A Note to Senator Kennedy

With Senator Edward Kennedy’s passing today, America has lost a fighter; A man from a legendary family who dedicated his life to making a difference.  His personal flaws may have stymied some of his political potential – but even with his personal setbacks he never gave up, he was determined to make a difference in the space that he had. 

Edward Kennedy dedicated his life to healthcare and to fighting for the less privileged, and in the end he made a decision that exhibited the utmost of internal fortitude by breaking away from the expected course of action – endorsing Hilary Clinton – and following his gut to endorse Senator Barack Obama as the best candidate to become the next President of the United States.  That endorsement made every bit of difference in the election.  It was a powerful moment because it was clear that Senator Kennedy was making a decision that he knew was right for the country, in spite of his personal ties to the Clintons.

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(photo:  Brendan Smialowski for New York Times)

And that’s what powerful men and women do, they make tough decisions.  They take the road less traveled, paving the way for those that will surely follow them. 

That Senator Kennedy could live his life, and become a success in spite of the pain that he experienced should be a glowing example to all of us.  I often wonder how he worked his way through the pain of losing his brothers, and in the end I tell myself not to dwell on the details but to be inspired by the outcome. 

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(photo:  Associated Press Image)

My hope is that Senator Kennedy’s home going was eased by the thought that he had done what he could to make this country better.  One of my favorite quotes comes from his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, whose words so perfectly captured the sentiments of people that fight to make a difference:

“Some men see things as they are and ask why, I dream things that never were and ask why not”

Thank you for believing in the dream Senator Kennedy.

Surprise!

As of late, I am most impressed with surprises.  Not the literal kind that you experience when a group of your friends have been hiding behind tables and couches waiting to scream SURPRISE at you, but the kind of surprise that you experience when you surprise yourself.

I never knew that I was that into surprises but I remember the first time I shocked myself and it was an adrenaline rush.  My latest surprise came this weekend and I have my friends Genevieve (Genny) and Jack (twins) to thank for this – surprise, I’m a baker!…kind of.

Leading up to Genny & Jack’s 30th birthday party I talked myself out of making their birthday cake several times…there was the real possibility of failure, who wants to mess up a 30th birthday cake?  There’s the fact that I don’t like pressure…there’s the fact that Jack is a vegan and he does not eat any dairy products…even given all of the facts, I wanted to go out on a limb.

I was in the grocery store about to cross the point of no return – the decision needed to be made to place the cake order OR buy all of the ingredients to make the cake that I pictured in my head…I bought the ingredients; baked the cake Friday night, finished the cake Saturday afternoon, and served it up at the party on Saturday evening.  The cake went over well.  I think that the birthday girl enjoyed it, and the birthday boy admired it.  My goal was to make a cake that was made with lots of love…mission accomplished. 


(video courtesy of Lifestyle Editor & Link Curator Christopher Johnson/A.K.A Pisa Lean Onassis)

DS Download:  I think that the people you care most about make you want to step outside of your comfort zone; they’re constantly challenging you – directly and indirectly – to be better, and in trying to be better there’s the real possibility of surprising yourself.  SO, am I a better person because I baked a cake, maybe not…am I a better person for trying, maybe.

Thanks Genny and Jack.  Happy 30th birthday!  Here’s to many more birthdays and surprises along the way.

The Right Place

I had an 8 am dentist appointment this morning.  I do this all the time – I schedule a dentist appointment 6 months out for 8 a.m. with the thought that I’ll be the first one in and make it to the office on time, with no major interruption in my day…of course, the problem comes in the night before when you realize that being somewhere by 8 a.m. is more than a notion. 

I made it to my appointment on time, but that’s not the point of the story – the point is that I was supposed to make this appointment.

The Dental Hygienist that cleaned my teeth was nice, she walked in, asked me if I was on any medication, asked if there were any places in my mouth that hurt and then she got right to work. 

It started off as the typical exchange – she was asking me questions, I was trying to answer with my mouth wide open…you know how that goes.  But, somewhere between the plaque cleaning and the tooth buff, the hygienist told me about the recent loss of her niece; a young Howard University student who had recently lost her life in a freak car accident.  My hygienist spoke of a dream in which her niece had visited her and offered comforting words; she spoke of the confusion and pain that her brother-in-law is experiencing as he no longer receives the morning texts that he used to exchange with his daughter…she shared that the texts consisted of…Good morning fat head (from the daughter), with a typical reply of Good morning fat head jr. (from the Dad!)

She also shared the story of the loss of her nephew a little over a year ago and how she was grappling with the loss of two young lives – the fact that her young children had to deal with burying two cousins, the fact that she was working through the grief, and the fact that she was grappling with understanding why these two young people had lost their lives. 

As I listened to her stories, watched her face, and heard the slight cracks in her voice – I knew that I was supposed to make the 8 a.m. appointment. 

DS Download:  I did more listening than talking this morning, and by listening to this woman’s stories I felt privileged to learn about these two young lives that were not long for this world. 

I left the office feeling as if I had been included in the woman’s healing process, and that I had learned about two people who had made an impact on this planet during their short life. 

In the end I learned that her nephew had passed away as a result of rescuing two young children that had fallen in the water – inexplicably drowning in the process (he was a strong swimmer)…I learned that her niece had suffered head trauma after a fall that resulted in leaning on a car that accidently pulled off.  The pain in her eyes asked the question why?…she expressed that she was trying to understand why God had cut these two lives so short?  She was not a “religious” person but she was trying to put the pieces together.

In the end, the only thing I could think to share was that she might try and consider that death took her niece and nephew, but God is now loving them, and that by sharing their stories she was keeping their memories alive – making life stronger than death…I left the office and I emailed her the quote below…that quote has given me strength when I was grappling with death, more specifically the unexpected death of my grandfather.  It’s nice to be reminded during the dark times, that as the living, our love for lost ones gives us some level of power over death…thanks for listening. 

“Love is stronger than death even though it can’t stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can’t separate people from love. It can’t take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.”

Tis the Season

It’s wedding season, and my last two weekends have consisted of back to back weddings.  I look forward to weddings, not just because of the promise of booze, and dancing, but more importantly there’s the promise of a new beginning.

Watching two people place their faith in each other, and god, while taking vows to spend a lifetime loving each other is absolutely amazing.  None of us can truly understand the concept of loving someone for a lifetime, but by making the commitment to do so it seems that a couple is stepping out on faith and asserting their commitment to never stop trying.  If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

For those of us that are single, if we look back at the relationships that did not work out, it’s probably safe to say that many of them did not work out because there was a lack of inspiration there…meaning, there was a lack of inspiration to be a better person for your mate, to grow, commit, step out of your comfort zone etc. 

People that we truly love make us want to be better people; they make us want to try harder.  At the wedding I attended last Saturday, the father of bride told the newlyweds that they should never, under any circumstances, tire of “winning” each other.  He explained that the palpable energy that could be felt in the very beginning of the relationship – to be romantic, to be flexible to each other’s needs, and nurturing of the other’s feelings – was something to be cultivated over a lifetime…an exercise in never letting the flame extinguish. 

DS Download:  I saw the flame in the relationship that both sets of my grandparents had, and I see the flame in my parent’s relationship.  Perhaps over a 35 year span the flame is not white hot (I don’t think any child wants to imagine their parents having a white hot flame) but it definitely appears to be orange with flecks of white and stronger than ever. 

I guess love is about the little things…my father still buys roses for my mother, and my mother,  now that she’s retired, has started packing my dad’s lunch…I guess, the one time that my dad got to work and discovered that my mother had eaten some of his lunch was my mom’s way of saying that love is also about the element of surprise :-)…here’s to surprises!

Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles is one of the movies that shaped my thoughts on what love would be like. 

I totally imagined that the most beautiful man in school – Jake Ryan –  would break up with his drop dead gorgeous girlfriend for me and pursue me to no end…so much so, that he would follow me to my sister’s wedding, wait outside of the wedding for me, while leaning on his hot red car, and it wouldn’t stop there.  After waiting patiently for me, he would take me back to his place (or, in the case of Sixteen candles, his parents place), where we would sit on a glass table and lean towards each other (over my birthday cake) until our lips met. 

And of course, just as we kissed The Thompson Twins’ “If You Were Here” would start playing on cue.

16 Candles

If it sounds corny to you, you just haven’t seen the last scene of the movie…click here to check it out

The classic John Hughes movies translate well beyond their time.  Though I was not a teenager when classics like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off came out, when I came of age they completely captured the feeling of living in that space – being young, and awkward, feeling rebellious and ready to take on your parents and the world.  I could relate to those characters. 

DS Download:  I am grateful that John created those beautifully complicated worlds for me to live in, even if it was only for less than two hours.  

My belief in love, and all the magic and angst that comes with it can be directly attributed to some of his classic films…every red blooded American girl believes that her Jake Ryan will be outside leaning on a hot red car, at some point (lol) – I thank John Hughes for making me believe, and look forward to the unexpected!