhaps even the secret to understanding my personal loss and grief is this: time heals all wounds, or rather time transforms everything

I can now see that Debbie and I had the fullest relationship and set of experiences that taught me lessons, filled me with joy and hope, and can still make me laugh today. That was the true gift that time bestowed upon us, our memories and the moments that we shared. 

Now, I can clearly look at my other relationships that have blossomed in my garden. I know that each woman knows how grateful I am for them, but sometimes it’s helpful to say it out loud: Thank you. 

Thank you to the friends and family who have helped shape a new meaning of sisterhood for me. Thank you for sharing your little people when loss filled my life. Thank you for sharing a momento as a reminder of love I can wear every day.  Thank you for reading my blog and holding my hand from afar. Thank you for covering me with prayers and kindness when waves crashed down. Thank you for sharing humor and holidays when I missed that sense of knowing someone else’s thoughts on familiar days. Thank you for dropping off food, letters and care packages when I had tiny humans to hold and feed. Thank you for writing, texting, and calling me when fear and judgement clouded my mind and I sought refuge in your council.  Thank you for reaching out and sharing your gifts of time. Thank you for filling tea and coffee cups and holding my hand. Thank you for passing the cupcakes and saying eat up without judgement. Thank you for welcoming me to your city and showing me new adventures. Thank you for shedding advice on love, loss, and motherhood when the going got rough. Thank you for answering my texts, calls, and keeping a connection going, even with distance and time. Thank you for allowing new bridges to be built and time to heal. Thank you for holding me in hugs and allowing tears to flow without explanation. Thank you for sharing your weekend days and time to meet and chat. Thank you for holding my tiny baby boys and filling their hearts with love.  But most of all, thank you for allowing me the space, holding space and time and loving me just the way I am. 

You know that if you read this and connected in some way, I’m giving you a virtual hug and that I love you. 

Thank you.

Gratitude exemplified through joy and laughter.

Perspective

How would your perspective change if I told you that you were picked for this life specifically. This moment, this time, this year, these people, your surroundings? How would that make you feel? Would you be startled? Would you shift or change? 

When I began to shift my mindset about the seeming, “hardships,” I experienced, my heart opened up. I’m not here to cast a stone and say that whatever it is that each of us is facing doesn’t feel how it feels. That’s not what I’m saying, but what I am trying to articulate is this: if you can take ownership of your feeling and harness it, then you can drive your ship.

Every moment is made up of these micro experiences. These experiences become your vision and a part of your memory. Which in turn, becomes the story that you tell yourself about your life. What if you paused and considered that you can harness those emotions and shift your perspective. 

In my current moment I am sitting on a bed, with a pillow table, earplugs in my ears, smoke covering my neighborhood, poor air quality, and thirty minutes of time to write. I asked for the time. I asked for this plate, this life, these people. When I look around me I could see: all of the things I think I should see, but if I stop skimming over the surface and look deeper I can see: all of the ways I affect those around me in turn. 

Outside of my house the smoke is so thick that I can barely see the trees in the neighborhood park. The beloved home state I live is literally burning and the world feels like it is upending upon itself. I realized when I woke up today, day three of smoke filled lungs that I had the opportunity to pause and truly ground myself. If I feel my head spinning, if I feel my heart wrenching, how is that in turn affecting those around me? My responses are powerful and they are directly driven by the effects of a mood. There is little else that I feel like I have control over right now. But I do have control over my mind, which, if I admit it: is everything. Your mind is the epicenter of everything you are capable of doing and have done. 

As Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

As I say to my two year old, “Feelings come and feelings go, feelings show, it’s alright to cry, it might make you feel better,” a mish-mash of quotes from, Free To Be You And Me. With all of this being said, I encourage myself, and you to to think about your perspective. Health is wealth, if I have that and my family, I have everything. That’s my perspective and I know that with endurance of mind and spirit I can lean into perseverance, which is key. 

Morning Glory

If you had asked me ten years ago if I would be a morning person someday, I probably would have scoffed at you. I have always, and by nature will be a night owl. However, with small children, the early, wee hours of the morning have become my sacred space. I am an introvert and as such, crave and need alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely grateful for my family and companionship, as human beings we all require this for healthy development, but I fill my tank sans other humans, aka solo. 

When you care for small, young human beings, it takes patience, consistency, and care. When I am depleted, one of those tasks does not function at full capacity and the deficit shows in my child’s behavior in response to mine. In turn, I have learned that if I power through and think about how I will feel, later on, I will get moving sooner. I will skip the extra hour of snooze time which, invariably may lead to grogginess or a headache, for my quiet, hooded, writing/reading/meditation time in the sunrise hours. 

The first person I can think of that was a morning person was my grandpa. Grandpa Woody would get moving at dawn, I could smell his aftershave and coffee in the hallway as I padded down our carpeted stairs to the kitchen. He would greet me with a hug and a whiskered kiss. I can still feel his scruff, see his lips, and sense the texture of his short sleeved button down shirt. One early morning together, on his visit to the land up north, I looked at his forearm and said, “What’s that?” What, I was unaware of, was my grandfather’s tattoo he had chosen during his time in the CCC camps, working as a cook. “That,” he replied, “Is a mistake of my youth,” and he promptly unrolled his dress shirt sleeve and buttoned the white button around his wrist. This interaction became a story that I have gone back to in my head from time to time. I thought of it when I was younger and contemplating large, permanent decisions for myself. Those early mornings with Grandpa are still as vivid to me as my first home of childhood. It’s funny how something can stick with you like gum, glued to my brain, forever a part of my minds eye. The Hipsher side of my heart is a morning glory, and the Cohen side is a night owl. Two birds of a different feather, so to speak. 

As I write these words, I can see the light from the sunshine streaming through my Ikea curtains. The tree branches in the wetland behind our home forming a backdrop for the sun’s rays. The early hours provide for me, a semblance of solitude, a feeling of ‘what if,’ time to reflect and create with the fluidity of thought. I think that, in essence, is what I find challenging as a parent, as well as, when I was teaching.

I need quiet to think clearly, I have to pause and reflect. It’s just part of my core, and I communicate it, most of the time, to my family. If I am in the midst of one task, I need to pause, physically and mentally before moving to the next one. I function at a high level, don’t get me wrong, I am the queen of multi-tasking, but, when an idea needs thorough consideration, I have to set aside the distractors before truly considering and communicating. 

I taught my son how to, “Take a break,” and he will verbalize this in his own play time that he narrates so articulately, all. day. long. <Insert laugh and heart bubbles here.> He often says mid play, “Take a break mommy, take a break,” and he will pause, sit, or stop his motion for a few seconds before resuming full speed and charge ahead.

If a little person can realize the power of this and put it into practice, I wonder if more adults could? Perhaps that is the secret silver lining of the quarantine time we find ourselves still living in. Take time to reflect before: acting, saying, and doing. Consider what is in front of you before you decide to do, say, be, or go somewhere. If we all better understood what our tanks or hearts are desiring, perhaps there would be less reaction and better action. So the next time you find yourself at the cross roads of a decision, take a break. STOP your body, your mind, your tongue and: Think, about the option, reflect about the choice, and then move forward. No one else can make a decision for you about how you feel and if you feel better, positive, hopeful, grateful, loving, then your feelings will melt into your interactions which shed light or darkness in our world. 

The Art of Letter Writing

What do letters mean to you? They’ve always been the connection that I had to friends and family who lived far away. And, let’s face it, when you live in Anchorage, Alaska, everyone and everything feels quite far away.  My first pen pal was my Grandpa Woody. He was my cowboy grandpa who would come up for a visit every November to spend Thanksgiving with us, most years. I would look forward to my monthly and holiday letters. I loved his spring time letters too. He would write to me in his fashionable cursive handwriting that I would decipher slowly, being the emerging reader that I was. I can vividly remember opening a letter one spring, probably in late March or early April and tucked inside was a furry gray pussy willow bud that he had gathered from a tree outside of his house. The opening of that letter has stuck with me to this day. His letters are now bundled together with a ribbon alongside my sister’s letters for safe keeping.

My second pen pal was my sister. She was ten years older than me and left home for college shortly before her eighteenth birthday. I vividly remember the day she left.  The leaves clung to the branches with a foreboding coldness, brilliant maroon, yellow, and brown hanging by thin invisible threads, similar to how my heart felt when she drove away in dad’s pickup.

She would write to me weekly, send me updates on all the happenings in the lower forty eight, the seasons, the sounds, and the adventures she took. Some of my favorite letters were enclosed with photographs of her adventures or cartoon drawings she created to entertain her tiny sibling. I loved it all. I would mail her cards and drawings, long letters that mom and dad helped me spell out letter by letter. When you’re a dyslexic writer of seven, things take a little bit longer to complete. One Hannukah I received a tape recorder box with a giant speaker and microphone. I recorded a sung letter to Debbie that ended with a rousing rendition of, “Puff The Magic Dragon.” I’m sure the tape is long gone, but I know she remembered that particular letter/package and the enclosed demo. Ha! Who knew that all these years later I would pull out the letters of the past and read her words to hear her voice again. Her letters bring me comfort and make me laugh aloud even now.

The most indelible thing about a letter is that you know the person who wrote it for you, held it, cared enough to write it, and mailed it with love. It always felt like such a gift to receive a letter from someone in the mail.  I want my son to know what that feels like as both the sender and the receiver. So, letters we write together, each season and each holiday. I think it’s important to take time to think about those in your life that you care about and pause enough to reflect upon that and give them a token of your heart.

I had the idea to begin a blog this past fall, to mark the passing of time in a daily way, that perhaps our son could look back upon one day. I decided to use the voice of our beloved dog Kimmy to narrate our daily adventures together. In a way I feel like I am giving him a small piece of what I have in the letters I have kept and cherished throughout the years from family members.

What else can we draw from as humans except knowing that the passage of time is marked in human history through the written word. So I leave you with this thought: think about the last time you wrote a letter, and why. Now, who could you write to today and thank, make laugh, or draw a smile from when they open their mail box and see it waiting for them?

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Spring Thoughts for 2020.

Four Years Gone

You know what the funny thing about death is? Nothing. (Cue the sound effects please. I’m completely aware of the first line’s seriousness.)

What is funny however, is how death can make everything illuminated after the fog has lifted. By fog I mean, your initial emotions, the pain, the constant reminders, it’s the sense that comes after a storm has ceased. I would liken the passing of a loved one to experiencing a fierce storm in your own body that takes time to progress and then begin to calm.

It has been four years, to the day, since Debbie passed away. If I stop and mediate on that day, what transpired, how I felt in those moments, I am taken back to those emotions quite rapidly. Even with the passage of time, nothing can erase how an experience made you feel. I remember saying to my husband, “Now I know why people drink and do drugs. The numbness is a medication to what they’re experiencing in life. This hurts.”

Everything in life is a lesson. Once I understood this, fully, I became more present and open to facing the choices I had every day, and really, in every moment.  Learning how to grieve, face pain, and move through life with it, was and still is a journey. There are times, days, and moments when I am hit severely with a wave of grief that washes over me. I try to recognize my triggers, sometimes it’s just something as simple as a word, or a song. I find it helpful to create a visual of a wave and allow it to wash over me and provide a salve of tears. Nothing and no one can replace a loss because it is an experience that is now a part of your very core. The loss becomes woven into your story. It becomes a part of the framework that trails along with you every day.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: I have learned that I am not my grief, it is a part of me. I lean heavily on the truthful, beautiful, harsh, and comical memories I shared with the amazing person that Debbie was. Carving out an allowance of grace for my emotions and journey is essential. Continuing to learn about how the human brain processes trauma, loss, and growth has helped me tremendously be more empathetic towards myself and others.

If I could tell my sister anything it would be this:

Dear Debbie,

Thank you for always loving me, even when I was hard to love. Even though you’re not here physically, you’re always near to me and in my heart, as cheesy as that sounds. I’m using my elephant memory that you said you’d rely on. You’re still teaching me so many things, thank you. You’d be so proud of your son. He’s grown tall, and handsome and he is still really sweet. He knows how to be kind and he can be humbled by life which is key. He’s so loved and he’s doing fine. He loves his cousin Leo, who holds your initials. You’d love your nephew too. He’s a spunky, book loving toddler who is obsessed, with your Declan. He calls him, “Yea-Yea,” and tries to talk to him with every phone call that comes in. We’re all ok. I love you more every day.

Love,

Your little Sister

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