Category Archives: accidents

Lessons in Compassion: A Weekend Experience In Three Parts.

It’s 2 am on Sunday night/Monday morning, depending on you schedule.As a chronic insomnia sufferer, I see this as Sunday night.  Your results may vary.

This weekend, I attended, in an official capacity, the Curve Nation Expo held in Orlando, Florida.  I was there along with the Editor in Chief of POSE Magazine, Tiffany Jones Keaton, as the media sponsors of the event.  When I got there Friday afternoon, the hotel check in was one big cluster f*ck.  Nothing major or radically life altering, mind you, just the silliness we have all experienced when checking into a hotel that is not necessarily prepared for a huge influx of customers ranging from your average traveler, to one of several family reunions in attendance, along with multiple conference attendees.  “Guaranteed” 4pm check in time at the International Palms Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida on International drive turned out to be more of a “suggested time” as opposed to a guaranteed time.  I didn’t get my room until 5 pm and due to lack of  communication by the staff, I was never called (as promised) by the front desk when my room was ready, nor did I get my luggage brought to my room until 6 pm.  Again, nothing earth shattering.  More of an annoyance if anything.  However, it seemed to foreshadow what would end up one of the worst experiences I’d ever had in any hotel in my 48 well-traveled years of life.

DISCLAIMER: I want to STRONGLY clarify that what you are about to read has NO REFLECTION on Curve Nation whatsoever. They are not responsible in the slightest for the events that unfolded. That blame is squarely on the hotel and hotel staff. The staff of Curve Nation are comprised of a group of AMAZING, caring and benevolent people who probably saved my life and my faith in human beings as a whole. This goes for the attendees of the expo as well.

I had a wonderful time Friday afternoon and Friday night, gathering with all these beautiful plus sized ladies and gentlemen.  I made some really great connections with fabulous people.  Numbers and hugs were freely exchanged during this early stage of weekend solidarity.  Vendors were shopped.  Glasses were raised.  Dancing and hilarity ensued and I was truly geared up for a weekend of not just work, but fun and friendship.  I was privy to watching these gorgeous women walk the runway, preparing for Saturday nights fashion show event.  I learned so much watching these confident beauties strut their stuff.  I was mentored by a woman who is a staple in the plus size pageant circuit. Ms Plus America 2004, Debbie Shannon, on how to walk for shows.  I got to engage with some of the models and we partied as though we have all known each other for years, because for many of us, we have known each other for years either as professionals or acquaintances on Facebook, Twitter and various other social media platforms.  Instagram memories were made and already, the promise of a fabulous weekend was in place.

Saturday morning, I attended a lecture by plus sized model,actress and event hostess Rosie Mercado, who shared with us her back story on all the trials and tribulations she went through before achieving the success and fame she has now.  I got to hug up on the Mogul Diva herself, Ms. Gwen DeVoe, Founder of Full Figured Fashion Week in NYC, who I had just interviewed for POSE Magazine only a couple of months earlier. (Click link to read the interview!)  She gave a fabulous seminar as well that had all of us laughing and raising our hands and voices in testimony.  I met amazingly talented photographers, bloggers, models and designers; all who embraced me immediately as the new Feature Editor of POSE Magazine.  I met the Double Divas themselves, Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Richards of LiviRae Lingerie.  You couldn’t ask for more down to earth people.  What you see on their television show is completely unscripted.  They are exactly who they are in real life.   And of course, the entire staff of Curve Nation, CEO Devine (who I stupidly referred to as “Dee-Vine” as opposed to “Dev-in-nay”, which is the correct pronunciation…proving that I, too, can be a real idiot on occasion) and his other staff members who were so gracious and wonderful hosts.

Basically, I was in plus sized heaven…until lunchtime.

Saturday afternoons horror story began with a simple text from Tiffany that merely said, “lunch!”  Yes.  Downtime.  We were going to have a break.  A lovely buffet was set out and of course, I partook.  The food was unmarked…meaning, there was no explanation of what each food item was, let alone a description of ingredients.  Having severe food allergies, I inquired if anything contained nuts, specifically, a pasta dish which looked to me to be penne pasta with an alfredo sauce.  A woman behind me inquired of one of the bus boys who was bringing out the dishes, what each item was.  I eavesdropped cautiously, listening to him tell her what the items were.  I even forewarned another woman that I knew had a shellfish allergy, that I had heard the stuffed mushrooms contained crab meat and told her to forego that dish.  But, when I went to help myself to some pasta alfredo, I noticed that there was what resembled perhaps minced garlic in the pasta.  I asked the busboy, what is in this dish.  He said, “pasta and cheese”.  The woman behind me said, are there nuts in that?  Of course, I listened attentively.  “No, no.  No nuts.  Pasta and cheese.”  Okay.  So I took a scoop and proceeded to join Tiffany in the banquet room with several other conference attendees and some staff of Curve Nation.  I took a bite of this dish and instantly, I felt that old familiar itching in my throat that I feel when I come in contact with an allergen.  I drank a sip of water after swallowing the food…and felt fine for the moment.  Then, I took another bite, just as my throat started to close.  I immediately whispered, hoarsely to Tiffany…”Nuts.  Are there nuts?”  That’s all I could manage as a spit that second bite out of my mouth, drank some water that barely got down my throat.  The wheezing began.  I felt light headed, faint, dizzy.  My body started to get covered in big red hives.  I pulled out my epi pen (never without it!) and my inhaler.  Immediately, the women around me recognized I was in serious trouble.

Each woman at that table, under Tiffany’s cool and calm delegation ran for specific things.  One woman, Talya, ran for ice water and ice.  Another ran for the hotel manager.  A third ran to her room for HER epi pen (should I need a second dose), another still ran for some Claritin and another still (whom I believe was Devine’s mother) ran to locate some Benadryl.  A fifth woman ran to find out what exactly was in the food I ate as different allergies need to be treated specifically.  As I was slowly losing the ability to breath at all, a man came in and the women all shouted, FIND HER SOME BENADRYL QUICKLY!  He ran out, well, rather, walked out…and came back shortly empty handed.  “We don’t have any benadryl.”  Simultaneously, the group of women screamed at him, “YOU HAVE A GIFT SHOP!  GET HER SOME DAMN BENADRYL FROM THE GIFT SHOP.”  He disappeared again.   The rest of that moment was a blur to me.  I was losing the ability to breath rapidly.  My eyes were swelling shut.  My lips were bloating to Angelina Jolie proportions.  What I do remember is Devine’s mother grabbing whatever packet of Benadryl this man finally did retrieve out of his hand and running it to me, quite irritated by this man’s lack of urgency.  The Benadryl packet was expired, but I took them anyway.  At this point, the front desk manager, Sarah, came in…again, the same lack of urgency, casually saying, “Someone told me that someone can’t breathe in here?  What’s going on?”

At this point, Tiffany (Tip) took over and demanded to know who Sarah’s boss was and to get them on the phone RIGHT NOW as they really dropped the ball allowing this young woman, the front desk manager, to be in charge of the entire hotel while the general managers were no where to be found.  I didn’t get to hear all of the conversation as I was in and out of a state of awareness, but I do know that Tip gave her a very calm but extremely firm mouthful about how this entire situation was handled, rather, a lack thereof.

NOBODY called 911.  No one.  This was the STAFF’S responsibility as the women were far too busy taking immediate care of my situation, placing ice packs on my swelling throat, dispensing my medications, retrieving my inhaler, trying to keep my calm.  When Sarah DID return, it was with a lecture on how they are not allowed to dispense medications to the customers.  Honey, no one asked you to dispense…we just asked you to GET SOME.  However, what she DID manage to do was hand me an incident report form and casually stating that I would need to fill this out.  Sister, I’m dying in front of your eyes.  Are you seriously handing me a FORM to fill out?   The chef never came in to tell us what the allergen in the food was.  The busboys proceeded to bus all the tables surrounding us, but never once coming to where we were to offer cold water, a cool rag, ice packs, SOMETHING???   The lack of compassion from this hotel was abhorrent.  2 hours later, my wheezing had stopped.  At some point, the members of Curve Nation’s team had located two nurses who happened to be attending the conference.  These women stayed with me the entire time, keeping a watchful eye on my breathing, my swollen face, my ability to speak, etc.  They regaled me with funny stories to keep me calm.  Other people from the conference came back often to check on me.  I was feeling better, although my left eye looked like I had taken a punch to the face from Mike Tyson.

swollen eye

However, I attempted to be a trooper and try to attend the 3 pm conference given by blogger Kelly Glover of “Big Curvy Love”. (If you aren’t reading her blog, you should be. She’s HILARIOUS!)  By midway through her conference, I started to feel sick again so I left.  I went to the front desk to speak with Sarah and tell her how disappointed I was that NO ONE from the hotel staff seemed remotely concerned that one of their customers nearly dropped dead in their banquet hall and that her show of concern merely consisted of making sure I filled out a liability and insurance form.  At the moment I approached the desk, she was apparently giving report to the night manager, Kenny.  The look of alarm on his face when he saw mine immediately gave me the impression that had HE been in charge during the day, I would have been substantially better cared for.

Her reply to me was “Well, you were definitely a learning curve for us.  Next time, we will do much better.”

NEXT TIME????

My reply?  “Is that what you think I want to hear?  How NEXT TIME you will do better?  How about, labeling the food that it may contain nuts or other allergens?  How about, when you ask kitchen staff if there are nuts in a meal, that they know to ask the CHEF who made it, instead of just asserting that it was just “pasta and cheese”?  How about the bartenders who were standing RIGHT THERE offer me a bottle of water?  How about you doing something more than handing me an insurance claim form?  How about the fact that it takes merely common sense to know that you should call 911 immediately, ask questions later.  My 5 year old granddaughter could handle that?  How about you show some concern and stay in the room, at very least?”

She replies, “Well, what can we do to make you more comfortable now?”

“Well, for starters? You could have asked that question about 3 hours ago.”

The conversation was going no where very quickly…and I recognized that.  This girl could give Malificent a run for her money when it comes to being an ice queen.  Not an ounce of compassion.  Nothing but a big wide eyed stare at me.  At this point, Mr. Kenny, the night manager about to adopt this nonsense into his lap looked at her and said, “Well, it’s not much at this point, but perhaps we can offer Ms. Cher for her stay to be comped.  Ma’am, is there ANYTHING else I can do for you, right now?  Some cold water?  Some food?  What can we do for you?”

I thanked him, profusely, for even the gesture…and let Sarah know, these are the things you say to someone who has just been through a very traumatic experience under your leadership in this hotel.  No, I don’t need anything else, but I truly appreciate that you asked me.

From there, I went to the hotel gift shop to purchase eye drops, Benadryl (the non expired sort) and a box of Claritin.  I paid the $40 in medication and as I was walking out, Mr. Kenny was walking past.  He said to me, “did you need something?  I am so sorry about this.  I am so sorry no one took care of you.”  His eyes showed nothing but compassion and concern.  This lifted me tremendously.  I told him, no, I’m okay now…I just went to go buy some medicine so I have it upstairs with me, in case I have trouble later.  He looked genuinely appalled that I had purchased all this medication on my own dime and said, let’s give that receipt to Sarah for reimbursement.  There is no reason that our hotel caused this to happen to you and you should be responsible for these purchases.  Again, money can’t fix it…but the GESTURE in compassion once more lifted me.  

Around 6 pm, I started to get up from a nap, only to realize I was experiencing what is known as biphasic anaphylaxis, which means, my symptoms had actively started up again.  Now, both eyes were swollen shut.  I was wheezing profusely again.  I attempted valiantly to try to get dressed to fulfill my obligations to Tip to be there as her social media person and get to the Fashion Show to do my job.  By 7:30 when the show started, I had to admit defeat. I just couldn’t do it.  My feet were so swollen I could barely walk.  My eyes were slammed shut.  Every move I had made to dress caused my respiration to slow down again.  I took some more Benadryl, some Claritin, readied my second epipen just in case, put drops in my eyes and sent Tip a voice mail apologizing profusely that I simply could not be there.  Again, she was understanding, loving and told me to rest…but please, if my symptoms got worse, get myself to a hospital and text her that I was going.  I went to sleep.

At 10 pm, I heard a knock on my door.  Tip had gotten locked out of her room, her phone was dead, she needed her charger to continue working and photographing the fashion show (my JOB!) but her key card was not working.  The engineers could not get into her room.  Our room in the tower suite was very far from the main building where the new key cards could be made, but even after the engineer showed up with a new key card, she was still unable to get in.  I gave her my cellphone and told her, just go back to the fashion show.  I will wait her until your door gets opened, get your charger, charge your phone up for you.  When it’s done, I will get it to you.  I waited outside her room for an additional 20 minutes beyond the 20 minutes that SHE was waiting for someone to show up and let her into her room.  Mr. Kenny ended up showing up at her room and looked perplexed at what I was doing there.  I explained what happened.  He looked so visibly upset that this new situation involved me as well…that I tried to put him at ease by making a joke.

“You know, out of ALL the people staying in this hotel…you guys managed to knock out the only TWO people who were here in an official media sponsor capacity for this fashion show.  You really should have been in Vegas this weekend, Kenny, because those are some CRAZY odds.”

Despite himself, he laughed.  Shortly after I got Tip’s phone running, Mr. Kenny returned to my room at the behest of my husband who called the front desk from Tampa (he had to work over the weekend and could not attend the conference with me) asking him to please, send up some ice water to my room.  Not only did he show up with the ice water, but also with a bucket of ice and a turkey sandwich that he assured me was prepared by his own hands, NOT in the banquet hall’s kitchen, but rather, in the deli area, safely away from any cross contaminates that could have harmed me.  I was so grateful, that I think I probably would have cried (mind you, I had not eaten a THING but those two deadly bites of pasta, one which never even made it to my stomach) had my eyes not been swollen shut.  I told him, “You know, on Monday, I am going to read the General Manager of this hotel the riot act for what happened here, but, that said?  I am going to sing your praises so loudly because out of everyone in this entire hotel…YOU were the only one who showed me an ounce of compassion.  And, you weren’t even here when this happened.  I appreciate you so much, Kenny.  I really do.”

There was a moment.  A palpable moment that you could feel between two human beings, strangers, who genuinely were concerned with each other.  He, for my health.  Me, for his job…as it seemed so inherently unfair that he adopted any of this situation at all because Sarah had dropped the ball.

Part two of this story?  The manager above Sarah, but below the GM, Vicky, comes to my room for a conference at the behest of Tip.  She said, “You know, you owe my friend Cher and her husband an explanation as to WHY these events unfolded the way they did.  You owe that to her, her husband and her children.  They almost lost her.”

The statement Vicky makes in front of us at that point will make your jaw drop.

To be continued in “Lessons of Compassion Part Two: More than Words”.

Stay tuned.

Brotherly love.

My brother and I were never particularly close. 

Close in age, certainly.  We are less than three years apart.  In the photo above, that is me on the left.  My brother is the chubby baby in the Giants onesie on the right.  We are two years and nine months apart, yet you can never imagine two people so different.

My brother and I were brought up in a very abusive household.  Our parents, well-meaning as they might have been, were a non stop source of stress and strife in our little lives.  They fought constantly, every single waking moment of the day and night.  She was a shrew, my mother.  Nagged to the point where you could no longer stand the sound of her voice.  (It still makes me cower a bit when she raises her voice.)  My father, the man I have come to call “the sperm donor”, was a self-absorbed, egotistical hippie type who never quite grew up enough to understand that you no longer get to be a “free spirit” once you make the commitment to having a wife and children.  Sure, you can be an individual, but you do not get to live your life as one.  There are three other people in the picture.  Three other people who matter, who count on you and who you need to give thought to before doing the selfish things that stop you from being a part of that family unit.

My father, in something so cliche it embarrasses me to mention, left my mother for his secretary (cringe) back in 1973 when I was merely 7 years old.  Not that this was his first affair, mind you. This was merely the one that “stuck” and the one that finally took this man out of his home and into hers.  There was a part of me that was so grateful when he left.  For years, I had endured listening to their fights that would end up with punches thrown, furniture being flipped over, disgusting and vulgar things said right over my head and the endless tears that my mother would cry each and every time he walked out that door and away from “this bullshit”.  I came to feel that I was a part of the “bullshit” he needed to walk away from and, as every child does, began to blame myself for my father leaving.  This was further confirmed when my mother, in moments of distress and uncertainty of her future would say thing like, “he never wanted any kids to begin with.”

Great.  Like I ASKED to be born into this?

For years, I resented my father.  Years. Hated him with a fervor and a passion that no little girl should ever have to know.  When I got stuck having to go to his house on the weekends, I was moody, irritable, out of sorts, angry.  I felt deep venom for my mother for leaving me with this man who obviously did not want my brother and I there and truly made us, or at least me, feel like we were cramping his bachelor lifestyle.  He had a girlfriend (the secretary) named Yvonne.  She was a red head. Tall. Thin. Gorgeous.  And their lifestyle consisted of walking around nude all the time.  It’s just what they did.  And while that’s fine monday through friday, it is probably something that should have been curtailed when your 9 year old daughter and your 6 year old son would come to visit.  They smoked weed.  A LOT of weed.  We were never really “watched” or cared for.  It would make me feel so uncomfortable being in that environment.  I don’t think it effected my brother the same way it did me.  He sort of found it all funny…that he got to see “boobies” at Dad’s house.  But for me, a young girl on the precipice of my pre-teen years, it made me feel out of sorts.  I used to sit in the loft of his apartment and just get lost in books.  Reading for hours on end til my mother and whatever random flavor of the week she was dating at that time would come and pick us up from his place on the west side of Manhattan. 

As I got older, savvier, I learned how to take the train back from Riverside Drive in Manhattan up to Queens Boulevard in Queens.  I would run away from his apartment, letting myself into my mothers apartment with my key.  (Those of you who were “latchkey” kids would understand why a 10 year old would have her own key to the apartment.)  Most of the time, my mother would not be there.  She’d be out, somewhere, with whomever she was dating.  Sometimes, she would be there with her boyfriend and I would get stuck back on a train, heading back towards Manhattan after listening to my mother screech at my father at the top of her lungs about how the HELL he could not even notice his daughter had disappeared. 

Simple.  He was too stoned most of the time to even notice whether I was alive or not. 

“I thought she was upstairs, reading,” he would stammer, trying to stifle his laughter. 

“You’re an asshole, piece of shit,” she would continue.  Blah blah blah.

This was my world.  The world of the broken home. The world of having two sets parents who were so self-absorbed and involved in their own worlds that they never really saw the magnitude of what they were doing to their children. 

Truth be told, I think the divorce took a much deeper toll on me than it did on my brother.  My brother stayed in touch with “bio dad” long after I made the decision at 11 years old to never see him again.  I hated him, all he stood for and his selfish ways.  The last time I saw my father as a child, it was at my 11th grade graduation.  He showed up, after the ceremony of course, with some flowers.  I took a single photo with him and that is the only memory that I have of him that stands out in my head.  I saw him again, when I turned 19, in a chance meeting at a Florida mall while I was on Spring Break with some girlfriends.  We talked.  Ironed out a few things.  Said some things that needed to be said, but by this time, he was older…the age I am now, actually, and it seemed like life had beaten him up so badly, I couldn’t muster up all the venom and rage that 9 year old me wanted to throw upon him.

A mere 6 months after that chance meeting, my father was dead.  Killed by a heart attack caused by cocaine usage.  He was driving on the I-4 interstate when the heart attack occurred. He jumped the median and slammed into a Pepsi tractor trailer going in the opposite direction. 

In my utter distress, in my lack of being able to wrap my head around this…I made a joke out of it.  A morbid joke.  Something to the extent of “this time, Pepsi actually beat out Coke.”  No one appreciated the joke.  I was called “insensitive”, but I had experienced such a disconnect between me and this man that all I could rely upon was a macabre sense of humor to get me through.

Fast forward to now.  Right now.

My brother is having an affair.  He told me about it.  He didn’t need to.  I knew it was going on.  I could tell.  All the tell tale signs were there.  “My wife doesn’t understand me,” he would say.  He sought my advice and was appalled when I told him to go the hell home and work things out with your wife.  He thought I would have taken his side, told him to go…be happy!  Do your thing!  Live your life!  But as I looked at him, all I could see was my father.  He looks so much like him.  He sounds so much like him.  And in that, he represented everything I ever hated about my own selfish father. 

Recently, his wife found out about his affair.  She called me, crying, asking if he could come down here to stay with me for a few days.  He wanted to “clear his head” before making a decision about whether he would be staying with her or leaving her and her three beautiful children for this girl who “understands him”.  Of course, I told her.  Let him come down here.  Let him be with me and my family.  Let him see what a loving family unit is supposed to look like.  Let me talk sense into him.

He came…and it was the worst three days of my life in a very long time.

I have never seen such selfish, self absorbed behavior since my fathers existence on this planet.  He spent the entire weekend texting this girlfriend of his.  He ignored me when I tried to talk to him.  He ignored my kids, my grandkids who he has scarcely seen since they have been born.  All he wanted to do was go out and party.  “What is there to do in this town,” he carried on.  “What’s good?  Where are the clubs at?  Who’s coming out partying with me tonight?” 

And all I saw was my father…and the rage slowly boiled in my blood.

“I thought we were going to have some family time,” I said.

“Yeah.  Yeah, of course.  We’ll have family time.  But it’s the weekend.  So, let’s get this party going!  Where’s the Hard Rock?  Let’s go gambling!  I got a grand burning a hole in my pocket.  Let’s do this.”

Not the faintest hint of moral dilemma in his eyes.  No thought to his grieving wife back at home.  No thought to his three children, ages 9 through 13, who are suffering right now, listening to mommy cry at night as they go to bed.  The three of them acutely aware of what their father did…but having to suffer the consequence of his insanely selfish actions.  There was a lot of arguing between my brother and I. I would try to talk to him, try to get his face out of his phone and off the texting that was going on between him and this random girl (who, incidentally, DOES know my sister in law and apparently, does not care about sleeping with her husband).  I tried to keep my brother focused. 

“Go to the mall with your nephew,” I told him.  “He’s missed you.  Go spend time with him.”

My son reported back to me that Uncle spent his entire time at the mall walking alongside him with his face buried in the phone.  We went out for dinner.  Same thing.  Out for breakfast with family. Same thing.  Went to go visit my husbands family.  Same thing.  Face buried in that phone…no consideration to any one else.

And I finally exploded.

My brother declared he had to “get the fuck outta here”.  Apparently, the whore that he had taken up with was giving him ultimatums about coming home.  He was pacing the floors, gotta go gotta go gotta go gotta go.  Change my ticket change my ticket change my ticket now now now now now now.  It was around then that I released the wrath of 9 year old me all over him.  Everything that 9 year old me ever wanted to say to that stupid, selfish, piece of shit father of mine came flying out of my mouth.  Only now, it was 45 year old me, screaming it at my baby brother…who looks like the man, acts like the man.  We fought ferociously to the point where he was punching the dashboard of my car, jumping out of it in the middle of the highway and me, considering throwing my truck in reverse to run him over and leave him to join the same fate as his father…dying under the wheels of a truck.  All of a sudden, that wild rush came through me…and the fury was too huge to fight.  I couldn’t contain it any longer and in that instant, I wanted him to die…and I wanted ME to the be the one who put him in that box.  I wanted him to suffer for the things he did to me, but it wasn’t him. It was my father. I wanted him to suffer for the things I knew he was about to put my beautiful niece through.  She is now the same 9 year old little desperate girl that I was at the time, and I knew what lay before her.  I walked this road before…and I felt so justified in just removing my brother from this world to spare her all the pain.  Let her father die while she still loves him and still wants him in her life.  Let him just die that way…before she grows up hating him, blaming him for every failed relationship in her life.  Never trusting men ever again because she couldn’t trust the one who gave her life.  I just wanted to hear his body under the tires of my truck as I rolled over him again and again and again.

Fast forward once more.

I am at home.  He is gone, back on an airplane New York bound, on the way to ruin the innocent lives of my precious niece and my two nephews.  On the way home to destroy whatever little is left of my sister in laws self esteem.  He is going home to break everyone’s hearts.  My parents.  Her parents.  All the children involved.  And the last thing he said to me…”This isn’t about YOU, this is about ME!  It’s always been about ME!”

Yes.  Yes, “Dad”.  It was always about you.  And because it was always about you…hearts died in the process.

I turned on the song “Helpless” by Neil Young.  It is off the album “Everyone Knows This is Nowhere” and was one of my fathers favorite songs.  I put my head down and I cried.  I cried long and hard from a place so deep within me that I knew I was no longer an adult woman, but that little girl whose father destroyed her self esteem, her sense of security, her trust and faith and most of all, destroyed her life.  I wept so hard for this broken doll inside of me.  The pain was palpable.  I could feel her within me, so angry for never getting a chance to tell the real man who ruined my life what I really thought of him.  Angry, that now my relationship with my brother, my one link to that time in my life is now irretrievably broken. I cried for loss.  I cried from abandonment.  I cried for the realization that I was left to my own devices by my daddy when I was only 9 years old, the same age my niece is right now.  And wept harder still…because I know now, as a 45 year old woman, that I can never, ever get those moments back, nor can I save my niece from becoming a 45 year old woman who is going to inevitably look back with the same pain, grief and anger.

It’s been two days since my brother left town.

He sent me a text message.  “Left my sneakers there.  Can you ship them to me?”

No apology.  No “I’m sorry” for hurting you.  No sense of responsibility for the devastation he left in his wake.  No regret.  Just concern for his sneakers.

He is, after all, his father’s son.

And I sit here, my heart still torn wide open, trying to wrestle with the fact that I have all these open wounds that I thought were long gone, but realize now they were just scabbed up, waiting to be torn wide open to bleed, to fester, to become infected.  It is a painful realization to find out that what you thought you were so far past in your life, you never really resolved after all.  You just buried it deep down, burned it in a box and scattered the ashes somewhere.

Eventually, the winds of time blow them back at you.  You suffocate in their thickness as they choke you and blind you. You shake your head to clear your thoughts, to gain some sense of vision and clarity.  Then suddenly, you realize.   The game remains the same…only the players have changed. 

And like a lost little child on a subway heading to Queens at 2am…you brave it alone.

Home is only a few more stops away. 

Focus 52: "Yellow"

This weeks Focus 52 post is brought to you by the color “yellow”.  Actually, that is what the prompt is.  And what a good time for this prompt to show up.  The above flower was from a bouquet I received from the wonderful girls that comprise a group of ladies I now affectionately call “Team Melia”.  These girls have been a constant mode of support for one another since our dear friend Melia lost her daughter in an accident at the end of this past February.  Six beautiful, wonderful women who would make this flower blush with embarrassment for thinking it could remotely compete with them, who all rallied together at a time of crisis for the seventh member of Team Melia; Melia herself.  Seven women.  Seven women bound in the wake of tragedy who have since brought so much laughter and love into my life that I can scarcely find the words to describe it.  Seven women, one for each color of the rainbow, who have brought so much color into my world.  And, how appropriate that this yellow flower was the star of the bouquet, for yellow is the color of loyalty and friendship.  Yellow is bright and full of promise and hope.  Yellow is warm as the sun in the sky and the warmth in my heart when any of these girls leave me random love notes on my Facebook wall.  We, the members of Team Melia, are a force to be reckoned with.  We have conquered every subject from bad backs to bad marriages.  Good sex to good food.  We laugh at one another and with one another.  We cry just as readily.  We have brought tears of joy and tears of pain to each others eyes, but never once was there someone not readily available to dry those tears with a soft word or a sweet gesture.

And while we have all known one another for various rates of time, it matters not, because we are seven women for whom time stood still, stopped and then, started once more.  Anything that happened prior to that fateful day in February does not matter.  What matters is here, now, under the watchful eyes of our “Rainbow Girl”, Destiny.  Could our angel be any more aptly named, for if not for her departing our lives so soon would we have made this “rainbow connection”; the lovers, the dreamers…and me.

This post is dedicated to my girls, my world.  I love you all. 

Focus 52: "Green"

Yes.  I could write a St. Patrick’s Day post for this weeks Focus 52 prompt of “Green”.  That would be relatively easy.  Frankly, I don’t know much about the Irish. I know a lot of their names have an “O” followed by an apostrophe and then some other word.  I know that Irish eyes are sometimes smiling.  I know what “Irish twins” are.  I know what it means to have “the luck of the Irish” and, on the opposite hand,  I know what the “curse of the Irish” is due to some unfortunate dating choices in the 80’s.  I know that Bailey’s Irish Creme is some really good shit to dump into your coffee…or not.  And I know that St. Patty’s day is a day to wear green, run out into the street with a bottle in one hand while simultaneously puking on your friends shoes.  I get all of that. I admit, I don’t know much about St. Patty or why he is so legendary.  Is he a Leprechaun?  Are people always after his Lucky Charms? 

I would like to make a day like that for the Jews.  Like…St. Moses Day.  We can all wear blue and white, the colors of Israel, run around holding up a bottle of Manischevitz and flinging Matzoh at passing cars.  We can go around burning bushes and when the police show up, we can join each other in a merry chant of “Let My People Go.”

I’m not big into cultural and religious celebrations if you haven’t noticed.

So what does “green” mean to me?  It is not envy.  It is not easy being green. In fact, green is the color of my fear.  Green is the color of the worst period of my life.  For me, this is green:

Green is the color of my former addiction.  Those little green bottles that use to house those little white pills that used to ruin my life.  This picture that I took reminded me of how I felt when taking drugs.  Everything was blurry, black and white and then, when the magical green bottle would enter my hand, suddenly, color once more!  And the world would make sense again…at least it did, in my fucked up, addicted mind.

So why would I be thinking of little green pill bottles during a week of green celebration?  Because holidays that glorify drinking and addiction go hand in hand.  I admit, I am scared for my friends this weekend.  They are going out to party pretty hard.  Tonight, the world becomes Irish and everyone joins in the celebration.  People will drink, party, take pills, smoke weed, whatever so they can remember this as “The Best St. Patrick’s Day EVER!!!”

And I will hold my breath until Monday, praying that none of my friends die this weekend.

If you are celebrating this weekend, please…do so in moderation.  Be careful of what you ingest and how much you ingest.  Alcohol poisoning can kill you.  A combination of pills and alcohol can kill you.  If you have to “go green” this weekend, smoke some weed and stay home and giggle at the movie “Leprechaun: 3D” but please, above all…stay safe.

Because I love you.  Because I care.

And because I want to see your smiling Irish eyes for a long time to come.

Focus 52: "Celebrate You"

In order to celebrate me, the current prompt of the Focus 52 project, I am going to donate my blog space to celebrating someone else.  Destiny is the 11 year old daughter of my friend Melia.  Destiny recently lost her life last week in a tragic car accident that also put her 15 year old brother Riley in a coma.  He still remains in a comatose state today.  Melia was in ICU with bodily injuries that included a broken clavicle, some bleeding on the brain and various lacerations and bruises.  While she is recuperating in one hospital, her son is across town in another, fighting for his life.  Her eldest daughter, Hailey, who was not in the car at the time of the accident, is left alone to run between the two hospitals where her brother and mother are currently staying.  A devastating position for an 18 year old child who is grieving the loss of her baby sister to be in. 

So what does this have to do with celebrating ME?

In a word, charity.  Sweet charity.  My one huge passion in life.  If there is ever an attribute that I would want celebrated about myself, it would be the fact that I am enormously passionate when it comes to giving to others in need.  I will donate time, money, material needs until I have nothing more to give.  It is the one area in my life where I feel I truly shine as a human being.  Giving to others in need makes me feel good.  It lifts me to a plane of existence more gratifying than even the most earth shattering orgasm.  Every time I can do something, anything, to help another person in a time of crisis, I feel elevated.  Closer to achieving a sense of nirvana. I am at peace even in the midst of chaos.  It gives me something to devote my ever abounding energy to and provides me with a better sense of self.  And, while it is said that charity should be a selfless gesture, any fool would know that simply cannot be.  There is a certain selfish aspect to it.  There is a certain rush or “high” if you will when it comes to knowing you have done something to potentially change the outcome of someones life.  I enjoy giving.  I enjoy doing for others.  I don’t require thanks. I don’t require gratitude.  I don’t even require acknowledgment.  All I need is to be able to achieve that remarkably warm feeling of knowing that I was able to play a small role in making someones life just a little bit better, if only for a short while.

With all that said, I am inviting you to please visit my “Cause” page to help Melia and her family try to recoup from the tragedy of this past week.  While nothing on earth, any amount of money or gesture, can return Destiny to us, the family is in dire need of financial salvation.  The family is going to need financial help desperately to help pay for the enormous hospital bills, for Destiny’s final arrangements, Riley’s long term care, the entire families living expenses and of course, they will need money for legal fees to go after the repeat offender criminal that stole Destiny’s life.

The family does not have a lot as they just moved across the country in hopes of starting a better life. They need the help of friends, friends of friends, relatives, etc., to get them through this difficult time.

While there are grass root efforts being made in her home state of Arizona, Melia has many friends who know and love her in other parts of the world as well. We are reaching out to the blogging/social media community in an attempt to help rebuild this woman’s life.

Please help in any way you can. Even the smallest of donations are appreciated.

To date, we the members of the Cause have been able to raise nearly $2500.  However, the cost of Destiny’s final arrangements far exceed that.  The need is still great.  Melia will need to be able to stay close to the hospital where her son is now in ICU.  This will cost money.  The family is without health insurance.  Daily bills for the ICU stay run in excess of $20,000 per DAY.  They will both require hospital type beds when they are finally released.  There will be legal fees to pay.  They will need special medical equipment for Riley, such a a wheelchair for him to use while he slowly regains function of his extremities.  The costs are overwhelming and endless.  Even if you are unable to donate yourself, just passing the word around to others and encouraging them to donate will help Melia and her young family to recuperate from this tragedy.

To celebrate me, I am celebrating the life of Destiny.  I am celebrating the fact that my dear friend Melia has lived to see another day.  I am celebrating the fact that Riley has not given up and that his battered body has youth on its side and he is putting up a strong fight for his life.  In fact, I could not think of a better way to celebrate MY life than to introduce you to them.  To be able to remind all of you how precious life truly is.  How to let you all have this serve as a reminder that life can change on a dime.  If this story makes you a little bit more wary on the road, stops you from running a red light (like the person who hit Melia did), makes you hug your children a little bit tighter tonight…then to me, those are small but enormously significant victories.  Little celebrations of life…and in turn, small celebrations of my life as well.

Tonight, I was speaking to a friend and mentioned that it deeply saddened me every time I had to write the words “Destiny’s funeral” during updates to friends.  She said to me, “It is not a funeral.  It is a celebration of life.”  And, she is right.  Melia has chosen to have people dress in every color of the rainbow, Destiny’s favorite thing, in honor of her daughter.  No drab, somber black garb…but brilliant hues.  Greens, yellows, oranges, blues, purples…all as vibrant and alive as Destiny was.

“What an amazing thing for a mother to do,” I thought to myself.

She opted not to dress Destiny in a formal dress and fancy shoes, but rather, a pair of jeans.  A Justin Bieber shirt.  Her favorite DC brand rainbow shoes.  She chose to let Destiny leave this earth the same way that she came into it…with her own sense of style.  A ferociously independent little girl who had the gift of gab, a smile that could start a fire with its brilliance and the eyes of a mischievous angel.

Indeed, this will truly be a celebration of life.  And I can think of no better way to celebrate me…than to celebrate her all too short, but incredibly purposeful life.

Goodnight, sweet Destiny.  Rest well…and remember that every time I see a rainbow in the sky, I will know it is you, asking God to please redecorate the world.

You are loved.