Before I got all mopey, Rosalind and I spent a fabulous weekend at the Arizona Biltmore (it’s so nice to have friends who are good at winning contests).

The Biltmore oozes old-school glamour – although at first, they tried to stick us in the “Biltmore” add-on motel at the back of the resort, with a view of an air conditioner.  No, thank you.  Luckily, Rosalind doesn’t fear making firm phone calls, and soon we were cozied up nicely in a garden room.   Ahhhh.  Everything was divine, and Rosalind and I decided to settle in and have a cocktail.  Time to pull out the bottle of rum and make a quick trip to the ice machine.

Um, where is the ice machine, please?

Ah, wonderful.  Down the hall, then…

And…through the unmarked door?

Into the creepy abandoned room where one might find a dead body…

Through another creepy door??  What is that in the corner? Is it moving?  Ahhh!

Seriously, I think someone should call Detective Beckett. Oh no, she was shot in the season finale.  Dammit, Castle! 

…Wait, what’s that in the back corner there, some sort of  torture device?

Ice machine!!  God, I hope it doesn’t spit out severed fingers…

Run, Rosalind!  Run back to sweet civilization!

Worth it:

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The Pen is Mightier

May 18, 2011

Dorothy is safe!

And she’s writing.

You MUST read her account of her experience in Syria.

Yes, it will reveal my immiment babbling for the immature navel-gazing it truly is, but HOLY GOOD GOD I can’t believe what she went through, and now she’s getting out the story about the suffering of the Syrian people.

Read it!!!

Dorothy

May 5, 2011

When I moved to Seattle to live with Herbie, the first order of business was meeting his large group of friends.  They were all rather intimidating – loud, loyal, and joined at the hip – many of them successful journalists.

One of those writers was Dorothy Parvaz.

You may have heard of her – she’s currently missing in Syria.  Well, not missing, I guess – they’ve admitted they have her in detention.  But nobody has been able to talk to her, nobody knows whether to believe Syria’s definition of “safe,” and nobody knows when she will be released.

Can you imagine that?  Can you imagine your friend, your daughter just – poof! – gone missing in a country rocked by violence on the other side of the world?  I can’t even fathom what her family and her fiancee are feeling right now.

Mostly, they’re working their asses off to get her the hell outta there.  Although I’m sure there’s a part of her that would prefer to just be released, thank you very much, and go about her intended business, reporting on what’s really happening in Syria.

Even after knowing Dorothy a few years, I never did entirely stop feeling intimidated.  She’s crazy-smart (like, Harvard fellowship-smart), wickedly funny (emphasis on the wicked), and so thoughtful and insightful that sometimes, listening to her, my jaw actually dropped.  She was always the one perched on the couch with a glass of wine, silently smirking at our silliness, waiting for just the right moment to drop the perfect zinger.

She’s the kind of woman who comes across as hard-as-nails at first.  But you can’t be so gifted at writing and reporting without vast stores of compassion.  I got a lovely sample of that compassion recently when she sent me a message after Judy died.  Of all the messages of condolence I received, hers has stayed with me the most because it actually made me feel better – and that’s a damn hard thing to do after the death of a friend. 

Dorothy’s the kind of person you want writing and reporting the news.  She’s the kind of person driven to go to Japan to report on the devastation of the tsunami, and then to Syria in the middle of a violent uprising, because her cause is a noble one – tell the story.  Get it out there.

And now her friends are getting her story out there.  I hope by the time I post this, she’s already on a plane home.  But just in case, please help.  What if it was your friend, your sister, your fiancee?  All you have to do it send a (courteous) email to the Syrian embassy, asking for Dorothy Parvaz’s release.  Send an email to as1@syrembassy.net.

Thank you very much.

Three Pages, Single-Spaced

December 1, 2010

The days go by, and I am filled with joyful holiday feelings – sifting through the Christmas boxes, sprinkling fake snow on every surface, singing “Silent Night” to Juice – and then I see Judy’s face in the picture on the table, and I remember she doesn’t get to have Christmas this year.  Or, ever again, I’m suddenly realizing.  Why is that always so shocking?  Christmas in heaven, maybe?  I guess?  Possibly.

Her girls turn two today.

Judy was famous – in my house, anyway – for her Christmas cards.  How can I go through the holidays without a Judy Christmas card?  There was a letter, of course there was a letter – the Longest Christmas Letter in the Universe!  If aliens received Judy’s letter by mistake, they would have scanned it through their Intergalactic Translator and said to each other (using only their minds, of course), “Holy beans, Blurg.  This lady has written the longest letter in the universe – or at least in Section 6Q, riiight?!”  The letter was epic – so epic, you couldn’t be annoyed by its length – you could only pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and settle in for the night.  In my mind, her letters were six pages long with absolutely no margins and 8 pt font.  But I may be exaggerating slightly.  I do distinctly remember, however, that they were glorious.

Perhaps I shall take up the mantle of Longest Christmas Letter in the Universe.  Of course, I still haven’t finished writing thank-you notes from Juice’s birth, so…I have my memories, I guess.

Today at lunch, Moo declared with wonderment that this Christmas would be her FOURTH Christmas!  So I told her how many Christmases I have celebrated, and her chin plopped into her applesauce.  “And each year, I love Christmas more and more,” I told her.

I really do.  But it’s a funny feeling, as you get older and your love for life and the holidays becomes shaded with the knowledge of loss and tragedy.  I love more because I know life ends.  I try to live and celebrate with my eyes wide open, taking it all in, because I know…I know I’m lucky.  That’s what Judy’s letters were mostly about – feeling lucky, feeling blessed.

I was just about to write that I miss the wonder that Moo feels for Christmas, and, well – everything.  But then I realized I don’t, because I still do feel that wonder.  … And I guess that would be my wish for Judy’s daughters – I hope even though they were practically born knowing about suffering, that they will still feel awe at all the beauty and miracles of the world, whether it’s their fourth Christmas or their thirtieth.

But I do still miss the Longest Christmas Letter in the Universe.

Fumbling Along

November 5, 2010

Just like it felt rude to eat cookies at Judy’s funeral reception, it feels rude to switch topics to a discussion of flitting about on stage, dancing and singing.  In fact, it feels rude to flit about on stage, period.  And yet I am able to enjoy myself – have fun, even – and then feel guilty about it later.  The fact that I am able to have fun at all says that I am doing fine, and therefore please redirect any prayers you may be saying for me toward Judy’s husband, and maybe to Rosalind, too, who was even closer to Jude than I.  But from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for all your kind words.

So it feels rude to write about my daily adventures on stage, but then I remember that Jude faithfully read my blog, even though I think sometimes it was painful for her to read about all my family activities as things got more difficult and painful in her own life.  And I also remember that she sent me an email two months before she died, after I auditioned for “Bye Bye Birdie,” which simply said, “Congratulations!  I’m so very proud of you.  Love you.” 

So I’ll keep going.

The show opens in one week.  I felt so strange at the beginning of rehearsals – the regular paralyzing apprehension, of course, with worry about Jude, and worry that the director was unhappy with me piled on top.

Our director has turned out to be this remarkable combination  – nurturing, encouraging, challenging, and demanding at the same time.  She didn’t even blink when I told her what was happening with Jude, saying, “When you have to go, just go.”  She sent me out the door with a big hug the night she died, and didn’t mind when I was missing from rehearsal for a whole week.  She’s a pretty special lady, and a talented director.

In fact, I think we’ve got a pretty great show on our hands.  Great energy, great choreography, and even some Broadway-caliber performances.  Yes, I can be a mature adult and say it – the woman cast in the lead is AMAZING, and a seriously nice person on top it.  She’s perfect in the role.  And she has a very compelling story herself, which I just discovered.  But I shouldn’t share that without asking her first.

We’re heading into tech week, and I’ll definitely write more as the show tumbles toward opening night.

When I started this blog and announced my intention to get back on stage, I think Judy may have been the least-surprised person.  Even back in high school, Jude had unwavering faith in my talent.  It’s like she always knew I’d be back on stage and was just waiting for me to figure that out for myself.  She wasn’t well enough to ever see me back on stage.  The day after my audition for this show, I visited her in the hospital.  I told her about my audition, and she asked me to sing my audition songs for her.  She had other visitors besides me, and I demurred over and over, feeling embarrassed, and finally she gave up asking.  I just felt silly – I didn’t sing songs to Jude – we sang them together.  She had a beautiful voice.

I really should have just sung the damn songs. 

Much later, when I’d already said everything I needed to say to her, I sat next to her and held her hand and sang song after song.  I don’t really know if she heard me. 

I hope so.

Jude

November 4, 2010

It’s been almost a month since Judy died.

I called her Snow White on my blog, but her name was Judy, and she was stunningly beautiful, wise, witty, and fierce, and I called her Jude, and now she’s gone.

It still doesn’t seem real.  It just feels like it’s one of those periods where we’re both busy and not talking as often.  She can’t just be gone forever.  But she is.

Jude was my oldest friend.  That’s how she introduced me to the nurses every time I visited her at the hospital.  We met when we were 14, in Mr. Seaquist’s World Cultures class at Xavier College Prep.  I was always falling asleep, and Judy would nudge me awake.  And when she wasn’t nudging me awake, she was rolling her eyes at my doodles of “Mrs. Eduardo Forello” all over my notebook. 

22 years later, we were still friends.  We went camping, we had lunches, we sent many, many, many emails, and best of all we sang “Holding Out for a Hero” together at countless karaoke bars.  We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  We decided to get boob jobs when we turned 40.  We drank cosmos together and oohed-and-aahed over Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe.  I was there when her parents died.  She had a baby boy; I had a baby girl.  I freaked out over breastfeeding, and she sent me the longest email I’ve ever received, detailing every ounce her son consumed in his first six months. 

Our friendship wasn’t always easy.  Judy always said exactly what she was thinking, and she expressed herself so eloquently and succinctly.  As a person who always fumbles for the right words when I’m talking and worries about what others are thinking, I sometimes felt intimidated and awkward around Judy.  Also, I’ll admit it – when she got that first pair of Manolos, I felt jealous.  And as our friendship aged, sometimes it seemed like she’d built a wall around herself, and it got harder and harder for me to get inside.

I didn’t write about her very much on my blog, because she was supposed to get better.  It wasn’t my story to tell.  But now she’s gone, and I guess it is my story to tell.

In May of 2008, Jude and Rosalind and I got together to see the Sex and the City movie.  We hadn’t gotten together in a while because we all seemed to be going through a rough patch, but I hoped that a movie about friendship, combined with some contraband cosmos, would loosen us all up.  But Judy declined the cocktail, and declined once again at the restaurant after the movie. 

So I blurted,  “Hey – are you pregnant again?!”

She smiled and nodded, and Rosalind and I shrieked.

Then she told us she was having pain in her side and felt terrified that the pregnancy was ectopic.  She started to cry, and I saw that I had a chance to get beyond her wall.  So I grabbed her hand and held on to her, and told her that I was absolutely sure everything was fine, and I would be there for her, I would help if she would let me help, I wanted to be there for her, I wanted to be a good friend.  I felt closer to her in that moment, holding her hand so tightly, than I had all year.

Her pregnancy was fine.  She gave birth to twin babies that December – premature, and in the most dramatic way possible – but they’re now healthy toddlers.  But the pain in her side didn’t go away, and in August the doctors finally figured out that it was cancer – a huge, fucked-up, mystery cancer that destroyed my friend.

She had countless treatments and surgeries, and for a while, it really seemed like she was going to get better.  I wasn’t terribly worried – she even had a clean scan at one point.  But it kept coming back, with more and more complications.  About three months ago, she had another surgery, and with it came even more complications, and her lovely body, already ravaged from fighting cancer for two years, could not seem to recover.  For the first time, after she told me she didn’t know if she could do this any longer, and I gave her my fumbling speech, saying YES you can, I KNOW you can…I didn’t really know if she could.  And I wondered if, as a good friend, what I really should have said was, “It’s okay, Jude.”  I think that’s what I should have said.

She was tinier every time I saw her, even if only two days passed between visits.  And then, suddenly, she was at home with hospice care, and Rosalind told me to get there quickly.  So once again, I was holding her hand tightly.  For the rest of my life, I will never forget the feeling of her hand on my cheek.  Or the look on her face when I kept repeating, rather inexplicably, “You’re my friend, I love you, you’re my friend.”  And I will never forget how I sat next to her with Rosalind, and Jude pointed to herself, and me, and Rosalind, and made a big circle around the room with her finger.  I knew exactly what she meant.  She meant, “You’re my friends.  I love you.”

She died October 13th.  She leaves behind her husband, her 4-year-old son, her nearly-2-year-old twin daughters, her large family, and us, her friends.  And life has fallen apart, and makes no sense, but somehow, cruelly and blessedly, goes on.

I sometimes think the word “friend” is overused.  What is a friend?  Someone you gossip with, drink with, joke with… sure.  But Judy was a part of me.  And I was a part of her.  I have 22 years of memories with this woman.  She was so much more than a friend.  And even though maybe we didn’t always make sense to each other, we loved each other.  She was, and is, in my soul. 

I could tell you so much more about her, but the fact is I don’t love her because she was so loyal, or so smart, or so encouraging.  I love her just because she is my friend.  I love her just because I do.  And always will.

A Small Request

August 13, 2010

I spent last evening with Snow White, who has been fighting an epic battle against cancer for over two years now, and is facing another surgery Saturday morning.

Whether you believe in God, or Buddha, or Zeus, or none of the above, please send positive, healthy, be-strong, be-brave, kick-some-cancer-ass thoughts and prayers to Snow White and the surgeons who will help her.

Thank you.