333

I look at the clock, it is 4:44 pm. I had just glanced over but I wasn’t surprised. The same number three times in a row, for those who believe in messages from beyond, is fascinating and very meaningful.  Earlier, yesterday and the day before I saw 333 and 3:33 without trying to time it in any way. I always smile and whisper “Thank you, Dad” through my fingers.” I saw 2:22 the day before yesterday. Often in the middle of the night I wake up and I see 3:33am. I smile, roll over and go back to sleep.

I consider this a gift. My dad knew that I had visited the cemetery, of course, that I had cleaned off the grave site from a really long, cold winter.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th (Photo credit: *~Dawn~*)

I found the special red see through glass stone that I gave my dad many years ago that resurfaced in the grass and dirt and spelled “PERSEVERANCE.” I understood. I cleaned it off and put it back in place.

My dad knows our troubles, our physical, emotional and practical problems and while he can’t change those things because I knew if he could, he most certainly would help us. But, he is there for me, 333, always there for me, supporting me now giving me his new version of a pep-talk “Persevere”contained in one word.

For the first time in twelve years I felt his spiritual presence in a physical way, I felt like he was hugging me; I felt like I was being hugged. A great loss in my life. I would always say “I’d give my left arm to get one more hug from my dad…” and, trying not to freak out, being patient, I received the gift today with gratitude and love. I’m sure, of all people, my dad wouldn’t have been surprised that tears silently rolled down my cheeks.

I’ve given up trying to wish, pray or even think about where our lives are going. The last few years have been very tough but I’m sure down the road we will understand it. It’s just now that everything seems confusing and yes, disheartening. We’re not perfect, it would be silly to say that our attitudes are always positive because they are not.

Sometimes my husband and I fight but then we always make-up. There’s a lot of stress in uncertainty, especially when no money is coming in and you have two kids in college. We try to plan, maybe we will move, or rent but we need to stick it out here a little while longer. The message of what we need to do is definitely not clear yet and so we wait. We will definitely know when it’s time.

Angel of Light

Angel of Light (Photo credit: Jody McNary Photography)

Today is Friday the 13th, and Mercury is in Retrograde which I hear is not supposed to be very good at all. But, I like to remember that my father was born on the 13th and Friday the 13th was his most favorite day. So now, I’m not scared of Friday the 13th anymore, though I used to be when I was a child. It’s a day, like every other, in a place and time.

What you give to the world and what you get is entirely up to you. As I’ve learned, you just need to be patient. I know, it’s not easy at all.

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Yellow Magic Madness #3 Candle

Candle-flame-and-reflection

Candle-flame-and-reflection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love candles, always did. I used to collect candles when I was young. My father, for many, many years before he died, would buy me a candle every Christmas. It was a tradition. Now, my mom, my sister, even my son have given me candles as presents. Not only do I love them, but it keeps the memory of my father alive. I think it’s sweet that my family is trying to hold on to a tradition I dearly loved.

Father’s Day

Self made rainbow, made in home garden.

Image via Wikipedia

I was in Target’s the other day buying things I really don’t need but that’s what is so great about Target. You pretty much can justify almost every purchase because it is so inexpensive. After my leisurely walk through the aisles I make a right turn to the card section to select a card for my dad. After a moment I felt a sharp intake of breath ; shock and horror set in immediately like an illness that comes on suddenly and wipes you out. I stop, stand still and I reach for the cart to steady myself.  My father has been dead for ten years.

I don’t see his image in the streets anymore like I used to do for years after his death. Father’s Day, however, is something that is so ingrained in me that every single year I do the same exact thing. I go automatically to the Father’s Day section. I don’t have a father anymore and the realization from that is always new and it always hurts like a fresh wound. Moments of past misery hit me like a strong wave that pulls me under.

Every year on or around Father’s Day I go to the cemetery and put round white stones on his grave site. I clean off all the debris, pieces of dead brown leaves that crackle and fall apart, twigs, black soot from a harrowing winter and I clean things up a little. I bring a bouquet of flowers when I go. It’s the least I can do for a father who bought me a single red rose every year on my birthday. I talk to my dad at the cemetery and I weep. I weep in anticipation of getting there so my tears start rolling down my cheeks way before I have arrived. I park my car in the same spot, sometimes I will walk a few steps and then come back, go in the opposite direction and return quickly.

This year, as if a gift from heaven, my son’s High School graduation is on Father’s Day and that makes me extraordinarily happy. I feel, actually, I know, that my father will be with us at the celebration. He will be there in spirit with his family, seeing his grandson graduate. Maybe he will be in the soft breeze that blows, hidden in the colors of a rainbow, in the light of the raindrops that may shower us, or in the rays of the beaming sun nodding his approval, showcasing his pride. He will be there.

I know I won’t have lunch with my dad again, or be able to listen to one of his “educational talks” or laugh hysterically when he used to take the vacuum cleaner out when he thought company was staying too long. It’s not as if I can have one last hug from him or a kiss on the top of my head. I can imagine his soft hands but I can’t feel them anymore, but I carry him around with me in my heart forever.

*I’m Talking Fruit Loops

Going Loopy

Image by terren in Virginia via Flickr

Earlier today I met my friend Sarah for lunch at our local coffee shop.  I nibbled on a small fresh (?) fruit salad and ate a few bites of an egg white omelette. I felt virtuous for about two hours, eating only healthy food and grazing. We talked about everything, our kids, our maladies and the current stomach bug that was circulating through town and through the high school.

Once home, couple of hours later, I felt faint and nauseous. Just hearing the stomach bug going around made me reach for the Saltines. Later that night, for dinner, I had some of my absolutely divine homemade chicken soup, a soft carrot or two floating around, a piece of a turnip and parsnip, ( I have no idea which is which), a couple of crackers crushed into the soup.  I’ve heard of so many people getting some virus or another, ’tis the season, I suspect. So, I decided I must have the stomach bug or I am ABOUT to get the bug because my appetite was teeny-tiny, no more than a red breasted robin would eat at one time.

Then I went upstairs and started listening and watching You Tube songs on my computer.  “In the Arms Of an Angel” by Sarah Mclaughlin, “Vincent,” by Don Mclean and a beautiful, touching song I had never heard before by Josh Groban called “To Where You Are.” I got fixated on this song I had never heard and I listened to it about 20 times, over and over again.  I started thinking about all the people who I have loved that passed away. Holidays do that to you, you know. My dad, a dear aunt, my friend Janine’s father and mother-in-law, all the people I have lost and people who my friends lost.  I started getting depressed.

It’s the ho-h0-ho of the holiday season and many of us just can’t rejoice like we used to. There are so many factors: the economy, high unemployment, the kids are older, loved ones have passed and the world can be a scary place. I decided I needed something, I needed comforting, I needed…..cereal.

In the last two days by children decided that they loved cereal, not having bothered with it for about 5 years. I saw cereal, thought of cereal, bought cereal and had cereal on my mind. I crept downstairs to have two bowls of cereal. The first was a mixture of Honey Nut Cheerios, Grape Nuts (or as I call them Gravel Nuts) and two or three pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It wasn’t enough. I then came upon an individual box ( and we know those don’t count) of utterly charming, amazingly beautiful sugary Fruit Loops. I didn’t bother with the Mini Shredded Wheat with Bran, or the Flax seed cereal, or the Multi-Grain Mix. Nope, no way. I went straight to the hard stuff. Nothing talks mood elevator like Fruit Loops! How can you be weary and sad after looking at those darling purple, red, yellow, green morsels of edible jewelery.

All of a sudden I felt happier and of course fully distracted from my depressing thoughts and sad memories.  The Fruit Loops were the delightful high of my evening and not only that, I was cured. I was cured physically and emotionally and I felt happier. Cure of all ills, thy name is sugar. Amen.

*This post is not approved by Weight Watchers

Listen to the Josh Groban song, you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uIQp9Dqcrw

To Have Loved and Lost

I wanna hold your hand

Image by Josep Ma. Rosell via Flickr

Is There Any Question?

 
YES, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I remember asking my mother the same type of question when I was a teenager as we were walking from the hot, steamy parking lot to the beach’s entrance. I was 14 and I will never forget her answer. I asked “but what if something bad happens to the person you love?” She replied calmly: “You can’t be scared of everything. Some bad things will happen, but you have to take the chance. You don’t want to be alone forever.” She was right. Years later I went on to date my then boyfriend, now husband of 22 years. We have many wonderful memories together, we have two teenage children that we adore. I live in fear that something will happen to him or the children, the same fear that I feel for all the people I love. I worry, too, about my darling 8 and a half-year old dog.

There will be pain in our lives, devastation, loss. It comes with the territory. My father died almost 9 years ago. Do I miss him? Yes. Have I forgotten him? No. Is it still painful? Definitely. What I try to do now is focus on the good times we shared and the amazing love we had for each other. It takes time for pain to dissipate and really, it never goes away completely. As we all know, life is not safe. We all need to be grateful and appreciate what we have, every day, every moment if possible. Health is the most important thing we have, not money or fame or status. Love. True, unconditional love. It can be scary, it does mean you are taking a chance, it also means you need to trust. Sometimes, you just have to shut your eyes tight, take a chance, hold on tight to your loved one’s hands and jump.

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An Honest Thanksgiving

Tender, juicy roast turkey - the main attracti...

Image via Wikipedia

It will be Thanksgiving in just a few days. While we all are looking forward to moist turkey and my husband’s famous stuffing made with mushrooms and apples, raisins and water chestnuts, I have a small request. Please be kind and sensitive to one another. I don’t worry about what things will taste like; I know they will all be delicious. The only thing I worry about, quite honestly, is drama. Holidays can bring up all sorts of feelings: loss, bereavement, jealousy, resentment, sadness, and despair. Old wounds start to feel new, grievances and perceived injustices start to bubble to the surface. Before we dig in to the mashed potatoes my mother made (cough, cough, bought from a restaurant), and cranberry sauce let us think about each other first. During dessert let us try to rejoice in each others’ company instead of waiting for the air to get thick with tension as dense as brown gravy.

This year, for the first year I have actually mentioned to several members of the family that I am asking for a “drama-free” Thanksgiving. I have chronic pain, my husband has been feeling sad because of  lack of work, please try to remember this.  Work  alongside us, tell us things will be alright eventually. Life is not perfect but Thanksgiving should be about what we are grateful for, not what we lack.

I don’t want to hear sullen complaints about the food or the appetizers and I’m happy to cook and clean, taste, stir, serve and clean-up. I will not be happy with arguments, whispered secrets said too loudly and explosive outbursts. Please just leave your coats and any agendas at the door and please, please think before you speak. Be courteous to everyone else. Don’t brag, insult, or be insensitive to other people’s needs.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends. May it be peaceful, filled with great warmth, love, gratitude and great food. I am thankful for all of you.  Now, let us eat.

“Because I Am”

Black balloons

Image by stvno via Flickr

Tonight I am having a pity party for one; I am the guest of honor. You are welcome to join me but motivational speeches and happy clichés are not allowed. I’ve learned that the sun will probably not come out tomorrow, it will be cold, dark and windy just like the last few weeks. Some of my friends with chronic illnesses seem to be feeling the same way: Is it the weather?  Seasonal Affective Disorder? Pain and unhappiness? Other friends that don’t have chronic illnesses are also fed up and feeling down. I’m wallowing in self-pity and I am allowing myself to do so. Wallowing and venting are the main attractions in my self-imposed symposium.

1) Both my husband and I have been very discouraged because of the job market; he has been unemployed for a long time. He is always the best candidate, the one they love, the one they want. We get excited, euphoric even, and then the final news hits us like a tsunami: “We would love to have him but there is no funding approved for this job now” or “There’s a hiring freeze that just  started.” We plummet, like rapidly deflating black balloons.

2) I need to protect myself from future painful disappointments. While, in the past, I have tried to feel positive and hopeful,  I am now keeping my defenses up because it is too damn painful to feel excited and then let down over and over again.I am tired of feeling bad and blue and not having anything to look forward to. Yes, I have tried to be positive, I count my blessings and I list the things that I am grateful for: nothing works. A good friend of mine told me she was depressed last week and I asked her “why?”  “Because I am” she said. I now understand that completely.

4) Physically, I have no energy. I’ve been over-eating and sleeping way too much these past two weeks. I’m trying to sleep straight through to May but the chances of that are pretty slim. I stopped taking the autoimmune drug that was helping my energy level because it made my legs ache continuously and I wanted to rid myself of extra pain. This is what happens when I try to rid myself of drugs and toxins in my body. I end up asleep. I made the wrong decision.

5) The holiday season is not joyful for me. After my father died, the holiday spirit died with him. We go through the motions for the children. I’ve accepted this but each year after his birthday in November things start to go downhill fast, straight through to New Year’s Eve, the night he passed away. Why can’t I prepare myself? Why is it only familiar when it is happening again? Think of it as a long, a really long extended period of situational depression.

6) I’m having a default Thanksgiving in my house this year. My mom broke her wrist and I just couldn’t let her have it in her house. She is also depressed because of her broken bone and pain and having to be dependent on others, this affects me too. I feel bad for her. I can’t begin to talk about my self-involved sister, there is too much to say and at the same time, nothing to say. Thanksgiving is in one week, I have nothing prepared and I am both overwhelmed and underwhelmed.  I will rally for the holidays because I have to; it’s a necessity not a choice.

Let me tell you directly what I want:  Accept how I feel and allow me to have the emotions I do have. Don’t analyze, debate or criticize me. Try active listening. Help out during Thanksgiving and be kind to one another. I would truly be grateful if you could do just that.

Happy Birthday Daddy

Wiener Schnitzel

Image via Wikipedia

November 13th is my dad’s birthday, he would have been 88. He passed away almost 9 years ago but the pain on holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day, is the same raw pain as the day he died.  It’s a pain that is hard to describe for people who have never lost a parent. Believe me, I know.

Instead of wallowing in depression this year I am going to try to remember and honor the man I loved so dearly. His blue-gray eyes, child-like qualities, generosity, pep-talks and his warmth. I miss the soft yet sturdy hugs as if a limb of my own had been amputated. I miss the familiar smell of his after-shave cologne that he sprayed with enthusiasm. My dad and I were very similar; he and I had an amazing connection and a strong emotional bond. We thought alike and we completely understood each other. The day he died, my heart was gauged with intense pain, my heart missing an essential beat.

My dad and I had so much fun together when I was younger. We traveled to  Vienna, Austria, where my grandparents lived. We ate sugary-sweet meringues that were shaped like delicate white swans and sipped hot chocolate with “schlag”  (whipped cream). We ate exploding red-berry sweet and sour tarts in Viennese cafes. My grandmother would fry up her famous wiener schnitzel,  served with plump lemon wedges every single night.

I was in first grade when my mom couldn’t come to open school day but my dad came. I think he was the only father in the class and I was so proud, so happy that he was there. I remember sharing my milk and cookies with him and I felt so important. At a shared birthday party with a friend he surprised me by coming home from work early, sneaking into the party like a secret surprise. It was a joy so innocent and so intense that I remember the feeling to this day. I was shocked and delighted as I wrapped my arms around his tall legs like a clinging, furry animal. Back then dads’ weren’t as involved in their children’s’ lives as they are today but he always had time for me; his little one, his mouse, his baby.

We had adventures, the two of us. My mother worked a great deal, she traveled the world being a tour director and translator. One night my father and I went out to a Spanish restaurant and sipped sangria, with glistening, beaming chunks of bright oranges and green apples bobbing in the rich, red wine. We toasted people we knew with every sip we took. The more we sipped the stranger the toasts were. I remember we toasted a wall -paper hanger guy that never showed up to our house, people we barely knew and random people from the past.

We went to the bagel store together, early on a Sunday morning and the store was closed. However, the fresh, warm, doughy bagels had already been delivered to the store in huge paper sacks. My dad happily took some and we left, an experience a teenager doesn’t forget! We would go grocery shopping at a huge Pathmark store with my mom and he and I would find the biggest size jars of silly things: three-pound troughs of peanut butter and dill pickles, tubs of mandarin oranges and hide them in the cart as a joke. My mother would roll her eyes and shake her head, clearly not amused, but my dad and I would laugh hysterically. Often, there would be open boxes of cookies or candy and we would help ourselves to free samples. Back then, we weren’t worried about poison or germs or anthrax.

My father spent his entire life working for TWA,  getting free airline tickets for our family.  My father, mother, older sister and I flew to: France, Greece, Portugal, Israel, Switzerland and Germany. First class seats were a mere eight dollars extra but that was a lot of money years ago and a very special treat.

This Saturday on my dad’s birthday my husband and I are going to visit my mom and take her out for lunch, we don’t want her to be alone. I know that spending the day with my mom would make my dad very happy.  He loved my mom more than anyone else in the world. Later, that night, my kids and I will remember him with his own, signature and messy concoction, “Papa’s game”: a “mixture” containing  little bits of everything that is leftover on our plates and in our glasses, swirled together with a spoon and a smile. This year, I will toast to his memory.

Lost And Found

Tulips from Keukenhof Gardens, Lisle, Holland.

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t been writing at all and I don’t know why. It’s always a bad sign if I don’t write. Now, I need to question myself, in public, about what’s going on. The past week has been filled with pain, intensely painful legs out of nowhere with nothing to help dissipate the pain. Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, even Tramadol which I have been taking twice a day. Of course, I thought, I jinxed myself when I wrote that I was “lucky”that my pain was less intense than some.  Past tense. Now I have a new pain that I didn’t think was possible and I don’t know where it came from or why it still exists. That new pain jolted me to a new reality and I hate it.

I’m bothered that my sister is my sister and not a friend I would pick and that the best friend I had picked has completely lost herself,  in her marriage and her children and has not resurfaced for years. The stress in the house has become unbearable at times, with my husband unemployed and a Junior and Senior in High School. They have essays to write, exams to study for, colleges to apply to, jobs, appointments, homework, studying. We all feel the stress around us, inside us, despite of us. My children and husband are what keep me going; I not only love these three people, I adore them. They make me laugh, they make me smile and when I was about to cry today, they knew it long before I did.

Yesterday I laughed so hard I had a stomach ache, my kids put up a fake unicorn tapestry to prank their father for going to the Cloisters. After dinner with our friend Janis from California we all ate chocolate, one with a spice called cholula. We laughed and gasped through the pain and I downed two glasses of Arnold Palmer lite iced tea and lemonade afterwards. I went to bed smiling, the laughter being a delightful and unexpected present.

The holidays are almost upon us and I start thinking of my dad, who passed away 8 or 9 years ago. Why is it that I can never remember the year he died? Not being good with numbers has nothing to do with it, it’s a mental and emotional block that I can’t seem to get over. My father was the buffer in the family, the diplomat, the peace-maker. Without him the rest of the family is a triangle of raw emotions.  I was the one who lost the person who understood me the most and who thought identically like me. There is a gaping hole in our family and as everyone who has lost someone they loved knows, there is nothing to heal that pain. It’s like a festering, open wound and once in a while someone tosses in a cup of salt every now and again. There is before and there is after. Your whole world changes forever.

My birthday is coming up and as much as I used to love my birthday this year it feels like a dull ache. I don’t care that I am another year older, I was never concerned with age. Whether I am 53 or 54 doesn’t mean much to me at all. I don’t hide my age and I don’t erase my wrinkled forehead. These fine lines come from experience, both good and bad, they are here to stay. Earlier today I was thinking of my “bucket list”.  The first thing that came to mind was a tour of the tulip season in Holland and snorkeling in  some Caribbean Island so I could escape the long, cold, snowy winters.

Life is short, I am trying to make it fun. Every day is a gift and I should appreciate it but sometimes I get swept away by all the negativity and I need to pull myself up and out of that empty hole in the musty, brown earth, inch by painstaking inch. I think I have found my voice again so after I dig myself out, I will be facing the sun.