It has been a minute since I last posted, but a couple of weeks ago I was thrown for a loop. On Facebook one day, my friend Trish (a close friend whom I’ve had since the fifth grade) messaged me to let me know that our mutual friend J.K. (and Trish’s college roommate) had passed away unexpectedly. There was some question as to whether she may have even taken her own life.
Though I loved J.K., she was not someone I had kept in close contact with through the years, but would sporadically send a flurry of Facebook messages back and forth from time to time. However, I was shocked when I heard. The J.K. I knew was a joy-filled, joyful person, but I was aware that as an adult she had battled an unknown disease which left her with intense, chronic pain.
J.K. was always laughing, and she had the BEST, most wicked laugh of possibly anyone I’ve ever known. The kind of laugh that ensured she was up to shenanigans and hijinks of a relatively innocent, but definitely ornery, nature. One particularly favorite memory of mine was a night in college when we were in my old Dodge Aries K – the kind of car with a bench seat in front – and we (okay, I) was driving way too fast, playing a dangerous kind of tag with some guys in another car. It was spring, the windows were down, and I distinctly remember wearing a black fedora with a huge black tulle bow on it (it was the 90s, yo). And at one point during our chase, the guys pulled up next to us and pelted us through the window with Little Debbie snack cake rolls (the kind that were cream and jelly-filled). It landed on the brim on my fedora and probably stayed there the rest of the night. J.K. cracked up, that wicked giggle filling the car and spilling out into the night.
Another favorite trick of hers was to reach down and throw the handle under the driver’s seat aside, thus causing the front bench seat to go all the way back. Or, if there were three of us in the front, and J.K. was on the passenger side, she would duck down while I was driving, so it looked like I was taking the person in the middle seat on a date, since they were right next to me. All of these events were punctuated by that crazy laugh.
As she grew older, I learned from Trish that she suffered from chronic pain, and a mysterious illness. As adults, she lost her mother, to whom she was most close, and then an aunt. Her father was never in the picture, and she had a half-sister that she got to know as an adult as well. It is my understanding that she and her sister formed a relationship as adults, but that possibly a few months back, J.K. started withdrawing from her as well as other friends. That she was planning an exit.
To think that this dear, sweet soul, who was so loved by everyone who knew her, felt like ending her own life because of her pain was her only option, is devastating. To think that she possibly died alone is more than I can bear. I put off writing this post for as long as I did, because I did not want to think about it. That first day that I heard, I was in shock, and I spent the next crying all day long. My husband, who is a very stoic person, didn’t quite understand my sadness. He asked, “So when was the last time you spoke to her?” and I couldn’t tell him. The only was to describe it was to say, “I cried for days after Davie Bowie died, and I never met him. It doesn’t matter how long it had been since we spoke, this was someone who was a friend, and she was in pain, and I actually knew her and loved her.”
Life goes on, and I have fallen back into my typical routine with its mundane distractions, but if there is a day when J.K. crosses my mind, I feel like she is with me, and maybe hanging out – watching over me and my family – and it feels good. And this is how I truly feel about it – when someone dies, when they no longer exist in this corporeal plane, they are nowhere, yet they are everywhere. They are the sun that warms our face. They are the rain, and the rainbow. They are the leaves that shimmer as the wind breathes through the trees, and they are the wind. They are love, pain, loss, heartbreak, exhilaration, sadness, but mostly, they are joy. And their mad, wicked laugh echoes now around us in the breeze, and their very act of living, of being at one time with us, changes us, and stays in our hearts forever.
I love you, and I will miss you, dear soul.
(Yes, I know this photo is terrible quality, but there’s my friend Trish on the left, me all the way to the right, and J.K. in the middle, always, surrounded by people who loved her. When I was saving this to my drive, I mistyped it JK – The Wizard of Us – but it sounded appropriate, so I left it).
I’ve noticed that many of my gratitude moments have to do with nature, and I think that one reason for that is that my eyes are actually OPENED since I’ve been trying to be more cognizant of gratitude. Before Gratitude (B.G. – not to be confused with the BeeGee’s – although now that I’m older I can admit I’m grateful for some of their work – I mean, how else would we have the phrase Jive Talkin’ in our lexicon???) ANYHOOOOO – Before Gratitude, I walked around in a fog. Like a zombie. Just trying to get through the day without a breakdown.
When I was talking with a friend about this just the other day, he noted that the weather also plays a big role in mood and how we view the world, because around the time that I was REALLY feeling down, I distinctly remember days upon days of grey, rainy, dreary weather. The way it looked outside was the way I felt inside. It’s much easier to be open to optimism and gratitude on a sunny day, isn’t it? Thus the struggle – how to maintain that optimism and gratitude even on the dreariest of days.
In any case, I notice the world around me more easily these days. And for that, I’m grateful.
Every morning on my way to work, or each night, I hear frog songs, either from my bedroom when the windows are open, or driving down the little back road to work. They are especially loud when I drive by wide pools of water on the roadside, and sound like playing cards clipped to the wheels of a bicycle. As soon as I hear that strange music, I smile instantly. Thanks, champagne! Oooops, I mean Thanks, Nature!
Another gratitude moment came for me the other night at yoga. I went to class as I usually do, and we moved our practice outside, in a big, open courtyard between two fountains. We were actually on brick cobblestones, which, though it COULD have been uncomfortable, luckily wasn’t. I put my mat down near a flower bed, and class started. I noticed mid way through that my mat happened to be directly over a trail of tiny ants, going about their busy day. It was over a crack between two bricks, covering the crack like a roof over a bridge, so they had enough space to do their work in the crack under my mat. I hadn’t disturbed them, and they didn’t disturb me. As we were seated in a twist, I watched them, in formation, maybe going home for the day, and it made me smile. Thanks, Nature!
What is it that you’re grateful for this week? Don’t be shy – speak up! It can be simple or elaborate, but by just putting it out there in the world, I promise you, it will increase your capacity to find more gratitude moments.
Happy Friday, Friends!
So I had this whole post planned out – it was called Semi-Charmed Life, and it was going to focus on a recipe I found for Raspberry Pistachio Semifreddo with rosewater. You see, about a month ago I bought a bottle of rose water when I came across it at my local grocer, and then it sat on my counter, staring at me balefully everyday, waiting to be used. At least I’m PRETTY sure that’s why it was staring balefully at me. Then I came across said recipe on MindBodyGreen (an awesome site that I loooove), which calls for rose extract, and I was all – Rose Water, step up, you’re on – LET’S DO THIS.
I tried it, and it. was. TERRIBLE. Bland with a weird consistency when it started to melt, and just GROSS. Well there went my post.
Luckily, at the same time I had found the recipe for the semifreddo, I was in the midst of making a cake for my kids’ teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week. Ooooooh mama, what a cake it was. Chocolate Red Wine Cake with Raspberry Filling. Let that sink in.
My kids like to refer to it as Alcohol Cake. Whatevs.
My kids BEGGED me for a bite, but I stood firm. NO – this is for your TEACHERS! They need chocolate and wine more than ANYONE. I did, however, agree to make it again for their birthday next week, but I may leave the red wine out of the ganache on top. Or not. Just depends on how much mama thinks she’ll need her sleep after roller-skating with 40 8-year-olds.
In any case, if you’re looking for a showstopper of a dessert, for the love of Giada DeLaurentis, do NOT make that damn semifreddo. Do yourself a favor and whip up this Chocolate Red Wine masterpiece. You can thank me later.
Walking out of yoga Monday night, I had to park further from the space where we practice that normal. The site where I do yoga is called Awaken Whole Life Center, and it’s Unity Village, which is a gorgeous, amazing, beautiful space. As I walked to my car, I found my gratitude easily:
Thank you for this space in which to practice.
Thank you for my job that pays the bills even though it’s not what I love to do.
Thank you for loving me when I am unloveable.
Thank you for my children who love me unconditionally, even when I am Crazy Mom.
Thank you for my husband who is such a yin to my yang. Who is calm when I am not. Who is a voice of reason when I am too dreamy.
What are YOU grateful for this week?
Wait, WHUT? Hear me out, people. Or is it more appropriate to say hear me out, person….I know thus far Foodie Tuesdie has featured actual FOOD, but this gourmand fragrance smells so good you could eat it. I got a sample recently with a purchase from Sephora, and fell in LOVE with it. According to the description of Tom Ford Noir Pour Femme, it has Mandarin Oil, Bitter Orange Oil, Ginger Extract, Rose Absolute, Jasmine Accord, Orange Flower, Indian Kulfi Accord, Vanilla Madagascar, Amber, Australian Sandal Wood, and Lentisque Resinoid (whatever the hell THAT is). I had to buy a bottle, which I love, because there is something very old-school-men’s cologne-bottle-from-Avon about it (HOLLA Avon Wild Country cologne). It’s like something Don Draper would have sitting on his dresser. And for real, when I wear it I CANNOT stop smelling myself. I’m pretty sure I’m making people around me uncomfortable, but too bad. If I can’t pull my shirt out and stick my nose in it in front of my co-workers, who CAN I do that in front of?!!