Chin Chin!

Out in the great wide yonder

We hadn’t driven up into Melissa and Pank’s driveway in over a year.  We knew to look for the weeping willow tree that grew tall and unruly in order to find her house in the dark.  It had been a long lovely day already but my energy was ready to meet hers.

The girls knew exactly where they were and ran up the concrete steps waiting for Pank to open the front door.  Like visiting family, there’s joyous greetings and instant stir of magical energy.  Melissa was running around her kitchen moving fried chicken with a wooden spoon in a yellow cast iron pot while finding a box of treats for the dogs.  There were amazing hugs given and a beer was placed in Patrick’s hand.  “Sugar, I’m so happy for you two!  Pank, they will be an old married couple like us.”

Melissa had received a call from me earlier that afternoon as I told her that I had just been proposed to after a long hike at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.  Not only was I completely surprised but he did it the week we got to celebrate it with the ones who are my humans.

Our spend the night party had already been decided on weeks prior and only Patrick knew what the main point of conversation and celebration would be that Sunday night.

There was champagne poured and round sliced cornbread waiting for us at the community kitchen table.  Melissa had met with an editor that night who spent months learning about the art of shucking oysters so she shared her learnings with us!  Raw oysters and cornbread and champagne is the most perfect way to celebrate an engagement.  Oh! and also a jig of George Dickle whisky.

“You must go see your bedroom” she urged.  Its the same bed I had slept in years prior when I stayed with Melissa for Thanksgiving without a loved one in sight.  Patrick and I turned the vintage metal doorknob and I screamed with delight.  Used with practically a dozen red roses petals, a large heart was made in the middle of the bed.  Pank accented the creation with stuffed turtle.  He was tipping his hat to our pets Ferdinand and Francine who awaited our return back in Florida.

“Awwwww, Shit, someone open the door, I burnt the chicken!” Melissa is holding the fire-hot yellow pot with Crisco covered blackened breasts.  Patrick runs to the screened-in back porch door and flies it open.  She takes a few quick steps out and places it on their back yarden’s mesh fire pit.  Coraline and Delilah remember this yarden well.  The open door has them also running out to the third of an acre fully fenced in yard that has now been converted into a well planned out garden. Sprouting corn rows act as a privacy fence protecting from their ornery neighbor.  Then there are carrots, banana peppers, three varieties of tomatoes, okra, bell peppers, cow peas, squash,  and bloomed amaranth that shows off its rich burgundy hues.  Being that summer months had come to its end and the yarden was a tad crispy the love that went into creating it could still be seen by the next morning.

We went to bed full and happy.

After the sun rose, I still though made room for eggs and the best damn biscuits I have ever had in my life.  Patrick even brought them up again last night and we have been back in Florida for a week.  I’ve come to realize that while I’m with Melissa and surrounded by her hospitality, it is as if I’m in a constant Instagram photo.  You know, the ones you see where everything almost looks too good to be true.  I realized this while I sipped coffee at their long farm table out on the screened in back porch and watched butterflies gather their wares from white honeysuckle looking flowers.  The corn stalks swayed with the breeze and the bright sun peered its way through the fig tree’s branches.

We all watch Coraline prance around through the grass, convinced her bright and joyful spirit will be slowed due to tummy troubles.  I had mistakenly let her out in the wee morning hours alone.  Five minutes later, I returned to find her looking bashful near the fire pit.  She decided upon herself that the burnt not fully cooked chicken would be an ideal morning inhale.  Thankfully, Delilah who does not have a stomach of steal is too short to have joined in with the confiscation.  (Due note that Coraline did release the hounds in Patrick’s parent’s yard prior to our drive back down south).

Our day continued by driving out to Melissa’s parents home in Clarksville, Tn.  I feel renewed seeing the hints of autumn highlighting accents within the trees.  The last time they saw me, they allowed Delilah to eat at their dining room table and lick turkey off her daddy’s plate.  At this time their own dog wasn’t allowed inside.  Oh, Delilah you have a way about you.

They own acres and acres of beautiful land and we walked while the pups ran ahead.  We peered into tobacco barns that were readying themselves for a slow burn and threw sticks for Coraline and Maggie (Melissa’s four legged half sister) into the winding creek.  The same creek bank that Melissa and Pank married on six years prior.

Patrick is at home in the country and so am I.  I wonder if we will ever return to the true south? We wonder how and where our wedding will take place?  When will I jump for my heart’s yearning spirit?  Why have I not done it yet?

The questions can continue if I let them.  The answers have existed way before the problems arrived.  I need to remember all the options we have at our finger tips.  Most important, neither of us fear change.  So, let us bring up our glasses, clink to the ones we hold so dear and embrace this massive world that brought me Patrick and a moment on a hiking trail passed yonder where I was caught off guard as he held a ring in his hand after saying, “before we take another step, will you marry me?”

Purple Turtles

Letting Go the Ego

There are patterns in our lives that we continue to attract.  It can either be choices we make or people that continue to show up in different areas and different times but they always are a reflection of what we haven’t yet decided to let go.

Why do we hold on with such tenderness?  And I say tenderness rather than strength because we choose to hold on to what we know with white gloves.  Making sure we do not destroy what has always been.  What we know is what keeps us safe, we think!

But there is another corner to turn.  It is lingering one step ahead of us, waiting.  Wondering when you will wake up and pivot from the steady straight and narrow.

I recently saw a quick posting from a friend who said she was attending nursing school.  I believe she did graphic arts prior.  I want to know more of her story.  However through the years, I’ve heard her say that she doesn’t know what is next…for she wasn’t happy in her current position and wanted life to change.  This was such a while back when she shared this.  I wonder what tipped her weighted down soul to see something different?

Seeing something different as you hadn’t before is the true gift.  These sights are not at a physical reach but are deep within us.  We begin to first question our own surroundings.  What a blessing this is!  Always ask questions.  Always ask questions about why you are where you are?  What patterns got you there and do they serve you well?

The changes you need to make can be a slow process.  We often try to protect ourselves with an outer cover dripped in self-importance.  Making sure how we represent ourselves to the outer world…well, let that be grand!  If it is not dazzling than why even show it?

Oh, but I’m beginning to see things differently.  I have been questioning.  I look to my piers and wonder why they put so much importance on something so inane.  Because we have been programed to do just that.

If you want to make room for more vs the continuous same, you just got to make room.  Head out.  Feet on the ground and feeling vulnerable.  I’m more than just my shell.

That Time I Went To Landmark

And it was far from a beacon

Because I didn’t attend the last night where they suggest you to bring friends and family so to reveal your new butterfly wings, I’m technically not a graduate of Landmark.  When they told our group of 100 plus this and indicating it as an upsetting fact, I attached relief to it.

Many had gone before me.   Even two of my dearest, MC and Ciona loved their experience.  Most stories I heard back in Nashville.  The ones who had the most difficult problems with it were the staunch Christians.  I thought, well, then, I will love it!  I remember hearing how colleague Meg left after the first day.  Scoffing, how bad could one day be at listening to someone talk?


So, I disliked it as much as those needing organized religion because of the exact same reason.   We were told over and over that that weekend was the only way we could become free of our pain.  I wasn’t siding with the idea that it was Jesus who relinquishes the woes.  I haven’t thought this in over 19 years.  It’s not a weekend at Landmark either.  It is you.  Its is yourself being in choice.  Your path is created because you have the muscles and mind to create it.  Your abundance is in your life based one the way YOU treat others and the family you create is based on choices you make to have one.

I could go on and on about how much Landmark sucks.  I just laughed out loud.  I could have written that more eloquently but the words chosen with hesitation and care are only for subject matters that have enlightened me.

But I must add: They follow you into the bathroom.  The drones who work there and linger in the back of the room eyeing your mandatory name tags in case they need to scratch down your identifier.  Mine was and I was cornered because I didn’t fill out when I would be returning.  This sort of soliciting reminds me of the older ladies knocking on my door with bibles in their hands.  What is the difference, truly?  They each are standing behind their own theory of your need to be saved.

Throughout the weekend you were urged to sit by strangers.  And this is where I met Bonnie.  We were requested to turn to the person beside you and share with what you just heard and answer three questions or something of the like.  We introduced ourselves. We somewhat talked about our assignment but then veered towards personal connection.  I had shared about Patrick, why I moved and left Nashville and losing my dad.  She shared with me about losing her fiance of 9 years within the past 6 months and losing her father, the year prior.  We then went to lunch a few times together.  She was enjoying her time much more than I was at Landmark.  Her sister in law had urged her to go.  She could see its benefits but didn’t understand why we needed to sit in chairs for 17 hours a day and listen to the countless stories from our Forum Leader.

We continued to meet up.  Even though she wasn’t a new stranger to sit by, we faked it.  At one point she shared with me how her stepmother had sent her a box of her father’s old things.  He was an avid golfer and the package included a few old v-neck sweaters.  She felt comfort as she put them on and wore them around the house.  She said she wish she could do the same thing for her fiance’s grown children.  I didn’t understand what she meant.  She said that there was one room in the house with many of his belongings and she just couldn’t bare to go through them.  Without pause, I interjected that I could come visit and help her through the process.  I shared with her that the muck doesn’t frighten me nor do I judge it.  I’ve been in muck of my own and dealing with the death of someone you hold so dear is staggering.  She could introduce him to me so to speak with his belongings.  We could divide what goes to each child.  She looked at me with awe.  She said that her close friends were so close to him as well that it was hard on everyone to take the first step.  This conversation was three months ago.

After figuring out schedules, I drive two hours south this weekend.  Ironically, it will be father’s day.

Landmark did not save me from myself as it had hopes to do.  It wasn’t a lighthouse guiding my way home.  It’s not the destination.

It is always whom you meet along the way.  It is the ones you connect with…not by force or persuasion…but authentically.

A weekend did not change me.  Thankfully it kept me exactly who I am.

The Pig Who Sang To The Moon A Long Time Ago

But I kept hearing it

So, it’s been four months since I’ve become vegetarian.  Wait, actually, I’m Pescatarian.  I wish I could remember exactly when the trumpets sounded louder and I came to terms with what I had been silencing for years.  It was something I had always put off.  It was something I wanted to do but did not think I could ever let go of a medium rare hamburger with melted pepper jack cheese.  Not to mention the amazing meals Patrick can whip up.  His pork chops with rosemary and orange glaze has become his signature dish.

When I was around the age of 29, I casually purchased a book by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson titled, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon.  I only read one and half chapters and put it down to never pick it up again.  If my memory serves me correctly, it began with a chicken chapter.  I thought, I’ll be fine, I’ve never been attached to a chicken…and couldn’t recall ever actually meeting one.  No big whoop.  Chicken chapter was brutal!  They are quite affectionate and can recognize faces.  The second chapter was about pigs.  I knew this one may be a tad tougher but I pushed on.  I assumed that I was stronger than these typed words.  I however was not braver than the images captured in my mind.  I learned how pigs are so very intelligent.  Even more so than my family dog, Hannah.  I read how they have heart attacks before getting butchered because they know what is happening.  They understand the screams of their fellow fallen comrades. I don’t remember much after that.  I couldn’t take it all in anymore.  However, that depiction I had created of an over-fed animal scraping his hooves on a metal platform desperately trying to stop his momentum of moving forward has always stayed with me.

It stayed with me but it didn’t stop me.  And why at age 40 has it created a change?

Patrick asked me a few months ago while we were at our new favorite neighborhood Hamburger joint, Smacks.  I had finished a portobello with pepper jack and was waiting on my order of their custard for the day.  When I first told him that I had decided to try being a vegetarian his initial reaction lacked much support.  It was actually a response of “Noooooooooooooooo!”

But…Last week he made me the most amazing squash and black bean enchiladas.  I had them for three meals in a row.

“So, muffin, why become a vegetarian now?”.

I’m actually not sure.  Possibly it is because sub consciously I’m trying to make room for what I want.  I have always wanted to work with animals.  If I respect them as much as I do, why would I consume them for my own pleasure.  I don’t know in what capacity or which direction I am heading toward working with or observing wildlife but what immediate responses can I do right now?  I can create change within myself and hopefully that change will trigger other changes.

“That makes perfect sense.  Okay, let me find some recipes for you.”

Now, I just need to keep saying it out loud more.  I want to work with wildlife.  I want to handles snakes and spy on raccoons.  I want to climb into caves where bats hang upside down.  I want to watch cows graze in the sun.  I want to feel the skin of an elephant on my hand.  I want a dozen jumping goats in my path.  I want to hear the sounds of coyotes lulling me to sleep.

As a small child, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up but I am just taking a very long way to get there.  It is just never too late to keep moving towards what is in your heart.

That beat is loud.

Animatronic Hippos

And Other Things That Go Bump In The Night

When we first moved here, I got a call from Ruben in Los Angeles.  He told me that he and Bridgette and little son, Gus would be coming to Disney World and asked if we could meet for a day.  Thrilled to have Patrick be introduced to one of my dear friends from a long ago home, we drove the two hour journey.  The last time I had seen Ruben in person was prior to my trek across country and move to Connecticut,  which in turn prompted this entire blog. Patrick and I had seen him in commercials during the interim.  Years back he was newly dating the beautiful Bridgette and sweet Gus was only a wish.  Within moments of greeting and hugs, they share with us that they will be expecting a second child at the end of the year.  I cry.  Finding out someone is growing a baby will always make me cry.  We spend the day eating swirled vanilla and Dole pineapple or orange ice cream shakes and standing in long lengthy lines.  We fly down logs, ride carousels and we pile onto a flat pontoon boat floating down the Jungle Cruise.  The shtick of the captain annoys me to no end but the bumps through the river are exactly how I had remembered.  Even though I knew they were operated from a computer board, I still smiled as the hippo lumps raised from their dark water dwellings.

Patrick and I spend most evenings and one day per weekend going on bike rides.  He speeds along  on his racing bike while I yell blocks away for him to slow down.  I had recently bought a vintage and heavy retro beach cruiser on Craig’s list and the old broad takes her time.  Patrick named her Judith.  A half scratched off sticker revealed she was made in Taiwan.  So, I renamed her Judith Yang.  Patrick is currently building her a crate basket for her backend.  We will have plenty of room for beets at the downtown farmer’s market.  While possibly picking up some egg roles.

One night in lieu of our bikes we took the dogs on a walk.  Our neighborhood holds onto its past.  The houses are built in retro glamor of the 1950’s and 60’s: Mid Century angles, sloped roofs, high windows and use of large brightly colored cinder blocks create each lot.  We walk passed the tackiest house three blocks down.  The one with constant blaring music IF the glowing sign, “Bar is Open” is on.  All is quite if “Bar is Closed” is glowing.  Usually, three drunk elderly men are sitting on the uphill driveway enjoying the spectacle of themselves.  After just a few steps down the street, everything turns back to normal manicured yards and a breathtaking blue sky.

We head straight to the bridge over the Philippee Creek.  A large winding creek which is wider in certain areas with concrete retaining walls to guide the dark slow moving water way. On one of our bike adventures, we came across another bridge and saw a slew of large river turtles looking up at us.  Speeding back home (Judith Yang style) we shoved the only frozen vegetable we had in the freezer into a backpack and headed back.  We took turns tossing down Succotash.  The corn was a hit but the niblets of red peppers were often spit back out.   Patrick leaned over the bridge to get a better look.  “Babe, stop throwing food. like now”.  But the turtles seemed so happy, why stop the happiness buffet? I followed his pointed finger.  Yep, there was five foot gator waiting for veggie rain.

Delilah and Coraline were pulling on their leashes.  Ahead the bridge was only a block away.  Greeting us before our destination, three large geese size bizarre ducks with red wax-like masks and black and white dotted feathers cross the road.  They have claws coming from their black webbed feet.  Goodness, the wildlife here enjoys mocking the awe inspired humans.

We stand over the bridge and look down into the deep depths.  This part of the creek is much wider than our neighboring turtles and gator habitat.  Patrick begins to explain the mechanism of how boats are lifted onto land.  This was my fault because I had asked.  I became bored and my eyes wondered to the other side.  There were so many bubbles popping on the surface.  and ripples in the water.  And then this massive dark greyish brown mold-like glob erects out of the water close to three feet and then falls gently back down, immersing beneath a hidden world.  Not a sound was made but Patrick droning on about motor systems or something.  The dogs were whining.  Patrick looks back as there were ripples upon ripples in the water.  “Did you see something?” He asked me.  I was frozen.  All I could do was grab the leashes tighter and hold onto Patrick’s leg of his shorts.  In panic, I asked, “Did you not see that?”  Patrick was laughing. “Babe, I’m sure it was a fish”.

All I was thinking in that split second moment was someone must be pushing the button somewhere.  It’s time for hippos to come out. Spray the children. I was obviously in shock.  I whisper, “Patrick, I just saw a hippo from Disneyland”.

Patrick had seen me numerous times act things out.  He knows when I’m bluffing or within a few minutes he can call it.  But in that moment he knew I was truly shaken.  Then.  the water started to bubble again.  something started to agitate the water from underneath.  It was moving extremely fast.  Ripples turned into fierce water currents changing directions on a dime.  (to this day, I don’t know what that was or if it was all the same thing).  We both stood there in utter fear mixed with giddiness.  Both laughing at our situation of being completely stumped and wanting to find out while also tempted to run with our arms in the sky, shrieking. The bubbles were everywhere now.  And ripples two. There was no splashing or two tiny eyes peering out from a reptile head.  I wanted it to be an alligator.  I just wanted to know what my dogs were hearing and or smelling.  We stood there for at least an hour.

It arose again, I’m sure out of kindness vs mocking.  We gasped.  It was a manatee.  And it was the most beautiful lump, I had ever seen.  Walking distance from our little house built on a street named after a tropical fruit, swam a manatee.

We now, take bike rides in hopes of seeing more of this phenomenal creature.  We have seen them a handful more times.  The last time one of their noses came up to take a bite of floating grasses as they moved down the center or the creek. We said they must of picked up some take-out.

Who knew that this place held so much magic.  I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of blue herons flying over the horizon of our back yard to the way an alligator will move with speed by using the strength of their tails and stop on their water paths by spreading all four legs out while tail will cut to the side. Nor did I know that my childhood desire to work with animals would be remembered here.    It had been hidden for years, back into the darkness of my thoughts…it just needed a little jolt.

Those Who Can, Teach. Those Who Can’t, Don’t Teach.

Mixing it up

It occurred to me close to six weeks ago, like an instant flash, it was time for me to start teaching yoga.  Truly, a voice inside (and I don’t really think it was mine) strongly stated: “It’s time for you to teach. Make it happen.”  And I knew that this time it would be adults.  I had taught children’s yoga in Nashville.  Starting off with a non profit, Small World Yoga and then teaching an 8 week session at a local studio.  The little ones were delightful and three year old Henry captured my full attention each time he spoke or even moved.  At one point, his face continued to grimace every time he rolled or sat down on the floor.  I finally asked him what was wrong.  “Well, Miss Durden, I simply have a spider man in my pocket.”  And then he pulled out this red and blue figurine from the back of his sweat pants.  His tiny plastic arms and legs were turned every which direction from being part of the first 20 minutes of class.  “Would you like to place him in the outdoor cubbies?” He didn’t want this option because he believed spidey would really like yoga class too.  So, next week, I created an asana class dedicated to all thing super heroes. Henry absolutely loved doing the Silver Surfer!  It was actually just Virabrhadrasana II (Warrior 2).

However, even though I loved the little yoga beings, I wasn’t challenged in anyway.  I had forgotten that the pose, Happy Baby wasn’t actually in fact Happy Panda.  I knew it was called Ananda Balasana in Sanskrit but I had gotten so used to calling it Happy Panda due to a zoo inspired class that I retrained my brain for the constant act of play.  Oh, play, is wonderful and there will always be an aspect of it in my classes but I needed something more.  A few weeks before finding out that Patrick and I would be leaving Nashville, I taught at an after school program for challenged teens.  I went every week for a month.  It was the teacher that helped with the kids studies that woke me up.  She was a much heavier woman and the simple act of folding over in staff pose caused her difficulty.  I brought her my straps to help with her flexibility.  On our last class she share with me that she had been doing at least ten minutes yoga a day like I had instructed.  She said that she has felt a huge shift in herself towards stress.  I learned that day she had five children at home and worked full time.  I ended that session with one of my favorite Sanskirt chants: “Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu”.  I didn’t know how they would react to hearing a chant but I knew this was who I was at my core as a teacher.  “May all beings be happy and be free”.

So, I was here for seven months and it never occurred to me teach.  I had felt so stripped from my strength.  Our leaving Nashville in two weeks released much of our energy into finding a new house, packing, and tying up loose ends and our goodbyes seem to really hit more once we had driven 17 hours.  Although, there is that beautiful story of my close friends helping us pack when our movers didn’t show up.  It rained and poured until nearly midnight but my dear ones saved us.  My CiCi came intoxicated but with an open heart.  I learned later that she would have not been able to tell me goodbye without the help of wine.  This is what I posted on my facebook wall the night before we left:

Grateful. As my Patrick and I waved our last goodbye, he turned to me, “I’m in awe of your amazing friends. That was just a Lemon Army…they must come stay with us. Our home will always be open to them.” After twenty minutes of posting a plea in my lulu Facebook page…my beautiful army came. I cry as I write this….yes, partly out of pure exhaustion (our movers didn’t show up today and my Patrick and I with the help of Fadi and his friend John for two hours loaded up a truck. They left and then for the next five hours, Patrick and I worked endlessly. At 8pm, I reached out to the ones who I consider my dearest friends. Thank you Megan and Matt for your arrival tonight. Matt, Meg, Stevie and Cody…amazing work on rearranging the truck so more could go in. We were amazed how fast ya’ll did this! Sissy…love, you cleaned our bathroom…you are amazing…you took control when I just couldn’t think anymore. Patrick Luther thank you for the pizza and taking away our trash…and for frightening my dog…(she looks forward to your visit) Ciona …oh, cici…thank you for being non productive when you first arrived…it made everything worth while…your squeaking that toy completely by yourself will forever be in my memories. Patrick Mcnally…dammit, we are not Facebook friends…(someone send this to him)…thank you thank you thank you for taking P’s old never used bullets. AND…hauling off so much trash. Stevie, thank you for arriving with such swift speed and kicking’ ass the moment you arrived. Meg…thank you for being here, your energy lifted my spirits. Sissy thank you for being here. Ciona and Patrick and “our” Patrick…thank you for being here for us. And thank you for the texts from Liz V and Meredith (thank you for offering up your husband)…my phone was lost for a good amount of the day. Our hearts our full. Friends are the ones you never EVER have to ask twice….(again, I cry). Grateful.

On our last Wednesday in town we had a goodbye gathering at a local bar, the Flying Saucer.  Many of Patrick’s friends came and I was able to say goodbye to Jen, Sujanna, and Divya.  Also, my very sweet Melissa came.  She is one of those friends that will always be a constant.  Those friends you get and you wonder how you got so lucky.

However, the real loss was felt after the fury winded down.  The loss sank in as we put our pink flamingos out in our new front yard.  The neighbors may hate us but Patrick bought them for me to make me smile.  The pain of realizing that again I am starting over with a new community just felt overwhelming.  Especially when I had finally felt true roots in a city that healed me.

So, for eight months, I don’t really know what I’ve been doing.  I’ve been working at a new job.  It is also a new position.  I’ve created relationships with those around me.  I’ve been living, I guess.

But then that voice spoke to me nearly six weeks ago.  “Teach Yoga”.  I responded to that voice and said, “most certainly but it will be on my terms for myself.”

Last week, I had my first class.  I am teaching at my neighborhood’s community center.  It is a retro building built in 1957 and is nearly all floor to ceiling windows.  It looks out to palm trees and menacing oak trees laden with spanish moss.  A large black creek winds down off to the side.  The same creek where Patrick and I go and feed turtles four miles down.  We’ve learned that they do not so much like broccoli but frozen succotash does get their attention.

Last week, I had two students…and Patrick.  He rode his bike down and wanted to support me.  (I have a good one).  Prior to class beginning, I spoke with two other woman who said they’d be coming this week.  My goal will be to grow each week and then to have a constant 15 in each session.  This all happened because I walked in there and asked if I could teach.  A wonderful lesson to know: create what you want and then show up for yourself.

I don’t know everything about yoga.  I’m still learning the asana’s names.  I’m not as flexible as I want to be.  But.  I want to live in possibility.  And sometimes that may mean jumping before I have all the answers.  Like Rumi says, “What you seek is seeking you”.  I just decided to meet in the middle a tad faster.

A thank you to Megan Z for inspiring me to teach.  We became friends during our 200 hour and her grace on and off the mat has given me raw guidance.


Once Upon A Piece of Trash

He Introduced Himself Without an Introduction

In that moment.  Close to eight and a half years ago, my Patrick met my daddy.

My dad’s second funeral was held in Greenwood, Ms.  The first one was in Memphis, Tn which I have spoken about before.  Unsure if I ever mentioned the Koreans that flew in for the TN gathering.  They had admired my dad and wanted to pay their respects to him.  The three men had brought a female translator.  Prior to the service, she walked up to me and gave me a bundle of cards from their business while the three shorter men with dark suits followed suit.  “These men are so very sorry for your loss and would like for you to have these cards.” I said thank you. The men bowed.  So, I bowed.  So, they bowed.  And stared at me, smiling.  So, I bowed and said thank you.  And they bowed and said something in their native tongue.  I remember just wanting to curtsy at this point, partly convinced we were playing some kind of mirror game but thankfully my gratitude of them being there took over from my consistent improv skills.  I took the cards to my heart and said thank you.  They turned away and walked inside the church.

A few weeks after his death and while I was shoveling snow in my parents back driveway, Brian a neighbor walked over.  I had met him before only once.  He and his wife graciously allowed Delilah and Boo Radley (my two dogs) to stay at their house during the somber however lively gathering at my parent’s place after the service.  Brian began to help me shovel.  He began with small talk but then cleared his throat, “I never knew anything about Liston, I mean, your dad.  He was so friendly and always moving around so fast and getting things done.  Most of the time,  I would see him and he would be cleaning up litter.  He’d be wearing some old jeans with, you know, those iron on patches on the knees.  I didn’t realize those were still made.  He would be caring a bag and would be cleaning up other people’s messes.  I came here to tell you this because, I keep reading things about him in the newspaper and the internet.  Your dad was an executive.  He never mentioned this.  I never knew this.  I just knew him as the neighbor who cleaned up our streets.”

I had written about how Patrick and I had driven down to Memphis to retrieve old childhood memories around our first year of dating.  My mom was cleaning things out because she wanted to sell the house in which my father gasped for his last human moment.  It was the first time Patrick had seen or known where my parent’s owned their modern style brownstone in downtown memphis.

When we first started dating in 2012, just one month later in January he held me as I cried for my dad on the anniversary of his death.  That night, Patrick went home and started to google.  He wanted to meet the man that helped make me.

It was around three months after we had recovered my big wheel and countless sticker albums and a few prayer cards my mom shoved in bags for good measure that he told me.  We were in my old apartment in Nashville looking out the 12 foot bay windows with the night’s dark sky outlining the downtown’s corporate buildings.  Patrick had received his masters in Memphis and lived there for two years.  He was driving on Front Street back in 2006.  He saw a smaller man in a navy blue zip up sweatshirt, old jeans, holding a bag while picking up trash.  He had always remembered it because it had struck him.  Memphis had been a city always down on itself.  People lived in the suburbs because they didn’t want to revive anything.  But here was a small white man just doing the simple act of cleaning up litter.

It all came together when Patrick and I drove to Memphis to get a mini u-haul of childhood wares.  When we drove under bridges where empty cans and wrinkled wrappers and papers gather in the shadows did he begin to remember the articles he read on line.  How I had told him that after the Greenwood funeral that the guests were picking up trash before heading over to the assembly hall for coffee.

Patrick wanted to make absolutely sure that he was recalling a correct memory, knowing, that it would mean the world to me.

And it does.  Patrick got to meet my dad in his true fashion.  I still have a pair of his jeans in a box in the closet.  Maybe its the pair that he wore while my Patrick got to see an example of humility.  Like the neighbor, Brian, my dad would have rather preferred Patrick not knowing who he was behind the desk.  And knowing, Patrick, he would of asked my dad if he could help.

Ahhhhhh, yes, I am an Urchin


Some might consider the act of being completely silent for a week would be miserable.  Some might even proclaim, “That’s a choice that an individual   would actually make??”  But do you know, that I have always dreamt of going to a silent retreat?  This perfect place would preferably be surrounded by rich deciduous trees and moss covering the woodland floor.   My tiny sleeping space would be light filled by using its two antique windows to spill the sun onto the clean yet plain  1900’s dorm like room.  There would be a single bed on the right side accompanied by a small desk with chair on the wall underneath the windows. The left part of the room would hold space for a small oval yellow pillow that sits on the wide plank pine floors.  For seven needed days, I would awake in the mornings and my initial action would be to sit on this mediation pillow.  The mornings would start off in silence and so would the afternoons, evenings and every hour in between.

Oh, yes, I would miss terribly, Delilah and Coraline’s morning snuggles and of course, Patrick kissing me on the forehead.  He doesn’t know that this small act brings me the most comfort.  My father used to do this.  I never want to tell him because now, it’s his act of being authentic.  If I tell him then it may one day be contrived.  Love should always be simple.

But! Having hours upon hours of not speaking to anyone and just creating this amazing bubble around me filled with possibility vs this constant act of trying to be heard or even the persistent demand of connection either with work, friends, or significant other.  So often we talk way more than we need to and we over-communicate to the point we may be hindering our listening skills.

What would you hear if you actually stopped and listened before responding?  I know, I may hear my heart racing or the pestering thoughts that remind me that I don’t have all the answers and so I better speak so I can drown those out.

A personality test was presented to us at work a few months ago.  A person either falls into one or all four of the following categories: the laid-back whale, the born leader shark, the life of the party dolphin, or the deep and thoughtful urchin.

Oddly, around the same time I took this very scientific test, I also had come across a TED talk about being an Introvert in an Extrovert world.  I giggled to myself when the speaker said how she wanted to bring books to family reunions.

Thankfully, I was two marks behind a shark.  So, I was literally an Introvert/Extrovert.  After further research, I found it was called an Ambivert.  It all came together for me!  Yes, I wasn’t wary of forging my way through a new town and creating my own community nor was I ever hesitant to stand in front of massive group of people and give a speech into a microphone.  Child’s play.  However, I’d much rather go a to a yoga class by myself vs meeting someone there.  I’d rather plan a day with my dogs with a new place to walk vs joining a hiking group.  What new sanskrit mantra can I practice for 40 days by myself? Where’s my notebook where I write down lists of wishes I want for my life and may never show anyone?  My compassion for others is easily touched and I am devoted to my friends unless I feel I need to move cautiously.  I am creative but dynamic.  I am purposeful but compulsive for change.  I looked back on my life and I saw the patterns.  Fortunately, I have a few of the shark tendencies to pull me from the deep mucks of urchin solitude…but I feel so blessed to have had my protective coating.

One day, I will go on my silent retreat.  I will nod to the chef in gratitude for the food he prepared and I will write down a wish list and mail it to Patrick.  I will carry out my pillow so to sit under a new blooming Oak.    With a straight spine and a deep exhale, I’ll let go of everything I feel like I have to say.  I will then sit in solitude and soak up all the silence I can and hopefully create reserves of it that I can spool out when it is essential.

It is in my silence that I silence the “what if?” daunting inquiries and the “what’s next for you, Durden?”.  Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, all you bullies.  There’s nothing I can say to you.  I will tackle you by giving myself uninterrupted time.

Boxes Can Only Hold So Much

More Bubble Wrap for the Once Fragile

Oh,  how I adore this corner apartment with its rich character detail.   The high 20 ft ceilings, hardwood floors and skylights that had me gasping when I first came to see it three years ago.  I quickly found out through the landlord’s daughter that I was the fifth consecutive “Sarah” to reside here.  Even though it lacked a bathtub, I was able to turn a small room just up the top of the stairs into a meditation room which evened the scorecard.  After Coraline came to live with me, she fancied herself to look out the window in this small room to the far away yard below.  At which point, I would call her Diary of Anne Frank because I have an odd sense of humor. (and would add, back away if you see the Germans, Fraulein Coraline!)

I’m leaving this haven that has kept me safe during such a tormented time…and I am remembering the pain that I felt as I numbly moved everything in from a jarring  departure from Connecticut.  The boxes that have never been touched until yesterday.  Ones that were numbly placed in a back corner of closet.  I found a shoebox on top of a shelf containing a stack of condolence cards…more than half, the senders have been forgotten.  I wept this afternoon as I found  a copy of my Dad’s death certificate.  Finally, it was held in my hands and reviewed.  I learned from its content that he died ten minutes after his heart attack.

I called Patrick.  He responds, “Honey, let’s just stay there, I’ll move in with you.”  But I know this isn’t fair.  This place really isn’t big enough for two people and two dogs.  Patrick then says, “he would be so happy for us.  He would be so proud of you.”  This kind true man that I love, is right.

In a very short time, I will be moving in with Patrick.  Wait, he will be moving in with me.  Actually, we will both be moving in together into a new place.  Our little home with it’s own fireplace, hardwood floors and a half acre backyard that Coraline can go and run freely…with sweet little Delilah trying to catch up.

Tonight I was told that we will be having amazing dinners.  He said, “the nights you get off at 8pm and I’m off at 6pm, you’ll come home to something wonderful.”

They alway say that when it’s right, it’s just damn easy.   Even though his past time consists of home brewing beer and my mind likes to dabble in the power of Sanskrit chanting, we just utterly make sense.  We are excited about sitting on the front side porch or listening to my parents old copper water fountains in the back near the cobblestone path.  It will be nearly Christmas in thirty days so we are deciding now where best the tree should reside.  White sparkly lights will drape the front bushes and a new spruce wreath will hang from an already perfect red door.

We will invite good friends over like Cionna and her own Patrick or Melissa and Pank.  We will serve his beer and try to keep Coraline from jumping or Delilah from licking too much.

Books will be read upstairs while my mediation room will be in a new little cubby that I can walk in with ease.  Patrick has to duck his head and laughs that I don’t.  There’s a built in bench perfect for sitting, thinking, planning and wishing.

This new home will be decorated out of happiness vs the panic of running from such despair.

The landlord’s daughter also told me while giggling and tucking her head into a crooked elbow, “My dad says this is the honeymoon suite.  The Sarahs always leave and get married.”

They say popping the bubble wrap is the most fun.  You can pop it when it’s no longer needed.  Dad, I’m okay…pop away.


but everything we do is related

She is not my sister.  However, my dad once said that she looks a lot like his other daughter outside of me.  I haven’t seen her in person in over three years.  However, this hasn’t ever stopped our communication.

We do not text unless she’s sending me a picture of her two children.  We pick up the phone and call and we both know the importance of sustaining a strong friendship.  We have never taken the other for granted.

She is my person that knows me the best.  She knows by background, my fears, my insecurities, my greatest super power, my favorite color, my love of copper, my battles with family, my joy of animals, my desires reaching from my gut…she knows who and why Danny is important to me and Peter as well.  I call her when I struggle with anything.  I call her when I celebrate the wonderful.

She is married and has two sometimes over zealous children but it never keeps her from picking up the phone to call me.  Her life is rich with love but her love for me has never stopped.  She is my dearest, kindest and strongest friend which whom I admire wholeheartedly.

Kerry and I met umpteen years ago at a summer acting school in Pasadena, California.  We were there for six weeks, I believe.  We quickly bonded over the fact that we weren’t there to make friends and that we were both living in the most un-ideal situations.  I lived around an hour commute from the school in Encino with Janette and Howard.  This couple in their late 60’s was arranged by my father’s appliance connections.  I think they wanted to look good in my dad’s eyes so they opened their door to me….and their beat up 1970’s tan and brown mini pick up truck which I used as my transportation.  Being that I was from Mississippi, my classmates naturally assumed it was mine.  Kerry and I endured my intense Valley summer heat in that damn thing with it’s broken air conditioner and manual roll down windows.   Oh, and I named it Fred.  Kerry though had it much much worse.  She arrived at the school from driving from Arizona with no place to live.  The school had a bulletin board where she found a posting “Free Living for care of my Mother”.  And she took it.  So, while our classmates were going to Sunset Blvd and seeing where River Phoenix died, Kerry and I were either putsin’ along in Fred or bathing Mary.  Mary was the mother of…oh my god…what was his name?? Darren maybe? Let’s just go with that and will edit later.  Darren was a reflexologist living with his mother who was close to the age of 90 and Darren teetering close to 70 years old.  Kerry one time allowed Darren to do reflexology on her feet.  After about ten minutes of him poking around, he abruptly announced, “somebody is on their period!”  Kerry wanted to die.

After doing monologues and singing solos and learning how to spot while clumsily turning in black leotards, Kerry came and visited me in Mississippi for Thanksgiving with my family.  I still have such a vivid memory of seeing her walking off the plane.  She had on her black shoes and somewhat danced towards me, smiling that joyous grin of her.

My dad taught her to play one-bounce in my front yard on Grand Blvd.  It was a game he had invented as a little boy and if you were close to my family…you would have played one-bounce.  Buck Rideout played one time as well…he was just awful.  But Kerry…well, Kerry was one-bounce champion!!  She even beat my dad and he couldn’t believe it.

Kerry and I both ended up moving to Los Angeles for good.  We lived together with our other roommate, Lisa in San Gabriel and then later in Burbank.  She met her now husband, Mark at an acting class we both took.  He was (and still is) a structural engineer but wanted to explore his creative side of his brain.  To this day, Kerry and I can both imitate him doing his monologue.  It was more than a tad terrible.  Ha, ohhhhh, but nobody cared because he was just so good looking.  And that very handsome man married her.

But before the real thing caught her eye…Kerry and I double dated.  Ugh.  what losers!  She was a cocktail waitress at the famous stand-up comedy house, The Ice House while I wore a red and white striped dress with saddle shoes to be hostess at Ruby’s Dinner.  Oh, my god, we were so young.

We sent out mailings together to casting directors and agents.  One would sit on her bed while the other (who wasn’t making the call) would cover their face with a pillow and cringe while the latter would ask the agent’s assistant if they had received her headshot in the mail.  We used to care so much about doing it right.

Los Angeles is this massive huge place.  She moved out to live on her own and I moved to West Hollywood to live with Casey…which whom I lived with in Ct before she moved to Sweden close to three years ago.  I didn’t live with Casey long in West Hollywood being that she moved to Santa Monica and then two gay guys then moved in with me.  One I went to high school with and the other who recently came runner up or won on the show “Dance Your Ass Off”.  Back in the day, he was a big boy.  Living with two guys and one bathroom was exhausting so I moved to the Miracle Mile area…where Kerry lived only one street away.  My remaining years in LA consisted of the two of us taking walks…mostly to IHop but still…we were walking a good mile there and back.

Kerry supported me when I went back and finished my degree and even when I went to get a colonic.  Hopefully her now, four year old won’t remember it.

I was there the day her first was born.  Seeing her with her son was so beautiful.  She is the mother I strive to one day be…she is balanced and so fiercely loving.  She sets boundaries and her children know what lines not to cross.  She so very much inspires me.  Each week, they have a family meeting.  She and her husband set time apart from their lives to talk about their family and personal goals and how to elevate to greatness.

I love you, Kerry.  You are my person that I hold so dear.  Thank you for being there for me, always.  And without a doubt, I will always be there for you.