Success…

Success

“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”  ―Bessie Anderson Stanley

I dedicate this quote to my best friend Marion. You my dear have succeeded! XOXO.

Spring In The Yard

Spring Is In Pre-Bloom

Yesterday morning, as I was coming down the stairs, I noticed a lump under the grass in the backyard. My first thought was “Did that get pulled out of the ground during the last wind storm?” My second thought was “It’s March, it’s probably a bunny.” Yup, a little Mama moved into my yard and made herself a nest. This was an assurance because as I was thinking it, she moved, and that let me know she was there for a reason. When I went upstairs last night she was roaming the yard for food, and I haven’t seen her since, but I know she’s preparing to give birth, thus the nesting.

I thought about how most animals are single parents right after conception, pretty much, and I am totally cool with her hanging out and giving birth here. I knew it was something that might happen eventually, as last year around this time (especially with warmer temperatures and very little snow), the bunnies were out very early and for a few months I’d have between 6-8 in my yard at a time. Sometimes they’d be cuddled up together in little packs at night, but for the most part it was usually “the single gals”. You knew if a male came into the yard, because the girls would take off like a bat out of hell. “Closed for business jackass!” should have been a sign in my yard last Spring between the bunnies and the cats, seriously.

I really don’t use the yard, probably because I’m a city girl at heart, and the largest amount of grass in New York City is Central Park. I’m not from Manhattan, but I’m not from upstate New York either, so “The City” is “The City” if you’re from any of the Five Boroughs, which I am.

For some people, living in the suburbs (especially if you have children) is the ultimate goal/dream. Yards, wide open spaces, and for some people it gives them a feeling of security that nothing bad will happen to them or their family, since they are now far away enough from the metropolitan area, which to most people means “more crime”. For me, it was the right decision at the right time, it’s generally a pretty quiet neighborhood, and if I remain here once I get married and start a family (or once I become a mother, seeing as how I believe we have the right to decide what is right for us. If you can swing being a single parent, and you desperately want children, then you have the right to do it, so long as you aren’t harming anyone.), there’s a highly rated school district for my children to go to, which would make sense since I pay an outrageous amount in taxes to the school district any way.

But as a transplant, my lawn is what it is. It’s open space. I don’t have that OCD suburban need to mow it twice a week. I can’t garden to save my life, though if someone showed me how to do it right and how to get it to actually thrive, I would love a nice vegetable and herb garden. I think that’s fabulous if you’re able to maintain it and live off your own growth process, so to speak. Alas, I can’t keep bamboo alive after a few years, so I’m really not sure if a garden would be my thing for the long haul. It’s a great, calming hobby if you have a gift with plants and flowers and like being outside in the sun, but maybe it’s too outdoorsy for me. I have no idea, other than the fact that it would require a lot more sunscreen than I already wear.

So for now, since we’re in “Spring Forward” mode (Which is totally screwing with me!), I am totally cool with the bunnies doing their thing and keeping the circle of life going, even if it is in my yard. They can have it, but if they stay for more than a few months I’m going to have to ask them to start making monthly contributions to my mortgage.

The Fire In My Life

Two years & 8 months ago one of my closest friends in the world, Stefanie, called from Australia, where she & her husband Patrick were living at the time, to tell me she was pregnant. She hadn’t told her husband yet, nor had she told her mother, and she wouldn’t tell either of them until she officially was on day one of her third month. I was the first one to know after a doctor told her “You don’t have food poisoning.” We whispered the entire conversation like eleven year olds trying to keep a secret from their parents, and we continued whispering like that until I finally told her that she HAD to at least tell Patrick. We’re both crazy stubborn Scorpios and we were arguing over it for weeks, but she held firm. Yeah, she actually managed to out-stubborn me.

Once everyone was finally clued in, I received an extremely fancy heart pendant necklace along with an official request to be their child’s Godmother. I felt like she was proposing (That’s how fancy the pendant is. Sometimes I’m a little hesitant to wear it.), but I appreciated the beauty of the gesture in the way it was intended.

Asking someone to be a Godparent is a big deal, and I was asked because after much deliberation, she & her husband could not think of a stronger, smarter, more capable, more inspirational woman to be a part of their child’s life. I was so taken aback by that, because those were the very words they used when asking. I don’t see myself the way other people do, so I was very moved and of course, I accepted. To me, it’s no big deal, to be a part of a child’s life is a blessing in any capacity, but to them it’s an immense gift and a relief that their child has someone else to go to if ever said child needs a neutral party, so to speak. It also provides them with the peace of mind that I’ll be there no matter what. They wanted someone who would always be the epitome of a role model to their child, who we soon found out was a girl.

It is VERY important for girls to have strong role models in their lives, both male and female. She is blessed with an extremely beautiful, talented mother and a father who would go to hell and back for her. Stefanie doesn’t have any sisters, she is the youngest of six siblings and the only girl in the family. Maybe that explains why we’ve been friends for so long, because we share a very loyal, very private sisterhood. I give Patrick a lot of credit because he has always told her how special and important our friendship is, has always encouraged her to fly out to see me if too much time has gone by without “girl time”, and has never, not once in the 15 years they’ve been married, behaved negatively toward me or acted as though there was no longer a place for me in her life simply because they are married. I respect that so much about him. Believe me when I say this is a big thing to me, because pretty much every friend I’ve ever had dropped me like a pile of shit the second they found a boyfriend, leave alone a husband. Not Stefanie. It’s not beneath her to tell Patrick to leave the room so we can talk, and it’s not beneath her to tell him to go and play golf because she needs me and only me. He never takes it personally and he is never offended or annoyed by my presence. Again, that tells you she’s truly got a good guy in her life and I am thankful for that because she deserves it. He knows what Stefanie and I both know, that there isn’t one single person in this world that can be every single thing you need at all times. Sometimes you need your life partner, sometimes you need a parent or a sibling, and sometimes you need the person who has known you before your growth spurts (be it physical, emotional, professional, as well as all the others), who knows your family, who knows what breaks your heart, who’s always known your middle name, who knows things no one else knows because that person has been present for so long, and they get it. As much as I could ever love a man and work hard every single day to be the best partner in life that I can be, I could never walk away from the people in my life that have helped shape who I am and the person I have become. In fact, I worry about the people that develop instant amnesia and then wonder why they’re all alone when that person turns out to be something they didn’t see coming barreling toward them like an Acela train, but I digress.

I’m partially responsible for my Goddaughter’s name, which will always make me smile because it’s as gorgeous as she is. I’ve loved this particular name for probably ten years or so. I knew I wouldn’t be using the name for my own children (I name to honor the dead, never the living.), so I gave one of the lead characters in my urban fantasy series this name. She ended up being Stefanie’s favorite character that I casually mentioned in passing when I first talked about “maybe writing my own urban fantasy novel some day”.

One day she finally asked me if it would be ok to use for the baby’s name. Not because she had no ideas of her own, but because she & Patrick were madly in love with what it meant and how strong a name it is. Did I want it for my own daughter?, was her first question, because if I did, they’d keep looking. Yeah, we’re still girls and we both know that sort of thing can become an issue with friends at times. I’ve seen people get into war-like fights over this sort of thing (the naming of children), friends and family alike stop speaking if one person “steals a name” from the other, especially if one had confided to the other while pregnant that this was the name that had been chosen. I had my ex-fiancee’ do this when he got married. He systematically chose two of the most important names I had picked out that he knew about, not just for his first child, but for both of them. It doesn’t just take lack of creativity to do something like that, it’s also a calculated, borderline evil thing to do to someone you once claimed to love. Any way, I told her I didn’t have anyone to name for with that initial, and that if she wanted it, she could have it. Yes, it is still the name of the character in my book(s).

In Hebrew the name translates to “God Is My Candle” and “Burning Light Of God”. She then asked me about naming for her brother who had passed away suddenly a few years prior, who was one of the kindest, most “shirt off your back” guys in the world, someone whom I miss dearly, and if I miss him, I can only imagine how much she misses him. We looked for middle names that started with his first initial, and came up with something truly fitting, and quite frankly, beautiful.

On March 10th 2011, Neriah Blaze officially entered all of our lives. They say “all babies are born with blue eyes”, but Neriah’s eyes have been the same color as her mother’s, a true grey, from day one. Her blonde, blue eyed Dad’s genes don’t stand a chance, she’s a little replica of Mommy from head to toe (Black hair, fair skin, and those sparkly grey eyes.), and both of her parents are extremely tall, so by the time she’s ten I fully expect she’ll be towering over me.

The little Pisces princess is smart, intuitive, empathetic, sweet, and kind. She’s also demanding, as I previously mentioned in my “Girl On Fire’ post back in December. She’s a Water Sign with two names that make reference to fire and light, so it’s interesting how she relates to that song, not knowing what her names mean just yet, or why they were chosen. And thankfully, she’s at that age where you’re not using her full name EVER, because she’s still sweet and chatty and not the least bit troublesome, but the terrible 2’s and terrible 3’s that people (parents, Grandparents, and child care professionals) talk about are surely around the corner as her personality continues to develop. I hope it’s a relatively smooth transition because she’s such a joy, and I long for the days when I can provide her with a satchel of baby cousins to play with.

On your 2nd birthday and always Neri, Aunt Li-Li loves you to pieces. One day you will read this and know why it’s important to acknowledge every birthday and milestone.

Happy Birthday my little flame.

This Is A Painful Reality

This Is A Painful Reality

This video is NSFW or children. I’d never seen it before, but I love this song and I think it’s incredibly honest and heartfelt.

Daylight

Daylight

This is my first time seeing this, and it is so touching. I hope it brightens at least one person’s day.

Five Years

Five Years

Today, as I do several times a year, I mourn the loss of my mother. Today is her birthday, a birthday she should have lived to see. This is always a really difficult time of year for me, but so is the date of her death, so is Mother’s Day, so is my birthday, and pretty much every holiday where her presence is missed. Don’t get me wrong, she is missed on a daily basis, but there are certain times when the loss is far more painful than others.

This past week was bad for me. Emotionally, physically, and mentally burned out are words I’d use to describe how I feel. Despondent is another, and mid-week I SNAPPED. I didn’t have some random, out-of-the-blue flip out, I didn’t have some public meltdown, I simply had something happen in my house that caused a few hours of clean-up, and about five minutes into the clean-up, I flipped the hell out. Words I would normally keep to myself, discuss in a better place, in a private manner, came tumbling out of my mouth faster than I could pull them back. Eventually I did just shut up and stop, but I also had to walk away from the mess and take a break. I had to turn to medication in my effort to “calm the !@#$ down”. I did apologize to the person who was on the receiving end of my vitriol, because I am a firm believer that when I’m wrong I should admit to that wrong-doing, but I’m also a firm believer in not apologizing to anyone unless I am wrong. I was wrong, so I did apologize because it’s the right thing to do.

The combination of a bad day, a bad week, a lousy few months, and all the other crap piling up in my life became clearer as I realized my Mom’s birthday was approaching and that instead of being excited beyond words over the perfect gift I had found, the person who received the gift each year was no longer here.

When I say that my Mom & I were close, that’s actually me being subtle in terms of expression. We were best friends first, mother & daughter somewhere underneath it all. My Mom had been raised a certain way, she had been raised in a way of that which is proper and improper, for lack of a better expression. She was determined to raise her own children quite differently, and as soon as she sensed she was having a girl, she started to talk to me throughout her pregnancy. When she was handed her due date she researched the two potential astrological signs and then she went into prayer mode.

My Mom understood that I’d be born into a “man’s world” (Not so much any more ladies, is it?), but that I didn’t have to allow that to rule me if I was a girl, which she believed I was to her very core. She silently prayed “If it’s a boy, he can be a Libra or a Scorpio, it won’t matter, but if it’s a girl she MUST be a Scorpio or she will not survive in this world. God, please let her be a Scorpio. Give her every possible advantage of strength to survive and succeed.” This was her mantra. “Please let her be a Scorpio.”

My Mom’s due date passes and the astrological signs shift from Libra to Scorpio, which is when my Mom announced that I was “allowed to come out now”. LOL. She’d been in labor for over a week, probably Braxton-Hicks contractions, but to no avail, I refused to come out. I still don’t do what I’m told to do 95% of the time. Her doctor told her I would arrive when I was ready to do so.

When my Mom’s water broke several days before I was born, her doctor said “You’re fine. That happens sometimes ahead of schedule, but there are no other signs that the baby is coming, it’s just your body’s way of letting you know that the baby will be here soon. Wait to see me at your appointment.” The night of the appointment my Mom went into official labor in the doctor’s office. The doctor covering for her doctor told her “Your child will be here around midnight.” Believe it or not, he was off by only a few minutes.

Less than a year after my Mom passed away suddenly, I found a note from her to me. She’d written it before I was born and while I eliminated some of the more private parts, I share this with you just as I shared it at my parents’ unveiling.

A message to my daughter: ” Be your own person, always be truthful. Be kind, generous, loving, compassionate, and understanding. Be a friend, be thoughtful. Some day you may want these qualities of others. Teach them to your children. Be honest, you’ll always be able to look at yourself with pride. Don’t expect a lot from other people, and you’ll never be disappointed. Enjoy your life, but don’t do anything you’re not going to be able to live with, or are not be prepared to accept as a responsibility. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, hate is a wasted emotion. It’s not necessary to get even. Appreciate what you have, and achieve to the best of your ability. Listen, sometimes all a person needs is your shoulder. Be gracious, don’t let life drain and break you until you feel empty. Sometimes you have to be selfish. Make your own space, don’t be swallowed by loved ones. Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve made a mistake, we all do. Always know I love you and that you can come to me with anything. Let me be your friend…” Every time I read it, it makes me cry. My Mom had a lot of foresight into what my life would be like.

She was a talented artist, writer, & musician, an amazingly devoted mother, an even better friend, and without a doubt one of my very BEST friends in the entire world. Essentially, she was my first friend, we were so much more than mere mother and daughter, and people definitely took notice of this wherever we went. We shared books, often fighting over who got to read the newest author’s books we followed first. I was quicker, would plow through it in hours, and then watch her pour over it for days waiting for her reactions to the storyline. We shared movies, both new and old, poetry, music, side-splitting jokes & laughter, a genuine love of art and various cultures, a love of nature, a divine sense of beauty in things so many people don’t understand, and a great many other things that seem small in comparison to the large, but are equally as important to me. We had the most telepathic relationship in the world. I know no other parent half as connected as my mother and I remain. She was my voice of reason. I know her recipes by heart because I grew up watching her cook and she let me start cooking probably a year or so before she explained the fundamentals of writing to me.

My Mom was not afraid to show my brother and I the world, to take us places both new and old, teach us things, explain and discuss difficult subjects, open us up to a wide variety of experiences, and answer our questions. She was always extremely honest with us, she didn’t sugar-coat anything or play games. She raised us not to accept the easy, to fight for what we believed in and truly wanted. Of the two of us, I’m the one most outside the box. She taught me especially to dream big, for the dream precedes the goal. In turn, I accomplished more by the time I turned 21 than most people do in a lifetime, and yet there’s this wiser part of me that knows it’s not nearly enough, for we’re all here on borrowed time and tomorrow is not guaranteed. I’m not afraid to live beyond the word “potential”, and I’m not afraid of other people’s opinions because everyone is entitled to have one, it doesn’t mean their opinion is the correct one.

Before my Grandmother passed away, she asked me to take care of my Mom. She made me promise, and I took that promise very seriously. A lot of people felt that was too big a thing for her to ask of me, that I should have been off living my life the way my peers were, but the difference between me and them is, I can live with myself every single day knowing that I was there for her, that I wasn’t self-centered or self-absorbed, that I knew what and where my priorities were. And thankfully, I WAS there. Not just as her daughter, but as her friend. I was there through both the good and the bad, the light and the dark, I never wavered because I was never afraid to be the strong one. That kind of loyalty cannot be bought.

Death and grief changes you. Do you know what it’s like wondering if each breath a loved one takes will be their last? I watched over my Mom like that when she returned home after suffering from several heart attacks and strokes because her doctor was convinced she would not live another week. I immediately went into nurse/doctor mode, I went without sleep for days on end. Whenever she slept,  I watched over her. I have been accused of being a walking Physician’s Desk Reference, but it’s SO true of me.

I tried never to go without telling my parents ‘I love you.’ I didn’t want either of them to die without knowing. I especially wanted my Mom to understand how very important she was to me and how lucky I felt that she was gifted to me as my mother. Your mind is constantly going over every stupid thing you’ve ever said to them, every ‘I hate you,’ and ‘You don’t understand’, every door slammed, every ridiculous, petty argument, or phone call ended in the heat of the moment, and you hate yourself at times for letting the little things steal your time. You don’t get how precious and fragile life is until you’re surrounded by death, and the regret is staggering when you realize that you can’t get back all the wasted opportunities, that there are things you will never get to do with them or say. It’s impossible to grasp the full impact someone has on your life until you fully realize that the person isn’t going to be there any longer. You don’t realize all of the dreams you wished that included that person. Life flashes before you, filled with the holes created by their absence. You know that once they are gone, nothing is ever going to be the same again. There’s never any peace. You can’t hold on to anything. You lose your hope, and your dreams, and parts of your future, and there isn’t a thing you can do to stop it. It’s totally out of your hands.

My Mom’s passing was completely unexpected and an immense shock to my system. Yes, she was battling health problems, but I still fully believed she would prove many doctors wrong with her desire to live, to see her Grandchildren, etc.

My Mom was one of the most laid-back people in the world. I often said she was too good and too passive, and definitely way too good to the people who least deserved it. A great deal of the passion and fire she did have, she completely invested in and passed on to her children. There is no fight my brother & I won’t start and finish. My Mom chose her battles carefully, was not afraid to walk away if something wasn’t worth the battle, an attitude I have adopted as well, and it took a lot to push her buttons. She & I were as alike as we were different. When we fought, we really went for the jugular with each other, but in the end we would apologize for whatever we said in the heat of the moment, apologizing was very important to us, and our relationship would go back to normal once we each said our peace to one another.

At the end of each day, I still thank God for my Mom. I didn’t get a real goodbye with her and it’s not something I’ve ever “gotten over” because I feel things quite intensely. Her loss is felt so deeply within me every single day. In the past few years she has sent me so many things to help me heal. I can’t explain what it’s like to fully sense the physical presence of a person, be the presence solid or spiritual ether. Explaining clair-sentience to people is a lot like trying to explain air.

People tell me that despite what I am going through, and that which I’ve already endured, I walk in a room and have a glow about me they can’t quite put their finger on. I attribute that to being happy with the person I am inside, despite all of the pain and sadness. To being proud of who I am, for knowing who I am, and being confident in my skin. My Mom helped foster those initial feelings in me, so I am fearless, supremely confident, and despite all of the pain I have endured, I always rise up out of the ashes better than I was before the pyre. I am the astrological sign of transformation and rebirth, and the older I get, the greater respect I have for those moments in my life that help make me better.

I was blessed with an amazing mother. I know not everyone gets to have that kind of relationship with a parent, but I am also a firm believer that everything we experience in life helps prepare us for the moments when we really have to step up. My Mom often said “I never have to worry about you. You will always find your way, you will never lose focus.” I have a lot of bad days, but she’s right, she doesn’t have to worry about me because she instilled so much in me that I know my strengths. Occasionally I have to remind myself what they are, but I don’t ever truly lose focus.

So on this day Mom, I want you to know that I know you’re always close by. I know you have probably saved my life more times than I care to count. I know you see that life is shit’s creek a lot of the time. But I also firmly believe that because you know me so well, you’ll always make sure a life raft gets sent my way.

Thank you for being my mother, but I thank you more for being the reason I am exactly who I’m supposed to me.

“We thought of you today, but that’s nothing new. We thought about you yesterday, and days before that too.

We think of you in silence. We often speak your name. Now all we have are memories, and your picture in a frame.

Your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. God has you in his keeping, we have you in our hearts.” -Unknown

Excerpts of this are copyright © 2009 by Lisa Marino. Everything else, unless otherwise indicated, is copyright © 2013 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity. No portion of this may be reproduced without written consent under the U.S. Copyright Act.

The Dance

The Dance

I can’t begin to say how many times this song has come on when I’ve been on my way to a funeral or have just lost someone I loved. With tomorrow being what it is, knowing that the first time I heard it was with probably the most important person to ever grace my life, I share it today because tomorrow I’ve prepared something that is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever written. Unless you can sing this in the right key, avoid singing it at all.