Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The night my mom was diagnosed with cancer, before I went to bed I told her, "I guess this means I can't watch 'Stepmom' ever again." The Julia Roberts flick was a favorite of ours. We laughed and welled up and went to bed. Two a half years later, she was gone.

Now it's been eight years since she died, and my prophecy has come true: As of Friday, October 1, I will have a stepmom. Her name is Susan and she's about to become my dad's wife and a stepmom to me and my brother.

I wish I could tell my mom that having a stepmom isn't at all like the movie 'Stepmom', or the evil women in Disney flicks, or the other horror stories you may hear. For me, having Susan is a second chance for my dad to have a wife, and a second chance for me to have a mom. It means one day I'll have someone to help me plan a wedding or calm a colicky kid or, for now, just to call on my lunch break for a midday chit-chat and some laughs. As a lot of you know, few things in life are as simple and wonderful as a mother-daughter chit-chat.

I miss my mom, and I especially miss her this week, and as my brother so wisely said, I'll always miss her. But I know she would be so happy and welcoming to my family's newest member.

Susan, you're stuck with us, and we're so lucky to have you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

Hi everyone,

In honor of Father's Day, I invited a special guest blogger to join us. It is Mark's cousin, Marcy. Although many states separate us, we are bonded together through the loss of a parent, a love of running, and the joy of sharing laughs. I know you'll love her as much as I do... so please welcome Marcy.

In 1994, my father passed away at the young age of 51. He had been sick for many months, and while watching a loved one suffer is terrible, I am grateful I had the time and space to say goodbye. I was 16, and while I was old enough to understand how intense his illness was, I was also young enough to lack much insight into the impact this would have on the rest of my life.

There are a lot of terrific memories I associate with Father’s Day and my dad. My dad and I would often go running together, and since my short kid-legs could not keep up, Dad would run circles around me when I walked off a muscle cramp. When I was about 4, we ran a 3-mile race together, and I recall being terrified of running across a wooden bridge over a stream. Despite the cheers of encouragement of a bunch of grown-ups on the other side, I froze. Dad grabbed me, lifted me up, and carried me over the bridge and then we continued on side by side.

In addition to running, Dad loved sailboats. One afternoon, I came home from junior high school and found most of the furniture moved out of our living room. Dad had used masking tape to mark the floor plan of an imaginary sailboat on the carpet. He measured it out and scaled it to fit the room, and made it look as real as he could -- including moving the portable toilet for his actual sailboat into the outlined space of the “head” (bathroom). He announced our family was going to sail around the world. Much to my pre-teen horror, we gathered around in the “boat” after dinner and Dad charted the initial course on a map, explained our responsibilities, and assigned us watch shifts (this included entering information in the logbook and working as a team). I thought he had lost his mind. Perhaps he had, but the point was he was trying to pass on a dream of his to me and my brother, and in this eccentric and unbelievable fashion, did so in the most practical way he could.

Later on in my teenage years, the faux boat became a real boat. Dad had found an article in a sailing magazine that explained how to build a boat in 5 hours. The time estimate was quite inaccurate; I recall it taking many months. We measured, cut, hand-planed, glued, sanded and finished the hull, keel, mast, boom, rudder, and oars out of wood. I learned that it takes a long time to locate the perfect piece of lumber to make a sailboat mast -- I knew this because we went to at least a dozen lumber yards until we found it. And we didn't neglect decor. Dad was mildly amused when I insisted on painting the boat interior and bottom purple. I also insisted on making the sails out of cotton bed sheets -- so I could tie-dye them purple.

It has been over 15 years since my father died. I am still learning about his life and his death, and how both have influenced me. At the time of his death, I was quite aware that he would not be around for holidays, graduations, and other important events. The first few Father’s Day holidays that passed included sadness and tears. More recently, Father’s Day sneaks up on me and I realize it is coming at the last minute. There may still be important events where his presence is missed, but it seems my energy has shifted to examining the ways he still influences me, which facilitates some unexpected healing and contentment.

Last year, I started a year-long training journey with the end goal of completing an Ironman (a 140-mile triathalon: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26-mile marathon). Most people think this journey is crazy. What do the masking-tape sailboat “trip”, the tie-dyed purple sails, and training for an Ironman have in common? Is completing an Ironman as crazy as masking taping a fake boat on the living room floor? When anticipation, creativity, patience, and resilience collide, is the result an Ironman?

Contemplating my memories of Dad and how they integrate into my current life seem to make Father’s Day easier. On this Father’s Day, I will go for a run, maybe spend some time family and friends, mull over more memories and perhaps discover some more connections between being a Daddy’s girl in the past and life as it is today.

Take good care-


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

Hi there,

I know this might be a tough weekend for some, and the first thing I want to say is that I hear ya and I'm sorry and if I could hug you, I would.

For the weeks leading up to Mother's Day, I've felt pretty OK about the holiday coming up. I chose to roll my eyes at the Hallmark commercials instead of getting choked up. And it was working, I think.

But today it's a bit much. Every store in my neighborhood is selling flowers, plants, greeting cards, brunch specials, mani-pedi's for two... I could go on. I went out this afternoon to run an errand and practically ran back home. I don't think I'll venture back out there. I have plenty of papers to grade, and renting a movie tonight sounds pretty good anyway.

Tomorrow I'll get together with my dad and his girlfriend Susan and a bunch of her relatives. This has been our tradition the past few years, and despite it being a hard day, I'm looking forward to it. I like having something to do on these holidays, and I like spending it with Susan. She is a mom-like figure to me, and we've had a lot of fun lately on little shopping sprees or chit-chats on the phone. She makes a special effort to make sure I'm busy on Mother's Day and invite me to whatever they're doing, and that means a lot to me.

So, what should you do this weekend and tomorrow? I don't know if I have a golden rule for you. I would say to do what you feel comfortable doing. If you feel like staying home in your PJs and watching old movies, enjoy your solitude. If you feel like seeing family or friends, take comfort in their company. If you want to visit a cemetery or donate to a charity, go for it.

To me, it's always been important to take time to be sad (I will go for a run tomorrow morning, and there will probably be tears) and take time to be happy (I will see my Dad and Susan and instantly laugh at their Seinfeld-like bickering, and later I'll get to play with Susan's cute grandkids).

I'll be thinking of you. And in that way, none of us will be alone tomorrow.


My professor passed away

It's with sadness that I report that Professor Glavin, the professor I mentioned in my last post who was sick with cancer, passed away yesterday on May 7, 2010. He was 67 and had been a magazine professor at Syracuse University for 37 years. Under his cynical grumbles he had a big heart, especially when it came to his students. They were his world. And, in fact, he donated a great deal of his estate to the school and a fund that allows interns to afford internships.

I found out the news yesterday at work and decided to take a walk. Lucky for me, Central Park is two blocks away. I called Mark to tell him. Or, really, just to hear his voice.

"I hope he's in a better place," I said, which felt cliche but seemed right.

"Better than Syracuse?" Mark joked, a nod to the snow capital of the universe known for gray skies and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

"Does such a place even exist?" I teased.

We shared a laugh, and that felt like the kind of tribute Glavin would have liked. In the email announcing his passing, this sentiment stuck with me: "The best way to remember and honor him will be to live your lives, love your work, and write fiercely and passionately about the topics that matter most to you." I feel thankful that I found a new job which will allow me to do this.

I wrote Glavin a letter two weeks ago in hopes that a distraction might do him good. Not wanting to get too sappy, I instead relayed a story to him about a college experience that made an impact on me. In my first class with Glavin, we had to write a big research paper on a magazine of our choice. I chose Modern Drummer and traveled to New Jersey to meet the founder and editor-in-chief of the publication, Ron Spagnardi. He was a lovely gentleman who inspired me to continue pursuing journalism as my career. I told Glavin that I'm thankful to him and Ron for being mentors throughout my career.

What I didn't tell Glavin was that Ron passed away several years ago of cancer. My hope now is that they might get to meet, shake hands, and shoot the shit for a bit.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Saying goodbye to teaching

Hi there,

Today was my last official day of teaching -- well, at least for now. I've spent the past year as a professor at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, teaching a brand new class called Writing and Editing for Magazine Websites. What an incredible journey it has been.

I mostly taught the class long-distance from Brooklyn using Skype, but today I came up to Syracuse to wish my students farewell on their last day of class.

My day ended with a happy hour at a local bar, Faegan's, filled with students from the fall and spring semesters. To me, it felt like the ending of the movie "Big Fish," when all the characters the father has ever known gather at the river for his send-off to heaven. It seemed fitting that my time at Syracuse would end with the students. After all, they were the most fulfilling part of this whole experience: seeing their work, watching them thrive, and discovering the many talents each of them possessed.

Today was also a somber day, as one of my beloved professors is sick with cancer. Walking through the halls of Newhouse made me reflect on his influence on me as a student, editor, writer, and, most recently, teacher. I can't imagine Newhouse without him chain-smoking outside the building and eagerly showing Harry Potter movie trailers to his classes (he was obsessed -- read this article about him to see how much!). When I emailed him to tell him how much I loved teaching, he responded: "I am glad that you are enjoying teaching. I have always loved it, because of the students. They are always great."

I will pause in my teaching career in order to focus on my new full-time job, which I start on Wednesday. I am sad to say goodbye to teaching, but excited to start my new job. I feel proud of the path I've traveled in the past year, and it makes me look forward to where the path might go from here. Hopefully teaching will be part of that path again at some point.

I know all good things must come to an end, but part of me feels so nostalgic today. What do you do to make saying goodbye to an experience or person a bit easier?

Love from the 'Cuse,

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A time of transition

Happy Sunday! I hope you're all having a nice, relaxing evening as you prepare for the week.

I actually can't quite share in your Sunday night jitters tonight, since I'm on my mini-vacation between jobs. I left my position as a web editor at Prevention.com and will become the web manager for a personal finance expert. I'm very excited for this change, and even more excited to have this time off between jobs to breathe and gear up for the new gig.

I also feel lucky, as I have great cheerleaders by my side:

Mark took me out for a celebration dinner at Prime House New York, a fancy steakhouse where we both agree we had the best date of our lives (at least so far!). We met at the bar for a cocktail, and then enjoyed a delicious meal from appetizers to dessert. I'm not the biggest meat lover, but the steak there would be hard even for a vegetarian to resist! And, Mark, as always, was a great date: handsome and charming and making me crack up.

Dad and Susan became my wardrobe consultants when I went out to Long Island to visit them. To make sure I look schnazzy for the new job, they whisked me off to White House Black Market, Banana Republic, and Lord & Taylor. I felt like they were my Clinton and Stacy from "What Not to Wear"! At each store, they found comfy seats outside the dressing room and flashed their thumbs up or down. So, if you like my outfit, compliment them!

Laura and Shari started off my vacation with a BBQ at Laura's new apartment in Park Slope (10 minutes away from me!). Best friends since 13, the three of us have truly been through thick and thin together. We shared burgers, laughs, and planned more details for our upcoming trip to Paris in July -- our first European trip as a trio. Watch out, France!

So, as I continue to gear up for my new challenge, I hope this time of transition might also be a time of more blogging. We have two holidays coming up that can be challenging, Mother's Day and Father's Day, and I want to be sure we're here for each other through those days. If there's something on your mind, or you're looking for advice or just an ear to listen, feel free to post a comment (you can post anonymously) or drop me an email.

'Til then, have a good evening and let's talk soon.

P.S. Who are your cheerleaders? Give them a shout out below!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sally's big, loud, crazy laugh

I may be known as "that girl who's always giggling," but I can't help it. It's in my genes.

Sally had a laugh to remember. Think back to the last time something sent you into hysterics. That was Sally's everyday laugh. This petite 5'1, 104 lb woman belted out guffaws that would echo through a restaurant, causing us kids to slouch a little lower in our seats, smothering our own giggles behind menus and paper diner napkins.

I heard her laugh last night. In my dream, she made a dirty joke about underwear that sent her into one of her famous shout-shriek laughs.

It's been almost 8 years since I've heard that laugh, and yet it rang so clear. It's amazing what you can remember in the relaxed calm of sleep. I woke up feeling so lucky to have heard from her. And if she's laughing, I imagine all is good in her 'hood.

Song of the day: "Dreams" cover by Cat Power

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does clothing carry memories?

Hi all,

I just read a great piece in the New York Times Magazine called Dress to Regress: A Photographer's Fashion Flashbacks. It focuses on "My Mother's Clothes," a book of photo and essays a daughter put together in honor of her late mother, who passed of Alzheimer's. Originally, the daughter compiled the photos to help her mom's memory loss -- surprisingly, even though she was having trouble recalling family members, she could remember very specific details about the garments and occasions surrounding them. How neat is that?

Though my mom was not nearly the elegant, Jackie 0 fashionista the mom in this book was (no offense, Sally), she did certainly love shopping. Always on the hunt for a good bargain, she frequented Marshall's and The Gap. We really enjoyed mother-daughter shopping trips together, either after school or on the weekends, and often purchased the same items. I used to tease her as a teen that she bought everything I bought, just a few sizes bigger. At 5'1 and 104 pounds, she was so petite she could fit in the junior's section!

Cleaning out Sally's closet was a trip down memory lane. My dad and I tackled it shortly after she passed, probably knowing that if we didn't do it right away, it might sit frozen in time forever. There was also something healing about giving away her clothing to charity. Sometimes I think back and worry, "Should I have taken more things? Will I wish I had them one day?" Then I tell myself that it was better to give them to people in need, that they would have just sat in my closet taking up space. I did save her jewelry and scarves, and other random things like socks (I love socks, it's true!), and those are special to me.

Did you keep any clothing of someone who passed? Can you think back to a garment that person wore and remember them in a stronger way?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My advice to aspiring journalists and writers

Hi everyone!

Thanks for all the safe flight wishes. I made it back and forth to Syracuse safely, thanks to your good thoughts -- and maybe Sally's texts. I think I was there for a total of 18 hours (what a whirlwind!), but it was very rewarding to meet with the students face-to-face (normally I teach long-distance via Skype) and visit my old campus again.

While I was there, I was asked to star in a video series called "One Thing" where professionals or alumni give their one piece of advice to incoming students. Since I'm both a professional AND an alumni, I was greedy and gave two pieces of advice!

Click here to watch my video!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Signs from the sky or an Asian hacker?

I'm sitting in the JFK Jet Blue terminal, waiting for my delayed flight to arrive and take me to Syracuse for my mid-semester check-in with my students. My Blackberry suddenly gets an incoming 29 messages all at once. And this is what each one says:

I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]
I LOVE YOU [Sally's Circle]

When I look closer, it appears someone has commented on several of my blog posts. The person's handle is I LOVE YOU and the comments are all in Chinese characters. So I'm pretty sure my blog just got spammed by some Asian hacker. But part of me hopes Sally finally learned how to text message. I love you too, Mom.

Ever get weird signs like this?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sally's birthday rolls around again

Hi everyone,

I hope the winter months have been treating you well. I feel bad that I've abandoned you by not posting in a while. I miss writing here, though, and I'm happy to be back.

So, Sally's birthday is tomorrow (2/22). Another birthday, another year past. I wrote about her birthday last year -- both the good and the bad -- and yet every year feels so different.

This is the eighth year my family will celebrate Sally's birthday without her. It reminds me of the old children's taunt about breaking a mirror and getting 7 years of bad luck. Now, in year #8, I think my family is done with our bad luck.

In the past year, all three Bardachs moved in with their significant others: I moved in with Mark, Dad sold our house and moved in with his girlfriend Susan, and my brother Jordan's girlfriend Robyn moved in with him. What this really means is that all three Bardachs have a lot of love and happiness in their lives. No room for bad luck!

On a personal note, in my own life decisions, I have come to be less frustrated by missing Sally's words of wisdom. I look at my peers and realize they are no longer living according to their parents' rules or guidance; they are living on their own terms and deciding things for themselves. I'm no longer the 20-year-old girl who lost her mom. Now I'm the 27-year-old woman who's living in the present. Basically, I can't be mad at Sally anymore -- I'm too old!

So, even though I do feel at a crossroads right now as I make decisions about my career and my future, Sally is no longer my roadblock. She is still there. Perhaps she was the sunshine on my face as I ran to the Brooklyn Promenade today, or the gentle caress that soothed Mark this weekend while he was sick, or maybe she's just hovering around in some intangible form, like the song lyrics that pop into my head when I'm sad, singing: "Baby mine, don't you cry. Baby mine, dry your eyes. Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine." (Yes, it's the song Dumbo's mom sings to Dumbo -- watch the video below!)

Sending love and hugs and birthday wishes to you, Mom.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Grieving on Facebook: How the Site Helps People

I just read this article on Time.com called Grieving on Facebook: How the Site Helps People). I was so happy to read that people were finding comfort from grief online.

Of course I can relate to this topic. The best part about Sally's Circle is when you reach out and share your stories with me. It's in that comment or email that I feel we are truly connecting on such an intimate and often lonesome topic.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we were all put in one room together, say at a bar or a coffee shop, away from our computers and out in reality. I hate to have such little faith, but I think we wouldn't be as willing to share. We might feel shy, embarrassed, or exposed. The internet gives us a safe space to be anonymous, and anonymity grants us some freedom to express our grief.

I love the safe space we have found here, but sometimes I wonder if that limits us from connecting to people in real life. I can't help but wonder: are we all just big cowards?! (Myself included!)

What do you think about sharing grief online?