Saturday, October 24, 2009


It's breast cancer awareness month and guess what I did. I became a living, walking poster.

Last week we attended the Dynamo game against L.A. Galaxy and I put sunscreen all over my arms and shoulders and face. Note to self: testing a new sunscreen on the arm for an allergic reaction is not the same as testing it on the face. I broke out in a horrible red rash that I had to explain away to my students he next day. But the rash disappeared within 48 hours.
What did not disappear was the sunburn on my chest and neck where I had neglected to apply any sunscreen at all. Even after one week, I have a painful sunburn in the shape of the pink cancer awareness ribbon around my neck and on my chest. I kid you not. It will peel and fade to a light shade of breast-cancer-awareness-pink that will last for months.
Dear Nancy Brinker, have I gone too far for The Cause?

No, I will not post a picture. That's just gross.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I cannot understand how I sometimes have absolutely no control over my emotions and other times, I'm the pillar of strength and downright stoic. Today should have been easy. It was a gift I couldn't take advantage of--a lovely inservice day. My chief pleasure on such a day is in the gathering of colleagues from several campuses, giving me a chance to see work friends I don't see on a daily basis. The morning passed without incident. I began to falter in the afternoon after several people came over to talk to me. One of my co-workers dubbed me Miss Popular; I can't help it if people love me :) I hadn't seen many of these colleagues since before Maura became ill. Some didn't know about Maura, and, of course, the subject of my absence came up, and I told them, and well...Others came to offer their condolences. That was a good thing--no awkward silences. I'm glad they did not ignore me. And I'm glad they did not probe or try to say anything else. Lots of I'm sorries and lots of hugs. Just right! But all those expressions of love and concern and friendship drain my energy and bring my sorrow to the surface. When the speaker began, I was already in a fragile state. Jonathan Sprinkles is an excellent motivational speaker for college students, coming from a background similar to many students on our campus, so I had looked forward to hearing him speak. Unfortunately for me, he asked us to write down recent challenges in our lives (I didn't) and how we had solved them. (Uh-oh. Here it comes.) My chin quivered; my eyes welled up; and I'm sitting at a table with all my immediate co-workers. Darn. Double darn. Then Jonathan proceeded to tell us that most of our greatest challenges are 1) temporary, and 2) never turn out as bad as we think. I never heard what number 3 and 4 were. Oh, thank you, God, that I was near a door! A friend followed me to make sure I was okay. Then she retrieved my belongings from the conference room, and I headed for home. Only I didn't go home. Instead I came back to work for awhile, needing to get my mind busy. Well, that didn't work either. I got some work done, but here I sit, unable to concentrate, using my work computer for personal blogging. I think they can fire me for this. If you are reading this, and you have the ability to fire me or to get me fired, please don't. It's 6:50 on a Friday evening, and I'm a wreck.

Addendum, 7:30 Saturday morning: I'm better now. Still, I go back to my original question: Why do I have no control over my emotions? So many times I can talk about Maura, or I can listen to people making insensitive remarks, or I can read or listen to self-help gurus. No tears. I'm fine. I've got this grief thing under control. And at other times...
Emotional triggers? Nothing and everything.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fact or Fiction

Theatre is so much better than a self-help book for processing grief. For me.
This weekend I saw the play Rent for the second time in several years. The first time, I thought it was a nice show. This time it was a memorable and moving experience. Every theme of the play flew past me unnoticed save one: the responsibility of living well. It is not a show about gay people or AIDS, even though it is. It is about life, about choosing to spend our time on what matters.
I did not expect the floodgates to open during this show, but , hello, everything reminded me of Maura. One of the main characters, aptly named Angel, was Maura: talented, kind, loving, the peacemaker. After one year, Angel dies, leaving his friends to figure out what Angel's life and death taught them of the importance of life, love, and relationships (and, I add, God).
Maura's last 525,600 minutes were, as the song suggests, measured in love. I was taken by surprise to see Maura's high school friend, Jennifer Ross, soulfully sing the solo in Seasons of Love. I felt like I was in church, and someone please pass me the Kleenex. Really. I think the people behind me should have asked for their money back because I was probably very distracting. As Jennifer finished, I rose to my feet, aas did so many others, and the applause reverberated throughout the theatre.
After the show I had to compliment her--and she confided that the director had scolded her for singing the song without passion. So she searched her heart and started over, singing to Maura and for Maura and about Maura. And she got it. And I got it. And the whole audience got it. And it was for Maura. I'm so glad I got to be a part of that.
Jennifer said that Maura taught her how to sing Gospel music. Isn't that funny? The little blond chick teaching the African-American diva how to sing? I think Jennifer exaggerated, but she insisted that she had a very small voice before Maura drew her voice out of its shell.

Theatre is so much better than a self-help book for processing grief. So are novels.
I don't know why. I'm not opposed to inspirational books that speak to grief and healing. I'm reading four of them right now, all good, all helpful; all gifts from friends who were helped themselves by one or another of these books. But I find that it is within fiction that I find a character or two that I can identify with, and I can cry or see things differently or find comfort. Biographies that are written by excellent storytellers (certain books of the Bible being a terrific example of the latter) satisfy that same need.
Here is an excerpt from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I have read this paragraph--the whole chapter--- at least a dozen times over the course of reading the book this month. Simple, but accurate:
There followed, for each of them, good days and bad, and often Edgar's best moments coincided with his mother's worst. She could be cheerful and determinedly energetic for days on end and then one morning he would walk downstairs and find her hunched at the kitchen table, haggard and red-eyed. Once lapsed, nothing could deliver her. It worked the same with him. Just when normal life felt almost possible--when the world held some kind of order, meaning, and even loveliness(the prismatic spray of light through an icicle; the stillness of a sunrise), some small thing would go awry and the veil of optimism was torn away, the barren world revealed. They learned, somehow, to wait those times out. There was no cure, no answer, no reparation.
I love that line: They learned, somehow, to wait those times out. Yes, that is what it is like.
I think of the Biblical stories of Hannah, Ruth, Mary and Martha (the sisters of Lazarus), Mary (mother of Jesus)--women who prayed and believed and mourned and did not, even under extreme pressure, lose faith.

Yes, right now, stories of all genres help me grieve.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I have received several emails and texts from people I don't regularly hear from, asking how I am, telling me they're thinking of me...much more than normal. Lots of people asking, "How aaarrrre you?" with those eyebrows arched in knowing concern. This can mean only one thing: I haven't blogged in over a week, and people get worried I'm going to fall into a funk.  So, I logged on tonight to let everyone know I'm okay, we're okay, everything is okay; I just haven't had anything to say. And, lo and behold, Matt also just blogged from Korea b/c people let him know they were worried about him. Hmm...I think our mutual friends need to get out more. 

It is good to have friends and family who care.