Move over son! This skeptic is hopping on the bandwagon!

Are you a book person or a movie person?

The way you answer that is going to make a big difference on how you feel about books being made into movies.

CringingWhen you are a book person, the words “They’re making it into a movie” can be cringe worthy ones.

When I hear that Hollywood is taking on one of my favorite authors, I nearly always cringe. Yes, I might feel a cautious feeble flicker of hope, but the trepidation I feel tends to squelch that tiny flickering flame.

Movies so rarely do justice to a good book.

Yes, I know that there are exceptions, Lord of the Rings being the most obvious one, but more often than not, what the end result is is a butchery of a truly good book.

butcheryTake “City of Bones” for example. Butchery, sheer butchery!

And, if it’s not an outright butchery, it still just falls so very far short of the written work itself. “Memoirs of a Geisha.”  “Gone Girl.” Decent movies, even “good” ones, but such a pale shadow of the written work!

Given this track record, you can understand the anxiety I felt when I heard the “Game of Thrones” was going to be turned into a TV series…

I wanted to be excited. I really did, but experience had taught me that I was likely to be disappointed. Very, very disappointed. The fact that it was HBO taking it on, and not some alphabet network, did give me some hope, the flame did flicker, but…this was my favorite series of all time. My favorite author of all time. Even if it was good, it was unlikely to be good enough.

bandwagonYou have to understand, I am a true fan, not a bandwagon fan. I’ve been with GoT since the beginning.

I remember well when my father told me, my freshman year of college, that if I liked Robert Jordan, he was about to wow me with his new find, a guy named George R. R. Martin. I was skeptical, as at that time I thought that Jordan was the best fantasy writer of all time. Still, as it was my dad giving me the tip, and he’d never done me wrong, I knew I needed to give it a try. With a fair dose of skepticism, I cracked the cover…

And felt into the pages, real world be dammed! Who needs to eat? Work? Sleep? I needed to know what would happen!

I gobbled “Game of Thrones” up in a day and a half, great tome though it was.

I was stunned. Martin had ripped my heart out, chewed it into a pulp, and spit it out right in front of me, the great red, pulpy mass that it now was–and I loved it.

oliverI found myself muttering to myself for several days, “I can’t believe he did that! Did he really just do that?!” It was unconventional. It was brutal. And yet I felt a bit like Oliver holding out my bowl saying, “Mo’ please.”

He changed the way I looked at literature.

I anxiously awaited every new release, and I re-read all the books that came before in anticipation of each new release. I found myself waiting on pins and needles–just what would Martin dare to do next?

I converted all my friends to fandom. We would sit around and cast the TV series for fun– a good decade before HBO decided to take it on.

eddard-starkWe would argue over which actor or actress would best portray what we saw so clearly in our heads. We’d argue and debate until we came to a consensus.

We dreamed that it would happen. For years we talked about what if it happened, but a part of me dreaded the possibility of it truly happening, because how could they possibly do it justice?

Then I heard HBO was taking it on…I followed all the news about casting, very concerned. So many of the choices just didn’t fit my imagination. Sure, you had some that were just perfect like Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), and LittleFinger (Aidan Gillen), but then there was Cersei (Lena Headey) and she just didn’t fit what was in my head…

Despite my fear, I found myself excited, but when it came down to it, fear won out. I couldn’t watch the show. It might spoil the books, and I just couldn’t risk it.

GoT-1024x512But then began the long wait.

And more waiting.

And yet more waiting.

And the waiting became so long and embarrassing, that Martin himself wouldn’t even project dates any more. Heck, he stopped even mentioning the book in his blog!

He’d talk about Comic Con. He’d talk about watching the TV series as it was filmed. He’d talk about going here and going there. He’d talked about his games. And all the little side projects he did. Anything except the book.

And I began to wonder if Martin would ever finish his series at all. And not knowing how it ended…well, that would be truly awful! (After all, my friends and I use to joke and worry about Robert Jordan dying before he could wrap up the “Eye of the World” and, lo! Our fears ended up being quite justified (Though I will say that Brandon Sanderson did a wonderful job of wrapping up that behemoth!))

Then I heard the news that the late comers, the bandwagon hoppers, the new flock of groupies, officially knew more than we, the true and faithful.

Unacceptable. Diabolical! A true outrage!

outrage

The true fans were being left behind!

And I kept hearing how awesome the show was. By everyone. And their brother.

Then even my brother, one of the true and faithful from the beginning, told me I really had to watch it. That I wouldn’t be disappointed…

So, I swallowed my fear, made myself a drink (A nice strong one for the occasion), and curled up on my couch with a good dose of skepticism.

At first, I noticed every difference from the book.

Cersei wasn’t pretty enough. Brienne wasn’t ugly enough. Jamie wasn’t blond enough.

But, I had to grudgingly admit it was good. Maybe not great, but good.

And the further I got, it was more than good.

And as it picked up steam, and increased in budget, it became everything that was in my head–it became amazing.

winterfellIt truly did this brutal world Martin had created justice.

As it went on, I realized that the casting choices that I had questioned were downright inspired. (Lena Headey, I owe you an apology. You are freakin’ amazing and make the absolute perfect Cersei. I can’t help hating you!)

And I mostly stopped questioning the differences from the book (But,why was Caitlyn Stark not brought back by the Lord of Light? Martin, will you please answer where you were going with that story line??).

The truth is, GoT is one of the rare occasions where the screen version actually lives up to the literary work.

David Benioff and Brian Kirk, you set yourselves up for failure when you took on this behemoth, and yet somehow, you more than pulled it off.

This fan humbly thanks you for not butchering my favorite tale. You won over this skeptic, and I am waiting on pins and needles for the last installment…

I know I can’t hope for a happy ending, it is, after all, Martin, but maybe a semi happy ending?? Pretty please? Just this once?

burningWho am I kidding. The world is going to burn, and yet I can’t make myself look away…

I’m once again sticking out my bowl asking “mo’ please.”

I guess we never learn, do we?

 

 

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Just another pretty face–being an adolescent girl–it’s all in the packaging

My daughter has started asking me what the songs on the radio mean.

That meant I had to actually start paying attention to what I was bee-bopping along to, because, I realized, half the time I had no idea what in the world the songs were about.

So, I started paying attention. I started actually listening to the words . . . and I was a bit dismayed by how many a)were about sex, b) were encouraging very negative behaviors, and c) were about sex. Did I mention how many were about sex–casual, meaningless sex?

tove loI’ve never really thought that deeply about the messages of many of the songs I listen to. I put the radio on and find myself enjoying the beat and the style, and so sing along without really knowing what I’m singing, or if I do, it really doesn’t penetrate, and, up until now, my kids were too little for it to really matter.

But now my nine year old daughter wants to know what they mean…and I find that I don’t want to tell her.

How do I tell her that, “Oh, honey, this song is about a girl who does drugs and goes to sex clubs because she misses the boy who dumped her so badly? (Tove Lo’s song so aptly named ‘I get high all the time’)” Umm . . . no, I just switch the station whenever that song comes on.

taylor swiftOr how about the new Taylor Swift (my girls love her–a model for young girls??) song about hooking up with a guy for the weekend because he looks good ( not because he is good, nope, just looks good) and she doesn’t really care if it lasts or not (song named “Blank Space”) so long as she has a good time. . . do I want my daughters to think that sex has no deeper meaning than if you find someone good to look at or not?

Or how about all the songs that objectify women. That’s fun. “Oh, honey, this song is just about how a woman’s only value is in how she looks and whether or not a guy can get her into bed . . . ” I’m not ready for that conversation yet!

The tendency for Hip Hop and Rap to throw around the “bitch” word and refer to women in all sort’s of sexual ways is notorious, and frankly, those songs are never playing on my radio, so let’s look at the genres that do get played in the family car…

sexismHow about Keith Urban and his “Little Bit of Everything.” For those of  you who haven’t heard it, here’s part of the first verse:

“I want a cool chick that’ll cook for me

But’ll dance on the bar in her tan bare feet

And do what I want when I want and she’ll do it with me.”

Nope, not sexist at all. :/ Is that what I want my daughters to think a healthy relationship in the 21st century looks like?

The lookism that is rampant in our culture, the objectification of women, is sadly something that I have become numb to on a conscious level–I don’t notice it that often except when it hits me over the head.

Having my precious, sweet, innocent daughter ask me what a song means was one of those “hitting me over the head moments.” Knowing that my tween daughter is about to walk into this ugliness, where her creativity, her innate goodness, her bright inquisitive mind are all going to take a backseat to her pretty face and a body about to blossom kind of pisses me off. My daughter is amazing, and so much more than how she looks! She is so much more than whether boys think she’s hot or not.

But this is what we do to our girls. This is adolescence for a female.

aibileenI want to wrap my daughter up and keep her safe from the ugliness out there–but I can’t. It’s our world and she has to live in it. So, I need to figure out how I can combat all the negative messages she receiving on a continual basis.

I just recently got around to watching the movie “The Help” (a truly outstanding movie with so many rich ideas I might have to devote a blog to it at a later time). What Aibileen said to that little girl–on repeat–really stuck with me. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Notice that she doesn’t say she’s beautiful– though she could have. She doesn’t mention how adorable she looks–though she certainly did look adorable. She focused on what that little girl really needed to know about herself. That she was kind. That she was smart. And that she was worth something.

That is what I can do for my daughter. I can remind her of who she is and what really matters.

Three boys playing tug-of-warMy son is a very handsome little fella. Every once in a while someone tells him that.

More often, he is told that he is smart, that he’s athletic, that he’s got potential. When he gets compliments, they are things about him. It’s not that he’s not good looking–it just doesn’t really matter that much for a boy. I mean it helps, but it’s not what’s most important.

My girls on the other hand, the vast majority of their compliments are about how they look. They continually hear that they’re cute or pretty or skinny–but much more rarely do they hear that they are kind or smart or talented, though they are all these things and more.

Their father and I tell them that they are smart and good and funny and talented, but the world around them focuses on how they look. Are our voices enough to make a difference?

Back in my dating years, I was always floored at how deep and intelligent guys who should know better were drawn to the pretty faces of shallow and flighty girls. This always stumped me.

peny-and-leonard-leonard-penny-32729301-1224-792Half of the guys I crushed on were just sort of  “meh” in the look department. It didn’t matter that much to me. It was their minds or their wit or their passion that drew me, not what they looked like. Don’t get me wrong, there has to be attraction, but attraction was so much more than what they looked like!

Nearly every guy I knew thought he deserved a drop-dead looker (even if he was a less than stellar specimen of the masculine race). And so many of them wouldn’t consider going out with an amazing girl because she was plain. This never made any sense to me.

papertowns2John Greene in his book “Paper Towns” puts it so well. “[It’s] always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people would want to be around someone because they’re pretty. It’s like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste.” It makes no sense, but when it comes to females, that is what society (and guys) tell us is the most important factor when it comes to date-ability.

He furthers this idea in his book when he refers to a character who is popular and sought after by the guys in the protagonist’s school. Greene states about this girl: “She may be hot, but she is also 1. aggressively vapid, and 2. an absolute, unadulterated, raging bitch . . . [we]have long suspected that Becca maintains her lovely figure by eating nothing but the souls of kittens and the dreams of impoverished children”– and yet, the boys came swarming. Here was an awful, hateful girl, but her good looks made all that was negative about her disappear.

What is wrong with us?

I always marveled when I was young at how important it was for me, and for us as girls, to hear affirmation about how we looked. What did I do to contribute to how I look? Was it some great fete? Did I expend great effort? Was this a great achievement on my part. No, no and no. It was simple genetics–something I had no control over, and yet something I am told over and over again, is the most important part of who I am.

According to this idea, we are set up from the beginning to succeed or fail and nothing we do is really going to alter the outcome. Doesn’t really seem fair to me.

As a parent, it makes me angry–and it makes me feel so futile, the one voice in the noise of a society that says that how they look means so much less than who they choose to be.

helen of troyBut this isn’t a new problem, it’s not uniquely 21st century and it’s not uniquely American–though perhaps the prevalence of the idea is more oppressive because of this age of social media. This is a problem that is as old as time, and for all our gender equality, we don’t seem to be making any inroads on this particular facet of the problem.

In her book “Reviving Ophelia” Mary Pipher states “In early adolescence girls learn how important appearance is in defining social acceptability. Attractiveness is both necessary and a sufficient condition for girls’ success. This is an old, old problem. Helen of Troy didn’t launch a thousand ships because she was a hard worker. Juliet wasn’t loved for her math ability.”

She goes on to say that “America today is a girl-destroying place” and that “Girls have long been trained to be feminine at considerable cost to their humanity. They have long been evaluated on the basis of appearance and caught in myriad double binds: achieve, but not too much . . . girls are trained to be less than who they really are.”

I don’t want that for my girls. I don’t want my girls reduced to less than the dynamic individuals they truly are. I don’t want them to look for their value in how the male gender perceives them. I don’t want them to think that sex is something to approach casually or that it has no real meaning attached to it.

Somehow I need to fight this tide and help my daughters know that they are amazing, brilliant human beings, and not just pretty girls.

tween girls

It is our responsibility as parents, teachers, women, and human beings, to let girls know that their worth is in who they are–not in how they look.

We live in a Photoshopped Perfect, Plastic World

emotional vomitI have a cousin who is prone to emotional vomit.

Yes, she spews her emotions (typically rapidly changing from one extreme to the next) all over social media. I know every problem she has. I know when she’s not feeling well, when she’s angry at her boyfriend, when she decides that she HATES somebody–everybody (And boy! She holds no punches, dropping f-bombs and oozing hatred with every syllable), when she’s depressed, when she’s filled with self-loathing, and when she’s ready to give up on it all.

It’s all right there–in black and white–for the whole world to see.

Many times I have thought about saying something, but I know too well how she would respond, so I keep my peace. It’s simply not worth it. She will not hear. She’ll just point her anger and hatred in my direction, and frankly, who needs that?!

Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way, because last week, when she posted something especially venomous, people started weighing-in. They told her (and there were many of them) in gentle, and not so gentle terms, that facebook was not the place to air all of her problems.

As I expected, she pointed her canon at them and started unloading. Most of what she said, does not bear repeating. But one thing was telling. “You guys don’t know the half of my f&^%$#@* life, So, until you walk a day in my d*$# shoes. . . Yeah sorry I don’t have 3beautiful kids an awesome husband and a family who supports me.”

Why was this telling?

photoshoppedBecause her assumption is based on a fundamental misconception: that who we are on facebook is an honest reflection of our lives. She honestly thought that the view she was getting of peoples’ lives on facebook was their reality, and when she compared that to her own life, she became angry and bitter.

I’ve blogged about this before (check out The Grass is Always Greener . . . ). Most of us do not do what my cousin does. We do not spew our worst days, our failings, and our heartbreaks all over facebook. We post our special moments, our successes and our good times. We post our best selves. We want the world to believe that we are doing it, that we are living the dream–that we’ve arrived.

This is a cultural failing that we have–this impossible grasping for perfection. Even our models, the most beautiful among us, are photoshopped, because even they are not perfect in their beauty. We, especially the women, live under a continual pall of insecurity because we cannot attain the unattainable–we cannot look like the     photoshopped images we see on a daily basis.

I absolutely love Meghan Trainor’s song “All About that Base,” because it addresses this head on. We are making generations of women feel as if they are inferior because they cannot be, what no one can be.

Facebook can have the same affect. We post only the pictures that make us feel beautiful, the moments that show that we are special, the events that paint us as successful. Our facebook selves are photshopped selves. They are the selves we wish we were, not the selves that we really are.

We are a disingenuous culture. We are rarely honest with anyone, even ourselves.

perfect familyTo the casual observer on my facebook page, I might look like I have it all together (with the exception of the loss of Serena which I am fairly open about). I have a handsome, intelligent husband, three beautiful children, a great house, and a great job. I get to have vacations every now again and do fun things. I look happy.

And sometimes I am.

But there is another picture. Another side.

Facebook knows nothing of my struggle with insecurity. It shows nothing of the days when I hate my body and feel too keenly my fading beauty.

Facebook knows nothing of the years of struggle with depression after losing Serena.

Facebook knows nothing of the shame I walked when Aaron lost his job and for six months we struggled to even pay rent–when, despite the humiliation, we found ourselves walking into the human services office to see about our options with public assistance. It knows nothing of the shame I felt every single time I had to scan that EBT card.

Facebook knows nothing of the resurgence of my temper in the wake of grief and stress. It does not see the ugliness I show when I am pushed beyond what I feel as if I can bare. The times I yell, the times I snap at my husband and children, the times when I end up sobbing from the weight of it all.

Fmom-chaosacebook does not see when my house is a wreck, and the dishes pile up in my sink, and the laundry starts to pile to the rafters. It does not see the relentless and endless drudgery of cooking and cleaning for a family of five. It does not see the times when I feel reduced to a cook and maid, a faceless, powerless drudge.

Facebook does not see the ways Aaron and I have wounded each other by both word and deed.

Facebook does not see the many times he and I have wanted to give up, to walk away, to say, “We’re done! We can’t do this anymore!”

Facebook does not know, cannot know, because I refuse to show it.

Facebook does not see–so you do not see.

barbieYou see the window dressing. You see the outer shell I choose to show.

Every once in a while, we give a window in, but it is only a window. It is a snapshot. Not the reality.

Do not compare yourself to these Facebook Selves, these shadow selves. They are allusions, projections, phantasms. They are not substantial, attainable or replicable.

Do not compare yourself to me or to anyone else.

Do not compare your life to someone else’s life.

Because, I promise you, you will be comparing yourself to something that does not exist.

How can I know this? How can I promise such a thing?

perfect lifeBecause no one is perfect, no matter what you think. And no one has a perfect life, though to an outward eye it might appear as if they do.

No life is without pain.

We all hurt. We all bleed. We all have moments when we feel as if we can’t possibly keep breathing, keep walking, keep standing.

Not one of us is untouched.

For some, the pain starts when we’re children, and we never know life without pain. For others, childhood leaves us untouched, and we enter adulthood with shining eyes and expectations of a perfect world, but at some point, somewhere on our journey, pain will find its way in.

People die. They get sick. They leave.

Sometimes, the ones we trust the most betray us. Sometimes the ones who should have our back, are the ones who slide the knife in. Sometimes our heart bleeds, it breaks, it shatters.

And everyone, every single person on this planet, will have these moments–because these moments are life.

The amazing thing, the wonderful thing, is our capacity to endure.

I've learned that you can keep going long after you think you can'tWhen we feel like we can’t keep going, we can and we do. When we feel like we can’t possibly take one more thing–when it comes–which it inevitably seems to–we find ourselves somehow battening down the hatches and fighting our way through. Sometimes we cannot run, or even walk. Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, and that’s all we have. That all we’ve got to give. But we do it. One. Foot. At. A. Time.

How do I know we can do this, when life pummels us, and people fail us, when we fail ourselves, how do I know we can push through?

Because we exist. The human race is still here.

We live in the height of human existence. We live a life of plenty: plenty of food, plenty of the basic necessities (clothing, house, healthcare) and plenty of leisure/extravagances (entertainment, hobbies, options, etc.).

Historically, people lived in want. They went to bed hungry. They had limited, or no, healthcare. Death was a frequent visitor.

If anyone had a reason to give up, they did–but they didn’t. They kept living. They kept loving. They kept walking. They kept fighting. They gave us a future.

I am an anomaly having lost a child. Most people, at least in the developed world, do not have to bury their children.

In the past, they didn’t just bury one, but instead, usually several.

Men very commonly lost their wives in childbirth. Women lost their husbands, and, when they did, what options did they have to provide for their families? They either married again or were forced to walk paths that they never would have chosen.

keep goingLife was hard. It was ugly. It was survival–but they did just that–they survived. And because they did, we are still here today.

We need to end this delusion that perfection is possible. We need to stop hurting ourselves and each other with this endless striving for what does not exist–the perfect life and the perfect person. We need to stop pretending that it does exist.

We need to give others grace to be imperfect.

We need to give ourselves grace to be imperfect too.

My husband cannot be the prefect man that some writer has created in a book, or that some actor plays on tv. Those men don’t exist outside of words that were created by a clever person and put on a page. My husband can’t be that man. Neither can your husband.

Neither can I live the photoshopped lives that I catch on the pages of social media, the images I see in magazines, or the brief glimpses into others’ lives that I am allowed, when they choose to show me, what they choose to show me.

I can’t live those lives, and neither can you.

They don’t exist. They’re not real.

perfectPeople are not perfect. Our lives are not perfect. . .

And that’s okay.

Let it be okay.

Give yourself a break.

And give the people around you a break too.

 

 

 

The Sharp Jagged Edges of Reality

“It is strange that absence can feel like a presence. A missing so complete that, if it were to go away, I would turn . . . stunned . . . empty, when before . . . at least [there was] something.” Adapted quote from Crossed by Ally Condie.

I’ve been radio silent for a while. Bad blogging policy, I know. The thing is, August is hard. August is full of memory—the greatest of joys and the sharpest of agonies. August is always a journey of what was, what I wish had been, and a bitter contending with what is. August is the sharp reality that part of myself has died, and the overwhelming acknowledgement of the presence of loss caused by what should have been, but what isn’t.

I’ve been toying with ideas of what I could write for weeks. I’ve had several good ideas, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to wear a brave face or find the silver lining. I wanted to feel the sharp, jagged edges of my pain and remember. I didn’t want to sugar coat, when I was tasting nothing of sugar, but instead the sharp, acridness of bitterness.

The truth is, I have lived for so long with my loss, that I can’t imagine life without its presence. It really is strange that absence can feel more tangible and more real than things I can hold in my hand. That pain can feel more like living than happiness.

One of my favorite songs, even before the loss of Serena, is the Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris.” “You bleed just to know you’re alive.” Pain, sadly, is what makes us feel the most agonizingly alive—it’s not just me, it’s the human condition.

When our heart is breaking, when our soul seems to be splintering into shards of brittle glass, the very agony of it seems to leave us wide awake. We are pulled from the monotony, the apathetic, the mundane drudgery of daily living, and we feel mind crushingly alive.

pain

When I was young, the concept of this intrigued me. I recognized the reality that our capacity for joy seemed to be in direct proportion with the extent of our pain . . . aka Great Sorrow=Great Joy.

What I, in my naivety and idealism failed to understand was the great chasm, that black void of numbness that separated those two places. I had no inkling of the “zombie” years that follow intense grief. How could I, never having experienced any real loss? I was blissfully ignorant and so could love the theory, the philosophy of it, without being touched by the reality. The philosophy seemed deep and wise, almost compelling. It had the allure of the bad boy to it–you knew he wasn’t good for you, but there was something so darn seductive about that very darkness . . .

Cathleen Schine puts it so well through the thoughts of one of her characters in her book, The Three Weissmanns of Westport.

As a girl, she had affected despair and emotional pain in an attempt at depth. Now she had no need of affectations. The despair was real, the pain was real. And depth? It no longer beckoned, that rich, worldly dimension of sophistication, of adulthood. Depth spread itself out before her instead, a hole, a pit, a place of infinite loss.

I’m a fan of “Vampire Diaries” and in one of the first seasons Caroline Forbes, one of the main characters, makes a comment of how she wants to be deep, but she’s coming to the realization that she is anything but deep. She makes the comment: “I’m worse than shallow. I’m a kiddie pool.”

That quote has always resonated with me. When I was young, I desperately wanted to be deep. I thought I was, but the reality is, until you’ve lived a little, lost a little, and hurt a lot, you don’t have much capacity for depth.

Now . . . now, however . . . it’s a different story. Now that I am old, my depth spreads out before me like the pit that Schine alludes to and a part of me would give anything to go back to the ignorance that was my kiddie pool self, but that wouldn’t be real. It wouldn’t be authentic. It wouldn’t be living. It would be pretending, acting, going through the motions without allowing LIFE to touch me, impact me, change me . . . transform me.

We hide our pain because others are uncomfortable with it. We don’t want to be reminded that life has a dark side. We close our eyes to it, until it is undeniable—until it sinks its teeth into us and won’t let us go. Only then do we acknowledge its presence, the very real fact that life is as much pain as it is happiness, as much ugliness as it is beauty.

We want to believe that this is not so—that if we do the right things, we can have all of the happy with none of the sad, but life isn’t a simple mathematic equation where A +B=C (A being-if I work hard, B being, if I treat others kindly, then C, life will be fair and give me good things). Sometimes A plus B is going to equal X or maybe Z. In the words of Dan Allender in his book The Healing Path

        Most of us presume that if we work hard, play fair, and keep on doing what is required, life will work out well. And if it doesn’t, then we simply need to find out what we’re doing wrong, correct it, and presto—life works. But that formula doesn’t always get the predicted results.

I often think of the line in “Princess Bride” where Wesley tells Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Pain is a part of life. It is the reality. Why do we try to pretend otherwise?

So for today, this is my nod to my own pain, and a nod to your pain. This is me not pretending that I am okay. This is me acknowledging that, though I heal, I will never be complete, for a piece of my heart and soul went with my darling girl when she left me. I will not pretend that that can happen and that I will not be forever changed.

I wish we didn’t have to break. I wish we didn’t have to face betrayal, illness, and death. I wish life could be lived in the happy moments, without the sadness. I wish that the horrors of ISIS, the child sex trade, and abuse were not a reality in our world. I wish that there was no such thing as cancer or SMA.

But that is life. And life, despite the pain, is worth living. And I am glad to be alive—to FEEL alive—and to know, when I hug my son and my daughters, how lucky I am to have them here and healthy, and how incredibly grateful I am that I get to watch them grow.alive

Who wants a vortex leading right into the nightmare of your past?

Having three little kids, I often don’t get out much. It usually means that I am terribly behind when it comes to the movie scene. The exceptions being, of course, kid films, and, since I have the coolest friend with the coolest job, occasional movie screenings with the illustrious Christa Banister.

Last week was a red letter week when it comes to me and the movie theater. I went to two movies in one week. The first was “Malificient” which I saw with my family, and the second was a screening for “Fault in our Stars.”

malificient

“Malificient” was good, but not great. Though Jolie was certainly a fabulous Mailificient–she lent the evil queen hidden depths– the plot line of the greedy humans and the fickle and increasingly disturbed King Philip was predictable and sadly unredemptive. There was room for something special, a new understanding, forgiveness, the reality of love itself–not the absence of hurt, but forgiveness in the face of it–but, par usual, Hollywood just can’t seem to quite see it through and, instead, we have an entertaining, but shallow remix borrowing from the greatness of those who have gone before. The one change that is notable was the change made to true love’s kiss, which, instead of coming in the form of a prince that Aurora had known for all of five minutes, instead comes from Malificient, her “fairy god mother”/mentor. Without that change, I fear the movie would have been nothing but a colossal disappointment.

But, I digress. My real purpose in writing this blog is to address “Fault in Our Stars.” I had read the book. I’ve had two years of fourteen year old girls telling me I absolutely HAD to read the book–that it was the best book ever. I have to admit, I dragged my heels. It’s not that I didn’t believe them that the book would be something special, but, well, it hits awful close to home for me. As anyone who has walked through an experience like John Greene’s Hazel (main character from the book) can tell you, there are days you can talk about it, and there are days you can’t. In the same way, I knew that I would have to wait for the right day to read the book–or I would be a total mess. So, I waited for a year and a half before I had the courage to read it, and though I wept, I loved it. John Greene wrote with an authenticity, a rawness, that I found freeing. Yes, I wept. I thought of my beautiful daughter and that horrific journey, but somehow, it felt like the shedding of a skin, not like diving into the great abyss of my memory. He didn’t sugar coat the reality–he let the cynicism, the pain, and the bitterness stand as it was, and for one who has lived it, it was so gratifying to not have to pretend for the space of the few moments between the pages of that book.

fault

Why am I talking about the book, when it is the movie I am supposed to be addressing? Well, it perhaps lends a little context as to why I thought I could handle the movie. When my friend asked me to go to the screening with her, I didn’t hesitate. I knew what I was getting myself into. I could handle it. After all, I had read the book and survived.

I had already had a tough day that particular day, so I was already at a disadvantage, but, that aside, I think my reaction would have been much the same. As Christa and I chatted waiting for the film to start, I watched the theater fill up with broken humanity. There were kids in wheel chairs, people without limbs, ventilators . . . and there was a feeling in the air that this was for them. This was a nod in their direction, that we see your pain, we see–we understand. It was more than just a movie.

I felt guilty somehow, to be sitting their whole and healthy, and yet, the irony was that I am not whole or healthy. I look it. I’m sure the walking wounded looked at me and thought that I was sitting there untouched. Perhaps some shot a bitter look or thought in my direction. But, the reality is, though my limbs are intact and my lungs breathe without help, I am”Hazel’s” mother. I stared that reality in the face, I walked through it, and though physically I came out on the other side, psychologically and emotionally, there is no “wholeness” after a child’s death. There is only a heart with a permanent crater, patched together with the force of will and desperation. The truth is, you are left with only the “before” and “after.” Before the pain, and after it, when you try to pretend that you aren’t permanently damaged from the nightmare that became your life.

I looked around the room and I couldn’t help but wonder how many others, like me, looked to be whole and there simply for a night’s entertainment, but were instead getting ready to take a journey back into their own personal pain. This movie meant something–for those of us who have lived in that darkness–it was something much more important that a movie. It was our past–our present–our future.

Serena

And then it began. I was sucked into a vortex, back into my own personal nightmare. Reading the book, though difficult, could not compare to seeing it. The imagery, those sterile halls of the hospital, Hazel’s oxygen tank, her bypap machine . . . all came straight from the halls of my memory. Mom and dad holding hands in a board room while the doctors talk to them about the fate of their child–mom, running terrified into her daughter’s room in the middle of the night fearing that she will not be able to save her, that she will be too late–mom, dealing with the agony that she will not be a mother anymore . . . these are all pages directly from the story of my past and I was not prepared to re-enter that nightmare. No sane person would be.

The movie was great from a movie standpoint. The actors did a brilliant job, especially Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters. The dialogue was true to Greene and brilliant, but, if this kind of journey is your own kind of journey, beware. There are times that taking a stroll down memory lane is a lovely, bitter sweet experience, but this walk down memory lane has nothing of sweetness about it. In truth, it is not even bitterness, it is sheer pain.

child hospital

For those of you untouched, go, enjoy the glimpse of the very real pain some of us have had to walk. Glimpse that nightmare and thank the God in heaven that it is not your story.

For those touched by terminal illness, a life and death struggle, or death itself, enjoy the book and its brutal irony, but spare yourself the pain of the movie. Some things should just not be revisited. It’s too real. It’s too raw–and it just plain hurts.

What are we doing? Technology: the curse of this generation

When I was a kid and I got to school early, I hung out with friends. I talked. If I was in an anti-social mood, maybe I read. If I was in a waiting room at the doctor’s office and there was no one to talk to and I was surrounded by dull magazines, I thought. I thought about the world and my place in it. I thought about God, who he was and what I believed. I thought of the future and who I wanted to become. I rifled through my past mistakes and thought about what I might do differently next time.

Of course, that was in the age before cell phones and the brainless activity that is always at the tips of our fingers these days. You know, eons ago before this new technological age. At least, that is what it seems like to so many of my students. How in the world did we do without technology?!

I teach Freshmen. I think there are few who are so in touch with the trends of culture and the shifts of our youth as a high school teacher. And what I see lately disturbs me greatly.

When my students get to school early, the vast majority don’t hang out with their friends, and even if they do, they aren’t talking to them. They are too busy texting the friends who aren’t there or tweeting about some inane something or playing a game or . . . well you get the idea. Too often, when my first hour class comes in, I will have 20 kids all sitting their quietly with cell phones out in their own little worlds. They are disconnected from their peers. They are losing their ability to communicate effectively, and, so many of them, as a result, feel isolated and alone.

Group Of Teenage Students Sitting Outside On College Steps Using Mobile Phone

When this generation (and so many of us in the Gen X generation as well as Millennials are falling into this as well) has down time, out come the phones. No small talk with strangers that teaches how to interact and learn from others. No self-reflection so that they grow as individuals and wrestle with the higher concepts of the world and their place in it. When I ask my students to reflect or write an essay about what they think, so many of them don’t even know how to reflect and have never even thought about these philosophical or existential concepts. All great thought and great deeds come from moments of reflection. What are we doing to our future?

We started “The Odyssey” in my classes a couple of weeks ago. Along with it, the kids need to read a modern epic. It was horrifying to hear the number of my students who asked if their book could be found on spark notes and when I said that, no, I didn’t think any of these would be on spark notes, they followed up by asking if there was a movie made from the book. When the answer was no, the kids panicked. “Mrs. Graham! What are we supposed to do?”

I gave them a blank look and responded, “What you are supposed to be doing– you read it.”

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They were flabbergasted. They don’t read. They hate reading. There has to be an easier way. Can’t I just let them pass without making them read? Why do they have to do anything at all? The number of students who seem to think that just sucking air should be all they need to do to pass is staggering. If there is not a short cut provided through some technological means or another, they simply don’t want to do it anymore.

It’s not that any of my classmates didn’t cheat when I was growing up. Many of them did. It’s the fact that the number is rising incredibly because of the ease of cheating. Plagiarism actually took some thought and effort in my day (and I’m not that old btw!!). Now every kid has a computer or access to one and all they need to do is google spark notes or some other comparable website and, bam! They don’t need to think at all; someone has already done the thinking for them. If a student wanted to plagiarize when I was in school they had to go to the library or even a bookstore to hunt down spark notes or something comparable–now it’s at the tips of our fingers and so many of the kids don’t see anything wrong with that at all.

plagiarism

I can’t help but wonder what this is going to mean as this generation hits maturity. They are the generation of entitlement. They are used to not being held accountable. They are used to doing the bare minimum to get by and when it’s not enough to get by, too often, we simply lower the bar to accomodate them.

Obviously, not all of them fall into this. There are many great kids out there who are hard workers. There just aren’t as many as there used to be and the number of kids who want to coast through life playing video games, watching youtube videos or pretending that life is just one big party, well, there are just SO MANY of them. If the few strong ones have to support the rest of them, well . . . quite frankly, we’ll go belly up.

What’s the answer? I don’t know. Technology is wonderful in so many ways, but as with so much in life, anything out of balance can become destructive.

My 2nd and 4th grade children are continually complaining because all they have is a flip phone between them (for emergencies only) and all their friends have iphones (I don’t even have an iphone!) and ipads, kindles and nooks (again, I don’t even have one of these!).

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They can complain away, because I’m just no willing to go there. I want them to talk and play, use their imaginations and think about life. I don’t want them glued to a glowing screen. I know I can’t keep them from it forever, but first, I want to teach them to use their minds, to enjoy a good book, and how to make friends–and keep them–real friends, not just the text variety that seems to be so in these days. It would be easier to give them the phone, but, well, isn’t that the problem right there? The best is rarely the easiest.

I think I might be a bit pathological . . .

It would likely not come as any real surprise to any who know me that I tend to be a bit compulsive. I mean, why do anything part way when you can jump off the deep end? If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it right, right? So why buy one new outfit when you can make it a mission and get the whole summer wardrobe updated in one fell swoop. Why tackle one room in your house when you can tackle them all (and drive yourself crazy in the process)? That’s kind of my approach to life and it definitely is a bit pathological!

Most of the time, despite the obvious pathological nature of this “all or nothing” way of life, it doesn’t rock my boat all that much. Sure it means that periodically I find it necessary to hole myself away in my bedroom, feed my family pizza and carry-out while I re-read every single Sookie Stackhouse book before the finale is released (only to be as thoroughly disappointed as I have ever been in any book I have anticipated I might add!),  but hey! Even a mom needs to indulge her pathology once in a while, right?

Most of my life, this has worked without any real negative side effects. Yes, I’m a crazy person until I can mark that task (say decorating my entire house within the first year after moving in) off of my to-do list, but by golly! I get it done! And usually in record time. Lately, however, the boat has started rocking and what once seemed like little more than a quirk, seems like a somewhat bigger problem and often ends up being an impossibility.

So, can I just back off and go about it normally, you know, like just watch the new season of Game of Thrones without having to re-watch every bloody episode (pun intended) that came before first? Nope! It just loses the full affect! So, here I sit, somewhere in the third season unable to jump in and watch tonight’s episode–all because I’m neurotic.

So, I’m wondering how many of you are as crazy as me and have to re-read every book or re-watch the whole series before jumping into the latest installment of your favorite show/book?  Am I alone in this, or are some of you just as nuts as I am?

 

 

A little dose of clarity and a large dose of gratitude

We live in an age where it is the “in” thing to dis America. It’s en vogue to talk about all the things that we have done wrong. It’s almost chic in some circles to talk about our country with venom and disdain.

I never agree with such opinions, but I’ve gotten used to them. I disregard them with a sort of complacence. I take them in stride and ignore them, most of the time.

Every once in a while there is something that shakes the dust off of my patriotism and makes it burn bright again. The fire of pride and gratitude toward this country that has given us so much begins to pull me from my apathy, and I find it impossible to remain silent. I am PROUD of this country. I am humbled by the safety and prosperity it has allowed me. And I am grateful for all the men and women, alive and dead, who have poured their lives into creating this country and protecting its freedoms.

So to what do I owe this fresh stirring of patriotism?

Well, it started when I browsed my Netflix options a couple of weeks ago. I stumbled on the movie “The Patriot” and decided to give it a re-watch.

Though not very accurate in the historic details, the movie does a great job of capturing the American spirit and the sacrifice required of the revolutionists to give this dream of democracy a chance. So many lost their lives–fathers, husbands, brothers–to give us the chance to live in a land where even the richest and most powerful are held to the law, and where even the weakest among us is protected.

Now obviously, we didn’t do everything right. We had to fight again for the equality of all men in the Civil War, but, may I remind you, that slavery was (and still is in many countries) a world-wide epidemic, and it took us a mere 150 years to begin to right that wrong, whereas most countries took far longer than that to make the same changes we made (not to mention the many countries that still enslave their people today). It was a horrible thing, but even today we are still trying to right the wrongs of generations long gone. Show me another country on this earth who has done the same.

My second surge of pride came from reading “Memoirs of a Geisha.” I’d seen the movie–which I LOVED–and decided to give the book a read. It’s even better than the movie. It is poignant and lyrical, and it pulls you into a world that is so very different from our own–and it doesn’t let go.

What does a book about Geisha in Japan have to do with my pride in America you may ask? Well, it has a lot to do with it in the form of contrast.

You see, I’ve traveled the world. I’ve seen places quite similar to the Japan of pre-WWII. They are places where the powerful rule with an iron hand and no one protects the rights of the poor and the weak. With my own eyes I watched a truck hit a rickshawala and continue driving when I was in Bangladesh. He was left there injured and possibly dying–and there were no consequences for the truck driver. He continued on, living his life untouched by any reckoning for the injury he caused another.

I went to a conference with the leaders of Bangladesh (long story about how I got to be there!) and watched as they ignored the one token woman speaker (because she was a woman of course) who tried to get them to do something, anything, about the number of women who go missing on a regular basis, never to be seen again. These countless, nameless women dead as the result of the anger of a husband who fears no reprisal. And that just touches on the injustice.

What about the poverty? In my country no one needs to go without food. The poor of America are better off than the middle class in a place like Bangladesh! It was with horror that I traveled the streets of Dhaka. The number of mutilated and disfigured people who mobbed my rickshaw was staggering. What was worse was hearing that it was common for a mother to intentionally disfigure her child because a child such as that would receive more sympathy, and thus more money, from foreigners. And that might likely make the difference between her other children eating or starving. Such a harsh reality!

The workers in most of the world can only dream of an eight hour work day and a five day work week!! I wonder what the rickshawalas of Bangladesh would think to hear of the ease and comfort of an American work environment? And what if I then told them of how often we still find reason to complain about it!?

Or how about the little children I saw working in the hot sun? I will never forget the image of a little girl sitting in the sweltering heat with a large rock, a chisel, and a hammer. She sat there making the large rock into pebbles. Why did she do such a thing? Because without the little bit of money she would bring in, there would not be enough money for all the members of her family to eat.

           My children get to be children. My children need not fear that they will not eat. My children know that they are safe and protected.

Many children in our world today do not know this. Many children fear hunger and know nothing of safety. Just like Cheyo in “Memoirs of a Geisha,” many young girls today are still sold into sexual slavery. It’s rampant around the world. Don’t believe me? Google it. You’ll be shocked to see the extent of this horrible trade in our modern world.

I am so incredibly grateful for this country I live in! I am grateful that I am safe, and that my safety, and more importantly, my children’s safety, is relentlessly protected. I am grateful that my country provides a safety net that ensures that those down on their luck need not fear hunger. I am incredibly grateful that my rights as a woman are not secondary to the whims of my husband. I am grateful that we live in comfort and prosperity, because, believe me, we are one of the most prosperous countries in this world! We are so lucky!

I guess what I want to say is that, any time I gain perspective, when I am reminded of the reality of the rest of the world we live in, and compare it to what we have here . . . how careless we so often are! We take so very much for granted and instead of feeling grateful for what we have, all we can see is what we don’t have.

We are the luckiest of people to be born in this amazing country, to have the opportunities that we have, and the freedom and security to pursue those opportunities!

On this Fourth of July, take the time to gain some perspective. Take the time to realize how lucky we are, and how much of a debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women who have given their lives to give this great experiment a chance– and to those men and women who have protected it, for our sakes, ever since.

In what reality does Flynn Rider end up with Mother Hubbard?

                As most of you know, I have put my career on hold for the last ten years to devote myself to my children and the domestic life. There are days when I doubt the sanity of this choice, but overall, I don’t regret it. Though I like to think of myself as an intelligent, career-minded woman, I feel that my children needed the hands-on, there for the little things, mother and I treasure all the special, tender moments we’ve had along the way. It also helps that, in my most antsy, struggling with a sense of self moments, I have the coolest friend in the world who allows me to live vicariously through her.

                Christa Banister was an old college acquaintance for lack of a better word. We hung out occasionally, so we were more than acquaintances, but we really weren’t close enough to be considered friends. All that changed when she, like myself, decided to transplant herself from the Twin Cities down here to Dallas. All it took was one real conversation for us to realize that we would be friends for life.

                As I mentioned, Christa is not only an amazing person, but she also lives the most amazing life. (Check out her blog to get to know her a bit!) She is a two-time published novelist which is super cool, but not the coolest part actually. She is also a free-lance writer who has a regular gig writing movie reviews. That means, not only does she get to see all the movies before they come out, but she also regularly gets to do press junkets to LA and NYC where she gets to meet and interview the actors. One of my favorite things to do is go through a list of actors and actresses that I’m curious about, find out which ones she’s met and get the skinny on them. Are they really as attractive as they seem? Are they nice or a spoiled diva? You get the picture.

                So, this regular old mom gets to see the reflected glitz through her best friend. After one of her last press junkets (one that she wanted me to go with her btw but I couldn’t swing the airfare at the time!) she stayed at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and told me later than my crush Ian Somerhalder was staying in the same hotel at the same time she was. Sigh . . .  granted the crush is more about the fictional character Damon than Ian the actor, but still! I couldn’t resist daydreaming about running into him in the hall on a hiatus away from Mommyville!

                Though I have yet to go to one of the junkets with Christa, she has taken me to a few of her movie screenings. I have to admit, it is pretty cool to not only get to see movies before they’re out, but also to get to walk to the front of the line passed the mass of people who have been waiting for a couple of hours and getting to sit in a chair that says “Reserved for Press” even if I’m only there by association and am not the real deal myself!

                Last night was one of those times. She asked me to go to see “Snow White and the Huntsman” with her. It took a little brainstorming since my in-laws are out of town and my husband works late and has a long commute. We decided that I would take the kids with me and that Aaron would swing by on his way home and take them off my hands (we were also trying to avoid the cesspool known as Dallas traffic!).

                The meeting spot was at the North Park mall. I cringed. You see, there are malls, and then there is North Park. Get the image of the traditional, child friendly mall with the standard Gap and Charlotte Russe type stores out of your head. There is no child play area at this mall. Oh, no. North Park would much rather you leave the kids at home!

                North Park is what you would call an elitist mall. You don’t dare go to North Park in jeans (unless they are True Religion) and a t-shirt (unless it is an obviously high end designer one). Hair and makeup had better be up to par and you’d better pull out all the stops. Even if I dress my girls in the latest Gap outfit, I feel a bit cliché at this mall! Better to pull out one of the boutique outfits if you don’t want to feel like a wannabe!

                Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but not by much!

                I didn’t know there were actual stores for Versace and Gucci until I unsuspectingly stumbled into this mall for the first time! The very air smells rich. If ever a mall was pretentious, this one would be it!

                So, you can imagine my tremor of concern at the idea of taking three young, easily bored children into such a place. My kids aren’t bad kids, but they are kids, and being that not one of them is confined by a stroller anymore, well, this Mommy was feeling a bit overwhelmed at the very thought!

                Still, despite the difficulty, a night away from Mommyville with one of my favorite people in the world was too much of a temptation. I just had to brave it!

                I was in for a pleasant surprise. North Park mall might not want kids, but, the Disney Store, of course, feels differently. They’ve had a bit of a renovation since my last adventure to the “Upper East Side” so to speak.  Now they have an actual walk-in castle with three magic mirrors where the little girls can admire themselves with all the princess beauty in the background until Rapunzel magically appears in the mirror before them. They now have a coloring station with a large movie screen where they can program a playlist of all their favorite Disney movie tunes. A bit over the top? Maybe. But this was North Park after all and it was heaven to this stressed out Mama!

                We made the most of it and settled in until Christa and my hubby showed up.

                Lily’s favorite thing was standing before the castle mirrors and waving a wand at it yelling, “Bippity, boppity boo!” in an attempt to make Rapunzel reappear. When she didn’t come on command, Lily would just yell at the mirror which I found hilarious.

                When Christa arrived, we stood nearby, next to a “Tangled” display, chatting.

                Christa glanced at the display, laughed a little, pointed to the doll of Flynn Rider and said, “Look! It’s Aaron!” I laughed. She was right. The doll could have been modeled after Aaron!

                    “Looky there! I married a real Prince Charming!” I couldn’t help thinking to myself. I felt a burst of pride and admiration until that thought was followed by a more sobering one. How in the world did Flynn Rider end up with Mother Hubbard?!

                    One never thinks of Rapunzel turning into Mother Hubbard, but there it is!

                    It is a very sad state of affairs that men get better looking with age (at least mine did!) and women, well, we just age! The most that could be said for me is that I look good for my age or that I look good for having four children. Aaron needs no such qualifiers! It’s enough to put me in a good pout!

                   At least, the movie cheered me up a bit. Kristen Stewart’s youthful attractiveness couldn’t hold a candle to Charlize Theron’s more seasoned beauty. Maybe there’s hope for us yet . . . then again, I’m no Charlize Theron! 😉

“Do Not Let the Hero in Your Soul Perish”

I’ve been really struggling with my allergies this season, struggling to the point where my eyes have been nearly swollen shut. Being completely miserable, all I’ve wanted to do was veg. on the couch and watch mindless tv and just try to get through the day and hope tomorrow will be better.

Having burned through the Vampire Diaries (again!) and Gossip Girl during my last bout of flu, endless laundry folding, and my daily workouts, I was looking for something new.

Like I said, the goal was for mindless and mildly entertaining, something I didn’t really need to pay too much attention to. I browsed through Netflix and stumbled on One Tree Hill. There sure were a lot of episodes . . . and what could be more mindless than a teeny bopper show mainly about teeny boppers love lives? What the heck! May as well give it a try, right?

For the most part the show fit the bill. It was definitely mindless . . . for the most part. What I didn’t expect was the smattering of literary quotes that were well picked and profound, like a gentle prodding toward something more than this hum drum existence, a reminder that there is more to life if we dare to push ourselves toward it.

In fact, in one of the first episodes they quoted Ayn Rand from “Atlas Shrugged” and I have to say that the words impacted me more than any words have in years. In fact, it felt as if they were a battering ram against this dam I have built around my heart.

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite,  the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”

 

You see, when my daughter died, so did so many of my hopes and dreams. The life I wanted died with her. The girl I was died too. I have spent the last decade of my life mourning not only Serena, but the life I might have had and the girl that I was.

I have struggled with bitterness; I have battled anger. I have railed at God and at life. I have grieved the girl I was while trying to get used to this stranger that I am. I have lied to myself, trying to convince myself that this stranger was somehow better, stronger than that girl who was so full of life and passion. It was a lie.

My fire has gone out, at least, it has burned down to the embers. My soul is perishing in the frustration of the life that might have been, the life that should have been. If that girl who was me dies, the woman I was meant to be dies with her.

You see, I realized she’s not dead. She’s buried behind the wall I have built to keep the pain out. That girl hurts too much to breathe, so I buried her and she has spent the last ten years slowly starving to death, wasting away.

I cannot let that girl die, but that means that I have to let the pain in. It means that I need to come to terms with a God who, though able to heal my daughter, chose not to, and a world that is anything and everything except fair. I need to wrestle that pain, claim it, make it my own. I need to let this stranger that is me meet the girl that I was and come out on the other side as something stronger and wiser than I was but more alive and passionate about living than I am now.

The girl I was was too sheltered to claim the life I desired. She had the heart, but she lacked the depth. Now I have the depth, but I lack the heart.

I must tear down the wall and blow on the embers before the fire dies completely.

But, with the damn broken, and ten years of pain waiting to be voiced, how do I not drown in the flood?