Category Archives: Life

rockets’ red glare (36/99)

Labor Day Weekend - Blue Rocks Game

It’s been a very low key Fourth of July here, despite the fucking fireworks rocking our neighborhood around the clock. I heard some at 12:10 a.m. the other night and as if on cue, just as I typed these words we quite literally were startled out of our seats by someone setting off what sounded like a grenade. No big deal that it’s currently raining; that won’t stop the jagoffs. If history is any indicator, this will continue for at least another couple of days.  I’m as patriotic as the next gal, but I’ll admit this isn’t my favorite holiday.

When the hell did this shit start of needing to have one’s personal fireworks extravaganza in your own backyard?  As a friend and I were saying on Friday night, this nonsense didn’t happen when we were growing up. People didn’t set off fireworks every night for an entire week preceding the Fourth of July and then for another week afterwards.  Independence Day was about having the family over for a barbeque, giving the kids some sparklers, and piling in the car to go watch a fireworks display put on by the local fire department — people who knew what the fuck they were actually doing around explosives.

I sound like a curmudgeon, I know. Truth be told, it’s been a tough weekend. Our lives changed dramatically a year ago on July 2 — and that ending was the beginning of a very difficult year. We don’t feel much like celebrating anything this year and it’s hard to foresee a time when this holiday won’t be tainted with sad reminders, regrets, and what-ifs. I’m trying to remain hopeful that things will improve (hopefully sooner rather than later) which will help mitigate the lasting effects of the past 368 days.

I wanted to do something to get our minds off of things, but we’re not outdoorsy or athletic or into big crowds or crazy about noisy things like parades or fireworks. Plus, money.

Ironically, that’s a picture from a fireworks display we were actually at, although not on the Fourth of July.  It’s from almost six years ago now, a Labor Day Fireworks Night at the Wilmington Blue Rocks game in Delaware.

A lifetime ago.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #36 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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She Knew What We Did Those Summers: Remembering Lois Duncan (1934-2016)

I Know What You Did Last SummerKilling Mr. Griffin

My teenage summers were spent poolside at the Valley Club,  sharing secrets with my best friends over orders of French fries blanketed in Cheez-Wiz.  We lounged on beach towels with our Sony Walkmans blasting ’80s pop music loud enough to drown out our immature siblings’ screeches of “Marco! Polo!” in the deep end of the pool. We doused ourselves with enough Hawaiian Tropic oil that made us as bronzed as an Olympic medal.

When we weren’t in the pool or discussing Luke and Laura on “General Hospital,” we were reading anything we could get our hands on.

Maybe it was characteristic of my group of friends at the time or the pre-Internet/pre-smartphone era, but we read A LOT. Like everything and anything.

All the time.

And perhaps it was because of our rather uneventful, vanilla, goody-two-shoes suburban middle-class upbringing (and attending school with peers whose families were in much, much higher economic echelons), but we seemed drawn to darker stories with just enough thrill factor to keep us turning the pages.

Aside from Judy Blume writing about our deepest insecurities and rites of passages and V.C. Andrews’ creepy as all freaking hell Flowers in the Attic series,  young adult author Lois Duncan’s teen suspense novels are the ones that are seared into my memory from those years.

Thrillers about a car accident involving well-off teens that resulted in murder (I Know What You Did Last Summer, 1973); sinister cousins (Summer of Fear, 1976) and a high school prank intended to scare a mean teacher that goes horribly wrong (Killing Mr. Griffin, 1978) were stories as drop-dead real as anything we saw on the evening broadcast of Action News. (These were the years when people still watched the news.  And when the world had to be ending for the news to be considered “breaking.”)

Lois Duncan’s fiction was chilling and terrifying and made those of us who led a relatively sheltered and privileged life wonder if such horrendous things could really happen. Through her groundbreaking writing for teens, Lois Duncan showed us that, at least in fiction, they could. As we got older, real life would have no shortage of atrocities — one only needs to look at the past week for proof of that.

Sadly, Lois Duncan herself experienced personal tragedy in 1989 when her daughter Kaitlyn was murdered — ironically, just a month after the publication of one of Duncan’s novels with a similar plot. For years, she devoted her life to writing about her daughter’s still unsolved murder and supporting others whose loved ones were homicide victims.

Lois Duncan died on Wednesday, June 15 at age 82, leaving a rich literary legacy of children’s books, young adult novels, short stories, magazine articles, and nonfiction. Those of us who grew up in the late ’70s through the mid-80s enjoyed what I believe was a golden age of young adult literature by writers who bravely took chances with their work and were trailblazers for many of today’s equally outspoken and daring young adult authors.

Until I read her obituary in Publisher’s Weekly, I had no idea that Lois Duncan Steinmetz was a Philadelphia native, which endears her to me even more. (Her family moved to Florida when she was young. Still, in my mind she’s a Philly girl like me, making my days of reading her novels while growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs especially nostalgic.)

I think the hallmark of a great writer is someone whose books are remembered decades after reading them. Even if some details of the plots have faded, we can immediately recall how books like Killing Mr. Griffin and I Know What You Did Last Summer always made us feel.

Deliciously chilled to the bone, even on the hottest of summer days.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #19 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

 

 

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beautiful day (13/99)

Philadelphia - City HallPhiladelphia - Suburban StationPhiladelphia - Friends Center - WelcomePhiladelphia - Friends Center 1

My city, today.

A day of journeys, similar, yet different.

A day of moments.

A day of remembering one of our own, gone.

A day of embraces and understanding.

A day of forgiveness and acceptance.

A day of declarations of independence from shame and stigma and loneliness.

A day of healing.

A day of laughter.

A day of tears.

A day of being seen and heard.

A day of compassion.

A day of release from guilt.

A day of sisterhood.

A day of bravery, of courage.

A day of sharing, of honesty.

A day of new ideas and exciting plans.

A day of hope.

A day of generosity and gratitude.

A day of threatened storms overpowered by brilliant light.

A day of love.

A day of the very best kind.

All this, today.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #13 of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

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on the presence and hope of goldfinches (11/99)

 

Goldfinches 3

 

Goldfinches 2

Yoga at the active adult community was cancelled this morning, as we were the only two registrants for what would have been an age-progressed Mommy and Me class of sorts. Instead, I sought out the goldfinches.

There’s right there, by the window where The Husband and I sit and and read when we’re here. We can watch the goldfinches for hours — and we are doing just that during these few days of mostly unstructured time. We have few plans this trip, a sparse agenda.  A weekend conference for me, our reason for this trip.

Goldfinches are good omens, apparently, with one website saying that they’re a harbinger of exciting and joyful times to come.

 

Several positive conversations have already happened during this trip.

I’m hopeful for the others, still on the horizon.

Ray of Light

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is Post #11 of 99 in my 99 Days of Blogging project

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Why I Decided to Delete My Cell Phone Photos (9/99)

STP688364,050.

That’s how many photos were on my phone.

Until I deleted them a few minutes ago.

On purpose.

Last week I got a new phone.  (“They don’t even make this model anymore!” the barely-old-enough-to-shave-looking Verizon Solutions Specialist said about my four year old antique.)

I was not interested. Wasn’t even thinking about one until The Girl’s phone cracked and, since she’s 14, a replacement needed to be procured in post and in haste.

So, off to the Verizon store we went, only to discover that her phone was kaput.

After dealing with the insurance particulars, I handed over mine.

“The headphone jack stopped working last week,” I explained. “Is there anything we can do about that?”

There was. It’s called an upgrade. No thanks, I quickly said.  I’ll live. But what’s that you say?  It’s technically a replacement too, with no charge, no change in plan? You sure about that? Come to think of it, the phone has been running slow and the charging jack thingie needs to be held a certain way and …oh, sure, what the hell.

Lo and behold, two replacement phones arrived in the mail within days and we returned to the Verizon store for Activation.

Like we were superheroes or something.

Yeah, not so much. Nearly three hours later, we were still there, waiting, waiting, and waiting some more for my information to migrate over to the new phone. We’d gotten all the contacts but the hang up was —

You guessed it.

My 4,050 photos.

Fortunately, I had downloaded a bunch several days prior and those that were the most memorable have been shared on Facebook anyway.  Still, I couldn’t just delete them.  I needed make sure they had all downloaded, that I really did have them somewhere.

With a relatively unscheduled vacation day today, I thought this would be an opportune time to do this. I sorted, selected, made folders, renamed, downloaded, re-downloaded because something went amiss, waited while the phone decided to take a break, transferred photos to both the computer and the external hard drive — and after all this I still had a year or two worth of photos to process.

(Let’s do the math, shall we? 4,050 photos for four years equals 1,012 photos per year. Divided by 12, and that’s 84 pictures of … what, exactly? Food?  Selfies? The cat? My kids call me the paparazzi.  They tease me about photographing our dinners — usually for a blog post or Facebook status.  Yes, I’m that annoying-as-hell friend.)

Still, processing these seemed do-able.  I shuffled through the photos. Most of the major life events were indeed downloaded and/or already shared to Facebook. I looked at the clock. To my surprise, more than two hours had vanished — pretty much all of the unscheduled time of my vacation day afternoon — not to mention the three hours I spent in the Verizon store waiting for these same damn 4,050 photos to transfer over.

As if on cue — or because I’m technically-challenged me — the phone decided to just stop downloading. Or whatever.  It had had enough.

And so had I.

What was I really saving these mostly inconsequential photos for, anyway? I used to be an avid scrapbooker and part of me still believes the magic powers of all the Project Life and Creative Memories paraphernalia in my basement really will get me caught up on what is now more than a decade of our family’s photos.

But there’s a difference between carefully curating a life and living one.

What had already been downloaded of those 4,050 photos was fine, I decided. Maybe I missed something, but probably not anything worth losing any more hours over.  I’ll be more conscientious of downloading them in the future, I vowed.

Or maybe I can try to live more in the moment while taking a few thousand less.

photo taken by me (and not on my cell phone) at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, May 2009

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis post is #9 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

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afterglow

LTYM - Poster

LTYM poster at the entrance, as the audience arrived. 

LTYM - Ready, Set ...

Our words, waiting to be released into the world.

LTYM - Roses and quoteTwo dozen roses from The Husband (a.k.a. as my perfect guy) along with a lovely gift from the LTYM producers  ~ a framed quote from my essay, about love and differences and acceptance.
The meaning behind this at this particular time defies words right now. 


“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” 
~ Muriel Rukeyser, “Käthe Kollwitz” 


Sometimes in this life, you have the kind of experience when you can physically feel yourself being transformed.

When your heart becomes lighter while simultaneously overflowing, spilling over the brim.

When your perspective and understanding becomes a kaleidoscope, shifting your view of yourself and your world.

When you can almost see your words in the air, and you take a leap and ride.

All of that and so much more was Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh 2016.

So much more. 


On Friday night, I stood on a stage and told more than 400 people the most personal story of my life.

I told them I was born without a uterus.

I told them I didn’t get my period.

I told them this is called Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome.

Here’s where I’d expected to write “and the room got completely quiet and still.” That’s not what happened.

Some people laughed.

They laughed.

Mind you, it wasn’t in a mean way, but nervously. Like when you laugh at an inappropriate time.

Onstage, I heard those laughs and for a moment I was terrified.

I thought, holy shit, what the fuck have I done?

And then I did the only thing I could do.


I told them how it felt, back then.

I told them about being 1 in 5,000 women with MRKH.

I told them about the shock, the tears, the denial, the wishing-away, the feelings of being like a freak, the hopelessness.

I told them all of this and how I thought all the plans I had for my life were over. I told them how I thought I was given MRKH because I would be a crappy mom and that maybe I was better off.

I told them about meeting someone who saw me for who I am. I told them about acceptance and being different and being loved despite those differences and the challenges that would lie ahead.

I told them about those challenges, about chemical pregnancies and depths of sadness.

I told them about the power and mystery of the science and faith that makes it possible to turn a handful of cells into two teenagers.

I told them this and the room got very, very still and quiet.

(Except for the knocking of my knees, which started about mid-way through my talk and which I was convinced could be heard echoing off the walls.)

I told them all this because Friday will be exactly 31 years since I learned I have MRKH and that’s a really long time to stay silent.

I told them this because I want — no, because I need — women and girls like the one in India who took her life because she couldn’t see a future post-MRKH to know she is seen and respected and loved.


After the show, many people came up to me, thanking me and letting me know of their similar journeys. A few moments before the show, our producers gathered our incredible, amazing cast together in the “green room” and told us that there would be someone out there who needed our words, our story.

Who needed to feel heard and to be seen.


Nearly 48 hours later, I am still running on the electricity that surged through the Lecture Hall on Friday night, powered by the incredible women onstage with me and the generosity and compassion from everyone in the audience. I’m so grateful for those who were part of this and the support from so many people in my life, here in Pittsburgh and those far away.

You know who you are. You know what you did to give me the courage and strength to do this.

You know.

When I say that Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh was — and is — a significant life event for me, I mean it like this:

I was one person before getting on that stage and a very different person after.

This isn’t hyperbole.  This is right up there with seeing our children for the first time and marrying The Husband.

It is a defining, specific moment. A life event in every sense.

There’s so much I still need to reflect, process, and write about from this experience.

So much more.

This is just the beginning.

LTYM Cast - Final Bow (2)

 

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brave

Mothers Day 2015 - Be Brave

Less than 24 hours till showtime as I write this, and I’m still trying to find my brave.

Literally, that is.  Not figuratively.

I’m missing my Bravelet bracelet, pictured above on my wrist, and have been tearing the house apart searching for it.  I wanted to wear it tomorrow — and who knows, it may still turn up. I’m hopeful.

There’s another bracelet that’s missing.  I’m picturing a sapphire bracelet that belonged to my Mom-Mom. It would be perfect with my dress.  And, I like the idea of wearing something that once was hers or that she gave me as a gift. I do that often, actually.

I thought I found that one last night, but it was different than I remembered.

And it’s broken.

All this got me thinking about the tendency we have to seek out our brave in places where we’re not likely to find it.  We look for our brave everywhere except for the only place where it lives.

Within ourselves.

We know this, yet somehow it’s still easier to depend on things — clothes, makeup, food, a glass of wine to steel one’s nerves — to give us the confidence we think we lack.  And there’s no shortage of products that promise a quick fix.  Drink this, wear this, do this, try that, take these and you’ll be fabulous.

We fall for this so often.

We know these things prevent people from seeing our true selves.

That’s because there’s a vulnerability to being real and sharing who we really are inside.

Bravery can’t be bought, like a pair of Spanx that promises the confidence provided by an instant hourglass figure. It isn’t found in a bottle.

It’s within us, waiting to be set free.

 

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