Archive for January, 2010

the greatest of all

Author: angiem, 01 29th, 2010

When my paternal grandmother died, her daughter and daughters-in-law prepared her body for burial.  For three days they kept her open casket in the middle of the front room while neighbors and the church community stopped in to pay their respects.  Every single evening her seven loving children held a vigil in their childhood home, the room and hallway filled with people.  I was eight years old at the time.  I sang a song one night that to this day makes me cry.  It was a song about a mother and her love for her offspring.  As old as time itself, it was my daddy’s favorite song, because his mother always sang it to him. I could barely finish singing it, as everyone in the room was crying, myself included.

I cried for my daddy who lost his mommy.  I couldn’t imagine a worse fate.  What is a mother, but the sun, the moon, the stars, buttered bread, warm milk, down pillows, storytimes, golden apples, silvered pears, castles in the sky, dragons, princesses, tears, laughter, hugs, kisses, and forevermore love.  As a mother myself now, there is only one thing worse.  And I cannot fathom it.

Death had come and took with it a dear friend’s mother today, another sweet friend’s grandmother days ago, and still insatiable, it lingers in the darkened corners of another sweet friend’s family.  I have nothing to offer, no words of comfort to erase the pain or lighten the heartache, just a reminder that LOVE will remain.  Death has no power over that.  I am thinking of you three.  I can’t stop thinking of you.  I love you.

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juicy stuff

Author: angiem, 01 22nd, 2010

I’m torn when it comes to awards.  For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to add them to my blog.  When I finally got it, I realized that maybe it had been best if I hadn’t.  It feels too much like a popularity contest, and in all fairness, I want everyone to be popular, because everyone is special in their own way (don’t I sound just like a grade school teacher saying that?).  However, it is so very rude to receive something and not accept it.

So with that in mind, here are my most recent awards.

First: 

Thank you Deb for thinking of me.  I truly feel honored that you’ve selected me as one of your recipients.  Please visit with Deb at #mce_temp_url#.   I love how deeply and purely Deb feels.  Her words give me goosebumps and tingles, and glue themselves to my heart.

Second:

Deb (not the same one, mind you)  at#mce_temp_url# wants me to tell you my deepest, darkest secrets.  Her blog is filled with wonderful ideas for writers, and I learn something new every time I visit.  Make sure you stop on by.

My last two awards: [happy+101.bmp] and

[honest+scrap.bmp]

come from lovely Michelle at #mce_temp_url#.  Michelle loves books!  Apparently she, too, wants me to divulge my secrets.  Ha!  Go visit her and read her reviews.

And now, not to be a spoilsport, I will share 5 things about me.

1.  I am the oldest of 5 children.  That means I have grown up with a distorted view of my own authority in the family.  I believe it’s within my rights to boss people around.  Sadly, no one shares my feelings on this.

2.  I don’t like cats because of the insides of their ears.  When I was young, I got grossed out being able to see so far down in there.

3.  I am vain.  Yet I love chocolate.  I struggle daily between my love of self and love of chocolate.  Chocolate mostly wins.

4.  I used to love confrontation, now I hate it.

5.  When we came to the States we were brainwashed by a certain church we attended.  Some really weird things happened there.  There was a grown man, for instance, father of 10, who stood up in church one day and demanded that all girls over the age of 12 pin up their hair, as they were the cause of his impure thoughts.  All the girls were forced to pin up their hair AND cover their heads.  We had to wear long sleeves and dresses long enough to touch our ankles.  The guy continued to lead the church in prayer from time to time.  I was 14 when we left that church.  I was publicly accused of being a temptation because someone had seen me in the park wearing shorts and riding a bicycle.  Did I say, I was 14?  We left the church, and the state weeks after.  I could write a dozen books on the craziness that place inspired in others.

That’s it!  Now everyone, grab an award!  But before you leave, thank you for visiting me, and supporting me, and showing your love.

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Profile: Lidia Boicu

Author: angiem, 01 16th, 2010

I have been in awe of Lidia Boicu’s photography for quite some time. To begin with, I did not know much about her personal story, although I did know that she is my age, a cancer survivor and mom to a preschooler.  I was drawn to her determination to persevere and confront the enemy by living her life passionately, and by giving back to the community of families affected by cancer through her non-profit organization, Tiny Sparrow Foundation.  Facebook brought us together, and gave us the chance to form a real friendship when we started conversing over the phone, and finally met in person.

Through Tiny Sparrow Foundation, Lidia has been offering families with children suffering life threatening illnesses, free of charge professional portraits and albums, while bringing smiles to those faces most needing of them.

Lidia, how would you describe yourself?

I would say that I am optimistic and motivated.  I try to live my life without fear.

Have you experienced any miracles?

Oh, so very many.  When I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter, I developed an infection for which I was hospitalized.  My white blood cells were so high and the doctors determined I had C-diff.  It was so out of control that I was in the hospital for 2 months.  My colon was inflamed and my body retained so much water that I soon ballooned out to 240 lbs. Although I was on both Morphine and Oxycodone, the pain was excruciating. I had a nurse that had to just take care of me and she would come at night and massage my body in hopes the pain would go away.

Those moments when somebody reached out to me are in my mind forever.  My hand in somebody’s when I was in the lowest of lows was so astounding that I vowed that if I got better I would be the person offering comfort.

I did get better, and 3 months later my baby was born.  She, however, was missing her entire sternum… You could see her heart beating.  At 5 weeks old she woke up choking, we rushed her in and the doctors discovered a hemangioma blocking 75% of her airway.  We were hospitalized.  At 7 weeks she was diagnosed with PHACES, a relatively new condition discovered in 1997, affecting only 200 worldwide, and lacking information on it.  We were hospitalized again.  And then again when she was nine months and we determined that fixing her sternum was necessary as it protects major arteries.

When my daughter was two, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer which involved my lymph nodes.  The miracles started pouring in.  Although we were in a new town and knew no one, people jumped in cooking meals for us, helping with my daughter, cleaning the house.  I had a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy and spent many hours in bed.

Is that when you started your photography?

Yes, my husband had gotten me a nice SLR digital camera for Christmas.  I placed my computer in bed next to me and learned photoshop.  I took picture after picture.  After I recuperated, at the encouragement of my new found friends, I decided that I would take my photography to a different level.  Cancer gave me the courage I needed and had been lacking. I contacted Kate McRae’s family and told them that I wanted to provide them with professional photos of Kate and their family.  I was surprised when they agreed.

Do you think about dying?

Only every single day.  But I am not afraid anymore.  Life is a journey.  Still, I would love more than anything to be here for my daughter.  She beat all odds.  I so want to see her grow up into a beautiful young woman.

Any regrets, Lidia?

That I have spent too much time agonizing over what people think and say.  And for what?  No one has a perfect life.  Everyone has problems.

How do you want to be remembered?

That I made a difference in someone’s life.  That I have built strong, lasting relationships.  But I don’t want the focus to be on me.  I want it to be on those little boys and girls that Tiny Sparrow Foundation is hoping to touch.  Their memory will live on.

Thank you, Lidia.  Please take a moment and visit:#mce_temp_url# Bookmark the site, and if you find it in your heart, please make a donation.

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roosters, beaches and a bride

Author: angiem, 01 14th, 2010

I spent a quarter of my waking hours in Kauai chasing roosters, just so I could snap a picture of them. They run rampant all over the island, crowing at all hours of the day and night, their internal clocks haywire.  For all their cheeky behavior, they are quite shy, or maybe just terrified of the high pitched squeals of the children chasing them, yet I did get them in the end.

This trip to Hawaii was for my baby sister’s wedding.  She is unbelievably beautiful to begin with, so you can be sure she made a stunning bride.  The wedding was on the beach, as all weddings in Hawaii ought to be.  We were walking around barefoot, digging our toes in the golden sand, laughing and crying, and hugging each other.  My daughter and my niece had the time of their lives being flower girls.  I watched them remembering how I used to wish I had been a flower girl as a child.

I missed my blogging pals and can’t wait to catch up with all of you!  The internet connection was terrible, though.  Which isn’t all that bad, I suppose, as I had ample opportunities to watch the violet tinted sunrise on my early morning walks through the enchanted forest, coffee in hand.

The bright, cloudless days, I dozed away on the beach, smeared in a thick layer of sunblock, yet still somehow managing to get a burn, while the kids played in the sand and the water.  As the sun set and the skies quickly darkened, we gathered around an outside table and had dinner and conversation by flickering firelight in torches and candles, dreading our return to the cold, damp Northwest.  Still, we are highly grateful for a chance to warm up our bones, and the lovely reminder that summer is coming.

A lovely, blessed week to all of you!

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about girls and boys

Author: angiem, 01 08th, 2010

When I was young I wanted so badly to be considered a grown up. I would dress and talk like an adult, thinking I was fooling everybody else not just myself. I remember being fifteen, already wearing 4-inch heels, certain that my destiny involved early marriage and a house full of kids. I met boys, had crushes, and once or twice even deemed myself madly in love. I believed the fairy tales, the happily ever after.

The spring of my first year at the university, a boy I had just broken up with committed suicide. For a long time I thought it had been my fault, after all he had promised to, would I ever break it off. I laughed his words off, of course, because what did I know? I was just a kid pretending to be an adult. But a few weeks later a mutual friend met me for lunch and told me that he had in fact drowned himself.

And then, not much later, I met a boy who was so jealous that he punched me in the nose and gave me the only bloody nose of my life. I remember sitting there in shock. Up until that point I believed that although harm could come to those around me, it would never touch my being. I was special.  I was a princess. Was I ever wrong!

Being a grown up was not as swell as I’d imagined. I got serious about my education and pushed the thought of marriage away. I had no need for boys and their tantrums. I became such a mean cynic. I found fault with everyone and everything. I walked around telling all who would listen that the beast would always remain a beast and the frog would forevermore croak and the princess was nothing more than an impostor. Stories lied and parents lied.

And then I met my husband and questioned my new philosophy on love and life. But didn’t quite give it up. Because I learned some truths along the way. Depressing stuff like how sad and trite life is. Only being aware of that, could I appreciate the beauty and the miracle of it.  I suppose that is why I cringe when I see young girls rush into marriage.  Into the destiny they are so adamant is theirs.  I want to tell them to take a deep breath and see if they are ready to accept the struggles and the heartaches.  Those are guaranteed.  It is the joy and the remaining love that are unexpected.

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the woman

Author: angiem, 01 06th, 2010

On the outskirts of my Tanti Marie’s village there was a proper little cemetery where the village met the wild forests, with marble cross tombstones alongside wooden ones enclosed by a wrought iron fence. Very beautiful, but quite scary to a little girl of seven. The village madwoman spent all her days and nights in there, sleeping on what she thought was her lover’s tomb. He had gone to the war and left her pregnant and when word got to her that he was dead she tried to drown the baby in the courtyard well and drank a glass of poison to kill herself. Her family took the baby away and gave it to a wealthy couple in the city, no doubt lining their pockets with lots of gold pieces and crisp banknotes. Her, they turned out of the house, spitting and cursing after her departing figure. At least they spared her the institution.

As children we were afraid of her and her eerie wailing, and stayed well away. It was a good thing the village was long and narrow. The grown-ups accustomed to grief and having known her since her childhood, yet also highly superstitious, made the sign of the cross whenever they saw her but did not neglect to bring her bread and a woolen shawl when the nights got chilly.

I don’t know where she slept the winter months, when the entire village was under a blanket of snow. Her family home, abandoned since the death of her mother, she had set unsuccessful fire to. My Tanti Marie claimed that the madwoman was actually a witch who turned herself into the black cat that was forever scratching at villagers’ doors to be let in on those long winter nights. Before dusk darkened the sky and lengthened the shadows, the village women would set a bowl of milk and a chunk of black bread out. If they were consumed, I do not remember.

But, I have been thinking about her lately. About how little was known back then and in that country about mental illness. About how the mentally ill were institutionalized and even killed because of the fear they instilled in others. About those whispers I remember amongst the village women of her promiscuity, when all along she most likely had been raped. And about how fear finds a way to feed on fear until it leaves one gasping in its wake.

And I am ashamed and embarrassed at my own reaction even nowadays. Flinching when I see a mentally unstable homeless man or woman. So starkly uncomfortable with those I see mumbling to themselves. Once on a crowded train there was a man shaking a fried chicken leg and yelling profanities, and I fled in terror, preferring to wait another fifteen minutes in the cold station than risk his attention.  Why?  I’m well aware my fears aren’t realistic.  I’ve studied mental health.  I’ve worked in mental health.  I know that these people are probably far more afraid of me than I am of them.

And yet… Although I may not be literally making the sign of the cross, I still am praying up a storm.

Did I say that I am ashamed and embarrassed?  Mired down by superstitious fear?  When I really ought to know better?  Yes, I did.  But I am working on it.  Because it is fear that hides the beauty within and keeps me from living.  And I really want to live.

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kids on truth

Author: angiem, 01 03rd, 2010

Isn’t it funny how as kids we believed everything our parents told us? Whether it was true or not, we swallowed it without much consideration. I know I asked a lot of questions just for the sake of asking as I liked hearing myself talk. And I also know my parents answered because it was easier to do that than to ignore me. Some of the replies I remember to this day, only because I find myself repeating the same absurdities to my own children.

My son, possibly the smartest person in our house, isn’t buying it anymore. “Do you really believe that mom?” He often asks. Long time ago, before I was even married, I made a promise that I will not deceive my children. So I admit that no, I don’t, and ask him to repeat the question so I could give an authentic answer.

And so he does, but I truly hope he isn’t exasperated with me, because even knowing this I sometimes catch myself parroting my answer, and see his eyes roll.

Just the other day while visiting with friends, I asked a child my son’s age what Santa had brought. My son rolled his eyes, “Santa isn’t real mom. C does not believe in him anymore.”

“Why not?” I replied. “I still do!”

“Do you really, mom?”

“Well yes. Everybody’s got a Santa.”  I said.

“Kids don’t like to be made fools of, you know?”

Yes, of course. How could I forget? Here he is, almost 10, so eager for truth. So ready to dispose of the magic of childhood and demand to know the harsh realities of life. And he deserves to know. I just wish the truth wouldn’t disillusion him.

While I still may, I will hug him and kiss him and fill his head with enchanted stories.  Gotta pass those absurdities on.  Somehow.

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