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Friday, June 12, 2015

Chasing Normal: My Dichotomous Life

When I wake up in the morning, I hear her. Screaming, howling, wailing, “NO!! NO!! NOOOO!!!!!” She continues her protest through all my waking hours. This barrage comes from a pitiful figure who lays prostrate on the ground by my husband’s grave, her face pressed into the soil made damp by her tears. She is utterly defeated by an all-consuming grief. Locked in a state of disbelief and unmitigated devastation, she beats her chest as if to mold the fragments of her shattered heart back into a functioning organ. She is my Inner Widow, and she lives in the space somewhere between my head and heart.   

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day: The 25th Year

Picture It: Valentine's Day, 1990. At the beginning of the school day, a very sweet boy gave me three roses as a token of friendship. We were in 11th grade that year, and we had been friends since 3rd. He gave roses to other girls in our little circle of friends that day, so my roses weren’t fraught with any romantic notions, no awkward “Will you be my Valentine” stuff. 
Whew! Amirite?
Little did he know that I’d been interested in him as more than a friend for a long time. I was simply too scared to say anything about it. I was afraid of ruining our friendship or making things weird with our circle of friends. I was especially afraid that he didn’t feel the same way. I was even more afraid that he did.

Fast-forward to the end of the school day. After carrying the roses with me all day and answering like a bajillion questions about them, I could not ignore my feelings any more.
REO Speedwagon Would Understand
When I got home from school I did what any self-respecting 16-year-old girl would do: I ran to the wall-mounted kitchen phone (next to my pet dinosaur's cage) and immediately called my BFF.

Me: Eau-mi-gawd, I like totally have to tell you something!

BFF: Eaukeh, tell me!

Me: I like, totally like Mike.

BFF: You mean you like, like-like him?

Me: Totally.

In unison: SQUEEEE!

But there was still the little problem that I was too scared to say anything to him about it. Luckily, my BFF was easily recruited to the task of nudging him in my direction. The next afternoon, he called me to say, “What is with BFF today? She keeps telling me I should ask you out.” The conversation blossomed from there, and we shyly confessed having “feelings” for each other. Like, totally.
Seriously, how could these two kids NOT end up together?
A few days later, we had our first official date. What we did not know then is that a movie at Laurel Lakes 9 and dinner at Pizza Villa would be the last first date either of us would have. Our shy confessions of “feelings” (like, totally) grew over the years into a deep and enduring love. From a foundation of nervous giggles and sweaty-palmed hand holding, we would go on to get married, build a life together in a sleepy little town by the Chesapeake Bay, and bring two amazing new people into the world.

That’s not to say it was all lollipops and rainbows. God knows we had our battles over the years, both petty and epic. But through it all, we always managed to hash it out, come to a mutual understanding, and confirm that we still loved each other – even in moments when we didn’t particularly like each other.
Storybook romances can be messy sometimes.
On a side note, it turns out my early fears about making things weird in our little circle of friends were unfounded. To this day, they are my closest friends in the world. They celebrated with us at our wedding. They happily welcomed our babies to the world. And more recently, they stood with me as we watched the funeral director close his casket. They held me as I wept for my Sweet Boy, and they took care of me while I crumbled under the weight of my grief even though they had just lost one of their best friends.

This is the first Valentine’s Day in 25 years that Mike won’t give me roses. It’s not the flowers I’ll miss. It’s his presence. His vitality. His devotion. His dedication to just being the best version of himself he could be. Hopefully some memories will bubble to the surface that make me smile. After 25 years, I have so very many to cherish.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

In Loving Memory: Michael Anthony Salek

It's been one week since I buried my soul mate. The father of my children. The one I was supposed to grow old with. My very own Miracle Man. I'm still waiting to wake up from this nightmare.

When I last posted in this space, it was to flip the big ol' double bird to Arnold Chiari Malformation.  Mike was getting ready to go in for decompression surgery. He was supposed to heal up and come home to resume his normal life. Unbeknownst to us, "normal" would go on permanent hiatus.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An Open Letter to Arnold Chiari Malformation

Hello, Arnold.

Didn’t think I’d see you back again so soon. It doesn’t seem very much time has passed since you last turned my world upside down. In fact, I didn’t think you’d dare show your face around here for another ten years or more.

It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Honoring Carl: Out of the Darkness

Last summer my family was rocked when my nephew's father Carl ended his long and heartbreaking battle with schizoaffective bipolar disorder. This summer, exactly one year and one day after Carl's funeral, Sweet Little Sister and her teammates - the aptly named Iron Maidens - will participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness overnight walk in Philadelphia.

Instead of creating a long and rambling post about it, I'll let Sweet Little Sister's words convey what suicide leaves in its wake, and how the AFSP is working to prevent future suicides.

Yes, I am linking to a fundraising page. If you are inspired to donate, please do. Every little bit helps. But even if you don't donate for whatever reason, please read what she wrote. Mental illness is very real. And it is very deadly. And raising awareness is as important as raising dollars for research - so pass the word along.