Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Letter to Mayor Bloomberg, Re: The Latest Blizzard of 2010

Dear Mayor Bloomberg:

Thank you for your half-assed acknowledgement that the city dropped the ball when it came to cleaning up after Sunday's snowstorm. Of course, it certainly took you long enough to admit that the city might be a little bit to blame for the fact that piles of snow continue to block city streets and sidewalks, leaving many still impassable. I understand why you continue to point your finger at those New Yorkers who foolishly decided to drive late Sunday and early Monday; of course, why would you want to declare an official snow emergency, to make things a little clearer for everybody? And if you had, it would have gotten city buses off the streets as well, many of which became stuck in the middle of the roadways because their drivers had no choice but to do their jobs in the absence of any city mandates directing otherwise. But why split hairs?

After all, I'm not surprised that the vast majority of the city realized that this was a Department of Sanitation slowdown; I mean, when you attacked teachers, firefighters, and police officers with your budget cuts and suffered relatively little negative public feedback from workers or unions, it stands to reason why you'd expect the DSNY to bend over and take it, too. But this was your moment, to shine in all of your glory; after all, you worked so damn hard to put all city departments directly under that managerial thumb of yours. So this was your time to show off: MANAGE. Make the DSNY union and its workers do their damn jobs, so that the city wouldn't come to a standstill and people's lives (and livelihoods) wouldn't be at stake, in what was ONLY the fifth-worst blizzard in the city's history. After all, people clearly remember what a wonderful job the city did, cleaning up after the storm's of last year's harsh winter. Even in the outer boroughs!! Wouldn't want to tarnish that shiny record, would we?

Guess so. Your managerial skills appear to be sorely lacking, sir. Because of your blatant refusal to acknowledge what was happening, it is now the fourth day since the snow ended, and people still cannot leave their homes. Businesses cannot receive deliveries. Supermarkets can't restock their shelves with fresh food. People have died, sir, because emergency vehicles took hours to make it through unplowed roads. Homes burned down. Some people remained virtual shut-ins for days, because they rely upon their cars to travel where they need to go. My own father, who is sixty-two years old and is recovering from a stroke, could not make it to his various doctor's appointments. He could not wade several blocks through two feet of snow to the nearest bus stop, and the buses were not running with any dependability or regularity, because of the hazardous conditions of Staten Island roads. It may suit you to assume a dismissive attitude to these difficulties; after all, you had your very own staff member shovel you a path from your car to the door of the Colonnade Diner on Monday. But I'm sure it would be a very different scenario if you suddenly found yourself without your chaffeur.

Anyway, I hope that you learned something from this debacle, and that it has suitably chastened you--and not just because of the way it has hurt any future political aspirations you may have. When a city with the manpower and resources of New York allows things to degenerate so fully, it should be nothing but humbling. But remember, Mayor Bloomberg: New Yorkers have long memories, and winter has only just begun.

Sincerely Yours,
Alyson Elizabeth Mahon

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas with the Mahons

I've been asked not to post this picture on Facebook, since it most likely will be on next year's Christmas card, but I figure that my blog will be safe. Those of you who follow my blog will see it, and then it will fade into oblivion, as newer posts take its place.

This weekend, Fran and I decided to take our dog, Bó, to PetSmart, so that he could have his picture taken with "Santa Claws." The night before, I had the brilliant idea to bring Andy, the family cat, to be a part of the day's festivities.

Here is our memento of the day. Too bad that it was too cold and stressful for our bird--I'm sure that Maggie would have loved to have her picture taken, as well!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Presents (also titled "Ahh, Men..."

It's the last day of November, which means that, once again, I'm trying to get a feel for what my loved ones would like for Christmas--as well as sending out subtle and not-so-subtle hints of my own.

Because of how little time passed between our decision to marry and the actual marriage, I don't have an engagement ring, which is okay. So for Christmas, I'd really like for Fran to get me a three-stone diamond ring, where the three stones symbolize "past, present, and future"; I could wear it with my wedding band, as I would an engagement ring.

To get the message across, I left the website with the ring up on my desktop in the living room when I went to bed last night, so that Fran could see it.

I came home to find a copy of the email I sent him before bringing home Bó, which reads: "I know you're not ready to adopt a dog yet, but what about fostering one to save him from being euthanized??," along with his reply that he wouldn't say no, but that he wasn't sure it was the best time.

There now sits on his computer keyboard a picture of Bó and Fran playing tug-of-war, the latter with a huge grin on his face. Underneath the picture is a note saying, "I'm a size 6."

First Christmas

This Christmas, there are a lot of "firsts": our first Christmas together, our first Christmas in the house, our first Christmas with the dog. So, this past Thanksgiving weekend, we put up our first Christmas tree for the first time.

The dog is enamored with it. Before I even took it out, he was trying to "help" me open the box. Then, he lay on the tree skirt while I assembled it. And after it was decorated, he abandoned a perfectly good dog bed to conk out under the tree. And that's where he's been ever since.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Whatever trials and tribulations may come my way, I am blessed to have you all in my life, and for this I am eternally grateful.

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being Thankful

I like big holidays. And I like celebrating them in a big way. Especially Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is different than other holidays in that it largely has escaped commercialization--except in supermarkets. The section for Thanksgiving cards in pharmacies and card stores is relatively small. There's no fat man sliding down the chimney to bring presents; there's no bunny hiding eggs in the living room. There's no barrage of commercials advertising things you just have to buy--except frozen turkeys.

So (if you can get past the food), it's the easiest holiday for us to remember the true meaning of; instead of the trappings, we can focus on the day as a reminder of all the blessings for which we should be thankful each and every day, yet all too often take for granted. And so I'd like to take this opportunity to express some of the things I'm thankful for this year:

I'm thankful for my husband, who is both my best friend and lover. For the past eight months, he has been here to share with me both good times and bad, to share my happiness and my sorrows. Every day he saves me from myself, by acting as a reminder of my priorities and of who I truly am, inside and out. And he helps me not to sweat the small stuff, to keep in mind what's truly important.

I'm thankful for my family, who has supported me through childhood and into adulthood. Our relationships may have changed, but they've strengthened, not lessened. My family has helped me become who I am today, both my relatives who are here and those who've gone. And while I miss those who've passed away, I am grateful for the chance to have known them and be touched by them.

I'm thankful for my friends: from church and work, as well as my Ya-Ya's. And now I can add many of my husband's friends, who have become my friends, too. They stayed with me through some tough times, supporting me when I couldn't stand alone. And they didn't hesitate to do it, even though it would have been easier for them not to.

And strange as it may be, I'm thankful for the hard lessons I've learned. There've been some very painful times, but without them, I would have learned neither my compassion, nor my perseverance. Those tough times have made me stronger, and have truly taught me how to love myself for who I truly am, flaws and all. And because of this, I can truly share my life with those I care about, rather than rely upon them for my happiness. This makes me a better daughter, wife, and friend.

May you all know how much I love and appreciate you, and how thankful I am to have you in my life. And may your Thanksgiving be a blessed one, too.

Dog Escapades, Part 1

Bó does NOT like the vacuum. At all. He'll always bark at it until he's told to stop, and occasionally he'll try to bite it, as well. It certainly makes cleaning interesting.

Well, he REALLY doesn't like the it now. Up till this point, Bó has realized that Fran and I are responsible for the vacuum making its God-awful sound that he hates so much. So last night's events came as a big surprise to him:

I had not left the extension cord long enough while vacuuming the living room, so when I went to clean under the bird cage, the plug pulled out of the wall. When I went into the kitchen to plug the vacuum back in, Bó must've crept into the room to inspect it, not expecting it to turn back on by itself.

Boy, that dog runs fast.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Long Time Coming

This photograph was a long time coming. When Fran came to visit in March, when our relationship was just a hope in our hearts, we saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in the movie theater. After we professed our love for each other, we both viewed this as our first date, and decided that we'd go to Central Park to have our picture taken at the Alice in Wonderland statue. But we didn't make it there in March, nor in the months that followed. But our goal was not forgotten, and today we achieved it; we had our picture taken, in fond remembrance of the days when our feelings for each other first blossomed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Meet Bó

Early Tuesday morning, I came upon a post on the "Pets" section of Craigslist, that had been placed by an animal rescue group looking to save "Bruno," an 3-year-old, 80-lb. "American Staffordshire Terrier mix." This sweet boy was advertised as being good with people and other dogs, yet hadn't found a home and was scheduled to be euthanized yesterday (Thursday). The rescue group was pleading with somebody to help save him, either by adopting or fostering him. Well, it's not the first such post I've seen on Craigslist, nor is it the first to sadden me. However, I had such a visceral reaction as I looked at the forlorn expression on this beautiful animal with cow-like markings. I couldn't get over how a dog could be rescued from the streets by putting his trust in people, only to lose his second chance at a family and a better life because the time ran out on some arbitrary due date.

Well, he was just as much of a "sad sack" when I met him in person, and was even manhandled by the shelter workers when they went to microchip him and vaccinate him against rabies; they tied his mouth shut so tightly that they gave him a huge gash across his muzzle, and since there had already been a scar there, I HIGHLY doubt that it was the first time. But by the time he got home, was fed and watered, and had a short nap, you could already see the change in him. He woke up ready to play and to give kisses, and now, after three days in a loving home, where he's safe and well cared for, you can already see his true personality: a laidback yet playful, friendly baby. He even has a new name to go with his new home: Bó, the Irish word for "cow."

Now it's just a matter of getting the cat to accept him. It shouldn't be a problem; Andy has already told Bó that he's God, and the dog readily agreed.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Big Shoes to Fill

At my brother's wake, I was told by a well-meaning yet misguided mourner that I "had some big shoes to fill." While it is ridiculous, not to mention impossible, even to imagine that I could replace my brother in any way, for myself or for anyone else, not a day goes by when I don't remember that I'm my parents' only remaining child, and that with that, comes certain responsibilities.

When my brother first died, my thoughts were filled with my own, personal losses: how I would never be an aunt. How when my parents eventually died, I'd be alone, with no sibling to share the grief and the responsibilities. But as time has passed, I've also started to feel the pressure resulting from my desire to minimize my family's losses.

It's been many years since I have doubted my own mortality; my surgeries and my battle with depression have necessitated the formation of both short-term and long-term goals, showing me the importance of making each day count. But while I still feel (and am) relatively young, my family's recent losses and health scares have served as yet another reminder of the relentless passage of time.

My husband and I eloped, and while my parents love him and are thrilled with our marriage, I know that they are disappointed not to have been there, and their disappointment serves as a glaring reminder that this was their only chance to witness the marriage of their child; my brother is no longer around to afford them a second opportunity. The same sentiment holds true for my grandmother. Therefore, while I don't regret the way we were married for a moment, I do feel twinges of guilt at denying my parents a moment of happiness and hope for the future. I can't help but feel the same weight of responsibility with regard to having children. My grandmother is ninety-four years old, and while she's in good health, I still recognize that her remaining days on this earth are numbered. Will she live long enough to see her first great-grandchild? After my father's stroke, one of my first thoughts was, would he live long enough to see his first grandchild? While certainly not a good reason to have children, I cannot help but remember that I am my parents' only opportunity for grandchildren. And now there is no son to pass along the family name; it will die with my father.

I have always felt somewhat of a disappointment to my family, particularly when compared to my brother. I neither attended the college my parents wanted me to, nor chose the career they would have wanted for me. And my brother's effortless intelligence couldn't help but inspire a spark of inferiority in my heart of hearts, however unintentionally. And while I can't do anything to change the past, I do find myself preoccupied with future decisions, wanting to protect and care for them when they need me.

I may not be perfect, but I'm all they have.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This is Why I Walk....

This is my brother's memorial photograph from the AFSP's "Out of the Darkness" community walk on Staten Island. It's important to put faces to the statistics, so that people may realize how prevalent--and personally devastating--it is to lose someone to suicide.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Out of the Darkness

Yesterday was my second year walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) annual "Out of the Darkness" community walk. While it's heartbreaking that I or anyone else would need to walk in memory of a loved one lost to suicide, I've found the whole experience to be very therapeutic, a way to honor my brother's memory while doing something constructive, in the hope of ensuring that others may be spared the same heartbreak in the future.

That said, I also hope that these walks may help to make the topic of suicide less taboo. Today's annual "Making Strides for Breast Cancer" walk had 20,000 participants; "Out of the Darkness" had between 200-300 walkers. I know for a fact that countless more Staten Islanders have been touched by suicide. Since losing my brother, it seems as though almost everywhere I go, I encounter someone who has lost a loved one this way. So my question is: why aren't these people walking? Is it because they haven't heard of the walk? Until losing my brother and finding a Survivors After Suicide support group on Staten Island, I hadn't either. Why isn't such an important cause more publicized? Are people afraid to talk about it? Are they afraid of being on the wrong end of negative gossip?

Why is suicide a topic that most people avoid, especially when it's so prevalent? According to the AFSP and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the eleventh-leading cause of death in 2007, the latest available data. It was the fourth-leading cause of death among adults ages 18 to 65, and the third-leading cause of death among adolescents. It seems to me as if more must be done to publicize the tragedy of suicide, rather than sensationalize it. The stigma must be removed, in order to suicide awareness and prevention.

Perhaps then, our loved ones' deaths will not have been in vain.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Six Months

If you had asked me a year ago whether marriage was in my future in the near future, I would have said no. Yet here I am, celebrating six months of marriage to a wonderful man, whom it is my privilege to know, to love, and be loved by. It is a gift to be able to share my days with him, both good ones and bad. And I'm looking forward to many more months and years together, growing together in love and happiness.

Happy Anniversary, Fran.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Our Church Family

Last Sunday, my husband officially joined my church family, by being received as an Episcopalian and a member of St. John's Church on Staten Island. I am so proud of all his hard work done in preparation for this event, and of the help he's given since first arriving from Ireland. And I'm so glad that the person who's become such an integral part of my life in such a short time, has become a part of something that's been so important to me for so long.

Congratulations, Fran.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The book I'm reading now, entitled For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, by Tara Parker-Pope, cites a study stating that marriage stress can have a profound effect on a person's physical health, while job stress does not.

Obviously, the researchers have never held real jobs.

Why I Teach

Today a student paid me the highest compliment, when she told me that, although she normally hates to read, she has found the stories that I've taught so far so interesting that she actually wants to read them, and has even been taking them home to discuss with her mother.

While I cannot pretend that the bureaucratic nonsense we teachers are subjected to by the school's administration, the DOE, and the mayor does not matter, it is because of moments like this that I am still a teacher. It is in moments like this where I see the ability I have to make a difference, no matter how slight, in the futures of my students.

While I know that not every literary text I teach will hold the same level of interest for my students, and that their individual tastes will vary greatly according to their personalities, I hope that these small breakthroughs will awaken in my students a new openness to literature, a motivation to experience new things.

And while I shall never know the answer to this for all my students, it is in these moments that hope is rekindled anew.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Facing My Parents' Mortality

The past week and a half has been a busy and stressful one for my family and me; on the night of Monday, August 30th, my father had a stroke as we were leaving a celebratory birthday dinner for my aunt. He was lucky--we all were--in that it was a relatively mild one, that will resolve itself with time. Still, for the time being, he has been left with weakness and instability on the left side of his body and on the right side of his face, affecting his gait and his speech, respectively.

It has been a surreal time for us. Doctors have told my father to address certain health issues for years, warnings that he has repeatedly ignored, believing that nothing would ever, could ever, happen to him; now he is experiencing a rough reality check. The rest of us are, as well. While my mother and I have been more aware of the risks his diet and sedentary lifestyle posed to his physical well-being, at the same time we have only truly been confronted with the possibility of a life without him now. For years, my father has defied the odds, remaining unaffected by the foods he eats and his lack of exercise; only within the past few years has his behavior truly started to catch up with him.

It is a scary thing, for my father to face his own mortality. It is equally scary for me to face it. Intellectually, I have always known that I would not always have my parents in my life, that they eventually grow old and die; however, this is the first time that I've been faced with that cold, hard reality. Since the day I was born, my parents have been there for me, to offer their unconditional love and support; I would never have made it through this past year without them. Now, as they approach senior citizenship, I see their bodies start to wear down, and I know that this will not always be the case. There will come a day when they will be gone, and I will be left alone. And this is something that strikes fear into the depths of my heart. I don't know how to possibly prepare myself for such a day; I will never be "ready" to lose the people who gave me life and love, who raised me, who shaped me into the person I am today.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Husband's Birthday

Last Thursday was my husband's thirty-fifth birthday, and his first in America. I know that it must be tough for him to be separated from his family and friends, but he's become such a special part of our family, and my parents and I were glad to help him celebrate. I look forward to many more birthdays with him.

Monday, August 30, 2010


For the past few nights, I've been having the strangest dreams. In my dreams, Fran and I are still together, but he's still living in Ireland. In some of the dreams, we're married; in others, we're still dating. In some, we're physically together; in others, we're still on two separate continents. But all of these dreams are united by one thing: in all of them, he's breaking up with me. I know this must be a manifestation of my fears of losing him, but that doesn't stop me from awaking with a knot of fear in my chest. And I'm always surprised--and relieved--to find that he's still here.

Cat Escapades, Part 3

Last night, I was lying in bed, watching TV. The cat, Andy, was lying on Fran's side of the bed, while my husband was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed.

When Fran came into the room, he told the cat to move from his side of the bed. No response. He flipped the blanket over him, to see if that would irritate Andy enough to make him move. Nope. So finally, he picked the cat up, dropped him at the foot of my side of the bed, and told him, "My spot." The cat FLEW back to Fran's pillow before he even had a chance to stick a TOE under the covers!! So Fran repeated the procedure: pick up Andy, put Andy at the foot of the bed, and say, "My spot." This time, he beat Andy, lying down on that side of the bed first.

Well, did it faze the cat? Nope. Without missing a beat, Andy promptly changed direction. He walked up to me, rubbed up against my face, and looked at my husband, as if to say, "Your spot; MY girl."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Personal Space

Last night, I elbowed my husband in the head in my sleep. Upset, I immediately rolled over, apologizing profusely, to see if he was okay.

Then I saw that I was lying at the edge of my side of the bed, while my husband was bent at the waist, so that his legs were on his side of the bed, while his head was right up against mine on the pillow.

Then I didn't feel so badly.

Changes in Lifestyle = Changes in Weight

A couple of years ago, I did the unimaginable: I lost seventy-two pounds in six months. It was a complete lifestyle change for me; I totally revamped my diet and my exercise regimen, and I was rigid in sticking to it. I was so proud of myself for my accomplishment, and I swore that I would never go back to it.

But the changes of the past year have taken me back to square one. Last summer, I gained back thirty pounds. After losing my brother, well-meaning people sent us a lot of comfort food, and after the funeral was over, life still didn't go back to normal. I tried to return to my diet and exercise regimen, but my heart wasn't in it. I was so unhappy all the time, and felt as though I should take the comforts where I could get it, even from food. Also, I wasn't sure why I should work s o hard, and deprive myself so much; after all, my brother deprived himself all his life with the intention of reaping the benefits later in life, and he never did.

It took me until the holidays, and winding up on the bathroom floor during a holiday party, vomiting and crying over my brother, to begin rediscovering my resolve. I decided that my brother wouldn't want me to be living so self-destructively; after all, I'd done so much work on myself since high school, to be well both physically and mentally, and he wouldn't want me to throw that away. The Christmas season is a tough time to begin any dietary changes, so I decided to start afresh in January. And I did. During a three-week stretch of time, I lost ten pounds, and was encouraged.

But that wasn't the end of the changes, or the setbacks. Over the next four months, I became a homeowner and a wife. As a homeowner, I had to learn to balance the needs of my house and pets with my full-time job, while turning my childhood home into my adult home. As a wife, I had to deal with the stress first of having my husband living in another country with a five-hour time difference for the first month; after that, I had the same responsibilities as I did as a homeowner, while learning to cook quick meals to share with a husband who has very different dietary needs than my own. All of this has derailed me even further, so that I have regained the rest of the weight I'd lost.

Now it's time to find my resolve once more. The toughest part is relearning how to do it for myself, and not for others; my husband loves me for who I am, regardless of my weight, but other people, who complimented me when I was thin, have lost no time in pointing out my recent weight gain. It's hard not to want to lose the weight again to make the criticisms stop and the compliments return. And when I go back to work, it will be tough to decide to cram any more into an already full day, even if it's just an extra half hour; combined with a seven-hour workday and over three hours of commute time, it seems especially daunting. But most of all, I have to figure out what will make me HAPPY; is it the temporary, superficial comfort of sweets, or the satisfaction (and energy) that comes with a healthy lifestyle. And of course, the ever-existing question: what do my choices say about me?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


So, Monday was Fran's and my appointment with the USCIS. Probably I was more outwardly nervous than he, as I gave voice to my anxiety, but we both were pretty collected as we went in for our 9:45 AM appointment.

My nervousness stemmed not from any wrongdoing on our part, but from my misgivings about our interviewer; the interviewers are trained to ferret out lies, so I figured that, after searching for deceit every day for however long these people have done this job, they would come to view everyone who walks through their doors with suspicion. After all, in life you tend to see what you're looking for, whether positive or negative; would our interviewer see us as guilty until proven innocent?

My fears seemed to be unfounded; the entire interview consisted of three questions, all of which were directed at my husband:

1) What is your wife's birthdate?
2) Where was your wife born?
3) When were you married?

Fran was able to answer all of these questions without any problems, and the interviewer actually cracked a hint of a smile at a couple of points, like when I hissed at Fran that we should have been made copies of our utility bills, and when I wouldn't give him a photo from our wedding album. And he was absolutely flabbergasted when we showed him the article from the Irish Independent, and mentioned that a British magazine was interested in doing a story on us, as well!! LOL

The only hitch was in Fran's medical report, which the INS-recommended doctor filled out on an outdated form. The form actually was more rigorous in its requirements than the new form, but the interviewer refused to accept it, instead making Fran return to the doctor, have him fill out the current form, and hand-deliver it back to the immigration office. While annoying, it was only a minor issue.

That said, it prevented us from having any sense of closure on Monday. According to Fran, he would've had his green card on Monday if everything had been in order, since they print out the cards at the same location. Now, we have to wait and see. Everything should be okay, but the "waiting and seeing" always makes me even more nervous, because I never know if another mistake, another "hitch," is on the way....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Remembering His Life

Yesterday, my brother, George, should've been celebrating his twenty-fifth birthday. Instead, today we are commemorating the first anniversary of his death by suicide. While both days have been difficult, and while it's difficult to believe sometimes that a year has passed already, at the same time, it's hard not to see how my grief has changed over the past twelve months.

When my brother first took his own life, the pain of his death was compounded by the manner in which he died. For a long time afterward, I kept envisioning the manner in which he died, seeing his lifeless body in my mind's eye. Any good times we shared were overshadowed by regret: regret that I hadn't seen this coming; regret that, with my own depression, I hadn't been a better role model; regret that I resented him so much when we were children; regret that we only had seven years as adults to enjoy each other's company. I focused on the unfairness of the situation, how most siblings who fought as children then have decades to enjoy a newfound closeness as adults, while we were denied that. I hated myself for not being a better sister.

As time has passed, while I don't miss George any less, I have begun to find solace in remembering his life. I can smile when I think of the funny and creative things he did or said, and can enjoy relating such tales to others once more. And I know that my brother will live on always in my heart and mind, and in the hearts and minds of all who loved him, for as long as we have these memories.

Rest in peace, George.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cat Escapades, Part 2

My husband, Fran, was getting his breakfast this morning. He'd put his bowl of raisin bran on the kitchen table and went to the fridge, which is located next to the table, to get some milk for his cereal. In the time it took for him to turn around to get his milk, the cat, Andy, had jumped up on the table, and was getting ready to stick his nose into Fran's cereal. Predictably, my husband unceremoniously dumped the cat onto the floor.

Later in the morning, Fran was went to walk back into the kitchen from the living room, only to find Andy sitting back up on the table, facing the door and patiently waiting for my husband to see him there. Could it be more obviously a dare?

Pets are like two-year-olds that never grow up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Choosing Life

Something inside you changes when a loved one commits suicide. Until that point, life is just something that you do, a simple, unavoidable, unchangeable fact. But when someone embraces death as an alternative, everything changes--even more so when that person is a relative, someone close to you.

After that, you begin to doubt yourself, and your own ability not to make the same choice; after all, you think, if my friend, my husband, my brother, my parent has chosen to die, what is stopping me from doing the same? Am I strong enough to continue facing the confusion, frustration, anger, anxiety, and depression that comes along with everyday life? And if that person is a relative, you start to wonder whether suicide is in your genes, if you have inherited genetic material that will cause you to come with stressful situations in the same way. Not a day goes by when suicide is not in your mind--your loved one's suicide, and its implications for your own desire to live.

As time goes by, the direction of these thoughts shift ever so slightly, yet significantly. In the beginning, when the pain of losing your loved one in such a violent and destructive manner is still terribly raw, you don't know how you will possibly manage to continue on, living each day with such pain for years, even decades. In your anguish, you wonder about the pain your loved one must have felt in order to make such a desperate choice, and you question how you, in your despair, will possibly find the strength to avoid descending into the same irrationality. But then, as the months pass, your thought processes shift. Slowly but surely, you begin to realize that your loved one's choice is not the only one that you can make. There is another choice to be made: to live.

From that point on, each day you make the conscious decision to live, a choice of empowerment, rather than helplessness. And this choice means that you are no longer a victim of your loved one's suicide; you are now a survivor.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Today is my parents' thirty-fourth wedding anniversary. My mother says that it passed "in the blink of an eye," and when I think that I was alive for twenty-nine of those years, I'd tend to agree. So much has changed, and so quickly--at least, in retrospect....

Whenever I have dreams of "home," it's always in my house, the home of my childhood. This past January, I bought this house from my parents, who moved into my great-aunt's house in 2007. But when I dream of this house, it's usually with the family of my childhood: my parents, brother, even former pets. To me, this signals that I have yet to reconcile my old life with the new; I have not yet recognized this house, and the act of buying it, as a sign of my new, adult life.

Instead, I work to build new memories while surrounded by old ones, to incorporate my new family with my old one. And I don't know yet what the end result will be.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Silence is golden, or so the cliché says. But to someone with depression, silence becomes something to be avoided. Silence becomes an opportunity for those frighteningly dangerous thoughts, with which you have become so familiar, to seep into your consciousness, for your inner monologue to race into directions that you cannot control. And so, silence itself becomes scary. As such, it becomes difficult to begin to trust silences again.

As a teacher, prolongued silences in the classroom taunt you, make you feel as though your students are neither engaged nor interested. Once again, these silences seem to become gaps to be filled, and you have to fight this natural inclination, allowing the students the time to process information and develop necessary critical thinking skills.

With my husband, I have not yet become accustomed to our companionable silences. My natural inclination is to make small-talk; his is the opposite. Instead of being bothered by this, I need to embrace the kind of closeness that that being in the same room, or even in the same house, in silence can bring. I know that some of the most meaningful conversations can be held without words; now I must remember viscerally, as well as intellectually, that these conversations can be, and are, valuable to a relationship.

Silence truly can be golden.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Okay, I'll admit it: I have trust issues. Not with other people, but with myself. For years--decades now--I've had difficulty trusting in myself, believing myself to be worthy of good things in life.

And now, as the one-year anniversary of my brother's suicide approaches, I find myself losing faith in happiness. I wish that I found it easier to enjoy just being happy, rather than waiting for the other shoe to drop. Intellectually, I know that the sum of a person's worth (and the value of a person's life) is the entirety of that person's character and life choices, rather than individual traits or events. But knowing this and making myself believe it are often two different things.

Instead, I seem to dwell on the bad things while forgetting the good. I view the good things in my life as being the result of luck, while in my mind, the bad things are the direct result of mistakes I must have made. I'm such a perfectionist, but since I know that I'm bound to make mistakes, I feel that I'm bound to suffer for these errors of judgement. And so I feel as though I sit, waiting for karma to catch up with me, waiting for the next loss.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cat Escapades

As some of you know, my cat, until recently, has put up something of a protest to my husband's continued presence in the house by peeing on the rugs in the dining room and the spare bedroom. After four GALLONS of Nature's Miracle, the dining room appears to be odor-free, but my husband and I have wanted to keep the cat out of the spare bedroom until we can say the same for that room.

Because the door doesn't stay closed on its own, Fran has rigged an intricate system, whereby he has wrapped a piece of string around three doorknobs and the railing. Well, I was in the spare room going through some clothes while Fran was hooking up our new TV in the living room, and I left the string unhooked, in case he wanted to store anything in the room.

When I came back in the hallway, the cat was chewing on the string. He went to take off downstairs with it before I could take it away from him, but of course, the other end was still attached to the doorknob. Next thing I know, his back feet went flying out from under him as he kept his jaw firmly clamped around that infernal string, and stayed that way until I unhooked it from his teeth.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LeBron James

According to the news, today is "Decision Day," the day we find which basketball team LeBron James chooses to sign with. Personally, I couldn't care less, whether he joins the Knicks, the Nets, or any other team. I'm tired of seeing this story on the news every day for over a month. People need to get their priorities straight. There are too many other important things happening, that will affect our lives so much more significantly than professional sports ever could.

Why not show this kind of concern for the Crisis in the Gulf, where millions of gallons of oil still are destroying local wildlife AND livelihoods? How could an entertainer (for that's what a sports player is) possibly hope to compare in importance to this?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


When I was younger, going out to eat at a restaurant, even a local diner, was exciting because it was "different," something out of the ordinary. Now, what makes "eating out," or even "take-out" special is the fact that I'm not the one cooking it. Now, I find myself assessing beforehand what's "quick" or "easy" to make; supermarket trips revolve around planning meals with little preparation and cooking time. Clean-up is another obstacle; wouldn't it be nice to actually enjoy the meal I've just spent time cooking, rather than dwelling on the mess I've left behind? And I'm actually pretty good, in the sense that I try to keep things as neat as possible while I'm cooking, and will clean up as much as I can as I go along.

All I know is, it's easier now that I'm on vacation, and time isn't so pressing. Trying to schedule the day's household chores around my work schedule is enough to drive someone to drink.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Family Dinner

Dinner at my parents' has been a good way of helping me to merge my old life with the new; first, regular family dinners helped me adjust to moving into my own house, and now, it has been essential to integrating Fran into my Staten Island family. Because our courtship and marriage happened so quickly, Fran and I did not have the benefit of the time most couples do, to get to know each other's families slowly over time. So these dinners, in my mind, help to make what could be an awkward situation more comfortable, by giving my parents and him the opportunity twice a week to spend time becoming acquainted.

And for my part, it's nice to see such good will on both of their parts.

Thoughts About Blogging

Writing about my feelings has always been difficult for me. Writing gives me the opportunity to edit myself, to rethink what I wish to say, so that I express less recklessly; at the same time, however, I've always felt that, by putting my thoughts down "on paper," so to speak, I make everything so much more quantifiable, making myself so much more vulnerable in the process.

For me, Facebook and Twitter have been baby steps in my foray into blogging. Now, it's time for me to begin reflecting on the many changes in my life in greater detail. I hope that any readers enjoy what I write, and that I don't offend anybody, but ultimately, what I write here is for myself, to bring about my own catharses....