Tag Archives: little bit of buddha

the sky on the fourth of july

There’s a song called “Fourth of July” by Sufjan Stevens that has nothing to do with patriotism but everything to do with this very moment. He sings about a conversation that he had with his mom on her hospital bed as she died with aggressive cancer and uses bird-terms of endearment and examples of brilliant light to symbolize life. Needless to say, it strikes a chord and makes me cry every single time but I can’t stop listening to it.

“Did you get enough love, my little dove, why do you cry?

And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best, though it never felt right.”

My mom and I both firmly believed that her dad–my grandpa–came back to us as a bird after he passed away. After my mom passed, I found feathers everywhere I went when I happened to look down, even indoors. And she and I always told each other, “You are my sunshine.” So I’ve let myself believe it’s a song she’s singing to me (even if it’s via the lovely voice of a male stranger).

“You do enough talk, my little hawk, why do you cry?

Tell me, what did you learn from the Tillamook Burn? Or the Fourth of July?”

the fireworks from our beach

the fireworks from our beach

Apparently, the Tillamook Burn was a series of catastrophic forest fires in Oregon starting in the 1930’s. (I had to look that up.) The fires caused massive destruction, but the life of the fire did come to an end. As did the lives of the trees. The Fourth of July blasts hundreds or thousands of fireworks across the sky where they make dazzling colors and inspire some hope and reflection. But within each burst comes a small death that disappears in the sky. After the thirty minute show, they’re gone forever. Their light dies too. What remains?

I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time, but those things are impermanent. We’re impermanent too. That’s the next line in the song, by the way: “We’re all gonna die.” We’re momentary bits of beautiful light across the universe like thousands of tiny suns, we’re flocks of birds across the sky, and we’re fleeting. We can’t fear that. It’s just something to accept, and the sooner we accept it, the easier it feels. It’s devastating but beautiful, because it makes everything mean something.

The second we accept that nothing lasts forever is the same second we can start living fully without the barrier of fear in the way. (I’m still working on the acceptance part.)

My mom was only on this planet for 61 years, and I know that she positively impacted every person she met. She fervently loved her friends and students, and while I don’t think she played favorites, she loved the underdogs a little harder. She fought for them when they couldn’t see their own strength or beauty. She fought for me when I couldn’t see mine. She beamed light from her pores and fingertips and toes and smile. She was a ray of sunshine that made its way through the fog and to our hearts. She was a rare and special cobalt blue firework bursting across the midnight sky. She was a hummingbird fluttering for mere seconds in the catmint in the garden. She was a momentary but magnificent beacon of wondrous things like strength and hope and silliness and kindness, and I thank God or whatever is calling the shots up there that I got her to brighten my life and illuminate my path as long as I did.

“Shall we look at the moon, my little loon, why do you cry?

Make the most of your life, while it is rife, while it is light.”

Last year around this time, my husband and I were driving my mom to her weekend getaway at our house when fireworks went off over the bay. We pulled the car over to watch them for only a moment, but while my mom was in the passenger seat watching them, I was watching her. She was so beautiful inside and out that you couldn’t help but stare in awe.

Use today and especially this Saturday to think of your life like a firework. Live fervently and purposefully, even if your sole purpose is to cast a little light into the world. Leave a magnificent mark across the sky for others. Be an inspiration. Perform random acts of kindness just for the sake of being kind. Love without limits for however brief of a time you get that opportunity.

Start really living before it’s too late.

Tori

you are my sunshine, mom. for always and forever

you are my sunshine, mom. always and forever

P.S. Sufjan Stevens, please forgive me if I’ve destroyed the intended meaning of this song. This is how I understood it. I thank you for your beautiful music even if it makes me cry. And I’m so sorry about your mom.

the thing with feathers

Tomorrow will be Mother’s Day. Specifically, it will be the first Mother’s Day that I have to spend without being able to celebrate my mom’s existence with her. It will be the first without her here. Last year I wondered, “Am I doing enough?” This year will be the first that I question, “Did I?”

So many people have told me, “The first year is the worst.” It’s something you can be sure you’ll look forward to dreading with every holiday stirring up your sorrow. I used to think “looking forward to something” implied something good would happen, like when I used to look forward to holidays. I’d rather skip them now.

A year of firsts and worsts, although I can’t imagine subsequent years getting any easier. My mom left this earth in August, and I somehow got through Thanksgiving, Christmas, a new year, and a non-Valentine’s Day. I spent them hiding at home in a blanket cocoon and avoiding people, but somehow, my heart kept beating and my lungs kept filling up with air, which felt an awful lot like suffocating. I can’t imagine tomorrow feeling much different with the exception that I will leave the house.

I have a new chiropractor for my scoliosis who I began seeing eight days ago. Upon my initial visit with him, he took a thorough history including my family history. I had to check off the horrid little box on that sheet of paper that said my mom was deceased. The reason? Fucking glioblastoma. I didn’t write the expletive, but I thought it.

He discussed everything I wrote on that piece of paper, including how horrible glioblastoma is. He said how two of his patients passed away with glio this past year too and how he wouldn’t wish it on anyone. He said how being her only child, it must be more than just the loss of my mom but also the loss of my best friend. He knew.

Yesterday, I returned to his office for an adjustment and was greeted by his secretary-wife who said she and my chiropractor were talking about how depressed I’ve been since my mom passed (which I’m fairly certain is a HIPAA violation), and how Mother’s Day must be tough being the first. Clearly, they both knew.

I got settled in the exam room and was greeted by my chiropractor who asked what I was up to this weekend. I said that “we” (meaning my husband and I) are going to Monomoy, a wildlife refuge on Cape Cod known for its birds. I wanted to be with the birds and by the ocean, something I know my mom would love too.

The chiropractor started laughing and blurted out, “You’re bringing your mom?!” I thought briefly that perhaps he forgot what we’d talked at length about and said, “No, she’s…” Yet he squealed, “I know! I know!” Then I realized that the asshole actually thought he was funny and was making a joke about her not being here, that he knew she was gone and was making fun of the fact I said where “we” were going.

I didn’t have the guts to speak up and say, “That’s really not funny.” I mean, during a neck adjustment, he could paralyze me, so I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. I’d save that chat for another time. This same chiropractor later made “jokes” in the form of mocking a gay couple he knows and used the term “ew!” to describe their kissing. I am furious at myself that I didn’t have the nerve to stand up for myself or my friends who happen to be gay. Either way, I’ve lost all respect for that man.

What I didn’t tell him is that “we” (Ray and I) will go to the bird-filled beach tomorrow because “we” (my mom and I) had discussed at length where she and I would meet, and I know I’ll feel her presence there. Each night when she was still here, we’d pick a beach to visit each other in our dreams. Sometimes it was one we’d been to together (Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina was a favorite), and sometimes it was one we’d only dreamed about (I told her I’d bring her with me to Bora Bora). But my mom and I also firmly believed that her dad (my grandpa) who happened to be the greatest man on the planet came back to this earth as a bird after he passed away.

There were too many instances to prove our case. I’m a fan of Buddhism and like the notion of reincarnation, but my mom was a practicing Catholic who decided she liked the notion too. Right after he had passed and I went back to college, a hawk kept me company on my walk back to my apartment when all I could do was cry. I learned that the excerpt I read at his funeral was the same as a song by the Byrds. “There is a time for everything. […] A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Little chickadees hopped up to our car when my mom and I were pulled over and lost while trying to find a farm in Connecticut. Cardinals brought my mom to happy tears. There were countless examples and all of them made us sure that he visited us as a bird and that he earned his wings.

When my mom passed, I looked for birds, certain that she would come back as one too. But it wasn’t birds that I found when I needed her most. It was feathers. Anytime I looked down, there would be a feather at my feet, even when I was in the locker room at the gym. Then there were flocks of starlings dancing across the entire sky above (Hi, Mom). And a giant heron mixed in with a group of seagulls that brought me to tears on my way to work one morning (she stood out from the crowd in the best way possible). I know she’s up in the air and all around now too.

What I should have told that chiropractor is that Ray and I will be meeting my mom down at Monomoy. We (the three of us) will spend the day together by the ocean and with the birds, somewhere my mom would want me to go and the greatest picture of peace that I can imagine. I think it’s what heaven and nirvana look like. I’m not “bringing” her there, but I carry her in me wherever I go, so yes, perhaps I am. We’ll have to have a picnic with her and her bird friends.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You will always be the greatest mom and person on this planet.

I miss you and love you the mostest.

Tori


An excerpt of “Seven Birds”

A white bird
A breath condenses
Even density can be pleasant
Each wall widens its cracks
And retains the call
A height that remains a height
Springs that have gathered the winds of the fields

A red bird
It may have traveled the river in one night
The road may have guided it through the upper layers
I ponder the mystery of its redness
Then forget the sky
That has taken it there

Mohammad Bennis as translated by Fady Joudah

lost socks and butterflies

I have been accused of something terrible by my husband. The other night, I went upstairs to go to sleep to find him folding his laundry next to the bed. He looked at me dead in the eye with a perfectly straight face and said, “You’ve been stealing my socks.”

Wait, what?

Let’s be real here. I have swiped many articles of Ray’s clothing, as any good wife will do. Mostly, sweatshirts. Pajama pants on occasion. Most recently, a fantastic, buffalo plaid, button-down shirt that Ray claims is too small on him, but I know he was just begrudgingly giving me a reason to snuggle up in it. But socks? A sock thief I am not.

On Ray’s bureau, there were something like 20 solo socks with no partners to be found anywhere. I do handle laundry half of the time, so certainly it could have been something I did. I passed the buck and blamed the dog, who probably blamed the cat. Ray checked the cellar to see if the creatures hid their sock stash somewhere to save for later, but nothing turned up. A bunch of single socks, all vanished in the night.

Ray was, of course, kidding that I was the culprit. The socks are genuinely gone, but none of us – neither the humans nor the furry folk – are to blame, although I’d still bet money on the dog. Perhaps the washing machine chewed them up. Maybe the hotel bed sheets on our latest vacation ate them never to be seen again. But like the loss of the socks, things, stupid things, annoying things, and meaningless things happen all the time.

Things, sometimes, just happen organically, randomly, and magically. Okay, maybe not magically. Maybe the dog stole all of the cat’s toys, so the cat got antsy. Then maybe the cat stole one sock, and the dog swiped one too to be like her sister (that’s two). Maybe the washing machine ate one (that’s three), the hotel sheets ate a couple (let’s say we’re up to five), Ray lost one (six), I misplaced one for kicks (seven), and so forth (like magic, twenty). Maybe the totality of what’s happened was a result of everyone and everything that transpired as things tend to do in life. And now Ray is down twenty or so socks, because of the summation of a series of seemingly insignificant events that caused something greater.

When I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian, because I’d get to put my brains to use and help animals, until my mom pointed out that I’d have to put animals down which immediately changed my mind. Then I wanted to be a doctor because I’d get to put my brains to use and help people, until I was permanently scarred by the thought of cadavers and blood in medical school.

From seventh grade through high school, I was bullied and increasingly more anxious just being around my peers and started spending study periods hiding in the guidance library, an empty and quiet room filled with books of colleges, careers, and life after high school. There, I found the resources and answer I’d been looking for. You like chemistry, math, and health? You want a job that’s highly demanded, respected, and paid? You should be a pharmacist. You want to stay local and avoid a high tuition? You should go to UConn or URI. UConn looked nice. Bam. Easy.

I left high school with a clear path which I quickly hated in actuality. I hated pharmacy school and the stress. I hated the choice I’d made single-handedly, but was so far in my mom begged me to finish. I wanted to make her happy even if I wasn’t. I went on sixth-year rotations with no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated, until one phenomenal preceptor said, “You like to write? You should be a medical writer. You have to go to Midyear.” So I did.

At Midyear, I started thinking about fellowships and the future. I was offered my top choice and for reasons I still question, I later turned it down. But in the airport on the way home from this weird experience in California in an attempt to find my future, I did. I met Ray and got seated next to him on the plane. A hop, skip, and a long distance relationship later, I married him.

In the butterfly effect of years of fear-based choices and uncertainty and a little bit of hope, I met my husband. I met him because I wanted to be a veterinarian then a doctor then a pharmacist. I met him because I hid from my peers in a rarely used area of the high school. I met him because my mom wouldn’t let me quit what I’d started, and because deep down, I knew she was right. I met him because I was lost and one preceptor had the best advice (Dr. Effie Kuti, thank you). All along I wanted to figure out my future, and I did when I met him. And I met him because of the summation of a series of seemingly insignificant events that caused something greater.

A little over a year after I graduated with my pharmacy degree, my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor and my world crumbled. And somehow, all of those random events including having Ray in my life made me prepared to help her through her treatment and trials. She wouldn’t let me quit pharmacy school, a fact I resented at the time, but that very fact in turn helped her. Looking back on it all, maybe I didn’t do it to make her proud at all. Maybe God or the universe or whatever you believe in knew what was in store and knew she’d need the help. Maybe the series of seemingly insignificant events caused something greater: peace of mind.

I thank God that I went to and finished pharmacy school. I thank God for every single little thing that made it happen, step by step, inch by inch, butterfly and beyond. And maybe my mom’s passing will be an impetus for something great to happen that hasn’t been realized yet.

Anything could happen. Maybe Ray will find his socks. Maybe he and I will have a child that will find the cure for glioblastoma in my mom’s memory. Maybe I’ll learn that without her, I can still be strong and find happiness. Maybe she’ll come back as a butterfly this spring.

Anything could happen.

Tori

for sonya

“You should write.”

Ray was talking about a book in the future. As though I’d be a respectable author trying to make a name for herself. Not as a road trip vacationer in the passenger seat cradling a small dog in one arm and furiously thumbing the keys on her phone to compose a blog entry with the free hand.

But here we are.

We – Ray, Coconut, and I – are somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina. Actually, we just passed a sign for Wilson. Like the volleyball that Tom Hanks’ character befriends and is forced to part with in “Cast Away”.

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote beyond a to-do list here and there. I’ve felt uninspired and empty of words and emotion. Numb, but breathing. But the encouragement from Ray and the fact that I remember writing a one-thumb entry from my mom’s hospice bed far too well have brought me here.

Tom Hanks had to say goodbye to Wilson. I had to say goodbye to my mom, and a friend from high school just had to say goodbye to her mom who lost her battle with cancer as my mom did. It’s brought back painful memories of the past that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

But it’s just that: the past. And one day, it’ll be her past too. Even if it doesn’t feel like this hurt will ever pass.

Assuming time moves forward like this car traveling 70 miles an hour down the highway, one day we’ll all have to say goodbye to every other thing that crosses our paths. We’ll get past the hard times, we’ll be forced to say farewell to the great ones, and we’ll move further and further away from the ones that we almost didn’t notice like the way my left arm went numb a few minutes ago from holding a dog while my right one was too busy writing. Some of them will leave us largely unchanged, but others will leave us stronger.

We’ve now passed Wilson, North Carolina. We’ll probably never be back. It’s in the past and a memory that will become a more distant memory with each passing mile.

To my friend who just lost her mom: this will pass, I promise. It will never be easy, but it will get bearable. You will have bad days, but let the good memories outnumber them. You will never have to endure the passing of your mom again, and you can rest easy knowing that you have somehow survived it. And she would be proud knowing you kept breathing.

As for your mom, she is no longer in plain sight in front of you, but she’s not really behind you either. She’s in you and all around. She was with you when you picked out her flowers. She’ll be in your passenger seat when you’re driving by yourself to work.

And when you whisper or maybe cry, “I wish my mom was here,” I promise you she is.

Just keep moving forward and hold on tight.

Tori

on curves and strength

Here’s a little known fact about me: I have pretty bad scoliosis with three distinct curves in my spine that try to keep each other in check by pulling each other in different directions. Like an “S” that got too wide and had to hook around once more again to keep itself upright. Or maybe it just wanted to be an asshole. The thing that’s supposed to hold your body straight up and down like a flagpole decided to make itself a nice 30-degree deviation from where it should be, like it was driving along and found a huge pothole in an icy road at the last minute and swerved, fishtailed, fishtailed some more, and then got back on course. The thing (apparently I call my back “The Thing”) has been X-rayed, cracked at the chiropractor, massaged, strengthened at physical therapy, strained, and sprained by movement that I probably self-inflicted too many times. It’s been braced by a horrible plastic girdle thing-a-ma-jig that was specially fit for my scoliosis that I was supposed to wear daily but I bargained with the orthopedic specialist and he let me just wear it at night. At some point, he wanted to put a rod along my spine, which I also refused, because I like dance, yoga, and backbends too much.

What’s my point besides telling you, Dear Reader, that I am a horrible, stubborn patient with a curved spine? I wanted to tell you that there’s a perpetual giant knot next to my left shoulder blade that just sits there trying to pull the worst curve back where it’s supposed to be. It just sits there holding on for dear life. And that sucker hurts perpetually. It’s always there and it will never go away. Like a nice little knife that decided to wedge itself in there and take permanent residence.

Okay, so seriously, what’s my point?

My point is that sometimes, life throws you curves that you did nothing to deserve. They hit you out of nowhere and they cause irrevocable changes you can’t undo. Sometimes those curves will cause you deep, stabbing, gnawing, raw pain that may never go away. You were going happily along a nice, normal, little path and then, bam. Pothole. Car accident. Natural disaster. Terminal diagnosis. (Clearly, I’m not lumping my scoliosis in that last category, because I was only using it as a metaphor to get to this point. It’s trivial by comparison.)

Things happen every single day that weren’t supposed to happen. They’re not fair. I find myself talking about missing my mom and saying to my husband on an almost daily basis, “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” regarding her diagnosis of glioblastoma and subsequent passing. And his response, which was possibly the most comforting thing he could utter was a simple, “I know.”

Good, kind, wonderful, vibrant people are supposed to be on this planet. They’re not supposed to die. But they do. Sometimes when they’re 21, sometimes when they’re 61, sometimes when they’re 101. And at some point, it will happen. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. And for whoever is caught in the vicinity, the knot – but this time, the knot in your stomach – will ache and it might always be there. Like the namesake quote from this blog states, “It’s supposed to hurt. That’s how you know it meant something.”

I’m not trying to be morbid or pessimistic, but this, Kind Reader, you must know: Go live your life. Really live it, with no worries or regrets. Do not fear the future, because crap will happen that is entirely out of your control. It will happen. That’s actually the First Noble Truth in Buddhism: “Life contains suffering.” Regardless of your creed, you know that bad things happen. You could encounter a pothole tonight. A family member might get bad news from the doctor tomorrow. Anything worse is fair game at any moment.

But fearing the unknowable or the inevitable doesn’t get you anywhere. And living in fear leaves no room for living in peace. I need to remember this truth just as much as the next person: Deal with the curves when they arise.

You might get a strong, little muscle when they do.

Tori

what is wednesday?

“She is delightfully chaotic; a beautiful mess. Loving her is a splendid adventure.”

I’m a little confused. At a standstill, really. Shrugging my shoulders and trying to figure this one out. We just celebrated what we’re thankful for on Throwback Thursday. I mean, Thanksgiving. Then we proved we’re not content with what we already have by honoring Black Friday. I don’t know what Saturday and Sunday were called. Black Friday’s Evil Stepsisters, perhaps. And if that isn’t enough, we buy more crap we don’t need on Cyber Monday.

Some awesome organizations out there remind us to remember those who are less fortunate on Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday campaigns make me smile that there are still some inspirational folks among those who were throwin’ elbows for the latest and last Kindle on the shelf. Whatever Kindle is most popular right now, assuming Kindle’s are still popular. Whatever the popular thing is that people duke it out over. But violence is not the answer. That’s what internet shopping is for so you can be a shopping ninja from the comfort of your own home. In the nude, even. Before leaving the topic of Giving Tuesday, wait! Here’s my plug. Please go donate to any cause you love if you haven’t already. Pick any! Support Gay Rights and Equality. Bring kitten toys to an animal shelter. Support brain tumor research with NBTS to find a cure in my mom’s memory! Anything.

But after Giving Tuesday, then what? What the heck is the day after called? The day after Tuesday? Any other Wednesday? Hump day, for most. But seriously.

We have a manic stretch of days from the day we say we’re grateful, to the four days we shop like we’re on Supermarket Sweet, to one more day of being good people, and then what? Sidebar: Supermarket Sweep was the shit. It was me and my mom’s goal to not only be on it but to dominate it. We were both sprinters with great fast-twitch muscles to beat everyone to the turkeys, other cuts of fine meat, and bacon. We’d find a bonus somewhere at the end of the refrigerated meat aisle, switch carts, get the damn baby formula and diapers fast! We had our plan down cold. I digress. No more talk about shopping.

Today is just a Wednesday. There’s no name given to it by pop culture or the newscasters that I’m aware of. Scratch that. I just Googled it. It’s been called Weeping Wednesday because of all the bills people racked up. Really? What if you spent within your means and finished your next month’s project of shopping? There’s no crying in that. I’ll probably be crying because I’m a sobbing mess lately with the holidays here and my mom not here. But that’s not the same.

The Wednesday after is just back to normal. It’s living in a messy world, where every single day has loads of responsibilities, not just one the shopping gods have delegated for us: give thanks, buy, buy, buy, buy some more, give. Wednesday doesn’t have a set agenda. It’s more carefree, a little messy, even wacky if you will. Anyone local knows Trucchi’s Supermarkets have Wacky Wednesdays. My mom was a huge fan. She’d stock up on whatever we didn’t need, but it was always prime time to get cereal, since we were only allowed to buy it if it was on sale and my mom had a coupon. Ray’s mom had the same deal with him growing up, to be fair. But still, we’re back on shopping. Enough of that.

Wacky, messy, normal, living, breathing, being Wednesday doesn’t quite have a melodic ring to it, but life is not cookie cutter. I so badly wanted it to be a perfect cookie cutter when I was little and tried my hardest to make it that way, but life is a blubbering, sloppy mess. Like our dog’s kisses. She goes all over the place in excitement. She licks up your nose back to a section of your head you didn’t think you could reach, your ear lobes, the inside of your mouth if you’re not careful. She stands on anything in reach to get to you. Your face, the area of my chest where boobs should reside if I had them, Ray’s delicate areas, your gut which always hurts. She’s just all over the place. You can’t control it or contain it. She’s entropy! I’m so far out of school I barely remember this, but something in thermodynamics states that in natural processes entropy increases. Using life as a metaphor, that’d mean everything gets messy and it’s basically supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be all over the place with nonsense and crazy thrown in. Just like the organization of my essay right now.

Here’s my Wacky Wednesday: Call in to 7am meeting while still basically asleep and definitely still in pajama’s with bed hair (messy). Be exhausted after having insomnia and trying to treat it by pacing and getting out of bed to write this essay until 2am the night before so crawl into the shower begrudgingly. Brush my hair if I remember (messy). Drive to work when I will most likely cry about something that reminded me of my mom or a trigger that brought up my dad (ugly cry, messy). Seriously though. I had a meltdown over a water bottle the other day. Get to work with makeup smeared down my face (messy). Pull my shit together for work even if I cry there too randomly. But I also twerk behind my officemate, do jigs in front of the Keurig, and run the risk of peeing my pants every single day since the office is an icebox (that’s messy and it’s happened before). Drive home and cry (messy). Realize I have no clean clothes (messy) and must do a laundry immediately, realize the dog ate her poop again (disgustingly messy), notice the kitten is a gem (cats aren’t messy), realize it’s a night Ray works until 10pm which means I’ll be alone and sad (messy), perhaps I’ll cook the rest of the salmon (messy but delicious), try to wash my face like they do in infomercials but fail and get soap and water all over the sink and mirror (messy), hog the comforter (mean messy), and yeah. You get the drift. You, the person reading this, might not have the same exact scenarios as me, but you know you have a lot of messy in your life. Admit it. You’re a freaking disaster too. Maybe you have poop-filled diapers to tend to, soccer cleats after a game in the mud you need to clean up, hair dye covering your forehead and fingers, your basement’s abyss (ours too) that you’re afraid to even enter, your family (oh, trust me, you’re not alone) – all messy.

We’re all disasters in some regard. And that’s kind of a cool common bond. We probably have millions of intentions for every day that barely ever get done. Things we meant to do and had to do that we never do. But even focusing on a little of it is something. Taking a chip out of it is a start. Maybe there’s a mess before you. Something you know you need to tackle, even a part of yourself you deem as a mess. Know that some stains never come out; some things can never be worked out. But who the hell cares? Functioning disasters deserve a badge of honor.

How about the back to normal Wednesday be dubbed Wacky Wednesday (yay Trucchi’s!) where you can stop trying to hold all of your shit together from the past five days, holiday shopping, time crunches, and races against time. Relax and unfold. Let your disastrous self be revealed. Let all of your crazy shine through. Be messy and imperfect. And just be you. That’s your only requirement today.

Just like any other.

Tori

thanks for giving

I am currently boycotting the holidays, as it’s too tough without my mom here. But I know she’d want us to make some good no matter what. She was always able to be there for others, no matter how sick she got. So no matter how sad I may be, I’d like to make her proud.

Last weekend, Ray and I threw a Friendsgiving Dinner for the friends who have become family. Providing the food, we asked our friends to help us support the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless with their Food Pantry and Holiday Fund. Here are some photos of the loot we’ll be donating tomorrow for the holidays! Pantry items for everyone and gifts suitable for teens, the population the PAC specifically asked us for help with. So excited with the outcome!

DSC_0439

like emeril, bam! tons of pasta, cake mixes, canned goods, and cleaning products!

DSC_0440

some books, games, and sports stuff. i picked out the rockin’ soccer ball!

Before my mom passed, she had bought 16 seasons tickets for the Providence Performing Arts Center, to Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a magic show, and Blue Man Group. She used to buy the tickets every season and then sell them to friends so everyone could sit together, but when the tickets arrived in the mail, I didn’t know what to do with them. I decided to mix it up. I do admit that I gave the tickets for the Cirque show to friends of my own to keep a little tradition.

However, the magic show tickets are all going to Special Olympics Massachusetts, an organization my mom and I volunteered for together for years so it holds a special place in my heart. I’m hoping some special families get to enjoy the show together!

second and third row seats!

second and third row seats!

I was hoping to give the Blue Man Group tickets to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, and after contacting them, they found an organization for me that is somehow more perfect. My mom would have loved giving these to children in need, but they’ll be going to the Tomorrow Fund to benefit children with cancer and their families. My mom would be giving a big “thumbs up” to all of the above.

My mom was the most generous and selfless person I’ve ever known, and I am so thankful I got her as my mom and role model. I honestly feel bitter without her, but I was lucky for however short a time she was on this earth. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Before I break into a panic attack thinking about her, I’ll get to the point of this post. Go do some good. Go do something for others who might not have the means to do it for themselves. Even if you’re struggling too. Give your time, give your funds if you can, and give your heart.

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart, give yourself to it.”

Happy Thanksgiving (even if I’m boycotting it) and thanks for giving to whatever charity feels good to you!

Tori

perspective – part deux

Ray and I are officially home from Paris and the trip was heaven. Seriously. Heaven. It only intensified my love affair with the city.

bonjour

i mean seriously, come on. bonjour, beautiful.

Everything I’ve ever seen in photos was a million times better in person. I couldn’t get enough of the Eiffel Tower, the beauty of the French language and entire freaking city, the value of fresh flowers and good food, and beautiful, interesting people. That means I lurked and took lots of photos of strangers. They tell a story better than I ever could.

artists

artists

walkers

handsome couples

lovers

lovers

and people that wanted to kill me

and people that wanted to kill me with musicians in the background

Anyway, per my last post, I hoped to find something in Paris – specifically up upon Montmartre – that I’d hoped to find my whole life. I never knew what that something was. Just that it was up there for me. Talk about pressure.

We found “my staircase” – it’s not mine, really. I think Brassaï made it most beautiful in a black and white photograph he took, but I tried to capture the same angle. So happy we found this puppy.

rue foyatier

rue foyatier

But here’s what I’m most happy about. Ecstatic really, but in a bittersweet way. The church up upon Montmartre is named Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It’s the very special thing at the top of the hill that I thought perhaps housed the thing I was always looking for. And then my mom passed and I thought that dream was a load of crap, but Ray thought we needed to go to Paris anyway.

i've loved this church for years without ever seeing it. it's so much better in person, as life always is

i’ve loved this church for years without ever seeing it. it’s so much better in person, as life always is better firsthand

When we entered the church, I wanted to light a candle for my mom. Had to. It was obligatory in an OCD kind of way, because it wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t. But I had to find the right spot to light the candle. That would mean that I had to find the right patron saint to honor. We started towards the left, and nothing felt right. My mom and I lit a candle at the very back of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, so perhaps that would be the same spot at the Basilica. Nope, didn’t feel right. So we circled back around in our counterclockwise loop from the entrance and distance was running out to find the right statue. Found the second to last statue and it still didn’t feel right. And then we walked up to the last statue. So really, the first statue in the Basilica that you’d see if you started towards the right. And it was saint Maguerite Marie. French for Margaret Mary. My mom’s name, and the patron saint she was named after.

We lit a candle for my mom at her patron saint’s statue, the first statue upon entering the Basilica of the Sacred Heart up upon Montmartre. Like my mom is right there, at the top of the hill in Paris. Boom, bonjour.

marguerite marie otherwise known as margaret mary

marguerite marie otherwise known as margaret mary

While that didn’t bring me perspective, it brought me peace. And that’s the thing I probably always needed to find these years I’ve been dreaming of Paris. It didn’t bring me closure, because I’m not okay that she’s not here anymore. But it did bring me a profound sense of peace knowing she’s there.

Paris can be my heaven. Maybe it’s hers. She would have loved it. She’d have loved the chocolate eclairs and croissants. She would have loved the picnics in the Tuileries garden. She would have conversed with Parisians beautifully with her perfect French accent like the locals. She would have loved power-walking up the hills and stairs in Montmartre to that final, profound resting place.

Bonsoir, Mom. Sleep tight.

Tori

on love

Something has occurred to me. Something groundbreaking, earth-moving, sky-tumbling, heart-trembling (now I’m singing Carole King), and almost breathtaking. And it is so simple that I feel ridiculous for even stating it, but it’s something I’ve never really thought about before.

Saying “I love you” is the same exact thing as saying “thank you for being.”

mom, we love you the "mostest" and miss you even more

mom, we love you the “mostest” and miss you even more

People don’t say “I love you” enough. Out of fear that the sentiment might not be reciprocated. Out of fear that it might mean a relationship is important and real. Out of pain from the past. Something. But people don’t say those words enough. And people really need to hear them.

My husband and I met in a state that neither of us lived and dated long distance for well over the first year of our relationship. We talked a lot on the phone, via text, and on Skype and saw each other on the weekends as much as possible, given that we were both finishing up school at the time. He’d been to Boston to see me; I’d been to New York to see him. I loved him and was in love with him and I wanted to tell him that in person. But we were many miles away.

One night, we were planning on talking on Skype before bed, so I – he doesn’t know this – showered, did my makeup, did my hair, put on stylishly casual clothes (“Oh this? I was just sitting around the house in it.”  That’s a lie. I wear pajamas and definitely no bra when I’m at home), and we started to talk. We talked as usual. I don’t remember about what. And that was that. We said, “Good night,” and I probably looked like a giddy school girl in a push-up bra underneath a brand-new, just-cut-off-the-tags Pink sweatshirt and a healthy dose of mascara waving goodbye. Regardless, we ended the conversation.

I loved him and I wanted to tell him, but I really wanted to tell him in person. The first “I love you” and “I’m in love with you” are big deals. But I can’t keep a secret for the life of me. Especially not if it’s something I’m excited about. Which means, something overcame me, I called him back immediately on Skype, and blurted out those three little words. I said it. And he smiled. I was so mad at myself for not having the patience to tell him in person so that it’d be romantic and personal and perfect. But I needed him to know. And you know what? I’m really glad I told him, because he needed to hear it.

He said it back, and it felt so good to the core to know that the person I was thankful I had in my life, the person that had been a stranger only months before, was also thankful that I was in his. That’s all it means. It’s simple and it’s huge at the same time. I later told him that I was also in love with him, because it feels more passionate. Like, loving is to compassion as being in love is to passion. Anyway, they both apply to Ray. Sidenote: Ray, have I embarrassed you yet?

i love this man and am in deep and utter love with him. and good god, you're handsome.

i love this man and am in deep and utter love with him. and good god, he’s handsome.

I’m not saying we should all be “in love” with everyone. That’s different. I am in love with my husband and only my husband, but I love a lot of good people, funny people, and selfless people. I love open-minded and tolerant people. I remember telling one of my best friends from college who happens to be male, “I love you” and someone walking by asked me if he was my husband. It seemed oddly presumptuous to me at the time, but I get that those words seem to be reserved for significant others for most. My friend Mark drove two and a half hours to see my mom at her fundraiser, to drive two and a half hours home the same day. I appreciate his support and am so thankful he is the person he is. So “I love you” is very fitting.

my mom with her "boyfriend" mark

my mom with her “boyfriend” mark

More people need to know they’re appreciated. Any single day at any second in time, something bad can happen. A tragedy can come without warning. Your loved one might not wake up. This blog article could be the last thing on earth you ever read. So stop waiting to share how you feel before it’s too late. Tell the people you are grateful you have in your life that you love them. Tell them often. And don’t forget to tell the person who looks back at you in the mirror.

Thank you all for being. I love you. Same thing.

Tori

the fault is not in ourselves

I read The Fault in Our Stars before it became a movie and fell in love with Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters, their relationship, their wisdom, and their story. I read it despite the fact that my mom was losing her battle with cancer and that it would undoubtedly be a huge trigger for me. I suspected one of the two would pass away before the end. And yet I couldn’t put it down. I was so deeply affected by Hazel and Augustus that I recommended the book to anyone who would listen.

That includes my mom. I encouraged my – I’m going to say it – dying mother to read a very real and raw novel about dying. To show her that she could still live her life, to let her know that life goes on, and to show her how some infinities are just shorter than others.

We went grocery shopping together one afternoon. While pushing her in a wheelchair and somehow hanging a basket on my wrist, I saw it on an endcap display and impulsively added it to our pile for her. It didn’t occur to me until after checkout that it could have been a mistake.

What if it makes her cry? What if it breaks her?

But it was already too late. She started reading it when we got home and got hooked on it off the bat. She was quickly turning the pages and grasping what she read, which was a relief, because her dexterity, vision, and level of understanding were already shoddy. The book makes a very difficult topic seem simple and bearable. And my mom seemed to love Hazel and she wanted to know what happened in the end.

My mom continued to read the novel on our front porch while my husband and I worked in the garden in front of her. We had a picnic on the porch which is one of the few times she actually put the book down. She was able to feed herself yogurt at that point. I think I had a granola bar while sitting on the porch floorboards next to her. It still counts as a picnic.

During the break, she said she didn’t really understand the title, so I tried to explain to her what I thought about it. How I’d read that it was a nod to a Julius Caesar quote. Shakespeare wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

I told her I think that the author is eloquently calling bullshit. I said, “It means it’s not your fault at all, Mom. Nobody chooses to have cancer. You did nothing to cause or deserve this.” She gave a slight smile and continued reading.

I decided it was a good answer. Looking back, of everything I ever did for my mom, making sure she knew that is something I will rest and grieve peacefully with. My mom had confided in me several times already that a family member yelled at her when she knocked things over, spilled her drinks, choked on food, had trouble hearing, and did other things that were a direct result of the tumors in her brain. It was never her fault and I tried to make sure she knew that. I told her she could throw food at the wall if she wanted and that nobody should care if food gets on the floor. The dog would actually welcome that, so have at it.

Anyway, when the summer sun was too warm for my mom’s very reactive skin (a side effect of chemo), she read her novel on the couch and fell asleep with it on her lap often. She was sleeping more often. She took naps frequently. Even while she came in and out of her slumber, I loved being next to her. But when she was reading, I noticed she started missing pages because they were too thin to separate for her fingers and she was rereading chapters towards the end over and over again. Maybe it’s because she didn’t understand them. Maybe it’s because she forgot where she was. Probably a combination of the two. At some point she did claim she finished it though. And she said she loved Hazel. Hazel has the same tenacity as my mom did, so I don’t blame her.

That was the last thing she ever read independently.

What’s my point? One evening just before or just after my mom had finished the novel, the family member who blamed her for things out of her control started putting her down for who she was as a person and decisions she had made long ago. The person said how she wasn’t careful enough around breakables again. I spoke up. I said how she had told me the put-downs had been happening, how she had asked me not to speak up, but how I wasn’t going to let it happen anymore. It’s like she was asking me for help but trying not to get the person in trouble both at the same time.

Anyway, as much as I would have defended her, I didn’t need to. My mom fired back at the bullying family member, “It’s not my fault at all. That’s what it says in the book. Nobody chooses to have cancer. I didn’t do anything to cause or deserve this.”

And for a second, the bully shut up. The comments ultimately resumed and my mom’s new self-assured stance was ultimately worn down again by said comments, but for that one moment, she stood up for herself. I owe The Fault in Our Stars for that. And I’m really proud of her.

This topic might seem somewhat random for anyone reading this, but the novel is fresh in my mind after watching the movie adaptation last night. The movie changed some parts of the book, deleted some characters I’d hoped would be brought to life, and left out some smaller details that were really important to me, but it still made me sob just the same.

It was an ugly cry too. For approximately half of the movie. The kind where the snot is pouring out of your nose, you don’t have a tissue, and there’s so much junk leaking from your face you have no choice but to wipe it on your sleeve. Not that I wiped it on my sleeve. Okay, I wiped it on my sleeve. And then my husband offered me his sleeve and just held me.

I’m really glad I didn’t bring my mom to the movie. I was going to. But by the time it came out in theaters, she wouldn’t have been able to hear it, read any closed captioning, or stay awake through the whole thing. I’m also glad I didn’t see it in the theater, because it would have been one hell of an ugly cry in public. But I’m really happy I saw it last night. Even if it was painful. “That’s the thing about pain. […] It demands to be felt.”

That’s kind of the point of this entire blog too, honestly. The quote “you know it meant something” came from from Peter and the Starcatcher. Which plays off of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism that says, “Life is suffering.” If something is worthwhile and meaningful, it’s going to hurt when it’s gone. Losing my mom has been devastating to a lot of people, so you know her life meant something grander. So I guess that means it’s an honor to be hurt by her loss. It’s supposed to hurt. Because it means I knew her. I was created by an astonishing woman.

My mom treated underdogs and alpha dogs the same. I think that quality was one of her most inspiring. She was nonjudgmental, respectful, and supportive to everyone. She loved everyone equally. But somehow she didn’t think she deserved the same respect. The evening that I witnessed her stand up for herself the first time in my vivid memory was life-changing. And somehow I’d forgotten all about it until last night.

I owe The Fault in Our Stars for a wonderful memory amidst a devastating time in my life. For helping both a victim of cancer and the daughter she left behind.

I guess that’s my review. Two thumbs up. Go read the book right now. And watch the movie. Cry all you need to. Be moved by them both. And no matter what, keep your chin up.

Tori