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Too Well Loved to Ever be Forgotten April 30, 2011

Posted by sarahsfate in My Own Personal Trials, Thoughts on People.
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Today, a journey to Roselawn Cemetery — maybe it is weird to rest in a cemetery if you do not have a damn good reason for resting. Namely, death. But perhaps Rest In Peace isn’t solely applicable to those frolicking in the hereafter…I have never heard anyone say one way or the other. I imagine it could be depressing to move aimlessly through countless rows of headstones, name plates, and white stone angels, but as long as I steer clear of the nursery area of the cemetery, I am fine. I thought to go alone, to rest and find some peace against all the noise and chaotic activity that defines my every-day life, but in the end I took my nephew along with me. Don’t worry, he’s 17-years old and hardly scarred from the outing.

I found this headstone first, the one someone took special care to engrave ‘Too Well Loved to Ever be Forgotten’ and I stopped to stare at the words, wondering what kind of person would never be forgotten. Not ever. Then, moving on, I decided that even if I am completely forgettable, I want that very phrase on my headstone *mental note to revise burial form*.

We ambled about, searching as we went, looking specifically for one particular headstone. It was a plain one, I remembered, but it had been twelve months exactly since my previous trip to this cemetery and I wasn’t sure exactly where it was located. The cemetery isn’t a large one but is spread out and covered nearly gate-to-gate with World War I, World War II and Vietnam veterans, husbands and wives, and that baby area I skirt. So finding the one headstone took nearly an hour and a half. While still looking, we stumbled upon one that sent my nephew and I on a course of contemplation.

Iva succeeded her husband in death some 22 years later. We stood looking at this one, wondering about Iva in those 22 years. She and John were born in the early 1900’s…a time when marriage and til-death-do-us-part and never remarry, meant something. But, supposing Iva had a jovial, loving spirit and found herself madly in love with someone at say, 85-years old (maybe they met on one of those Carnival Cruises), and married. Is she really buried here with John? Or is she buried on another plot with the husband she had upon death? How do these things work out when you pre-plan, buy the plot of land, buy the plot marker, have names and dates and ‘beloveds’ engraved…when one half of that whole, marries someone else? We contemplated this for a bit before moving on.

One headstone had Psalm 103:17 engraved on it, since there lacked enough space to engrave the entire message (that or it’s fairly pricey) and so I googled the scripture: “but the mercy of the LORD [is] from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children”. Interesting choice.

We found some interesting markers:

Daughters of the Republic of Texas, which still has a branch today (http://www.drtinfo.org/)


Nothing in Hell Could Stop Us

There are many more of interest and I did stumble upon this child’s monument where it was nestled between the pre-planned plots of his parents: 

and this, which I found strangely creepy…

But for the most part, the cemetery was serene. We sat by the pond and discussed the possibilities of reincarnation (though I know so many people who are rabidly disinclined to accept its possibility) and wondered, again, where the one headstone was. We found Bill Utter Sr., the longtime owner of Utter Ford in Denton, and a nice Scottish or Irish gentleman with the surname McLaughlin, which my nephew insisted was pronounced mc”laugh”lin. *sigh* Also found this interesting monument of Jesus:

and I took a snapshot of my nephew, contemplating the day…

After a good hour and a half, though, we finally found what I was looking for.

Dear Grandmother, who was like a really mean mom to me, I miss you.


Abandoning Our Old April 29, 2011

Posted by sarahsfate in My Own Personal Trials, PostADay2011, Thoughts on People.
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Last week my 17-year old nephew and I were driving through town when he pointed out the passenger side window towards an old, stooped man shuffling through the mall parking lot with what appeared to be everything he owned stuffed into a backpack hanging low on his back. Unwashed hair grew haphazardly down his back and across his jaw but that was all that was visible of his face as he stared at the ground as he walked. I wondered if he saw the ground beneath his feet or if there was some memory dancing before his eyes, leaving him to see nothing of the here and now.

I frowned and said, “makes you wonder what happened in his life to bring him to this.” This being an obvious homelessness.

My nephew, still watching the old man through the sideview mirror as we continued on down the road, said, “I don’t ever want to be that man.”

I thought then, rather acerbically, that on career day in elementary school, does anyone hold their hand up and claim to want to grow up to be homeless? Who asks for that? But the conversation brought to mind a similar old man in a similar parking lot several weeks ago and I told my nephew about him.

I was leaving Kroger at nearly sundown when I spotted him. I think I may have missed him altogether had it not been for the brilliant gleam of sunlight dancing along the metal back handles of his wheelchair. The sparkle caught my eye and I braked, curious. He looked like one of those old war veterans whose images are plastered on every disabled vet advertisement — long, gray wavy hair, sagging skin, defeated shoulders, and an expression in his eyes as though completely incapable of seeing light. His arms rested limply in his lap and though he appeared to have both legs, I imagined that beneath the cloth, his legs were twisted arthritic versions of what they used to be.

He did not see me watching him, in fact I decided he did not see much of anything in that parking lot. His gaze was on the cars driving by on the road beside the store, people honking at each other in their rush to get wherever they were going. I wondered if he saw them either. I imagined he was lost in thought about his yesteryears — about that baseball game he went to with his father the summer before his dad had a heart attack, or the memory of his wife’s body curled up beside his at the drive-in movie as they hunkered down in his 1952 chevelle, the sound of his children’s laughter,or the sound of his friend’s screams as they fell beside him in battle.

I wanted to stop and check on him. I wondered how he had gotten there and looked around the increasing shadows of the parking lot for would-be parties responsible for the old man, but there was no one. I thought maybe he watched that busy road because someone had abandoned him there at Kroger and he stared after their tail-lights. But I didn’t stop. I think that is probably why he is still on my mind. I should have stopped. The problem is you never know about people and I can make up any story I like but the truth is he could be mentally unstable and have a knife in his pocket.

My nephew asked if I truly thought someone had left the man there and I shrugged because I didn’t know. And then he said, “why do people abandon their old people?”

“Indeed,” I said, “indeed.”

My Funeral Song April 28, 2011

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So, I am filling out a questionnaire regarding funeral plans for myself (no, I am not dying…well I mean, I am, aren’t we all? But, it is not immediate). I answered all the nice probing questions about where I would like my funeral, would I like to be cremated, what type of casket do I prefer, what outfit would I like to be buried in, etc…and I came upon one question that has stumped me for two days. Two days, people.

It seems like a simple question with an equally simple response but for the life of me, or death, I cannot think of the right song for my funeral. It is my very last hoorah in this world but I am fairly certain it does not deserve the same attention to detail as say…a wedding. Then again, maybe it does…an outfit must be picked out, flowers, location, pamphlets, music. I like rock, hip hop, jazz, a little symphonic opera, not big on country, I like a minute selection of rap (but really, I think rap would be wholly inappropriate), and…well, what? Fifties music? Classical? I’m just not feelin any of that.

I imagine a nice rock song *tilts head to the side as image comes to mind* are we talking Aerosmith? Pantera? Should Pantera croon Cemetary Gates before or after my funeral? Seems a bit harsh and I am certain innocent attendees in perfectly good health would have a stroke.

I imagine a nice country song even though I do not care much for country, it is good to keep an open mind…as such, the song that comes to my mind is Whiskey Lullaby and I find I cannot control the shudder. Love the song. But man. Depressing.

Rap. Well. How about Will Smith, I love him anyway no matter what he sings, er, raps. How about Wild Wild West? No. Okay. Or…Madonna, is there ever a wrong moment to play Madonna? But most of her songs are upbeat and regardless of how people say they want party music at their funeral…I don’t follow that crowd. Not that I want something pitiful…but I don’t want a party at the funeral. Maybe after the funeral.

So after giving much thought to the answer to this question, I ended up turning to an old friend of mine for support. Google. And I found this website Obit:  Funeral Songs which suggests the following are the most popular songs for funerals. (I think there is something wrong with that entire sentence.)

Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
Elvis – Amazing Grace
Cat Stevens – Father and Son
Bette Midler – The Rose (one of my all time favorite songs by Bette)
The Beatles – The Long and Winding Road
The Byrds – Turn, Turn, Turn
Mariah Carey – One Sweet Day
Puff Daddy and Faith Hill – I’ll be Missing You
The Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine
Led Zeppelin – Stairway to  Heaven (interesting choice)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Simon and Garfunkle – Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Judy Garland – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

There are more. Maybe something by Bach will have to do. Wait–how many Bach songs are there? Maybe Somewhere Over the Rainbow, it has a nice ring to it. And I realize it may be weird that I am 32-years old and trying to pick a musical piece for my funeral but honestly, I am glad the question came up. I would never be able to make this decision on the fly at 80. Now I have about 50 years of straining my ear in an attempt to find the right song. The perfect song. And…failing that, at least more time to come up with an answer.

Teen Mother April 28, 2011

Posted by sarahsfate in My Own Personal Trials, PostADay2011.
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I was 17-years old when I became pregnant with my daughter. Innocuous enough. Or not. I was also a female version of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause — having run away from home multiple times and basically dropped out of school. I was going to live my life my way. Whatever that meant. I have journals from my teenage years but for the most part, I cannot even decipher my rantings. I was on the fast track to absolutely nowhere when I became pregnant. Teen pregnancies are never ideal but for me…well it jump-started my reason. I re-enrolled in an alternative high school and slammed nearly two years worth of course-work into seven months — intent on graduating before I was a mother. I bought every parenting book I could get my hands on and subscribed to all the important baby magazines…and there are a lot. Everyone (and I mean everyone) told me I made a mistake getting pregnant and to actually keep the baby?? Oh the horrors. My life was over. So they told me. But I was not to be swayed from my course. I would be a mom at 18 and damned if I wouldn’t be the best 18-year old mom around.

My pregnancy was the epitome of ease and perfection, other than that I have RH-negative blood and my daughter was a positive, which means my blood cells attack the “foreign” object residing in my stomach and I had to get a shot to keep from losing the baby. The delivery…well, there is no amount of preparing someone for what delivery is like. Tadria, my daughter, was absolutely perfect upon birth — perfectly round head, dark hair, blue eyes, sweet smile. I, on the other hand, was not perfect upon her birth. I was terrified. Suddenly I felt the only safe place for such a tiny person was in my body, not in my arms. I worried someone would drop her, I would drop her, SIDS, car accidents, kidnapping — you name it, in those first few days in the hospital, I lived in fear.

My daughter will be 14-years old this summer and she now says she wants to be a mom, to which I groan theatrically. But I do not tell her it will ruin her life because that held no sway with me when I was young. What I do say is that my life has not been a cinch and I am not the greatest mom around. I do not bemoan my life nor ever regret my decision to have her. I wish I had waited, though, so that I could offer her more than what is possible as a teen mom. I think it is important, how very little it seems so today, to be able to provide for your children. You will not sit and hate your life and regret your choice because it is hard on you…you will regret that it is so hard on your children.

And to all the naysayers who tried to convince me to make a different choice, and to all the friends who abandoned me while I was pregnant, I would say…you were wrong. All of you. My choice may have made the choices in my life more simple (only if its good for the baby) and may have limited my career options (initially because now I am almost done with my BA in Accounting and have a GREAT accounting job), but it was not the mistake you said it would be.

Not even for a minute.

Richard and Kahlan April 27, 2011

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 There’s a well-known book series by Terry Goodkind about a war waged between light and dark but it is not your typical good versus evil story line plot. What begins as a simple demarcation between right and wrong becomes blurred during the trials of Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell. Within seconds of turning the first page of the first book in this series the characters had blown up into full 3D human beings and I pictured Richard in the woods. I pictured the vine. And the red cloud. And the girl in white. How could I not keep turning pages?

Goodkind never makes the good versus evil so black and white as many people would like to have it but instead wove truth and belief and faith and genetics and life itself in and out of the good, and in and out of the evil. Throughout the series I was conflicted with feelings of both support and dislike for the same character, true for many characters, — at once understanding their motives while disapproving of  their behavior. A little like family, I think.

Throughout the Wizard’s Rule series (originally housed 11 novels but has published additional stories as well as a prime-time TV show I refused to watch) we are dragged, nails scraping ground, through the painful ordeals caused by Richard’s magical family ties and though, as a reader, I spent most of my time rooting for him and Kahlan, there were so many times in which I thought he should give up. But that’s good writing. And Richard has a good spirit.

One thing he says that has stuck with me for years and years now is the phrase, don’t think of the problem, think of the solution. The phrase has not only stuck with me, I have incorporated it into my life. Because…when isn’t this concept useful? It simply is.

I recommend this series to anyone and everyone. In fact, I was saddened to see the last of Richard and Kahlan in Goodkind’s finale The Confessor but then apparently the uproar of loss from his readers convinced him that more stories were necessary. And so we also have Law of Nines and (coming this August) Omen Machine.

I love stories for the art of escapism. Among many other reasons. We have this perfect opportunity to learn more about life and people when we read stories — even fiction, or…especially fiction. Writers take a different viewpoint of historical events, even present-day events, and they twist the viewpoint into this absolute magical dream. And then they take a backseat to the characters in the story as those created lives become something altogether different. Most people cannot dream the way a writer does. Or if they do dream in such colorful concepts, they are unable to put pen to paper.

Richard and Kahlan are like this. Two characters who never expected to meet each other but without the meeting, the world would never have been the same — their world. Ours.

Drinking with Friends April 26, 2011

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I find it interesting that a friend’s solution, to your heartache and misery, to be a bar and limitless rounds of alcohol. If, when, your girlfriend dumps you, she goes from ‘cool chic’ to ‘absolute bitch’ in a late-night drunken ceremony of verbal bashing. The same is true for girls who find themselves dumped. Friends all say the same thing — you’re too good for him anyway, she was trying to change you anyway — and they slap you on the back, make ribald jokes, and ply you with more alcohol. Because the more you drink, the more plausible their claims sound. You can forget for a few hours, and feel better.

Bars are places of ceremony — if you get engaged, if you get divorced, if you have a baby (for the male counterpart anyway), if you land a great job, etc. Why is that? I suppose it doesn’t matter why. It just is. I wonder if friends pause before suggesting a comforting drink to a breakup victim, a pause long enough to consider if the victim is an angry drunk, a melancholic drunk, or a happy partier. I’ve experienced my fair share of all three. Because what is the point of going to the bar if the victim will end up sobbing all over the table or wind up in a bar fight? A bar fight you’ll undoubtedly have to join.

And those irksome and pathetic drunken text we all send? What a bad time to reiterate desperate devotion. And while I understand the positive aspects of a rebound, I would not want to rebound while drunk in a bar. We all know how that turns out.

So…out of curiosity, I did some research on this phenomenon and found, that while today there are over 80 thousand bars in this country, the first bar (referred to as a Public House “Pub”) was established in the mid 900’s, a time when patrons drank to forget bloody battles and sheep raids. I wonder what kind of boyfriend/girlfriend troubles existed for them. I imagine, easily, that the same bar behaviorisms we witness today also existed then — back slapping, ribald jokes, and a bounty of ale.

Maybe times don’t change.

If you’re interested…here’s a website listing the 10 oldest bars in America…http://www.sloshspot.com/blog/06-02-2008/the-10-oldest-bars-in-the-united-states-16 …none, unfortunately, in Texas.

Oddly Perfect April 25, 2011

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Saturday evening, after attending a brilliant performance at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, I found myself in need of gas. The little yellow light gleamed suddenly into the otherwise shadowed dashboard and was accompanied by the sound of a bell, just in case I am blind. I glanced around Main street, so cliche I know for don’t most tales such as this oft occur on Main street? There were no gas stations immediately visible but soon I saw the tale-tell blue, red, and white logo of Chevron. I groaned and muttered to myself, “not Chevron”. They are the highest gas prices around and who knows whether or not it really cleans your engine while you drive?

I decided to drive on, in search of cheaper fuel, but then my dashboard binged at me again. With a heavy sigh I hit my blinker — a nearly unnecessary gesture on a late-night empty road — and moved to the turn lane. It was beginning to storm as I pulled in. After moving up beside a pump, I stepped out of my car to the tune of ‘take me home again’ and the sideways splash of rain drops. Yay, I thought, rain. Then I looked at the price per gallon denoted on the pump, $3.86, and sighed heavily again as I slid my debit card in the machine. I stood in the sideways rain, waiting for approval, for several minutes before I went inside to ask if something was wrong with the pump machine.

A male hispanic customer about my age stood at the counter with a gallon of milk in his left hand and a debit card in his right hand poised above the credit card machine. The clerk behind the counter was apologetically explaining that the system was down and, with it, all the machines. The customer set the milk down on the counter and ran his free hand through his dark hair and then scrubbed his face. Obviously frustrated. It was late and, maybe because I am a mother, I immediately assumed the milk was absolutely necessary. Why else would a man brave the weather elements at nearly midnight in order to procure some? Wait–the machines are down?

I glanced through the window with little visibility of my car past all the decals slathered all over the store windows, and looked at the useless pump. I need gas. Then I remembered.

My aunt Barbara paid for the parking, which I had expected to do, and so I still had a $20 bill in my wallet. I never walk around with cash on me so it was oddly perfect that it worked out the way it did. Was it coincidental that my aunt paid for parking, thereby leaving me with the $20 I would need to buy gas with at a gas station whose system was down? A gas station I almost didn’t stop at? I don’t really believe in coincidences. I believe things happen for a reason. As I was thinking all of this, the customer picked up the gallon of milk and moved to the back of the store to return it. I moved to the counter and told the clerk, “I need $10 on pump 6 and that guys milk.”

Back Roads April 22, 2011

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I imagine these uber-successful, fast-paced, fast-lane people to speed along at a cool 90 mph on the highway. The highway of life. Their hair blows ‘just so’ by the wind filtering through open windows, they never hit pot holes, no debris attaches itself to their attennas, and when they smile at you their super-white teeth actually sparkle. They were football athletes and cheerleaders in school, attended the finest universities, drive foreign-made cars, have the perfect Stepford wife, and two-point-five kids. And Fido. Can’t forget Fido.

The Fast Track. To me, it’s a boring track on which you always know exactly where you are going. You pass the same neighbors, dine on repetitive wine, and wake every day at 4:30am like…well, like clockwork. And maybe they prefer it that way. To each their own, I always say, and I don’t judge.

My path, however, is quite different. The path I have been on has been a winding, pebbled back road. I don’t take the highway, indeed I don’t even veer towards it. I prefer the back roads. Is it unwise or even unconventional to feel nomadic in a world where the ‘great, wide open’ has become a myth? A folktale? Lore? I don’t want to stop and smell the roses — I want to lay in them. Red ones, white ones or, even better, yellow roses. I want to watch the lazy drift of fat white clouds as they skirt across the sky. I want to listen to the birds as they call to me, the intruder, and pretend I am unconcerned about bees as they buzz near my head. And I’ll take my sunglasses off just so I can really see the sun. See the light, notice where it falls.

I enjoy learning about life. Not because doing so will get me ahead, since I’m more focused on living rather than the life I hope to one day have, but because knowing things attaches me to life. Grounds me. And I  feel, every day, that I belong here in this world. I want to see life. Experience it. So that one day, on my death bed, I will truly know what it is I am leaving behind. I do not want to rush through it — I want to meander. On back roads.

Memories April 21, 2011

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There are patches of my life that I recall in vivid detail, some I am pretty sure I imagined, others that swim in a murky haze, and still others I have blocked out completely. When my family and I convene we discuss days of old and there are times when I exclaim “Oh yeah! I completely forgot about that!” and there are times when I frown and say “Yeah, I do not remember that at all.” It is interesting, to me, the things our minds hang onto versus those little streams our minds let slip away.

I remember playing in a sandbox with three of my seven sisters — it is where I learned the art of team work. We built sand mounds with tunnels, digging into the sand with our fingers until our entire small arms were buried. I remember how cold the tips of my sister’s fingers were when our hands met in the middle as we dug. I remember the grit of sand clogging my fingernails and my sister’s laughing eyes as we glanced at each other over the sand mound.

But I could not tell you the layout of our yard at that same age.

I remember completing high school — mostly because I eventually no longer had to go. I remember how much I struggled and pushed myself that final year because I absolutely had to graduate before my daughter was born. But I do not know if I walked outside and looked back at the building on that final day or if I ran — grateful to be done. Though I spent years working towards graduation — indeed my whole life up to that point — I cannot remember the grande finale.

I remember my sister’s wedding. I do not recall the design of her dress or whether she and the groom had personalized vows. What I remember is my four-year old daughter appearing with blue candy all over her face, hands, and dress. I remember asking her what happened and she burst into tears. Into tears the same color as the blue candy she was covered in. And when I asked why she was crying blue tears she told me it was because her eyes were blue.

I write in my journal every day. It’s therapeutic. It provides assurance that when the day comes that I remember no more of any of the things that made me laugh and cry during my life, I will be able to reach for a book. And remember.

Life’s Stages April 20, 2011

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I know life comes in stages. We hear about these stages our whole lives. Childhood, teenage years, adulthood, wedding, babies, when the kids finally go to school, when they graduate, when you retire, when you die. I’ve been sitting here thinking about this…and pretty sure those are the stages everyone talks about.

Notice the rather large gap between when your kids graduate and when you retire. I’m not retiring at 45. Would love to, but no. So what stages of life fall between the graduation (and subsequent moving out) of our kids………………and retirement?

My son, my youngest, will graduate high school and go off to college when I am 45-years old. I will then have (presumably) no children at home. I’ll have a job (if I’m lucky) and a home. Maybe a dog. All the time I currently spend going to school affairs and whatnot for my kids…will cease to exist. It will be me having to find entertainment for me.

But entertainment isn’t my point here. My point is…what stage is this? What do we call it? The Great Void? The Great You? — What?