Wildflowers-field-sunset.jpgThis morning I was downloading some music of artists that I discovered at the BottleRock Festival this past weekend. There are, apparently, a lot of bands called something like "The Wild" or Wild. Skipping thru songs, trying to find the band I heard, I come across There's A Darkness (But There's Also A Light). NOT the band I saw, but the lyrics pop up and I read.


I used to kill myself to feel like I was alive, 

But since I lost you friend, I learned it was a lie… 

All those walls we build so tall and wide, 

It’s a coward’s way to be alive. 

Well… the last few years I’ve been going out of my mind, 

trying to grow up but not feel old at the same time… 

I hid the pain that lived inside… 

I was hopeless; you gave me a reason to fight. 

I always wake up on the road, 

singing songs about going home. 

I’m a hypocrite and a ghost, 

I haunt the cities between the coasts, 

so I know that the ones that we love never really leave, 

so I’ll see you in the rearview… smiling from the backseat. 

We’re for the ones who scream love…loud at the night. 

There’s a darkness, but there’s also a light. 

All these memories get jumbled, 

like some book that I read… 

as a kid and could imagine a thousand ways for it to end, 

but I know you can’t shed dead skin without shedding a few tears, 

so all those times I wanna disappear, I know you’ll be right here. 

…and to the wolves I’ll scream love… in your name like a flame. 

You taught me to never be ashamed.

I read and I begin to cry, nearly wailing, as I am struck by one memory of McKenzie in the backseat of a car talking to me about, I'm not even sure what. But she is smiling, after having been a bit annoyed with someone or something. I have talked to her and told her a story and she is smiling. I am thinking to myself, "She's going to be OK. I will be her sounding board. I will be for her what I needed when I was in her shoes. She will know she's not alone."  

That memory of a hope that I once had makes me admit to myself that I so desperately miss it - the hope. I will say it - As long as someone is alive, we can hope that all will be ok. But when they are gone... the potential, the plans, all the possibility - it's all gone too. I go back to what I have said before. The hardest thing for me in all this, is not that McKenzie hurt the way she did; what I find so debilitating is that I cannot fix this. Ever.

August turned 11 in March. She is beginning her walk into puberty and I see her emotions rise and fall like a tide. I am on this walk with her, though she may not realize it yet. She is standing at the start of it all and she is recognizing that there is a Darkness. And I am there, saying, Yes, but there is also a light.  I am no longer a holiday gawker at the Darkness. I am a seasoned, scarred warrior. I am familiar with the terror of the unknown beyond what I would ever wish upon the worst of men, though, to her, I am just her mom. 

Moms and Dads, aunts and uncles, let's teach these kids that there is no reason to be ashamed of the Darkness. Let's walk with them and leave behind that false rule that they must go alone. Let's tell them our secrets, lay out our mistakes and let's smile and shrug and say, "Parts of my life really sucked. But here is how I got through it. Here is how I get to the next day when a night is so dark and I am so scared that I can barely speak." Let's let them wake us in the middle of the night, let's show them how to embrace time off to care for emotions. The world is full of disappointment and hard knocks for our kids, be their safe place. Get into the details of their lives and show them how to fight their way to the light. Be the light.



Not Today

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Some day. A day far into the future that I cannot see in my mind, 

I will think of you in a nostalgic way; 

the way a loved one should be remembered.

I'll tell your story without the feeling of a raw injury 

being scraped

Without the threat of ruin and finality 

that traps me, 

desperate and short of oxygen.


Not today.


Today I gasp for air 

just because your image entered my mind.

A song begins on the radio, 

like a match burning down

Without warning, I am screaming to you;

Thinking that if I can scream loud enough, 

with enough demand, 

you will hear me

As if I could save you.

I reach back into your 15 years 

the way a drowning animal reaches for the shore 

of raging waters that carry him away.

I claw out for the memories, so few, 

the bits of me that were you 

as panic rises up and the music plays.


Ragged and hoarse from the loneliness that has escaped my lungs, 

I lay my head down.

Silence is where you once were, 

where you should now be. 

Silence.

No one mentions this denied request that remains 

no matter the cries, no matter the pain.

Nothing rises up from this. 

No birth of joy. 

No newness. 

No hope. 

I look out from this debilitating "less" and I force myself to move. 

One foot, 

one conversation, 

one act of defiance directed at your absence. 

I await Someday. 

And I live. I live.


I began to create the blog entry below on November 15. 2015. I never published it, probably because I could not think of how to close it. I had reached no conclusion.  This morning, after reading an article posted by a friend whom I loved very much which stated that liberals do not love or hug their children as much as conservatives and that liberals do not have good intentions - I happened to come upon this unfinished entry again.

I struggle to find common ground. This morning, I watched Donald Trump give his speech at CPAC while I had my morning coffee and then I clicked on that article my friend posted, knowing he is a conservative Christian, and thinking that, because he taught me the compassion of Jesus, that I would find common ground there. I was optimistic. I may not be a Christian now, but I believe in compassion. I believe Jesus taught equality and love and the golden rule. So it was a surprise, what I read. It really hurt to be described in such an incorrect, demeaning way. I'm sure conservative Christians know what I am talking about because I was a Christian for 17 years or so.

I don't know how to respond to this except to say that labeling liberals as people who don't take care of their children or conservatives as racists isn't going to get us to come together as a country. It's not going to help me understand where a conservative is coming from, especially when I am trying by reading what they post on social media.

I'm trying to find the balance between speaking up for the values that I believe make life worth living for all people and respecting those who disagree with me. It feels impossible some days, with no conclusion in sight, to press on.

November, 2015
Yesterday I posted on Facebook some articles that were meant to remind people about and support the necessity for compassion toward refugees of war torn countries, regardless of the fact that there is the possibility of evil lurking among a small percentage of the people we are trying to help. The response to my posts was huge, and not in the way that warms my heart. I have friends who disagree with me and they were pretty angry about it. One friend, in particular was offended that I likened the fact that the majority of Americans did not want to take in Jewish refugees as they fled anti-Semitism just before WWII. That was different, he says. Jews were not terrorists. 

So much to say on that. So many, many angles to argue. But I didn't. I said almost nothing. Not because I'm weak. Not because I thought he made a valid point. (I didn't). Not because I'm so wonderfully polite. (I'm often not). I didn't argue with him or my other friend, because it was futile.  I felt pretty sad yesterday, less because of what happened in Paris, and more so because I could see this divide between myself and a significant group of people I call Friends. And that, to me, looks like a successful outcome for terrorists. Divide and conquer. 

Of course it has been suggested to me that I Un-Friend people who so vehemently express their opposing opinions on my feed. I'm not going to lie and say I didn't consider it. Sometimes I think "What's the use? You obviously think I'm stupid or naive. It doesn't look like you respect me." Who needs that opposition in their life? 

This issue of accepting or not accepting Syrian refugees into the US reminds me of a few things that I have experienced similar to this in the past, albeit on a smaller, simpler scale. 

Several years ago, when a hurricane was about to rip through our township in NJ, we were living next door to a house that looked like it was literally about to fall apart. In that house was a family that I disliked. The grandfather was a stereotypical drunk who stunk and yelled and, frankly, seemed slightly dangerous. The granddaughter, whom we had spoke to only a couple of times, seemed "not all there". She had two boys, aged 10 and 8 who were definite products of this strange environment. The youngest boy was a pathological liar and a thief. I had no proof of what went on in that house, but I was sure it wasn't good. I didn't trust any of these people, didn't want my kids near them. As the hurricane got closer, here's what I thought: Are they going to be OK? What if the house rips apart? What if they need to be rescued? Would I be OK with me or my husband risking our lives for them? What if they come knock on our door?

Yeah, I thought of my family first. And then I uncomfortably realized I had no choice but to help that family through that, or any other life threatening crisis if they needed me.  We would rush to their house and dig them out in the middle of a hurricane. We would take them in. We would feed them. Because they are human beings. Yes, I would never leave the grandfather alone with one of my kids. Yep, I'd keep an eye on everyone. Yep, I'd be uneasy. I'd worry. But I'd do it because I couldn't NOT do it and live with myself later.

My other story takes place in May 1995, just after the Federal Building bombing in OKC. I am not sure where I was, but I remember watching on TV as Garth Brooks performed "The Change" at a children's benefit concert in OKC. I am not a country music fan and had never heard the song until that moment. It was an angle I hadn't really thought about. Would this horrific event that killed people I knew, in my home, the place where I grew up, change me? Would I go the route of zero tolerance? Would it all be so black and white? How did I feel about terrorism now? I was thinking it through and I didn't know the answer.

I thought of that song again yesterday while reading posts on Facebook about the refugees, the problems we face because of Paris, the changing attitudes, the fear that seemed to wrap around everyone, manifesting itself as anger, sometimes hatred. I couldn't remember the words, so I looked it up. 

"One hand reaches out 

And pulls a lost soul from harm

While a thousand more go unspoken for

And they say, 

"What good have you done by saving just this one"

It's like whispering a prayer 

In the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying, 

"You'll never change things

And no matter what you do 

It's still the same thing"

But it's not the world that I am changing

I do this so, this world will know

That it will not change me

This heart still believes

That love and mercy still exist

While all the hatreds rage

And so many say

"That love is all but pointless,

In madness such as this

"It's like trying to stop a fire 

With the moisture from a kiss"


In Summary

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I'm Still Here.


I acknowledge it weekly, at least. Sometimes there are several days that pass where I whisper it to myself like a pep talk. I think it out loud when I have had a good cry, for the millionth time. I think it when I look in the mirror at what I swear are rapidly appearing wrinkles. I think it when I try on clothes and feel the scar on my new breast with my opposite hand because I still have no feeling in the place where my real breast used to be. I think it every time I am reminded that my niece, McKenzie is missing out on something. Hell, I even said it while watching the news, stumped and worried about what lies ahead after January 20th. 


It's been a shit year (my worst so far!). I have faced my greatest physical challenge as well as my greatest loss of family and all that pain and trauma placed unbelievable stress on my marriage and kids. We were broken and though we work to piece together our lives, we quietly accept that we can never go back to the Before days.   

I marvel sometimes that I am still here.



I Woke Up Like This

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I have avoided writing anything about this presidential election because it's been a shitshow of anger and illogical outbursts and I didn't want to get caught in the crossfire.

I feel bad for my Republican friends, especially because you guys had so little to choose from right from the start. I don't know what's going on with your party, but I know that for so many of you, it's a rough ride and you would like nothing more than to forget the whole thing. 

As for my Democrat friends, well, it's been crazy, right? For the longest time I think we were coming to terms with the fact that the Obamas are leaving the White House. I'm not sure we are Ok with that yet, but we can no longer live in denial. I, personally, was impressed with Bernie Sanders and truly believe he would make a great President. But then we got Hillary Clinton. I didn't know how I felt about that. I didn't enjoy Bill Clinton's leadership and I wasn't sure I could handle this whole thing of two people from the same family getting elected AGAIN. So, I've been a political minimalist this time, taking in the news in small doses for about a month. I've ignored the bait of dramatic social media posts. I've been thinking quietly.

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I had my 2nd post op check up today since my mastectomy nine days ago. This time with the plastic surgeon. For those wondering, everything is on track and both my doctors are very happy with my progress thus far. I did have to stop taking the narcotic painkillers very early on due to some more than inconvenient side effects, so I am attempting to manage my pain with ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Right now that's a bit like throwing rocks at a seagull while eating a bag of popcorn on the beach. It just keeps coming back and my patience is thin. It's exhausting.
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Tomorrow morning I will get one breast amputated. I'm using that word because it's appropriate and the experience of sitting here, the night before, thinking about it, is exactly what you would fear it might be like. It feels pretty freaking awful. I'm scared and I'm worried and I'm also, surprisingly, still angry about the whole thing. Mostly, I'm angry that there is no cure for cancer and no one knows why we get it.

I've got some pretty good circumstances going on for someone who is about to do this. 
1) I have DCIS, the "good cancer". The one that's in my milk ducts and isn't supposed to have gone anywhere else. 
2) At this point, they don't think I will need chemotherapy.
3) It's Stage 0. Pre-cancerous.
4) I'm going to live through this.

I'm 45; relatively young. I feel about 28. However, if I'm honest, I have to say that I have just reached a point in my life when that grey hair and crinkles around my eyes aren't so funny anymore. Up until about a year ago, I was still pretty happy with how I looked in a swim suit. I was lucky and I knew it. It's not that I didn't think that something like this couldn't happen to me. I expected it. But I didn't expect it to come crashing in when I was dealing with other life crisis. But yeah, life is unpredictable and all that. Cue the violin. Poor me.


Ugly Truth

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It's July and I'm going to call it: 2016 is the worst year in my lifetime so far. 

I would list all the things that prove this, but it would sound whiny and I honestly think that not much of an explanation is needed at this point. I am, however, going to compartmentalize, because it's all I can do that keeps me from drowning. I place one feeling here, another There. Over here I have bags of anger; to the left is a pile of smiles I pull out for all those optimistic people who get downright cheerful with me when I am stating shitty facts. Those smiles are getting a bit tight and stiff as my mastectomy surgery date gets near, however. I admit, at times I am lying when I say I'm fine. 

I believe the facts - those successful facts about survival and quick recovery, by the way. I know. I know I will get through this. And I am surprised by and appreciative of all the people who are empathetic and want to help. 

But it seems wrong to deny those "shitty facts" their share of attention. It makes me feel that my emotions are somehow wrong and shameful to hide them. If I've learned anything about hardship, it's that you can't pretend it away. You shouldn't get into the habit of feeding your insecurities, but you should make it known what you are dealing with, so that the next person who encounters it has more information than you did. Or, at least, your friends and family know what you are dealing with so they know better how to help you.

There. Have I justified this post enough?

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None of you know me. I doubt Kenzie ever mentioned me in conversation. We didn’t see each other often- the occasional holiday that, for me, was the highlight of my year, was probably a bit awkward for her. I’m her mom’s little sister, the aunt who she heard gave her mom a lot of grief while growing up. But you, her friends and acquaintances, and your parents and families have been on my mind since the day McKenzie left us. Suddenly, we were no longer strangers. We are in this together.

Babylon is Every Town

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When I was 12 I became a Christian. For the next 14 years I attended so many Christian concerts that I have lost count. I stood in the crowds os teenage masses singing along, hands held high. I didn't like church. I barely liked to say the name Jesus among my friends. But I did love that unity, that sound of everyone in agreement about love, singing, the sound so loud that my skull vibrated with the beat. 

I'm going to date myself here, but I have a memory of Rick Florian, the lead singer for a band called White Heart, strutting through the audience, his eyes wide, sweat flying. He takes the mic away from his face and just stares at the crowd in disbelief. What a life! For a second, he looks right at me and nods his head. We are all part of something incredible at that moment. He knows it. I know it. 

That's what my life was for several years. A series of incredible musical moments that I just happened upon. It helped that I became a DJ and a photographer. It helped that I dated guys in bands. I graduated from Christian concerts to mainstream ones. I've been in studios while tracks were laid down. I've chatted while CDs were mixed. I've been in writing sessions, providing my two cents. Behind the scenes, before, during and after; nearly every thing I did had some connection to the music.

I never did drugs. I never had a problem with alcohol. When my kids have asked me about this, I have said that I guess I just didn't have those addictive genetics. That may be true. But my drug was music. It was live music; those emotional highs that come with the unity that is created at concerts and intimate shows at little clubs. It doesn't happen every time. Not everyone gets it. But I remember well every time it did. No drug can match that.

When I was younger, I worried that I felt too much, was too awake. Now, at 44, I feel more awake than ever. Religion isn't a part of my life. Meaning, I don't participate in prayer or church, don't feel the same about Christianity as Christians do. But that doesn't mean I have forgotten those moments of great unity that singing songs of love and peace created. I don't believe in much these days, but I believe in that. 

Music can communicate something that speaking and writing can't. 

One of my favorite shows that I ever saw was the band Live and Counting Crows at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, AL. Sloss is a really intimate venue because you basically walk down into a pit, with cement walls on both sides and no seating. I was maybe 30 years old, feeling much older and self conscious about being surrounded by college kids guzzling beer. I got a place on the wall to sit and standing next to me were these muscle head frat boys wearing trendy T's and drinking cheap beer. I was thinking Why are you here? How can you even know and appreciate these bands??? 

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A recent show at Sloss

The show started and, though hesitant in the beginning, I finally loosened up enough to get into it. Something in me knew there wouldn't be many more shows like this.  And that magical  phenomenon that I know to be true, began happening. The familiar guitar starts and Ed Kowalczyk starts singing Lightning Crashes. All borders go to hell. Lighters go up. These two college guys turn to me and we sing at the top of our lungs. 

"Oh now feel it, coming' back again
Like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind
Forces pulling' from the center of the earth again
I can feel it"

And we sang:

"Love will lead us, alright
Love will lead us, she will lead us
Can you hear the dolphin's cry
See the road rise up to meet us
It's in the air we breathe tonight
Love will lead us, she will lead us"

And we sang:

"In a dream I had
You were standing all alone
With a dying World below
And a microphone
Singing hallelujah
I finally broke their mould"

The entire crowd was with us. Unified like some Southern Baptist choir on the last day of the revival. Better than that, because I felt no guilt, no confusion about what it meant to any of us. If that's not Love, I don't know what is. 

I think about these moments a lot lately. As much, I think about these songs. In an election year, I guess most of us are looking for some peace, some unity. We are also looking for someone to stand up and lead us. Preferably someone who spends more energy inspiring the masses rather than picking apart the other party and dividing us further. 

I don't care that I'm 44 and that more than half the people who knew me way back when think I am some sort of tree hugging liberal with no love for the conservatives views of my former home state. I think, if we were in the presence of a melody that moved us, we would see that  common ground. We'd be family again, for a minute. We'd find our better selves.

The night at Sloss, Live left the stage and people started to go home. In fact, more than 3/4 were gone when Ed walked out onstage and sat down at the piano and started to play. My friends and I walked all the way down front and received this precious gift, this intimate solo of Ed singing Overcome. We were in the middle of a war and I felt every note. I was Overcome. 

I feel that way during this election. I think we could all use a bit of love. Maybe a lot. So, this is my offering to you today. Here is my go-to fix for hope. I hope you will also share yours.