A year in the tides of grief

One year since Deborah Leah Alvarez left this earth has meant that: 12 months, 52.1429 weeks, 365 days,  8760 hours, 525600.432 minutes, 31536025.92 seconds have passed.

~Analytically speaking it means all of the information above.

~Speaking from the heart it means that all of the varying shades of the rainbow and everything in between has gathered, washed, and moved through me in this time frame.~

It has been the crashing of waves.

It is the rise and fall of the sun.

It is every first sighting of a bright shining star.

It is the moon beams slipping through cracks in my window.

It is first moments when a heart leaps for joy and falls in the realization that the one you are about to tell cannot be spoken to directly. 

It is the re-learning to accept your new heart’s layer, with all its flaws and all. 

It is the re-building of faith when seeking through the depths of a hallowed despair. 

It is the first feelings of happiness and allowing the heart to feel joy. 

It is learning that love may not be diminished by the inability of the tangible, yet transpired into the spiritual realm.

It is what Truvy said in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

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Death has a strange way of bringing the best and the worst out of the people it touches. I have found that through my own grief I have learned to love myself in ways I never thought possible. I have learned that forgiveness is a crucial component to my happiness. Forgiveness has taught me that I do not need to seek a right or a wrong answer, but rather seek to find a state of contentedness that I dwell with and release my tethered connection from anger in order to allow the emotions to turn into love.

Never does a day go by that I do not think of my sister or long to share something with her. She was my closest friend, mentor, and supporter. What she has bestowed upon me and continues to bestow upon all of us is the love and light she shed while here on this earth. So many wonderful humans near and far have shared their love and connection with Debbie over the past year. Connectivity was something Debbie strived for. She believed whole heartedly in the fact that humans need to seek for love, education, honor, humor, forgiveness and generosity. Thank you for connecting so many of us Debbie and continuing to do so. Your rainbow touches near and far.

Through writing I have allowed myself to find solace in words that were far too difficult to communicate in person. Thank you so much to all of Debbie’s and our friend’s, our family members, her colleagues, her admirers, her blogging friends, and her supporters over this last year.

~Like waves crashing upon a shore, rays of sunshine were beamed down upon us, with which we were able to dry our tears with each loving gesture, made by all of you.~

Thank you. 

I leave you with words, as my sister would have wanted.

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For me, I leave you with a song that speaks to my heart:

 

May her life be a blessing: Deborah Leah Alvarez.

 

Add some vinegar to it…

One of the best gifts my sister bestowed upon me was her knowledge.

Knowledge for life.

Knowledge as a mentor teacher.

Knowledge about being a human.

Knowledge as a mother.

Knowledge as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a woman, a human, you name it.

Most of all, it was the knowledge that she learned about self-care in her last three years of life that enlightened our relationship. It was through our discussions, her advice, and pearls of wisdom that I truly grew as a person.

I knew what self-care meant as a concept, but I did not always act upon it.

She taught me that it was not selfish to put yourself first.

It was not selfish to eat healthy, take time to create and cultivate, to exercise, to love and cherish my body regardless of the pain that I went through from time to time.

She taught me that boundaries are healthy and that kindness is a choice that you can always act upon.

One beautiful gift she shared with me along the lines of self-care was acupuncture. This act of sharing an amazing healing arts center revolutionized my health. Acupuncture has been a key ingredient in my recipe for survival and loving myself through my life journey in the last year.

I often have joked that the acupuncture specialist I see is also my therapist. She is an advisor, a healer, and a listener. She helps me feel more balanced, and allows me to feel safe enough to strip away the outer coating I shield myself with. This provdes me with the opportunity to expose my truths and reveal myself openly to my connect my mind, body, and spirit.

There is something to be said about allowing yourself to be vulnerable with a health care advisor whom you trust and recognize has wisdom to share, when they truly listen to you.

She asked me recently, “How are you feeling…” and I said, “I’m getting there, working on feeling better, not there yet…” She said, “You need a little embellishment, a little bit of balsamic vinegar to take the recipe to that next level… to get it there, here we go…”

Small prick one, small prick two, “What about now? (Pulse check) Yes, that’s it.”

Who knew that the girl who feared shots and begged for them to be over as a small child would regularly seek the counsel of a Chinese medicine specialist. This same girl looks forward to the tiny pricks that provide balance with miniscule needles.

Sprinkle some vinegar into your routine and see what comes of it. You just might surprise yourself.dsc_7048

Photo credit: K. Sciuto

Dear Debbie, Vol. IV

Six months passed yesterday.

With the warm breezes of June it swept in like a burst of sandy wind across the skies in Utah as I saw the day pass by one moment at a time. The sun beat down, the sky stretched out blue, cloudless, like a picturesque day.

I found myself breathing easier, although embarking on my own new journey brought more mental work than I had anticipated. Exercising your mind, your spirit, and your essence of humanity takes conscientious thought, strength, and work. That is where I am currently residing at the present time. I found Gabrielle Bernstein’s work and have been knee deep in the majestic possibilities that time, thought, and love can bring forth.

I listened to the Dalai Lama yesterday. He was visiting the University of Utah for a special engagement. You would have loved his words, his insight, and especially his humor. I found this particular story enlightening:

A question from the audience was answered by the Dalai Lama, “My father passed away from suicide recently. I find myself filled with sadness all the time. What guidance can you give me about the place that he is now in?”  The Dalai Lama ended his explanation of what grieving may look like with the words, “No amount of sadness can bring your father back….Your father can feel your sadness if you remain as such…you must work to fulfill his will and live.” One more phrase that spoke to me was, “Compassion, love, open mindedness, investigation, questions, these bring forward the opportunity for answers.”

I felt that it must have been beshert that I was here in Utah. Here visiting Katie. Logged into the wifi as a guest, saw the universities home page and was struck by the opportunity that laid out in front of me…the Dalai Lama, his message, and the sense of love that his presence provided was eloquent timing for me as a mere mortal on Earth.

If I were to recount what the past month has brought forth in my small little world, our Oregon community, our nation, and our world it would be filled with joys, with sorrows, and with a flood of tears and rainbows. I do not wish to recall this list because I know that your presence is felt and already knows.

I will end this blog with a beautiful array of faces and places that mark moments on this journey. I shall leave this blog with some quotes from your sweet boy who enlightened me days ago.

“Aunt Rachel, what do you think death is like? Does it all go still and black, or do our bodies stop, but our mind goes somewhere else?  Wouldn’t it be cool if we went on to continue with our thinking, and go to this other place?!

Sometimes I think about what other people have seen, you know? Like what has he or she seen in their life? In their experiences. I want to know!”

I’ll end with this quotable moment…

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Stop. Just breathe.

Stop.

It’s a four letter word that has power. It holds the opportunity to communicate a clear, yet simple message.

So why is it so hard to say?

It is the one word I use when a student is being inappropriate, a boundary violator, or seeking my advice as to what to say when someone bothers them.

Say, “Stop.”

What is it about all this noise around us today? It seems to be a spinning vortex of information, misinformation, communication and miscommunication. It is nestled into every moment of every day.

Stop.

Are you listening?

Do you listen when someone speaks, or do you wait to respond? Sometimes I do both. It’s a work in progress.

Do you ever find yourself oversharing or emotionally vomiting with words?

Stop. Just say, “STOP self.” And do just that, stop.

No one needs to be the bearer of your misinformation, your quandaries about another, or the oversharing bulldozer of what is unnecessary data.

Hanging in my classroom is the following poster below that has the word THINK written vertically. It was made into an acronym for a few concepts.  I saw the idea online a long time ago, and I made my own poster. Consider the following before you speak, share, or “share” through social media…

T-is it TRUE?

H-is it HELPFUL?

I-is it INSPIRING?

N-is it NECESSARY?

K-is it KIND?

All too often we are not provided or providing the possibility for communication that is quality, confidential, and kind. Listening to my friends, my loved ones, my colleagues, my acquaintances, often times I see my reflective behavior in them. My energy level shifts, my mood can fluctuate, and can be a barometer at times unless I truly concentrate on what the person is saying, before I allow my emotions to come forth.

I have practiced something with my students this year called, “problem solving mediation.” Now, it might sound simplified and silly, but it is the same elemental principles in having a crucial conversation as an adult. It can be challenging, but with continued practice, it can work.

Instead of saying, “YOU this, you that, you are, you did that….stop and think.” What impacted you as an individual? The, “I, me, my, mine of the issue.” Start with an I statement, breathe, and proceed providing adequate time for the other to share and communicate when they are done.

Now, it does not always solve every issue, but I do feel that learning the basic techniques of communicating your personal perception, emotion, concern or question is essential for little and older people alike. Start with the I, use THINK, and then communicate. It is better to attempt to work it out, then ruminate on a negative vibe or feeling that festers with time.

If I have learned anything from my losses this year it is this…

Life is too short. Don’t waste it with, “I’m going to….you should’s, or he that’s…” speak up, enjoy it, work on it, make progress with the simple steps you take every day.

If you need to take some steps backwards for grounding then do so.

Quit apologizing.

Stop agonizing.

Get up, get moving, and start doing.

Do for you, do for Debbie, live and enjoy what you are offered today, and simply be grateful for the opportunities that are presented.

As challenging, as uncomfortable, or as difficult as they may seem.

Face it. Live it. Love it.

Breathe.

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Dear Debbie Vol. III

Today marked five months.

Five.

I still approach the number twenty one now with caution and angst.

Today was a long day. I had this urgency to clean. To clean everything in the house. I am sure that part of it stemmed from wanting to,”spring clean,” prep for people coming over, but also a deeper reason that lingered beneath the surface.

I wanted to clean and get something out of my system.

I clean for two hours and sweated it out while scrubbing versus dancing today.

Then I spent two hours in the car going back and forth to what I thought would be a first activity at the D. Center for Declan, which turned into hours in the car…. Oh well. Ce la vie. There will be other ones. Lesson learned: always check the location especially when they do not communicate it to you.

A few things I want you to know about life in the last two months since I last wrote to you:

~Everything changes regardless of your emotional or physical state. It all changes, constantly. I know, “news flash…” right?!

~Spring has sprung: My tulips bloomed and blew away. My irises grew and opened, and stood tall and proud. They made me think of you every day and how much you loved purple irises, just like mom does. I brought her some on Passover.

~Passover was lonely without you to sing Dayenu with. I missed you. Terribly. Especially our silent communication we would have with subtle eye glances across the table.

~Declan has gotten taller, and thinner, and gangly. I told him he might grow to be six feet five inches tall the other day. He rolled his eyes at me. I could feel it through the back seat of the car while we had the conversation about, “Why kids don’t drink coffee. … so they can be tall of course,” Hahahahaha.

~He won an award for his P. Theorem Project. You would have been so proud of your boy. He explained, THE WHOLE, thing to me, at the STEM Fair, and I listened intently to each word he said. Smarty.

~He made cookies with us recently and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He told me today all about his Pioneer Camp/Field trip and how his favorite part was making biscuits. His love of carbs, like ours, runs deep.

~Declan still gives the best hugs, after Andy of course.  The squeeze you hard, hold on fast, and feel the love kind of hugs. That boy was taught right. Hug, hold, and love. ❤

Lastly these are my cosmic nature moments where I felt your presence the most…

I spotted a faint rainbow last month, it was one of those that are hard to see, but is fleetingly beautiful. If you rub your eyes, than it’s gone. But I saw it. I saw you.

When the robin followed Declan and I home on our walk before bedtime, she hop, hop, hopped after us, and then was there when walking down our street again. Watching, and hopping along, and waiting. I felt like she was this happy little robin mommy walking us home.

My crow crew greets me each day when I come home from work. I always think of the book and movie, “Cold Mountain,” when I see a crow. They say that they are the birds you see that represent your family who have come and gone. So I always think of you, and Grandma Lilli, and Grandpa Bob. I think that there must be some circular process to which nature presents itself as this loving force that reminds us of all that has been before us, with us, and that will come after us.

There are so many more things I want to tell you, and I do in my head, all the time. I am working on focusing my energy into all the positive memories we made. I am really trying ever so hard to retrain my mind on positive happy visuals of you and me and our family. I have found some books, positive mindset videos and speakers, and I am actively working on my mindset daily. Key word: work. Life is such a process. The journey is raw and real.

Lenore once told me something I remind myself of, “Grief is a part of our lives. It is an important part of life. But it is important that grief is not what makes up your life, or the only thing about your life.” Just know that I will heed advice and live and laugh profoundly, but I will always remember and say your name to whoever will listen. You left such a legacy of glistening moments in so many people’s lives. I love hearing their stories and collecting them. I learn from them, and I am beginning to let moments sparkle again. I am singing again, and it feels spiritually healing and also exposing of many wounds from the past that we shared and I am working on mending alone. I love you with sparkly tears.

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Dear Debbie Vol. II

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Dear Sister,

A friend of mine who you would love as much as I do gave me a box filled with tiny cards of inspiration. I open one card each day that I need a little pick me up. They are my, “Be Happy,” cards. I appreciate them ever so much, and the woman who bestowed upon me a gift that keeps on giving.

Much like yourself sister.

Today was a magical day and also a trying one. It has been an interesting few weeks. There are so many things I wish we could discuss with one another. So many conversations that have yet to be had. I have a lot of them in my brain and then I think to myself, “Well that’s just ridiculous because I’m locking it all away, better to share, or write it down for myself and then I can reflect on it later.”

Whenever I want to talk to you I end up turning to writing. It seems to be the best and most helpful thing to do. It’s just so hard to let it all simmer. I have to make something with this tear soup, sometimes I share it, sometimes I let it boil over and form something new in my mind.

Today was a special day at Ridgewood Elementary School. You would have loved it. You always brought people together and you still do.

I parked my car, on the neighborhood street and made my way towards the school. It is such a familiar parking lot, one I have visited so many times that I cannot even begin to count how many. But this time was different. I was not nervous, I just knew that a part of me would be sad because you wouldn’t be there.

Walking up to the school made me think of the familiar sights, the familiar smells, and the familiar vibe that Ridgewood has always had.

You should have seen all of the familiar faces coming together to honor you. It was beautiful to see all the students who loved having you as their librarian all gathered there. Some of them were so tall, so grown up, so stoic, so poised, so curious, and many of them gazing and looking away. I could just see your response to their presence in your library. You would have strolled over casually and had that amazing smile across your face and then started the conversation off with, “Well, it’s nice to see you __,” then given them a kind shoulder nudge or hug to welcome them back into the friendliest space in the building.

There were a lot of memories in that library for me today.

I remember coming to shelve books during my early college days, the smell of old papers and bindings. The sound of the type writer with labels and forms being typed up. The clicking of the keyboard, and the swipe sound as the library books were checked in and out. I can see you and Diane behind the counter chattering away and laughing, fleeting visions disappeared before my eyes.

As I looked around, every corner had a different memory for me. What must Declan have felt in there too?  He was busy in the window space playing a game of chess surrounded by other little fellows all concentrating on the game.  All of us, so many memories, positive, happy, beautiful memories that seem tangible, yet so far away.

The desk has been moved. The stuffed animals atop the bookshelves are different and there were less faux plants than I remembered.  The door to the garden was open and there were birds chirping and sun spilling in amongst the kids wandering in and out. The chess board is the same one, and it sits in pools of sunlight that break through the window.

Walking to the back of the library where your desk and piles of books used to be, I spotted a familiar sight that made me smile.

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Nina was your first author friend. I remember seeing the photograph of you two when she visited Ridgewood. What a special magical day that was. You were ecstatic and beaming.

It’s funny how so many memories are intertwined into moments we shared with one another. How those moments piled up on one another for me today.

You provided me with such a strong professional educational foundation in your school. Your colleagues welcomed me with open doors to observe, learn, grow, and question as an undergraduate student. I started as a volunteer, continued my observations, and with a masters degree graduated into a substitute teacher in the building. Your principal helped provide me with the most generous half hour of my career. I had the best coaching lesson for interviews in that school. I learned to be honest about what made me a unique individual, a forthright pioneer for education, and how to answer questions in a direct manner.

Little did I know, or any of us know that our paths would cross in this way today, all of which to honor you. Your work, your passion, and your connectivity to humanity in a community that grieves for your presence.

Sweet Catherine said she could feel you in the library today. Truer words were never spoken. I could feel you too. You touched so many wonderful student’s lives and so many community members gathered today to honor you.  Dad recited poetry and dedicated and a wonderful poem to you by Alice Cary:

True worth is in being, not seeming,— 
In doing, each day that goes by, 
Some little good—not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by. 
For whatever men say in their blindness,
And spite of the fancies of youth, 

There’s nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.
We get back our mete as we measure—
We cannot do wrong and feel right, 
Nor can we give pain and gain pleasure,
For justice avenges each slight. 
The air for the wing of the sparrow,
The bush for the robin and wren,
But always the path that is narrow
And straight, for the children of men.

‘Tis not in the pages of story 
The heart of its ills to beguile, 
Though he who makes courtship to glory
Gives all that he hath for her smile. 
For when from her heights he has won her,
Alas! it is only to prove 
That nothing’s so sacred as honor,
And nothing so loyal as love!

We cannot make bargains for blisses,
Nor catch them like fishes in nets; 
And sometimes the thing our life misses
Helps more than the thing which it gets.
For good lieth not in pursuing,
Nor gaining of great nor of small, 
But just in the doing, and doing
As we would be done by, is all.

Through envy, through malice, through hating,
Against the world, early and late.
No jot of our courage abating
Our part is to work and to wait
And slight is the sting of his trouble
Whose winnings are less than his worth.
For he who is honest is noble
Whatever his fortunes or birth.

I know that I am sending this out into the blog-a-sphere in the hopes that it reaches you. My tears wash over me and soothe my aches as I type words for you that you cannot read, but I know you would love to. Signing off with sparkles from earth, from your little sister.

Thank you to Debbie Ridpath Ohi for creating a beautiful image of Debbie. The picture to honor Debbie Alvarez will live in the library with new books displays under the art. Some beautiful new books are already in circulation.

Please check out: “Cranes of Hope,” on Facebook for more information about a beautiful nonprofit organization that a former student of Debbie’s started long ago and is continuing to blossom and grow. This student’s creations help patients going through cancer treatments gather hope each time they visit. She lovingly creates paper cranes and delivers them to locations around the greater Portland community. Her work can always benefit from positive support. ❤

Love, Life, and Laughter

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“When an introvert meets the right soul magic can coincide.” My words of wisdom ~RAB~

My soul mate sister and I met twenty seven years ago. We were surrounded by glitter, kindergarten hugs, and high fives.

My spaghetti-o eating, longest haired girl, gymnastic jumping friend met the quiet, imaginative, and loud laughing friend in me.  Little did we know that when we were in our 30’s we would still hold hand prints on our hearts for each other.

She has seen me at my best, and at my worst and in between….and vice-a-versa.

You know those human beings that fill your heart with joy, make you feel content, and happy just breathing the same air? That’s her.

Only a few humans know the truth of what has happened to me in the last month and I am ok with that for right now. At some point I may change my mind and speak all my truths, but for now, they remain in the presence of those that I trust and love deeply.

Memories run deep, so do wounds, especially those that only the heart can see and do not meet the eye.

Thank you to all my friends who have supported myself, and my family. I feel so grateful for the relationships that are tried and true through the waves that we ride in this life.

Here is a small glimpse into the moments of beauty that transpired in the last 48 hours. ~All photos are the property of myself Rachel Ann and my friend who is the beautiful photographer, Katie.~

My sentiments on this weekend’s reminders of love, friendship, and one of life’s greatest joys: Laughter.

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” 
― Audrey Hepburn

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
― William ShakespeareThe Merchant of Venice

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

 

I’m feeling 32…

birthday 32

My mother said that the night before I was born she had a conversation with me in the womb. She told me it was time for me to come into the world. She had stayed in bed for nearly 8 months in order to bring me forth into the world and that it was finally time. 

I generally follow directions, but I definitely march to my own drum beat still to this day thanks to my mom.

I followed the plan she laid out before me, but I arrived with a bang before my father even had time to arrive that early morning. My mother had her best friend Ann with her.   I like to think that she lives on within me, inside my heart, with my middle name and hers being the same. 

Friendships run deep in my life. Clearly from the first moment I breathed life, friends were surrounding me. 

I am a loyal human. I may kick, and I may scream my way through situations, but I will remain by your side. Much like my childhood likeness. I was the type of friend who would steadfastly watch their best friend branch out with other people and friends, but stay rock steady when they returned. I sought no comfort in constantly seeking other’s approval. I knew who I was even as a little one, and I loved my friend even from afar. I never looked at friendships as an, “end all be all per say,” but rather I cherished those whom I felt made a lasting hand print on my heart. 

The last 32 years have brought forth many recollections when I stop and consider the life that I have lead thus far. 

A few things hold true: life will always ebb and flow. It will continue to test you. No matter how prepared you might be, you can never prepare for the change that will set forth when you least expect it. 

I’ve found within the last year that spontaneity, pushing my limits, and testing my boundaries and also the human’s within my life makes my vision become clearer with this life.

We are given a gift to wake up and face each day for all that it will bring into our lives. 

I have watched those closest to me fight a battle of cancer.

I have seen love and loss.

I have experienced the unimaginable. 

I have discussed.

I have cried.

I have written. 

I have sang.

I have acted.

I have performed and put on a mask to make the smoke and mirrors reflect what they should from the stage. 

I have gotten up each day. Taken many deep breaths and washed away my sorrows through sweat and tears combined.

I have found solace in the arts.

Ultimately I have danced away carefree in those melodies and sparkling lights. 

I have worked towards relinquishing my desire to control. 

I continue to struggle with many things. 

I have found love, and shown kindness whenever possible. 

Life will always be challenging, and yet, I am anticipating what lies ahead.

The small, simple moments bring me boundless joy.

Cheers to you my blogging friends. Here, where readers and writers unite. 

I applaud all of you for sharing your quandaries and quests. May we all bring forth a flood of words to wash away our tears, and the anguish that our world is pulsing with. 

Peace, love, and sparkles is my wish on this, my 32nd birthday.

 

Sagittarius Birthday Eve…

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My husband should blog. Poem courtesy of him.  Thank you to all the amazing fellow bloggers through wordpress. It’s been wonderful to connect, write, and inspire one another. I am so grateful for this community. Sparkle on friends.

I leave you with a few of my favorite things on this 32nd birthday eve:

Roxanne

When I was a young girl there was an amazing human in my life. Her name was Roxanne.

She and my mother were in a mahjong group together. If I listen carefully to my mind’s eye I can still hear the tiles as they would gently slide across the table and click slowly into place.

Four players.

Four women.

All of them bound by a unique organization called Hadassah.

The word Hadassah itself translates from the Hebrew word meaning: compassion. Which further explains the namesake of the organization that is run in Israel known as Hadassah.

With compassion I write tonight.

I thought a great deal about Roxanne this past week.

I had the opportunity to spend time with my thirteen year old niece who is a wonderful young lady.  It’s crazy for me to stop and look back upon my memories with her. We met when she was six months old, a tiny sleeping baby in a crib visiting her Grandparent’s and Uncle Andy with her mother. Now she is a tall, beautiful, smart, sarcastic, and quick-witted teenager making her way in the world.

I thought of Roxanne when I drove to pick up my niece that morning.

Her small stature. Her quiet mischievous grin when I knew we were about to embark on an adventure together.

The little girl with the long brown hair and dimple that flashed with glee upon entry to her home.

She was the mother of two boys, always wishing for a girl to dote upon. She later became an amazing grandmother to a lucky little girl who I am sure felt the same way I did when spending time with this woman.

I was such a lucky girl circa at the age of six.

I so admired her immaculate persona, the air of Chanel on her person, Gucci hanging from her arms, and the red nails like slippers donned upon each finger tip.

What I loved most of all about her was how she made me feel.

They say that what people remember most about you is how you make them feel. It is ever so true friends.

She always made me feel like a talented princess. Roxanne had this special way of creating a make-believe world in her basement with me. I would dress up and march around waving my imaginary scepter, and she played along as a royal subject. Pink cheeks, singing Disney songs, and bouncing from couch to couch.

Little did she realize that along with my parents, especially my mom, they all helped set the stage for my belief in the magic of the theatre. I was a tiny star in her living room creating a world of imagination and ruling the castle one couch at a time.

I can fondly recall upon one play date when her husband came home and threw on his Groucho Marx mask and wig. I was scared out of my wits and jumped into this tiny woman’s lap. She laughed and laughed and yelled at her husband Gary to take off the mask while I squealed into her chest.

Another special event took place on a gray spring Anchorage day. Dad dropped me off and went about whatever errands he and my mom had to take care of that afternoon.  I spent the day with Roxanne watching a Disney film, playing on the kitchen table while she prepped a meal for lunch. Then suddenly she looked at me and said, “Do you hear that? It’s the ice cream man!” She rushed me outside with her, she darted past the rain puddles and into a stream of sunshine. The rainbow sherbet pop wasn’t the greatest treat that day. It was the memory that became nestled into my brain instead. Now, I think of her when I see raindrops and sunlight touch, meeting again for a moment back in that afternoon sky.

Sometimes I think I can see her in a crowd.  That shoulder length reddish-brown hair with the crisp blunt edges swaying just above a black turtle neck sweater and Chanel-esque cardigan.

She wrote to me at sleep away camp in 1997.  I was in the grim years of my life, the early teens, the awkward age of 13. This time was marked by training bras, awaiting the time when I would finally become a woman…oh we ladies know what I am talking about…

My mom called and asked her to write because even back then, I had quite a mighty sword with my pen.

I wrote to my parents telling them how homesick I was. How alone I felt. That I had no friends and no one to talk to. This was all true the first of the three weeks of camp. I slowly fell into a rhythm and made a couple of friends. But this is a story for another blog post.

The point was that Roxanne was there when it was needed.

She even wrote me as a pen pal the first year we moved to our new lower 48 state home. I should dig out those letters sometime. I have them all still, along with all my other correspondence over the years with friends and family.

Taking my niece out for a girls date of coffee treats, mall shopping, and laughing made me ache with a desire to call my sweet Roxanne and say thank you.

Thank you for making me feel beautiful when I was an ugly duckling waiting to blossom. 

Sometimes life deals you these cards that are just glaringly unfair.

I wish there was a magic eight ball of time that I could shake and go back to that place and find her and embrace her and say all that is on my mind.

However, that’s not the case. It’s not possible. As much as I wish it were.

So instead, I laughed with my niece that day, and I looked at her with love in my eyes.  I hug those moments in time when we can laugh like I did with Roxanne and enjoy the simple things about being a girl.  Discuss the in’s and outs of life as we pass by glittering dresses we hold up for one another and joke about trying the ridiculous attire on.

Roxanne, you made me feel beautiful. Your spirit comes forth whenever I see a rainstorm pass over and the sunshine through the clouds.

I can only hope that one day my niece might think back and say, “Aunt Rachel made me feel beautiful and loved.”

Sparkles for Roxanne.

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