“The Returned” – Read It

This is not a book for the casual reader or for someone who thinks James Patterson is a member of the literary elite. I found my way to “The Returned” after reading a review. I had just finished another summer selection “Sisterland,” which although well written was full of annoying characters that kept repeating themselves. I was thirsty for something a bit more magical, as I’ve always been easily pulled in by a great story with a supernatural current.

For a good part of the book, I was preoccupied with trying to determine the why and how of the dead returning. The dead in this book aren’t zombies or whatever came back after being buried in the Pet Cemetery. They were the same as the time of their deaths. They had memories and feelings and needs. The action shifts from the emotion of the families being reunited with the dead. Some people embracing them. Others believing they are evil. Then the camps begin springing up and the returned are imprisoned. At the core of the story is the return of Jacob, an eight year old, who drowned on his birthday 50 years before. His parents are now old and have spent the last 50 years surviving from day to day. The return of Jacob brings them both peace and torment. But it gives them time. Time they had both been wishing for since his death.

It wasn’t until the last part of the book as things descend into chaos that my feeling about the book changed. It wasn’t a book about the supernatural at all. It was about that hope that so many of us have in our heart, regardless of how much time passes. It’s that hope for one more moment with someone gone. Just to have an hour, a day, anything to say whatever needed to be said, ask those things that only they can answer, hear their voice, feel their embrace. This book so eloquently defines that aching anyone has ever lost someone they truly loved; an aching that never really subsides.

In the end, I don’t really know if it matters how or why the returned came back. Because I know if I woke up tomorrow to find my mom in my kitchen, my thoughts wouldn’t linger on the logistics or the science. I would just want to soak in her laugh and be glad to let her hold me as if I was a child. I would try hard to not look away not even blink so I could be reminded of everything I’ve ever forgotten in the last 16 years. I would let her calm and soothe every heartbreak since she’s been gone.

The power of words formed beautifully into stories have the ability to change your perspective or remind you of raw feelings still ever present. it’s not what I expected to be writing about on a Wednesday afternoon on an airplane. I was just caught up in a great story, hoping for a great twist or payoff in the end. What I got was a not so subtle reminder of what really matters in this life: to love and be loved, regardless of how much time we have.

Why Sara Bareilles is the Best Singer Songwriter You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

If you haven’t heard of her then you have probably heard her songs. “Love Song” and “King of Anything” were Top 40 hits. Although Sara doesn’t get the coverage of Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, she should. She has much more talent. She plays numerous instruments including the piano and guitar. She also writes all her songs. And her voice is both big and sweet. She doesn’t, however, dance or wear costumes. She does tell funny stories and drop a few f-bombs between songs. She’s the kind of performer that creates an intimate experience. Not a media circus.

I’ve listened to her albums relentlessly, looking for solace and inspiration in her songs. They have helped me heal and given me comfort. So much so I had a lyric from “Many the Mikes” tattooed on my back. Give these tunes a try. It might help you get over that hurdle or at least realize one’s there.

“Gravity” Little Voice – a spell bounding, piano solo. Her voice is enchanting. It’s a sadness we’ve all had. Sometimes love can’t hold us together. Sometimes love cages us. This beautiful, simple plea still holds my breath every time I hear it.

“Many the Miles” Little Voice – Having one of those days when you realize you should’ve never gotten up? This upbeat anthem makes me feel strong when I sing along. It’s about bringing yourself back and remembering “I’ve been given this one world, I won’t worry it away.” there are so many transcending and empowering lyrics. I feel brave and ready to keep fighting this eternal war we call life.

“City” Little Voice – This song is smart. It’s not the same old cliché. She commands on the piano and with her voice. She will make you listen to her. You want to; it’s a song that you don’t want to end. If you have ever needed something to hold on to, listen to this song.

“Gonna Get Over You” Kaleidoscope Heart – I love the snaps first of all. But the truth in the words is what really slays me. It really helped me feel like I was going to survive the break up. I knew I would eventually be alright but it didn’t have to be tonight. Sara was with me in the times that I thought I just might die of a broken heart. When I hear it now, it serves as a reminder that all these hurts and scars and pain make us who we are. You can come back from more than you thought possible.

“Hold My Heart” Kaleidoscope Heart – it reminds of a conversation many years ago with a man I loved. It wasn’t just a regular conversation. It was one that changed everything. He and I were not going to be. It was this ugly truth. Yes we loved each other but it wasn’t in the stars. Sara’s voice is so aching. I feel like my sorrow was intertwined into the DNA of this song. It somehow gives me closure to a long ago summer evening conversation that ended with us apart.

I’m still digesting her latest album, “The Blessed Unrest,” but here are my picks:

“Satellite Call” – The rhythm and beat imply the depth of this song. The echo changes Sara’s voice, but not in an auto-tune parody kind of way. She’s present in her songs and that causes me to be as well. Sometimes hearing a song can change the rest of your day. When I hear this one, I want to be a more connected person to my own experience.

“Little Black Dress” – Love the few notes that set off this sing along anthem. It’s what we all want to do “dance until you’re all gone.” Sara never feels sorry for herself, and she doesn’t want us to either. Because we can all put on our favorite song, sing defiantly and rise above whatever thinks it can keep us down.

“December” – I can only say that this is a month that I would rather skip. And this song captures that feeling in a cool, not too bleak way. Because it’s not like I can skip December. It comes every year and makes quite a big deal about itself. So maybe I feel a little be more ready for it when I hear this song.

So this has been my love letter, disguised cleverly as a blog entry, to Sara B. saying why she and her music mean so much to me.


I’m 35, Single and Not Freaking Out

Yes it’s true. I am an actual 35 year old, single woman who isn’t freaked out about it. Of course every rom-com movie and chick lit book, tells me the opposite. But my life is not a romantic comedy. Maybe a dark romantic comedy!

The point is that I’m single by choice. No one has broken up with me since I was 15.

I have several friends who are just now getting married, and I say – good move! Although I have other friends that married young and are surprisingly still happy. Not everything works the same for every one. I respect that yet some people seem almost horrified when I say marriage is not in my future. When I was married I felt like I was trapped. Yes a lot of that had to do with the fact that I married the wrong person, but I also think I’m too unconventional to be pressured by society norms.

Maybe the biggest reason I’m without worry is that I have not lost hope in love, which is saying a lot considering my long line of disastrous relationships: a liar, an alcoholic, a man with no backbone and one who always made sure he was the most important person to himself. Not that I’m perfect, but seriously if someone asked me my type, I would have said, “emotionally unavailable.”

But that’s not what I see in my future. I see the possibility of love. I’ve been in love twice in my life. My first love died several years ago, and I never got to say goodbye. The second one nearly killed me or at least my heart.

Lessons learned, right? I think so. The man in my life now has nothing but respect and affection for me. So yes I must be making better choices, but I still say no to another walk down the aisle. Because that’s not THE happy ending for me. I’ll make my own happy. No ending required.

Catfish: I’m Hooked

The train wreck that is the show Catfish is exactly that in you cannot look away. I was late to the Catfish party, not watching the movie until right before the premiere of the TV show. And for the record, this is the only show I watch on MTV, in light of the truth that I’m too old to be an MTV devotee.

The movie was an interesting perspective on the digital age of communication and relationships. It was both sad and eventually insightful. Nev truly seems to be a guy that is genuine. His story was mostly believable, making many think it could easily happen to them.

However, the show is about less genuine people in the fact they are in serious denial. It’s suspect to me how these people develop such close relationships, often confessing their love, without ever meeting. The relationship is built on texting, email and phone calls; not on touch or looking one another in the eye. I get that a lot of the relationships are spawned from loneliness. I certainly have been lonely. It’s a desperate feeling. Lucky for me, I am blessed with some amazing people and animals in my life!

And I have, of course, met guys online. But it never went longer than a few weeks without meeting. I wasn’t looking for a pen pal and I consider Ft Mill long distance so I’m not interested in a cyber relationship. I have to see someone to know for sure if it could go somewhere. I can usually tell in around five minutes.

I want protest against the wonders of technology and I cannot really say in the end if it allows us to be more or less connected. Maybe the connection is just different. Who can guess what the evolution of communication will look like. I’m someone in love with words and writing. So in a lot of ways I savor the new means of communicating by text rather than by phone. But nothing for me can replace real live interaction. For me it’s the only way to discern if a real spark exists. I may be in the minority on that in an age where most relationships start online. I’m just sure my next relationship is not going to start online. Thus far my only successful online relationship was a guy I met five years ago, dated briefly and ended up having a great friendship with. 😉

So I’ll keep watching Catfish, unable to look away, feeling sad for those that get duped and relieved that it certainly would never be me because if a man wants to earn my adoration he’s going to have to look me in the eye.

It’s Getting a Little Crowded

Apparently the days of personal space have become extinct. In a world that is over populated, this was inevitable. But seriously people, I need some space!

I still operate in the minority. I say, “Excuse me,” open doors, avoid walking between people and actually allow drivers to merge. I know I’m a unicorn (my term for something so wonderfully amazing, it cannot truly exist).

My experiences with those who have no connotation of the phrase personal phase are varied and regular. Here are two that are two of the worst (best?) examples:

I live in a condo. I have an upstairs neighbor. The night I moved in they had a party that kept me up until 4AM. And the party has yet to cease. At least twice a week I’m awakened in the middle of the night. The parade of people that go in and out of that condo perplexes me so that I’m not sure who actually lives there. I don’t like to complain, but I have. When your actions and lack of respect for anyone begins to impact my life and my sleep (not too mention a terrified puppy dog) then the gloves come off. If you live in close quarters, please respect others. Understand that if your social life is so busy and your house is party central then you should probably be living in a single family house! It’s not just footsteps now and then it’s – what the hell are they doing up there? My girlfriend who was over once actually asked, “Are they bowling?” Who knows, but I need some peace.

The other incident occurred in France while Caron and I were touring the Palace of Versailles. Yes, there were many visitors there that day from many different cultures. I understand that not every culture thinks in terms of personal space because some countries live so close together. We were moving through the palace at the same time as a large Asian party who had no sense of space, absolutely none. I was stepped on, elbowed and pushed out of the way. We actually had bruises on our legs from the mob. Finally, we just hung back long enough to let them pass.

So I stand by my rule on personal space. If I’m ever invading someone’s personal space, it’s by invitation. And if you are in mine then don’t be surprised if I have a remark or two. I’m educating the masses. Because we all want our own little space in the world even if it’s just a six inch circle around us.

What Can You Do in Five Years?

I have something to celebrate. And thus far this year, I have had several celebratory moments: landed an amazing new job and jetted off to Europe! But this is special, five years in the making. Five years ago was my last recurrence of cancer. Five years is the longest amount of time I have gone without a recurrence. I can’t say I’m cancer free because I’m not; it lingers in my lymph nodes. But five years is a milestone. And I’m grateful for this time that life has allowed me without the fear of surgery. Although, I am out of organs that I can live without. 

I thought it the perfect post to resurrect my blog, which apparently doesn’t even exist anymore so I had to start over. But I know a lot about starting over. I am just glad to be writing again. Without it I surely do not breathe as well.

Five years has elapsed since my confrontation with mortality. Of course, maybe we all face this daily. Every little thing that could change in those five years has. But I’m glad to be in this skin; hopeful for every day; sad and happy intermittently; and I still have much to do, many more sunsets to see and stories to write.

So I am proof, real proof, that you can lose everything, have everything you think you want, think you have nothing and realize that everything can change. 

Thank you to everyone who made these last five years possible – my doctors, my friends, my Honey, my Ellie. 

I am finally breathing steadily again, and my life is still very believable.