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Like When the Lights Go Out

I cried often my first few weeks of high school.  Being overwhelmingly shy, it felt like I had no sooner made friends in the school we moved to when I entered seventh grade, and now here I was, just two years later, having to do it all over again.  It was painful, uncomfortable, like being in a familiar place, but not recognizing anything.  It was like when the lights go out, and you know where you are, but you still have to fumble around, find your way through the darkness, and hope you come out without too many bumps and bruises when the lights finally go back on.


There was one constant through those early tear filled days of high school.  It was Jenny.  The first day that I wandered into a cafeteria, crowded with more than 500 kids who all seemed to have established their clique in those newborn hours of a new school year, she was there at a back table.  She was all by herself, and she smiled in my direction as I approached and offered me a seat at the otherwise empty table.

It was the start of an awakening.  She argued about everything with me, which may not sound like the thing good friends do, but I felt challenged and alive.  We argued politics, religion, what we wanted to be when we grew up – if I had said the sky was blue, she would have argued that it was a particular shade of azure as opposed to just a banal blue.  It made me want to come back each day, armed with headlines from the local newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine.  I wanted to be a better me because SHE wanted me to be a better me.

Jenny was dynamic and charismatic, but she pulled no punches.  She had no trouble telling me, at our first dinner together when I moved back to New Jersey from Florida, that I was kind of a shit for not staying in touch and that I should have been writing books in addition to changing diapers all those years.  She saw potential in me that reached way farther than I’ve ever seen in myself, and no matter who you were, she looked through you to see the you she knew you could become.

She was successful and talented, and she was intimidating in her ability to overcome things without skipping a beat.  She defeated cancer  – twice.  She stared death in the face following a bleeding ulcer and went back to work almost immediately after being discharged from the hospital.  She stared down an e.coli infection that nearly cost her her life, and didn’t let grass grow under her feet when she recovered.  You couldn’t complain about your worries and woes – she’d been through much worse and lived to tell the tale.


They say some people light up a room when they enter.  Jenny commanded a room.  To me, she was larger than life, indestructible, infallible.  A warrior and a conqueror.  It breaks my heart to know that I’ll never share a coffee with her again, and wonder how I’ll fill those days where four or five hours and two or three lattes in, I was still captivated by a conversation with her.  I’ll miss the once in a while dinners – not often, maybe twice a year – that turned into lessons for me, an eager student clinging to every word from the professor’s mouth, gleaning pearls of wisdom in her conversation that I hope to find the courage to use one day.

For now, though, it’s like when the lights go out.  Everything is familiar, but it’s darker; scarier.  And we are left to fumble through the darkness.


Studio Movie Grill Fight Against Hunger

$5 for a movie?  When do you ever see that happen?  Never.  But here’s your chance to see a movie for $5 and help support the Studio Movie Grill as they fight against hunger in our area.  100% of the ticket proceeds will benefit the PhilAbundance Food Bank.

In addition, to coincide with the release of the Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Studio Movie Grill will donate 10% of every digital e-card purchased from October 23 – November 25th.

To help support this cause, I am giving away passes to the Studio Movie Grill in Upper Darby.  Post a comment on the blog, on Facebook, or retweet the blog post to enter.  Enjoy a movie; enjoy a meal; help provide meals for people who need them.  Support the cause.

Studio Movie Grill Launches

Fight Against Hunger Campaign


Studio Movie Grill Fight Against Hunger
Studio Movie Grill Fight Against Hunger

Studio Movie Grill Upper Darby  Benefitting Philabundance


53 S. 69th St.

Upper Darby, PA 19082

In Anticipation Of “Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” All Ticket Proceeds Over 4-Day Period Will Be Donated To Local Food Banks


Proudly continuing its tradition of community involvement, from Monday, October 19 through Thursday, October 22, Studio Movie Grill locations in all 10 states nationwide will host $5 movies and donate all proceeds to local food banks.

Additionally, 10% of the proceeds raised from online sales of Hunger Games-themed digital gift cards will benefit these partnering food banks. Gift cards make great holiday offerings and will be available online from October 23 – November 25 at www.studiomoviegrill.com.

What:   “SMG Fight Against Hunger”

When:  Monday, October 19 – Thursday, October 22nd

             Every movie, any show time from open to close


Mother of the Bride – Or How Am I Going to Fit into a Size 10 Dress in 16 Months?


I ask so little of my children.  And when you consider what I’ve done for them – months of pregnancy related illnesses; days of of my life spent trying to get spit up stains out of Every. Single. Favorite. Shirt.; not throwing up when they showed me wiggly teeth until after they were out of the room; countless hours sitting at teachers’ desks for conferences – I really, truly haven’t asked for much in return.

Except that one thing.

Most moms whisper lullabies to their babies as they rock their tiny newborns to sleep.  I sang to the beat of my own insecure drummer.  On any given day, you could see me happily gliding in my glider, singing “Fat Bottomed Girls” to my babies.  Other moms were playing Laurie Berkner on the cassette player while they drove their children to preschool.  My girls listened to Sir Mix-A-Lot and the virtues of a big butt.  Granuaile was serenaded by Mika singing “Big Girl You are Beautiful” as we dropped her sisters off at school and skipped a walk around the lake in favor of going for ice cream.

I felt I had primed them for that one thing I was going to ask.  I laid the ground work for the appreciation of plus sized people.  They should have seen it coming.

“Don’t marry anyone with a mom thinner than me.”

Simple request, no?  Remember, this was in exchange for countless changed diapers, nights sitting up with ear infections and broken hearts, and too numerous to count school plays, concerts, and talent shows.  Yes, I did.  I sat through talent shows.  Even when my kids’ grade performed last.  I know – why have I not been canonized?


But do they listen to me?  No.  My daughter’s future mother-in-law is down right svelte.  Spindly and sylphlike. Clearly, this kid did not get the memo.  Or the subtle reminders.  Or being verbally beaten over the head with my pleas of a plump parent.

So I am back at the game I have lost so often.  Dieting.  Exercise.  Torturing myself in the name of not being triple chinned in a photo.

Wish me luck.  Say a prayer.  Send me rice cakes.  And if you don’t see this fat bottomed girl at the gym, give me grief.  Just dip it in chocolate first.




A Separation of Souls

I have not yet told Eilis that my mom has died.

Shortly after 10:00 PM last December 23rd, my sister called to tell me that the hospital had just called to tell them my mom died.  I hung up the phone, crying out loud, and called my family to me.  Eilis, instead of joining Jim and Granuaile next to me, raced away from the room yelling, “I don’t want to hear it!”

And I think in that outburst, she found a place in her mind where if she didn’t hear it, it didn’t have to be real.

Eilis and my mom were fast friends.  We moved back to New Jersey when Eilis was four months old, and from the time she was just a few months older, she loved spending nights at Dram’s.  At 18 months old, she would pack her own bag, anxious to have even just a few hours in my mom’s company.  They would play for hours, exhausting each other with laughter and songs, and my quiet, reserved Eilis came into her own with my mom.  She seemed more animated, more outgoing, more loving.  Eilis wasn’t a huggy kind of kid.  She would sooner hug a tree than a grown up, but with my mom, she was so different.  Eilis was her true self with my mom, and the two of them were like soulmates, destined to find each other on this earth and complete each other.DSC01864


The day my sister Bean died, my mother took Eilis home with her.  Instead of going home to fall into the desperate pit of her own grief, she wanted Eilis to be with her, and my tiny two year old was anxious to go.  She didn’t leave my mom’s side, know ing even at this tender age that she had a job to do, making sure her kindred spirit survived the first few devastating days after Bean’s death.

One weekend, during one of their infamous sleepovers, my mom got sick.  holakxmas2An ambulance had to be called, and Eilis was there as they lifted my mom’s pain wracked body onto a stretcher and into the glowing cavern that was the back of the emergency vehicle.  The police came, there was a cacophony of dispatching calls coming over the squawking radios, and the lights and sounds were just too much for my sensitive kid.

It was the end of the sleepovers.

Eilis was afraid to go spend the night after that, and my mother knew.  She talked to me often about how guilty she felt over Eilis being exposed to human frailty in such a traumatic way.  I had a hard time getting Eilis to even go visit after that, and she was more than happy to pass on the mantle of best sleepover buddy to Granuaile as she got older.  Eilis didn’t get over it, silently lamenting the loss of this precious bonding time, and I think it impacted her more than we ever realized.


Today, after one of her increasingly rare visits to my stepfather at the home heshared for nearly 40 years with my mom, Eilis and I were driving home.  We were talking about our annual visit to Walt Disney World this coming Christmas, the first one we are taking with my sister, her husband, and my stepdad.  In between conversation, she was singing along to theCD she had popped into the car stereo.  And then she was crying.  The tears were silent, yet they poured as if a flood gate had been opened down her cheeks, dripping onto her shirt.  Quietly, acknowledging for the first time the loss she suffered last December – if not those many years ago – she said, very simply, “I miss Dram.”

I can do nothing with my own broken heart except pray that this is at last a step toward healing for Eilis.  Perhaps this is the beginning of her heart accepting – or at least understanding – the loss she has suffered.  And even though they can’t be together, maybe this is the point where Eilis lets the memories be of some comfort.  Maybe she can focus more on the bond they had than the separation they suffered.

And maybe she’ll find peace.