Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Sally

What a day, huh?

First, Farrah Fawcett died of cancer at age 62. Next, Michael Jackson died of cardiac arrest at age 50. One died expectedly (albeit before her time); one died suddenly. Both feel like major losses even though we never really knew these people. But regardless, it feels like a part of our lives and culture is now gone.

In some ways, their deaths remind me of Sally's, but in other ways it seems like a totally separate kind of death. Today I could call or text anyone and say, "Have you heard?" and everyone shared that grief. Bars blasted "Billie Jean" as I walked to the subway. Every news channel and website is investigating and reacting. In this way, death is a universal connector, and there's something very special and humane about that.

Are you bummed out about MJ and FF? How do you think celebrity death differs from personal grief? Share your thoughts here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

From a special guest blogger: "Father's Day Without Dad"

Hi! In honor of Father's Day, I invited Cathy Bueti to guest blog. She carries the true spirit of Sally's Circle: she's a breast cancer survivor and recently lost her father to cancer, but her memoir, "Breastless in the City" (LOVE the title!), is all about how she found love, happiness, and hope throughout it all. Take it away, Cathy, and thanks for sharing such honest thoughts.

I have been avoiding the card aisle for weeks now. I don’t want to see commercials or fliers advertising Father’s Day sales. I think about how none of that matters. I still have moments when it doesn’t register in my head, or rather my heart, that I don’t have a dad anymore. This is my second Father’s Day without him. He passed away from pancreatic cancer on June 2, 2008. He suffered with it for a year. During that time I hardly saw him. We spoke on the phone and emailed. That was what our relationship had become over the years. Very distant and difficult.

I realized at the end that he did the best he could. Our relationship was strained to say the least. He was an abusive alcoholic when I was growing up. He was never a happy man even when he quit drinking. It was very difficult to get along with him. I learned to forgive although I wish it had happened sooner. The last time I saw him was on his 60th birthday only two months before he died. I hadn't seen him in a year since his diagnosis and subsequent surgery. I was grateful he invited me over to see him that day. That was something he never did. When I saw him things came out of his mouth that he never said before.

"Next time I will be a better dad." He said
"You did the best you could." I replied.
He said "No, I did what was best for me."

As the tears began to roll down my cheeks I thought about how I wished this conversation had come along years earlier. When he walked over to me I knew it would be goodbye. He put his arms around me and I cringed at how broken his thin body felt. I heard him whisper "I love my little girl." I cried as I thought about how this was something he never said and wished he didn't wait till it was too late. Although he didn't say it in his own way he showed me at the worst times of my life. He was with me when my husband died, he was with me when I was told I had cancer. Somehow when the chips were down in my life he pushed his way back in to be there for me. I didn't appreciate it at the time. The tough part though was how absent he was when I was experiencing the good things that life brought me.

I thought he could be OK even with a cancer diagnosis. I was OK, I survived. I wanted him to survive too. This loss is tough for me both as a daughter and as a cancer survivor. I feel guilty sometimes that I am still here.

Even though I think of him often on days such as this it always seems harder. So on this Father’s Day I will be thinking of him with the knowledge that his spirit lives on. Sometimes I feel him around me. Those moments bring me tears and at the same time also bring a smile.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Father's Day is coming... you doin OK?

Hi there,

Just wanted to check in on those of you who might be nervous or sad about Father's Day approaching. I know Mother's Day is a hard one for me, so I wanted to pass along some tips that have helped me over the years:

  1. Have a plan. Lying low may seem "respectful" to the parent you lost (after all, it seems wrong to celebrate), but 24 hours is a long time to be alone. Seeing family, calling a friend, or even just going for a walk can be a lifesaver. It reminds you that life goes on, and that even if today is hard, it will get better.
  2. Wallow a bit. Even if you have a plan, you're bound to have some alone time. During that time, if you feel like crap, don't be afraid to just feel like crap. Watch a sad movie. Listen to depressing music. Get it all out 'til you get the urge to feel happy again... and then allow yourself to move on from the sadness.
  3. Don't be afraid to cry. Sometimes crying on these big holidays feels like your whole self might just collapse. Well, consider me proof that you won't. I've cried on many Mother's Days, and I usually feel a lot better afterwards.
  4. Appreciate the day. In normal everyday life, it's hard to find appropriate times to really experience your grief or miss the person you lost. Whether it's Father's Day, a birthday, or the anniversary of someone's death, those holidays are a special time for you to collect your thoughts and connect with the person you lost.
  5. Talk. Family and friends are eager to listen to you and be there for you today. Take advantage of them and open up. If you're a more private person, you might write down what you're feeling or "talk" to the person you lost. On Mother's Day, I like to "talk" (in my head) to my mom and give her the update on my life.
You might find there's something you have to avoid this holiday, too. It's different for everyone, but for me, it's the greeting card aisle. Seeing all the Mother's Day cards makes me so sad that I can't send one to Sally. I avoid going to CVS for a few weeks!

I hope this helps. And on Sunday, you'll be on my mind.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Connecticut, Scrabble, Friends, and other things Sally loved

Sally loved lots of things, but here are a few she totally worshipped:
  • Connecticut -- she loved New Haven, her hometown.
  • The beach -- she was a Piesces, 'nuff said.
  • Scrabble -- she beat everyone in my family -- unless they were sick or upset, then sometimes she let us win.
  • Friends -- she valued her girlfriends and taught me to do the same.
  • Birthdays -- she always knew how to make it special.
Last weekend, I got to do all 5 things: I visited my friend Katie in Connecticut to surprise her for her birthday and we played Scrabble and took a trip to the beach. Pretty much the formula for happiness, according to Sally! Actually, I'd add one more to my formula: French toast at a diner.

I've always loved going to visit Katie. Now it's even more fun because she and her fiance Raf just bought a house together. Some girls feel shafted when their best girlfriends find a man, but seeing Katie and Raf is like getting double the fun. I love them as a couple, and I love both of them individually. Around them, I feel 100% myself -- which is why I can go visit them and be totally satisfied staying home on a Saturday night playing Scrabble, drinking wine, and ordering pizza at midnight!

Which friends do you feel 100% comfy around? Write their names below to give thanks!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Salmon Croquettes recipe -- take 2!

Four years ago, when I moved into my first Brooklyn apartment, I didn't know many recipes. Stuck for an idea, I recalled a dish my mom often made: salmon croquettes.

I knew the ingredients, but I didn't have her recipe, and my dad couldn't remember the measurements. Figuring I'd wing it, I mixed together canned salmon, chopped onion, an egg, and some breadcrumbs. It seemed too dry, so I added another egg. Then it seemed too wet, so I added more breadcrumbs. I repeated this process until it was a giant mess. Unable to form patties that would stick together, I threw too-wet patties into the pan and it soon became a salmon croquette scramble. Two words describe it best: ugly and gross. After dumping the contents in the trash, I went to my room, shut the door, and bawled. A simple call to my mom would have recovered that recipe, but she and the recipe were gone.

Last week, four years later, I decided to press my luck and try again. Vital Choice, a company that sells wild salmon by mail order, had sent tons of canned salmon to my office, just begging to be made into crunchy, crispy croquettes. This time, I found a recipe that had the same ingredients as my mom's but with the perfect measurements, thanks to Ashwini's Food for Thought blog (see the recipe here).

As the beautifully-formed patties sizzled in the pan, my new kitchen smelled just like my kitchen growing up. Surprisingly, I didn't miss my mom and I didn't feel nostalgic for my past. I don't know if this make sense, but lately, especially with this new "domestication" of living with Mark, I feel like part of me is taking on her essence -- like all the parts I loved about her are here in the air and within me. Have you ever felt this way?

As we ate dinner, I told Mark about my cooking disaster years ago. Wise as always, he said, "I bet you were the only one who expected to get it right the first time."


P.S. Some readers have told me they want more frequent blog posts. I've often felt like I want to give you quality over quantity, but maybe a couple one-liners or brief thoughts every now and then would be OK. What do you think?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ladies Luncheon!

Happy Sunday!

Today was a great day. Mark and I still don't have curtains, so the bright sun woke us up at 8:30 -- way earlier than I'm normally up on a lazy Sunday! We took advantage of the morning. While we drank coffee, we made our first grocery list (everything's a "first" these days, we're like a newborn couple), and soon after I was off to Trader Joe's (a terrific little specialty supermarket) to stock up on food for the week. Tonight's menu: salmon croquettes. Yum!

But supermarket shopping isn't what made today that great -- please, I haven't turned into one of those weird suburban Stepford Wives yet! -- my best friends Laura and Shari came to visit! Laura drove in from Long Island; Shari subwayed from Manhattan. Friends since age 13, we have to share all the "big moments" with each other, and "moving in with a boy" (as we call it) certainly qualifies. They oohed and ahhed over the apartment, and then we sat outdoors at a nearby pub to eat salads and drink mimosas. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday!

Old friends are funny. You love each other and run to share any moment together, whether it's booking a trip (we're planning to go to Costa Rica in February) or celebrating a new apartment. But we also bicker like sisters (like when we tried to peer pressure Shari to buy her Costa Rica plane ticket this week). It's a love-bicker relationship, but I love (and laugh at) every minute of it. And I loved every minute of having them here today.

Signing off for now. Salmon croquettes to be made!


P.S. I hope you don't mind that I've been drifting off-topic a bit. I know this blog is about Sally and dealing with parent loss/sickness, but sometimes the best way to combat the hardships is to celebrate and really acknowledge the happy times.

Monday, June 1, 2009

We moved!

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to tell you that Mark and I are finally in our new place!

We moved yesterday, May 31, a date I hope we'll continue to celebrate in the future. So many couples seem to move in together in a very casual way these days, especially in NYC where rents are high so it turns into an economical decision. But to me and Mark, this move feels like an important step in our relationship. For the past few days -- whether I was taping shut a box or just gazing at the gorgeous greenery from our windows -- my eyes would fill with tears. I feel very happy and lucky and blessed.

Big thanks to everyone who was so helpful with the move. My best friend Laura came out to pack boxes with Mark and I on Friday night, and we all had a blast together. My dad and his girlfriend Susan wrapped everything in my kitchen -- and I have a lot of cooking supplies! A bunch of our friends schlepped to Brooklyn last night, which filled our new space with laughter and good times to come. And Mark's been Mr. Handy putting together all the furniture and suggesting great decorating ideas. Thank goodness I moved in with a designer!

More details and PHOTOS later in the week -- I promise.