This blog is about my experiences in the world, both good and bad. It is about how I view things and my opinions. It's my thoughts on life, my reflections into my experiences. It is my way of processing my world around me and things that happen to me. Writing is my therapy. It's about life as I see it, take it or leave it.

The check’s been taken care of April 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Risa @ 8:00 am

On Good Friday my kids had the day off school. Wanting to do something special with  them, I planned a day of going out to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants and then off to the library for books, books, books! Taking 4 kids between the ages of almost 13 and a toddler out anywhere is always a big fiasco. There’s always fighting over who gets to sit where in the car, who looked at whom, who breathed too hard in another’s direction, and so forth. By the time we got to this little local Italian restaurant my mom-nerves were shot.

Luckily this restaurant is very low-key and family friendly. And they have the best pizza lunch special ever. Everything was going along like normal. We ordered our drinks first, then food once everyone had decided what they wanted, and there was the requisite “I have to potty” requests. The good thing about food is it keeps everyone’s mouths occupied so the bickering is kept to a minimum. As we finished our meal I was expecting to receive the check, pay it, go to the bathroom and wash marina sauce off of several small hands, and then move on to the library. Instead the waitress said that a gentlemen had already taken care of our check. She said that he said he knew us and wanted to do something nice. I was so flabbergasted my first response was to say, “why?” She even brought out mini-ice cream sandwiches this man had bought all of my kids. I had been so distracted with my 4 quibbling offspring I had not noticed if someone I knew was in the restaurant. It’s a popular local place so it’s not unusual for me to run into someone I know. I even set a tip down on the table and the owner came out to tell me that it wasn’t necessary because this man took care of all of it. He had a huge smile on his usual kinda grouchy face and thanked us for coming in. My kids were so pleased to have this kind act done for them they immediately made requests to do something nice for someone else.

Did I happen to mention that this is the restaurant where my husband asked me to marry him? Yeah, it’s a special place where good things tend to happen.

This good deed done for my family reminded me of another time 15 years ago where something similar happened. I had almost forgotten about it until Good Friday.

My husband and I went on our honeymoon to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of my most favorite places on earth. It’s beautiful, breath-taking country. On our last night there the hubs and I decided we wanted to go big and eat dinner at a fancy restaurant. When we got to the restaurant we had in mind we found out that the prices were too expensive for our poor college student budget. So we settled on going to the local steakhouse that was a lot like Sizzler. We had just enough cash on us to buy gas to make it home and we didn’t want to use that money on anything else. Luckily for me there was plenty of money in my bank account. But as we went to the register to pay for what we had just ordered (like Sizzler, you have to pay before you can be seated) my debit card would not work. They tried it several times and it just wouldn’t work. It was humiliating to say the least and I sat down and cried thinking the last night of our honeymoon was ruined. I even think I articulated that sentiment out loud since the manager came out and had us sit down and he said he would work it out since we were there for a special occasion. Pretty soon our food was brought out to us and I figured the manager finally got my debit card to work since it was brought back to me. It turned out to be a lovely meal we quite enjoyed. Near the end of it a cowboy walked up to us and said that he heard we were on our honeymoon. He asked us where we were all from and made some small talk. The hubs and I are really out-going people and we’re used to strangers talking to us out of the blue. As the cowboy was about to leave he handed us a small bundle of cash and told us it was enough to pay for our meals and tip our waitress. He congratulated us on our marriage and left the restaurant. I think our jaws dropped to the floor. We were so humbled and so grateful. Our debit card never had been charged for that meal. The funny thing was, on our way home the next day we used my debit card in plenty of places and it worked perfectly.

It’s good to know that there are kind people in the world who like doing things to help others. I’ve been the recipient of these kind acts on many occasions and it has always driven me to be more generous and more kind. I hope 20-30 years from now when I’m a grandma enjoying a lunch in solitude, if I happen to see a young mother struggling with her pack of children in a restaurant, that I will look at my Good Friday experience, pay for her meal, and pay it forward.



I can’t get out of my sweat pants – an essay on depression April 16, 2014

Filed under: kindness,Life,stress — Risa @ 2:45 pm

I have clinical depression.

Despite all social stigmas to the contrary or people accusing me of being “crazy”, I’m not ashamed to admit that I have depression. Just like I’m not ashamed to admit that I have asthma.

The first time I experienced depression I was in 7th grade. I think it had something to do with the onset of puberty coupled with my entire life changing. After 7 years as a stay-at-home-parent, my mom went back to work full-time and I was suddenly responsible for caring for my 6 year old brother after school until my parents got home from work. I started junior high this year and didn’t cope well with changes in friendship and harder classes.

The way I dealt with it, because I had  no idea why I felt so sad all the time, was to stop eating. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part. The stress and anxiety of my life made me lose my appetite. I remember going through the lunch line at school and getting my tray and turning right around and throwing everything on it away. After a while, one of the lunch ladies caught on and scolded me. So I learned it was best to take my tray, sit down, mess with the food but not eat anything, and then discard it. After 7th grade I asked my mom not to buy school lunch anymore. I don’t want to make it sound like I had an eating disorder because I didn’t. Not eating was a coping mechanism I unconsciously used when the stress and anxiety was overwhelming, and it wasn’t overwhelming all the time.

Sometimes when the depression got really bad in junior high, I would come straight home from school and change into my pajamas. My dad caught on and he said something to me at dinner time about being in my pajamas several days in a row way before bedtime. I learned it was better not to change into my pajamas until bed time. People who are depressed like to hide their problematic behaviors because they are so ashamed of the way they feel. I was very ashamed and yet I didn’t have the words or life experience to voice what I was going through.

For most of junior high and high school I didn’t know that what I had was called depression. And that’s not to say I was depressed all the time. I was able to function and get good grades. I just had a few overwhelming bouts off and on and when it got bad I would stop eating and wear my pajamas every chance I could get. I also couch-potatoed with reruns of The Real World (this was back in the ’90s when the show was good).

That hardest part about dealing with depression as an adolescent, for me, was that no one seemed to notice. Research has shown that depression is genetic,  and I watched both of my parents struggle with depression. I think both of them were too depressed to notice that I was also depressed. There were many nights I had to make dinner for the family, make sure my brother did his homework and practice the piano, and put myself to bed. I don’t blame my parents…I think they did the best they could with what skills and knowledge they had at the time. And I know what it’s like to barely have the energy to get through the day that any additional problem seems insurmountable.

I struggled with bouts of depression until I was 20 years old. That is when my fiance (now husband) and caring roommates interceded and got me help. I learned that a lot of my depression stemmed from a hormonal imbalance because it often got worse when my hormones were at their lowest levels during my menses. Since that time I’ve either been on birth control or pregnant and my depression abated for a very long time.

For 15 years I was depression free. Even when I lost my mom to cancer I can’t say I was depressed because I didn’t experience the same symptoms. Yes, I was unbelievably sad and grieving. But grief is not depression and I sought ways to cope with my grief so that I didn’t become depressed. I attended a grief support group, went to a few counseling sessions, and let myself feel every sad emotion I had when I had it. It’s actually very emotionally healthy to let yourself feel sadness instead of repressing it.

What I didn’t know was my depression was lying in wait ready to take over my brain chemistry at any time I was not vigilant. Last September my husband, a long with 30% of his company, was laid off. He was out of work for four months, which in retrospect doesn’t seem like very long, but at the time it was the longest four months of my life. I was in a constant state of panic wondering if we were going to lose our house and end up living in a van down by the river. Not that we could have even afforded a van. We depleted our savings and racked up some credit card debt, but with the unfailing support of family members and friends we pulled through. And we were treated to some of the most humbling displays of generosity and love our family has ever seen. We survived it and now he has a great job and we’re in a much better place.


It was after my husband went back to work that the depression hit. I was in full-on survival mode for four months and I didn’t allow myself to process what I was going through, which I think is fairly typical. I couldn’t understand why getting out of bed and taking care of my children was harder than ever when I no longer had the threat of a van and a river hanging over my head. It wasn’t until a good friend interceded, who could tell what I was going through, that I finally admitted that after 15 years of keeping my depression at bay, it was back. Thanks to her I started taking a supplement that improves the serotonin levels in your brain and now I finally feel like I’m back to my regular self.

What is absolutely infuriating about depression is other people’s perception of it. I hate it when people tell me when I’m depressed to just think happy, positive thoughts. Having depression is not the same as having a bad day and a picture of a fluffy kitten will NOT lift my spirits. Depression is more than being sad. Or when people tell me I need to forget about myself and serve others and that will cure my depression. I hate to break it to people, but most people with depression are able to function in life and they are serving others and the joy from serving others doesn’t fix chemical imbalances in your brain.

So let me tell you what depression is like for me. It is debilitating. It makes mundane, ordinary tasks like taking a shower or making the bed seem impossible. It is soul-sucking. It breaks you down into a person who no longer feels anything but apathy. It also makes you feel completely worthless and unlovable. When I’m in the throes of depression my brain lies to me and tells me that I am worth nothing. No one cares about me. The world would be a better place if I died. And when you have all this negative self-talk running through your head all day long, no amount of fluffy kitten pictures is going to take that away. No amount of weeding your neighbor’s garden is going to take all that negative self-talk away. If anything, you just tell yourself how worthless you are because you could have weeded that garden better and/or faster. Another thing that happens to me when I’m depressed is I isolate myself from others. The internet and Facebook has made it super easy for me to be social without ever having to leave the house, and well, never leaving the house when you are physically capable of it is not healthy. Every human being needs real-life human contact and SUNLIGHT!

So what do you do when you suspect a friend is depressed? I would say the best thing you can do is reach out. One of the first lies our brains tell us is that no one, absolutely no one, cares about us. You reaching out and expressing concern proves our depressed brains wrong. Once you’ve expressed your concern, don’t offer them dumb platitudes (“the sun will come out tomorrow”), don’t try to minimize what they’re going through (“some people have it way worse than you”), just listen, listen, LISTEN! If they express their negative self-talk to you (I’m worthless and no one loves me) validate that what they are is experiencing is real but what they’re telling themselves is not true (“If you were worthless and no one loves you, why would I be here reaching out worried about you?).

I think I’m pretty lucky that my friend reached out when she did. I was in a swirling vortex of despair and didn’t even realize it. Most of the time I can recognize when my depression is coming on and combat it with exercise, going outside for a walk, talking to a friend, reaching out to my husband and letting him know what’s going on, or watching a really funny movie and laughing my guts out. Once I’m in a full-on depression those things don’t work anymore, so it’s best to head depression off at the pass. Like when I start to feel like my asthma is acting up, I start using my rescue inhaler more and resting.

To those who are currently clinically depressed I would ask that you reach out. To a friend, neighbor, family member, spouse…anyone you trust. Sometimes medication helps, sometimes it doesn’t. I just want you to know that you’re not alone. You’re not worthless. And there are people who love you deeply.


Let it Go February 19, 2014

Filed under: Art,Movies,people,Rants,self-worth — Risa @ 11:37 am

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the song “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen because it encourages rebellion and “anti-obedience.” The woman in the movie who sings it, Elsa, has the power to make it snow and turn things to ice. Instead of teaching her to control this, her parents lock her in a room and allow her no contact with her beloved sister. They tell her to conceal her feelings and to not feel them at all. The song is about her breaking free of that. I feel that some things are supposed to be rebelled against, unless locking children in rooms forever and not allowing them contact with the outside world is now considered a normal parenting decision. Not all rules are good just because they are rules and some rules need to be broken. Elsa learned to control her powers through love instead of suppressing her emotions. Concealing and not feeling your feelings only lends to emotional stuntedness. Obedience for obedience sake is not a virtue.

I think that one of the reasons why this song is so popular and so many covers of this song have been done (This, this, and this being my favorites) is because the theme resonates with so many people. Whether it’s letting go of the past, insecurities, abuse, or the expectations our culture places on all of us, there is something in this song that speaks to all of us who have had to let something go. I think all of us have things that hold us back that can make us less than who we could be. Sometimes the best thing to do with that baggage is to let it go and not let it control us anymore. This is what the song means. Sometimes rebellion and not being obedient are crucial to our emotional well-being and growing into the person we were meant to be.

I leave you with this because I’m a huge Idina Menzel fan. She is the one true Elphaba and the voice of Elsa in Frozen.


My Soul Waits September 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Risa @ 7:00 am

It was August 2007 when my mother took me by the hand in her dining room and told me that the doctors had found a malignant tumor on the tail end of her pancreas. I didn’t realize that that moment marked the beginning of the end.

Denial is a powerful coping mechanism. My mother was a 20 year breast cancer survivor. She was a hero to me. In my mind there wasn’t a mountain that she couldn’t conquer. I walked out of her home that night knowing she was going to beat cancer again. My great-Aunt died of pancreatic cancer 12 years earlier, but I refused to believe the same thing could happen to my mother. I refused to Google pancreatic cancer to find out the specifics of her disease and chose to rely on my faith that she would make it out of this alive.

Oh yes, denial. It made me believe that the most important woman in my life could somehow beat Stage 4 Pancreatic cancer. Deep down inside I knew she couldn’t. That’s why my grief manifested in emotional eating. Before I knew it, I would down an entire box of Oreo Cakesters and not even taste one of them. I would put each cookie in my mouth and feel completely numb.

My mother started chemotherapy treatment very soon after that revelation in her dining room. Chemotherapy destroyed her body. It destroyed her quality of life. What could have been a short but sweet last 6 weeks or two months of life turned into 3 months of living Hell. For seven weeks my mother endured such torturous pain that she would not allow any visitors to her home. Not even her children. For seven weeks I sat in my own home, helpless, grieving, missing my mother, and eating my pain. This was a woman I spoke to every single day of my life and I was completely cut off from her. I had to mourn her passing twice.

My grief manifested into a 25 pound weight gain. I inhaled food without enjoying any of it. I wanted to act out. I wanted to self-destruct. I wanted to blow my body to pieces like I felt my brain and my heart were. It felt like every day was a fresh new batch of pain and isolation and the one person I usually confided my deepest hurt in was the one who was dying.

Seven weeks of chemo did nothing to save my mother’s life. She was given one rest week of chemo before she was supposed to start another round and ended up in the hospital. The cancer cells took the opportunity of that week’s reprieve to spread throughout her body. They shut down her intestines so she could no longer absorb nutrition. But once she was in the hospital, she could no longer deny her children her presence.

I was alone with my mother in her hospital room one night when she woke up from her Morphine-induced sleep. She was in incredible pain. I’ve never seen another human being in that much agony. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and begged me to find someone to kill her. She had a g-tube stuck down her nose because her bowels no longer worked. She had more poison being pumped into her chest in a last ditch effort to kill the cancer. There are no words to describe looking at the person who gave you life, suckled you at her breast, nurtured you through your childhood, walked you down the aisle at your wedding, and was by your side as you gave birth to you first two children, begging you for the relief of death and knowing you are powerless to stop it. Eventually the nurse came in and gave her more morphine and she was unconscious and, hopefully, out of pain for the moment.

I rode the elevator down the four flights of stairs from the cancer ward at the hospital. As I entered the lobby I passed an elderly couple holding hands walking together. The man was bent over and unsteady on his feet. They were a sweet couple and in normal circumstances I would have smiled at them and went on my way. In that moment I hated that couple with every fiber of my being. I questioned God right there in the lobby why they got to live to be elderly while my mother would never get that chance. I asked why my parents would never get to be like that little old couple and why my dad would soon be a widower way before his time. I asked why I had to live without a mother just when I was realizing I needed her more than ever.

I came home and turned the shower on the hottest temperature. My husband came into the bathroom and I started yelling at him about all the things my mother was going through. I yelled and yelled and screamed that it wasn’t fair while he held me. Eventually my screams turned into body-wracking sobs. I can’t remember if I ever even took a shower that night.

Sometime during my mother’s hospital stay I realized I hadn’t had a period in two months. I couldn’t even remember if I had taken my birth control pills every day. I bought a pregnancy test and one morning, before my husband left for work, I showed him the magic stick that told us we were going to be parents for the third time. I told my mother that same day that I was pregnant. I asked her if it was a boy we could give him her maiden name as a first name. She said she would be delighted. I was only five weeks pregnant. I found out the earliest that you can determine these things. I was not afraid of a miscarriage and telling people before I passed the first trimester. Somehow I knew God would not take my mother and my baby from me at the same time.

My mother wanted to die in the home she had spent the last 31 years in. The home she had raised her children in. The home where we became a family. Once she was home she stopped fighting and slipped into an open-eyed, unresponsive state. The day she died I laid in bed with her. I tried to watch the television but found that I couldn’t concentrate on anything that was said. I held my mother’s hand and pushed her morphine pump to give her more pain relief when her breathing got ragged. I didn’t know what to do, so I sang to her. I sang to her Val Jean’s dying solo from Les Miserable.

God on High

            Hear my Prayer

            Take me now

            To they care

            Where you are

            Let me be

            Take me now

            Take me there

            Bring me Home

            Bring me Home


I was numb when my father called me at home later that day to tell me that my mother had stopped breathing. There is nothing in this life that can prepare you for the moment you become a half-orphan. There isn’t a word that has been invented that describes the sound your heart makes as it shatters into pieces.

There is a piece of me that died the day my mother died. There are parts of me that will never be whole. There are places in my soul that cry out for my mother the way I did as a child who needed comfort. There is no other person who can replace or replicate the love a mother gives to her child. A motherless daughter is a woman who walks around with a gaping hole in her heart that will never heal completely. It might scar over but there will always be a wound. At least I was on one of the lucky ones. I had a mother that, while she breathed, bathed me in the light of her unconditional love.

Take my hand

I’ll lead you to Salvation

Take my love

For love is everlasting

And remember the truth that once was spoken

To Love another Person is to see the face of God.


I might see my mother again in the ethereal spaces of eternity. Our spirits might embrace and reignite the mother-daughter love we have for each other. Until that possible time, my soul quietly waits until it is mothered again. It waits for the hole to be repaired with a mother’s love. It waits to tell all the stories that have taken place in her absence. It waits.


This I do know for certain: I loved and was loved by a woman divinely chosen as my mother. Her fingerprints are impressed into my heart, my memory, my soul. I have seen the face of God.

Marisa, Mom, Victor May 05


Thank You, WordPress September 18, 2013

Filed under: Blogging,Gratitude — Risa @ 7:00 am

I wanted to thank WordPress for featuring my post, FYI (if you’re a Teenage Boy)on their Freshly Pressed page. So far that post has received roughly 140,000 page views, which is unusual for these parts. Usually only my sister and a few close friends take the time to read what I write and I appreciate them. It wouldn’t have gotten that many views or “likes” without the help of WordPress and I sincerely thank them.

And I appreciate you. Yes, you. All the yous who have taken the time over the last 2 weeks to read my post. All the yous who have left a comment, whether I disagreed or not. Mostly, I’m overwhelmed by all the yous expressing how much you enjoyed my post.  I wish I had the time to personally thank everyone who left a positive comment. I read every single one I received before I published it.

I’d like to thank the Huffington Post for contacting me and asking to feature my post on their site. I couldn’t keep up with all the comments as they are currently at over 1,000. And personally, I care more about the people who took the time to come over here and leave a comment whether they read it on the HuffPo first or not. I’m also grateful that the people at the HuffPo think anything I have to say is worth putting on their website, since they gave me a blogger profile and have encouraged me to keep submitting articles to them.

I’m thankful for all the attention this little blog has received and I hope it open ups a further conversation about how we talk to our children. And I definitely hope it starts a conversation on slut-shaming and how it’s not cool to blame women/girls for the sexual thoughts and/or actions of men/boys. It’s something I feel passionately about.

On Wednesday, September 4th, I read Mrs. Hall’s original post as it was posted all over my Facebook wall by friends who had both positive and negative reactions. As I often do, when I see a blatantly sexist article such as the OP, I took the same piece and switched the genders around. I do this to point out that if it is ridiculous to say to one gender, it’s equally ridiculous to say to the other. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I wrote this up, giggled a little for my silliness (and the silliness of the OP), and posted it on Facebook for just a few like-minded friends to see. Again, I thought only my sister and a few close friends would read it. I did not anticipate it being passed all over Facebook. By the end of the day the page received 13,500 views and I was extremely overwhelmed. The next day it had been seen 85,000 times and HuffPo sent me an email saying they wanted it publish it the next day. Blown away.

I’ve really enjoyed the conversations I had with a few of you as we have gotten to flesh this topic out further. I’m especially proud of my follow-up piece, How I Really Feeland I will freely admit I spent a lot more thought and time and energy composing that than I ever did when I was just parodying the original FYI piece.

Consider this post a big thank you note to all of you. I wouldn’t be writing this if you all hadn’t taken the time to read.

(Edited to correct typos).


Throwback Thursday – Baby Mine September 12, 2013

Filed under: childhood,Mom,mothers,personal,writing — Risa @ 7:00 am

I just wanted to share with my new readers the most favorite essay I have ever written. I wrote this essay back in the summer of 2006 for an upper-division English class I was taking for my minor. It has become even more meaningful to me as a mother since we have added two more children to our family and since my mother has passed away in 2007.

Baby Mine

When I was a child we were the first family on our street to own a VCR. It was mostly because my Mom wanted to be able to record Luke and Laura’s infamous wedding. Soon afterwards, Disney released most of its cartoons onto VHS. I remember watching the movie Dumbo with the same sort of enjoyment any kid would have. To me it was just a story about an elephant who could fly. To my Mom, however, it was a story about what a mother would sacrifice for her child.

I remember how my Mom would always cry when the song “Baby Mine” would play while Dumbo’s mom stuck her trunk out of her cage and rocked Dumbo to sleep. I guess the song and the scene hit my Mom hard right in the mommy-heart.

Years later, I brought my first child home from the hospital. While I reveled in our quiet moments of nursing and rocking together, I longed to find a song to sing to her that would adequately explain the feelings of joy and love I had for her. I remembered the song “Baby Mine” and I quickly learned the lyrics. I noticed that my singing never failed to quiet her when she was crying and put her to sleep after she was done nursing.

When my son was born a few years later, I sang “Baby Mine” to him as well. When he was six-weeks-old he was hospitalized for RSV. Even though he was just a tiny baby, and was a month premature already, the only time he seemed happy was when I would rock him and sing “Baby Mine.” His little baby eyes would roll back in his head and he was soon peacefully asleep.

Whenever I have sung this song to my children, my voice always catches when I sing the last lines of the song: but you’re so precious to me, cute as can be, baby of mine. I have never been able to sing the line “but you’re so precious to me” without my eyes welling up with tears. It’s because they are so precious to me. It’s hard to sing that line while I look into their angelic faces without my love for them coming to the surface.

Now that my children are a little older, they sometimes request that I sing to them before they go to sleep. Whenever I ask my two-year-old son what song he wants me to sing, he always says “Baby Mine.” I have even caught him singing the first lines of the song to himself on occasion. Sometimes when I sing it to him and he’s over-tired, he will get mad and yell, “I’m not a baby.” He doesn’t understand that he’ll always be my baby.

I have sung this song to my children, probably over a million times. The last time I did, I looked over at my two sweet angel-babies lying in their beds. Their faces were so trusting and their eyes were filled with peace. It is at these moments that I know exactly why my mother cried when Dumbo’s mom rocked him to sleep in her trunk. Again, my voice catches as I sing the words, “you’re so precious” to me. I can’t help it, the song and my children are too close to my mommy-heart.


That Tuesday Morning September 11, 2013

Filed under: America,Friends,grief and loss,Historical Events — Risa @ 7:00 am

I wrote this in 2010. This being the 12th anniversary I thought I’d repost it  since I have some new readers.


That Tuesday Morning

Tuesday, September 11, 2001.


It has become my generation’s, “where were you when?”


Where was I? Sicker than I’ve ever been in my life. I had the worst kidney infection that week than I’ve ever had before or since. Monday I started feeling the pain in my kidneys, but knew I had to work for the next two days. I thought I could just take some Ibuprofen and deal. That night I passed out in the shower and my husband called my boss at home (she was a close friend) and told her what had happened. Being my boss she forbade me to work and ordered me to go to the doctor that morning.


Tuesday morning. I should have gone to the emergency room the night before, but I didn’t. We waited until the urgent care clinic opened at 9:00 a.m. We didn’t turn on the TV. We didn’t turn on the radio. Our daughter was 3 months old. We walked into the clinic and saw everyone, literally all the patients, nurses, doctors, receptionists, gathered around the TV. I was annoyed. I didn’t know what was going on. I wanted the receptionist back behind the desk so I could check in and see a doctor as quickly as possible and seek some pain relief.


I was in so much pain, what happened next is pretty much dreamlike. From watching TV my husband could pretty much figure out what was going on. I was in too much pain to ascertain anything of reality around me. Pain can be transcendent like that. The doctor diagnosed me with the worst kidney infection he’d ever seen. I had a high, high fever and they gave me Cipro (and antibiotic given to those who’ve been exposed to anthrax). I wasn’t allowed to nurse my daughter while taking it. They said I could pump my milk and discard it. I could barley sit upright…you expect me to pump for 10 days?


I remember waking up on my couch at home. The TV was on…the disaster being played over and over again on every channel. I had taken Tylenol to break my fever. I woke up covered in sweat and milk. The Lortab eased my pain but made me nauseated. I couldn’t even hold my baby. Once most of the pain was gone I began to understand what was happening. The reality of the situation hit me in an instant.


I was scared.


My best friend had just moved to New York City exactly a year before.


My heart was racing. My best friend. I befriended her when she was the new kid in 6th grade. She knew all my secrets. She knew all my faults and loved me anyway. She hated all my boyfriends. We spent hours giggling together until our sides ached. We endured high school together at different high schools. We experienced college together on opposite sides of the country. She’s been there for me through it all. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. She was my baby’s Godmother.


I wouldn’t allow my mind to embrace the possibility that she could be dead. I knew she lived in Queens and worked in Manhattan. Where in Manhattan? It’s so big. Please don’t let it be in the Financial district. I couldn’t imagine my best friend running for her life while the towers crashed around her. I saw the people jump from the buildings. It was the most awful thing I’ve ever witnessed. Please, don’t let that be her.


In the afternoon her mother called. The minute she said, “Marisa, this is Jessica’s mother. She’s okay,” I burst into tears. She told me that Jessica worked in Midtown, several miles away. Her cell service was sketchy. The first phone call she made was to her mother. She appointed her mother as the caller to every one she knew letting them know she was okay. At the time she was living in Queens.


She had no idea what would await her when she got home. Her roommate had a job interview at the Windows on the World restaurant that morning. It was at the top of one of the towers at the World Trade Center. She rode the N train all the way home to Queens thinking her roommate was dead, praying that she somehow got out alive. Her roommate was home when she got there. Her alarm hadn’t gone off and she missed the interview. A few weeks later her roommate was in downtown Manhattan where she saw a Jewish lady screaming, “It smells like Auschwitz!” She had to move to LA she was so traumatized. She should have died. A broken alarm clock saved her life.


That whole week was a fog of pain pills, antibiotics, sweating, and watching the disaster unfold every single day. All the channels were running the story. There was nothing else to watch. It seemed vulgar to even think about watching a romantic comedy to escape the non-stop disaster-athon on the Television.


Major Giuliani said that we all became New Yorkers that Tuesday. I know I did.



Monday, March 17, 2003


I am standing at the gate overlooking Ground Zero. It is bigger than I can ever imagine. There are signs on the gate detailing the disaster. I read the signs and tears stream down my face. I remember what that Tuesday morning was like. I take pictures. I want to remember how I feel. It feels profane to do so. Grief hangs in the air. It is heavy. It is quiet like a graveyard. All of a sudden I hear singing. I look over my shoulder. There is a group of high school aged girls standing in a circle with their arms around each other. They are singing, “Amazing Grace.” They sound like a choir of angels. My tears come quicker and faster. I grab my best friend’s hand. We smile at each other as we look at the wreckage. We know how close we were to losing each other. There is a big hole in the ground where people used to live and work. Three thousand people died on this spot. How scary were their last moments? I saw them jump out of the buildings on TV. It was better than burning alive. Over the last 18 months I have heard story after story of people’s loved ones dying, or heroic acts of bravery. It is so real in this moment. It feels like we will never recover. Later, we take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty. She is like a beacon of hope calling to me. We will survive. We always have.


Two days later we dropped bombs in Iraq.



Friday, July 2, 2010


Jessica and I just got off the Liberty Harbor cruise. It was a very romantic sojourn. Too bad our respective significant others couldn’t have shared it with us. We walk around Battery Park. There’s a piano just sitting there asking to be played. Literally, there’s a sign on the piano that says, “Please Play Me.” A couple stand at the piano. They turn around and ask us if either one of us can sight read Chopin. Jessica immediately outs me as the piano player. I try Chopin. He’s too hard. They have Bach. I can sight read Bach. I played “Ave Maria” at my mother’s funeral. Bach and I are peeps. Another couple comes and wants to show off their jazz playing abilities. We clap at their first song, but when it’s obvious they intend to put on a performance, we leave.


We walk out of Battery park. We walk along the edge of Manhattan. Jessica lives along the East River way uptown. She never comes this far downtown, she says. I take pictures of the cool buildings. We start walking toward the financial district. The architecture of the buildings takes my breath away. Everything is closed. People have gone home for the weekend. Not even a restaurant or a cafe is open. And I am hungry. Without even realizing it, we walk closer to Ground Zero.


I can feel it.


I can feel the panic.


I can feel the fear.


I can feel what the people who worked down here felt on that Tuesday morning. I imagine these almost vacant streets full of people running for their lives. Confused, scared, horrified. I feel it all. We round the corner and I see the church. The church that survived the imploding of the towers while all the other buildings surrounding the area were damaged. We can’t help it. We walk closer to Ground Zero.


There it is.


It’s massive still. Not much progress as been made since I was standing at this same spot 7 years earlier. We walk past the fire station and next to the World Trade Center museum. We round the corner and there is a memorial on the side of the fire station. A picture hangs there with all the faces of police officers and fire fighters who gave their lives that Tuesday morning. It is overwhelming. I tell Jessica it’s okay to cry. She’s not much of a crier. She’s working on it. We walk around the entire site before we find the entrance to the subway we want. The air is still thick with grief. But the grief is lighter. We will never forget but we are healing. I take Jessica’s hand. We’ve been here before.


Life has gone on, and we are healing.





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