Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review: Remember the Time

My mom always used to say she knew exactly where she was when she found out JFK died. I feel our generation already has two of those "moments": knowing where we were when we found out about 9/11 and where we were when we found out Michael Jackson died.

I had been driving home from work when I got text messages from two friends. I was really in disbelief and told them both that until I heard it from a reputable news source I wouldn't believe it. But when I got home and turned on the TV, there was the news on CNN, NBC, Fox News: Michael Jackson had died.

Most of my MJ memories consist of dancing to the Dangerous album with my little sister. My family had just gotten a CD player, and that was one of the only CDs my dad had. Emily and I would bop around to "Jam," "In the Closet" and "Who Is It" before dinner.

Others have many, many more memories of Michael, some of them personal. This includes Theresa J. Gonsalves, a writerwho shares her memories of Michael in her new book "Remember the Time."

Gonsalves is the muse for one of MJ's most well-known songs "Billie Jean," but she starts her story before the King of Pop penned that tune after her. Gonsalves was a schoolgirl in love with the Jackson 5, specifically Michael. She wrote hundreds of letters to the pop star, and made a decision she was going to fly out and see the singer perform with his brothers in Las Vegas for her 16th birthday.

It's amazing how easily the young Gonsalves got in contact with Michael. She called the hotel she knew they were staying at and asked to speak to the road manager, Randy Wiggins. She asked Wiggins if she could meet Michael when she flew out to Vegas, and Wiggins arranged for her to spend an entire week with the family.

Gonsalves and Michael bonded during her trip, and they started to talk on the phone -- all the while, Gonsalves continued to write Michael letters, something he really looked forward to receiving. They continued their friendship through Michael's solo success, with Gonsalves visiting him while he lived in New York with his sister La Toya to film The Wiz. During this time, Michael and Gonsalves started a more intimate relationship.

Gonsalves eventually moved out to California to be closer to Michael. Over the years, Gonsalves stopped writing as many letters, and just as Michael was slowly pulling away from his family, the same happened with his relationship with Gonsalves.

Through it all, Gonsalves told Michael she would always be there for him, and she kept running into him over the years, the final time being in 2003 in Las Vegas.

Through her recollections of her memories with the pop star and excerpts from her letters to them, Gonsalves sews together the special bond she shared with someone she saw as the man she loved, Michael, and not mega pop star Michael Jackson. Gonsalves showed she was more than just a groupie to the King of Pop; their relationship went much deeper than that.

Gonsalves also gives an interesting glimpse at the other Jackson family members, especially Katherine Jackson, who was kind to Gonsalves and showed her around California; a very bubbly and talkative Janet; and the religious La Toya. Gonsalves' one interaction with father Joe Jackson is memorable as well.

Included is a letter from La Toya to Gonsalves and a bunch of pictures of Gonsalves with Michael. Through reading "Remember the Time," people can get a feel for the Michael Gonsalves got to know: a kind man who loved his music and giving back to others.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Review: Moon River and Me

I can't say I knew much about entertainer Andy Williams before I started reading his memoir -- other than the fact that he was famous for singing the theme song from one of my favorite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

After reading Moon River and Me, I now know a lot about this 82-year-old singer... and I'll say that the time I took learning about him was vastly enjoyable.

Williams' memoir starts back when he was a young boy in Iowa, singing at home with his family. His father soon recognized Andy and his brothers had talent and got them together to sing in a group -- the Williams Brothers. Jay Williams pushed his sons to practice, practice, practice, and then went from singing at a funeral parlor to singing on the radio. Then eventually had a successful traveling act with entertainer Kay Thompson.

Later on, Williams built a very successful solo career as a singer and even had a long-running The Andy Williams Show, known especially for its fabulous Christmas specials. Never slowing down, he currently sings at his Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri.

Williams' honest account of his life as a celebrity is heartfelt and intriguing. Williams lets the reader into his life, including discussing his despair early on as a solo performer (he finally hit rock bottom when he realized he was eating dog food at dinner to save money) to his divorce from his first wife, the beautiful Claudine Longet.

Williams' book is filled with all the celebrities who touched his life, including the Osmonds (who got their first big break on The Andy Williams Show), Judy Garland (Williams saw her struggles with prescription drug addiction firsthand when she was a guest on his show) and Bobby Kennedy (a good friend; Williams was actually with him when Kennedy was shot).

Not afraid to touch upon scandal, Williams also touches on his "brush" with the mob (the Williams Brothers performed at a casino owned by the mob); his romantic relationship with Thompson, 20 years his senior; and the murder trial of his ex-wife.

In "Moon River," Williams sings: "Two drifters/Off to see the world/There's such a lot of world to see." Williams certainly saw a lot of the world from his career as a performer, and his memoir is a gift to readers -- a delightful and entertaining glimpse into that world.

From the Penguin Group, Moon River and Me is on sale on Oct. 13.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Music Review: Heather Marie Marsden

I've always been a Disney girl, and I probably always will be. My first movie was Cinderella, and I used to act out The Little Mermaid with my friends when I was 4. I've been to Disney World multiple times, including this year, and even at the age of 24, I still get that "magical" feeling while I'm at the park.

One great thing about Disney movies is the music. Heather Marie Marsden must have realized this when she came out with her album, So, This is Love. Marsden, a singer/songwriter/actress who has appeared in Austin Powers and That Thing You Do!, has had her music featured on TV shows such as Las Vegas and Law & Order: CI.

For her newest projuct, Marsden lends her bluesy vocals to three Disney songs: "So, This is Love" (from Cinderella), "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" (from Aristocats) and "Baby Mine" (from Dumbo). Marsden's smooth, jazzy voice blends in perfectly with the piano and other instruments on these tracks. She gives a grown-up vibe to these classic Disney songs.

For more information on So, This is Love and Marsden, visit

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jon and Kate + 8: The Great Debate

I got sucked into this show this year while I was sick. I watched a couple of episodes during a marathon, and I quickly became attached to the cute Gosselin kiddos. I found Kate to be controlling and bossy, but I figured she needed to be to keep eight kids (and her husband, apparently) in check. Jon seemed like a cool guy to me, and one who loved his kids.

Very soon after I started watching the show, the incident with Jon and the school teacher in Reading came out, and then the proverbial poop hit the fan. You couldn't get away from the Gosselins. They were on the news, in the magazine rack at the grocery store...

After announcing they were separating, I was hoping they would stop their TLC show. Instead, the couple chose to continue it and show their separate lives with their children. I'm not sure if they had to fulfill their contract with TLC or if they like/need the money, but in my mind, this is not the right decision.

I feel so horrible for their children. One day they will grow up and get to watch the show and read all of these stories about their parents and their bad behavior. I find it ironic that Jon Gosselin claims he wants a private life, yet he chills in France with a 22-year-old party girl and goes to the Hamptons with a former tabloid reporter -- probably wearing Ed Hardy shirts both times (seriously, Christian Audigier should ban Jon from wearing his clothing).

He's obviously not thinking about his children during this tough time. I feel like he is probably having some early midlife crisis or a breakdown. He was married at 22, and had 8 kids by the time he was 27. Granted, that is a lot for anyone at that age, or any age, to handle. But does it excuse him to now gallivant around and relive his early adult years?

I'll admit I was sucked into all the drama, but what happened last week was the "last straw" for me. Apparently, Kate came back to their Pennsylvania home when it was Jon's turn with the kids (after a day of chatting it up with Regis and Kelly about her divorce). She called the cops when Jon wouldn't let her onto the property. Jon told the media that Kate tried to "cry it up" with the cops but they still made her leave the property.

I don't see why Jon felt he had to comment on this situation. I don't know if they both have this messed-up logic now where they think just because they are on this popular (well, used to be -- ratings are majorly down) TV show, that they need to tell America every little thing about their lives. If asked about this incident, why not just say, "No comment?" And why did Kate have to spill her guts on Regis and Kelly about her feelings about the divorce and Jon?

It literally hurt me to hear about this ... I know we are all shaped and form in some ways by our parents and what they do (or don't do). I also know you can overcome your parents' mistakes and still be a good, moral person and not feel your character or personality got messed up by how your parents have treated you or each other. But I also know it really affects some kids growing up and can play a part in the development of them as people.

I hope the Gosselin kids come out of this as unscathed as possible. Although I will miss not seeing them grow up, I really hope this last season is the final one, and they will get to grow up without cameras around (I don't think the sextuplets even know what it's like to live without cameras) and deal with their parents splitting up like any other kids have to.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Broadway Follies

I've been cleaning out my documents in Word and I found this assignment from my senior seminar for magazine writing. Thought I would share -- it's a pretty funny story and I good memory of a time with Mom!


The sweet, salty smell of popcorn permeated the air. Bright yellow cabs honked loudly as they whizzed down the streets. The sights, sounds and smells of the Big Apple overwhelmed me as I walked into the Ambassador Theater on 49th Street in New York City. I could hardly contain my excitement. I was going to see Chicago on Broadway! I had seen the film version of the musical four times in the movie theater. I bought the DVD the day of its release, and watched it so much that, if it would have been a VHS, I would have worn out the tape.

My La Salle friends had chipped in to buy me a ticket for my 19th birthday. They also bought an extra ticket so that my mother could go with me. My friend, Tina, had gotten the tickets from her brother who lives in the city.

Standing in a long line to enter the theater, I could hear the music coming from inside. I was clutching the white envelope that held our tickets in one hand, and grabbing my mom’s arm with the other. I felt more like a kid entering Disney World than a college student about to have a sophisticated theater experience.

We finally got to the front of the line, and a large man dressed in a security uniform looked at our tickets, ripped them and gave them back. We went into the clean, expensive-looking building and elbowed our way through the crowded lobby and gift shop areas. Before we entered the theater, an usher looked at our tickets again and directed us to our seats. We went up a flight of red-carpeted stairs to the upper level.

My mom found our seats easily. They were in the first row of the balcony section. Even more excited than I was before, I reveled in the fact that we had an outstanding view, and then became engrossed in my Playbill.

A few moments later, an elderly couple approached us. The woman, who was barely over five feet, had huge glasses and a big pearl necklace, was clinging to her thin, sickly-looking husband.

“You’re sitting in our seats!” the older man said, waving his tickets in our faces. The veins in his forehead looked like they were going to explode as he yelled at us.

My usually calm and polite mother jumped up, her silver bracelets clanging together loudly, and told the man that these were definitely our seats. The usher had even showed us where our seats were, my mom said. The elderly man just shook his head and said again that these seats belonged to him and his wife. His wife looked upset, and she clutched her necklace.

In the meantime, a different usher came up and asked what the problem was. We told him that we both had tickets for these seats.

“Let me see both sets of tickets,” he said in an authoritative voice, crossing his arms over his chest.

My mother and I gave him our tickets, as did the elderly couple. After examining them for a few moments, the usher laughed and shook his head.

“Yeah, you all have tickets for these seats, but yours are for tomorrow,” he said, turning to me and my mother.

I slapped my hand to my forehead, horrified. It was then that I realized that I had never really looked at the tickets, and neither had my mother. I had somehow confused the dates and was sure Tina had told me the show was on Saturday. But sure enough, after we left our seats and got our tickets back, we noticed that it said “SUNDAY” on them.

My mother and I looked at each other, both of us mortified. Her cheeks were rosy with embarrassment, and I’m sure mine were as well. She then explained to the usher that we were from Pennsylvania, had taken a bus to get here and would not be able to come back tomorrow for the show. The usher told us to speak with the house manager, a younger woman with curly brown hair.

After explaining the situation to her, she told us we could stand at the back of the rows on the ground level. So I stood in my uncomfortable heels for the first ninety minutes, not even able to tap my feet to “All That Jazz” because I was so embarrassed. Not only was I sure that blisters were forming on my feet, but I couldn’t see a thing from where we were standing. Roxie Hart looked like a little blonde blurb to me. I longed from the view we would have had from our seats in the balcony.

But our embarrassing mishap had its benefits, surprisingly. During intermission, the house manager came up to us and said, “Two people in the second row never showed up. Feel like sitting down?” she said, smiling.

We couldn’t believe it as an usher brought us to the second row on the ground level. We sat in the comfortable red seats, turned to each other and laughed at our bizarre luck. A heavy man sitting next to me turned and said in an excited voice, “Guys, you missed the first act! It was amazing!” I had to stifle my giggle and resisted the urge to tell him about my mistake.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Book Review: Comfort Food

Gus Simpson is the queen of food TV. She has her own cooking show, cook books, appliance line. She has a beautiful home and tons of fame. But at 50, her life gets turned upside down when an up-and-coming host, former Spanish beauty queen Carmen Vega, becomes her cohost because of poor ratings. The two are at each other's throats from day one, both believing they deserve their own show.

Along with Carmen, Gus' new show includes her twentysomething daughters, practical Aimee and impulsive Sabrina; Sabrina's ex-boyfriend Troy; Gus' neighbor and hermit friend Hannah; and hunky new chef Oliver. During this milestone in her life and upheavel of her career, Gus learns how to not be such a "helicopter parent" and works with her daughters to form better relationships and work out bad feelings that have been lingering since the death of Gus' husband years ago.

Author Kate Jacobs does a great job of developing dynamic characters who grow throughout the novel, although at times it is difficult to keep up with all of them. She shows each person's faults and good qualities. The reader can sympathize with each character and understand where they are coming from -- even Carmen, who is set up to be the antagonist.

Comfort Food sends the message that there can be an immense amount of love between family and friends, no matter what the differences and obstacles are. The novel leaves the reader feeling satiated and with that warm feeling only good comfort food can provide!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Review: Something Drastic

In the hilarious and fast-paced Something Drastic, Colleen Curran introduces us to the lovely Lenore, whose boyfriend of 8 years leaves her unexpectedly on Boxing Day. Lenore has no clue why her Fergie has left her -- other than the fact that he is going to work in the tourist industry in Florida.

Over the next 12 months, Lenore tries to figure out why Fergie has left and if he's coming back. She tries to keep in contact with him through letters, even though he never writes back. As the weeks go on, Lenore learns things about her ex she had no idea were going on. She slowly embraces a new life, including making friends with her tenant Heidi, a professor, and getting an acting gig in a musical.

Readers can see how Lenore changes during her fun year-long journey of getting over Fergie. Many women can sympathize with the process Lenore goes through, but there are some zany situations she gets herself into that are pure Lenore. The quirky woman sends Fergie newspaper clippings with headlines such as, "Bear Tries to Eat Man's Head" and "Salmonella Kills Construction Worker at 5,000 Feet."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Book Review: Bittersweet

In his memoir Bittersweet: Confessions of a Twice Married Man, Canadian journalist Philip Lee chronicles how he fell in love with a coworker while married to his wife, how he decided to move into an old house with his also divorced brother, how he took care of his kids and started a new family.

Throughout the book, the reader can feel for Lee. He has spent a lot of time contemplating while his marriage failed and why he fell in love with someone else. He consults experts and historical literature to help him get through, and he constantly reminds the reader of his motto with his second wife Deb: love is a verb.

You can also tell Lee is a great father and that he deeply loves his children. Some of the most touching scenes include Lee sobbing after his children leave to go live with their mother.

My favorite part of the book is "Making for Home," where Lee describes his and Deb's journey to adopt a daughter from China named Lucy Xiao Ru. Lee expertly details the adoption process and his plight to become a father to a baby again after raising three teenagers.

Being a journalist, Lee is an ace at describing his surroundings. I don't think I've ever felt so much like I was right there with an author than I have while reading Bittersweet. Whether he is describing the squirrel infested old house he lived in with his brother near the Bay of Fund;, the sights and sounds of busy Nanchang, China; or a fun-filled wedding on a Grecian island, you feel like you're there where Lee is.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review: Rock to the Top

Not many women can say they've been a top rock radio personality, created an e-commerce venture and started an online community to encourage girls to go into fields such as science and math. However, Dayna Steele can say she's done all these these things.

How did she do it? When she was one of the top female rock-and-roll air personalities in the country at KLOL in Houston, Steele got to hobnob with many major rock stars, including but not in any means limited to, Gene Simmons, Joan Jett and Bon Jovi. Through her experience with these rockers and her hard work at the radio station, Steele learned some key pointers on what it takes to be successful, whether you're a rock star or you're starting up your own company. She shares these insights in Rock to the Top: What I Learned About Success From the World's Greatest Rock Stars.

Steele teaches future rockers and business owners how to market themselves, stay organized, network, and most importantly, how to say thank you to those who have helped you along the way (Steele is known for her personalized, handwritten thank you notes).

Steele's advice is helpful and easy to comprehend, and her stories of her rock-and-roll life are fun and interesting. Some of my favorites include how she helped Steven Tyler stretch before a gig, a rude note she got from Shaun Cassidy, an eerie experience with Michael Jackson and his entourage, and her elevator ride with Carlos Santana.

An added bonus are a collection of photos in the back of the book with Steele and many of the rockers. Also, check out the foreword by the great Simmons himself.

For the novice entrepreneur or just the average rock and roll fanatic, Steele's book is a great read!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Looking Back

To put it lightly, it was a long journey with my mom's cancer....

In April 2007, we noticed she was sleeping a lot. On Easter, she fell asleep at the kitchen table. On April 12, she fell asleep in her office at work. The next day, Friday the 13th, she woke up and wasn't making sense... she didn't know what year it was or who the president was. She was taken to the neuroscience intensive care unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest.

That night, I was out at McFadden's with my roommates. My dad kept calling me, and I kept ignorning his call. I wasn't going to answer while we were in a bar... there was no way he could hear me. Finally, I realized something may be wrong... I went outside, and he told me what happened.

We made a very emotional subway ride back to La Salle, where I remember running from the subway station back to my townhouse.

The next day she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. They operated on her on Thursday, and they removed 80-90% of the tumor.

During my finals week, I got the call that the tumor was cancerous. I had made a conscious decision that I wouldn't look up anything about glioblastoma multiforme (GBM)... I know that sounds stupid, but I was scared to find out what we were up against. Despite only having brain surgery 3 weeks before, she attended my college graduation ceremony.

After the surgery, Mom was doing pretty well. She certainly wasn't the Mom I grew up with personality-wise... those of you who knew my mom knew she was very bubbly and friendly. She wasn't mean or anything... I think she was just a diluted version of herself. Still, she was eating well, walking, sleeping, even driving to her own radiation appointments!

In July 2007 while reading health news releases at work, I accidentally stumbled upon information on my mom's cancer and read people with GBM have less than a 1% chance of survival. I think I went into the bathroom at work and hyperventilated.

I didn't tell anyone about what I read. I felt like saying it would make it come true. Instead, I kept what I knew to myself and cried on my long commute to and from work for weeks.

In August 2007, my family went on a vacation to Ocean City, MD. I couldn't go because I didn't have any vacation days yet. One day at work, my dad called and said my mom's brain was bleeding and they were flying her from OCMD to LVH-Cedar Crest. I had to leave right away because I would get there before they would.

I remember crying in the ER's waiting room alone, until a priest came up to talk to me. It was all very surreal.

After the brain hemorrage, we noticed some changes in Mom. She wasn't talking nearly as much... she stopped asking questions and bringing up conversations. She was also starting to lose the ability to go to the bathroom on her own. She was slow-moving, and usually my sister, dad and I all had to help her take a shower. We had a chair lift installed on the steps so she could get up to take a shower.

That fall was rough for me. On top of keeping my secret about Mom (which of course, other people knew... it was only a secret to me), I was commuting over an hour to work using a car that had broke down on the turnpike 3 times for me. I was searching for an apartment with Ter and Gilmore while going through what every college kid who moves home goes through. Because of this and Mom's situation, my dad and I fought a lot. I had to "mommysit" a lot, and also help drive Brandon places. Also during this time, I got into a relationship with someone who I was not compatible with whatsoever. I don't know why I didn't realize this at the time... maybe I did, but I just needed a distraction to get my mind off of Mom.

In December 2007, Mom had blood clots in her leg. She got out of the hospital two days before Christmas Eve, but she still insisted on going to Christmas Eve service. I remember her mouthing along with the songs.

After that, things started going downhill. She really had hard times walking, and I think soon after the new year, she never went upstairs again. She was very quiet and always kept her head bowed. Still, she would always give her kids a "hi, honey" when we got home. And she still had a sense of humor... if someone said something funny, she's laugh her precious, distinctive laugh.

Things were getting bad for me personally, but thankfully, right after my ex and I broke up, I moved to Philadelphia in March 2008. Things got dramatically better for me. I loved living with friends again, and it was nice not having to drive forever to get to work. I still went home on the weekends to see Mom. Part of me felt really guilty for moving out... but I know it was what my mom would have wanted. Plus, I was going insane living at home.

By the summer, Mom was pretty much solely in a wheelchair and didn't spend too much time outside her bed. She was saying very few words. In August 2008, she went into the hospital three times, once because she had an infection in her stent and twice because she had a vasovagal attack. Also over the summer, we found out that the tumor had grown for the first time since the surgery.

On September 17, 2008, the doctors said that the oral chemo she had been taking for a year wasn't going to do any good anymore. They gave my mom 2 weeks to 2 months left to live. Soon after this diagnosis, I heard my mom say my name for the last time.

The next couple of months was like living on pins and needles. I never knew when I was going to get the call or when things were going to happen. I was so torn... despite the fact that she had pretty much no quality of life left, I didn't want to lose my mom. I'd never been so afraid. But I kept thinking about how I knew she wouldn't have wanted to live how she was living.

On top of this, there was other family drama going on at the same time. This issue upset me very much (it still does) and at times occupied my thoughts when I should have been thinking about Mom and preparing myself for her passing. She should have always been most important in my mind and should have always been the focus, and for that I am truly sorry.

It was sad to celebrate her birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas, knowing it would be her last. Despite the fact that she said maybe one or two words a day, couldn't get out of bed and slept all the time, she was still eating normally, which was one of the qualifying issues for hospice. Besides are almost round-the-clock nursing assistants who were there to take care of her, a hospice nurse starting coming in and allowed the nursing assistants to give her morphine for her pain.

On Jan. 5 while on my way to work, my sister texted me and said Mom was going to hospice. I rerouted and went home. Emily and I got to the hospice before lunch. Mom was restless and was having tremors. Emily and I sat and held her hand... she was given medicine and calmed down a bit, although her breathing was labored.

We were told if she stabilized in the next 6-8 hours, she could possibly make it a few days. So by 8 p.m., my siblings and I decided to go home to go to sleep... especially because my brother had a bad stomachache. Barely 15 minutes after we got home, we got the call that her system was starting to shut down... and if we wanted to be there when she passed, we better get back.

Emily and I decided to go back, but Brandon still didn't feel well, so he wanted to stay at home (though he did get to speak to Mom on the phone before she passed). I ran upstairs to change and was shaking when I picked out a green Aero sweatshirt of Em's and some of her jeans.

Right before we left, my brother puked... all over the place. We couldn't go before we (and when I say we, I mean my sister and my Uncle Whitey, haha) cleaned it all up.

We finally left and got back to the hospice. Walking through the small parking lot, I saw my Uncle Roy (Mom's brother) and my Aunt Lori in the lobby. I had a bad feeling in my stomach.

I'm pretty sure I will always be able to picture this moment vividly: a nurse came to get Emily and I, and, holding a small candle with a quote from Mark Twain on it, led us into my mom's room.

She had already passed. We were too late.

I had always wanted to be with my mom when she died... she was with her mom, my MomMom, when she passed. I was so upset that we went home and I missed it. But now I think maybe it wasn't meant to be. If Brandon hadn't gotten sick and delayed us from going, we would have been there in time. And maybe we just weren't supposed to be.... she was stable for so many hours and as soon as we left, she started to decline. My Aunt Lori thought Mom was waiting until we left to pass.

The week after she passed was crazy emotional, for many reasons. I was exhausted from everything and I just wanted to get back to Philly... back to my escape, I guess. The services were beautiful, and thank you so much to everyone who attended. I loved hearing stories about my mom and people telling me how wonderful she was and how they'll always remember her great smile.

I feel very strange now... like I don't know how to feel. I am so glad she isn't suffering anymore, and I know MomMom, Nanny, Nicole and Jen all welcomed her into Heaven. But sometimes I still can't believe this all happened... like it's some horrible nightmare and some day I am going to wake up and things will go back to the way she used to be. In almost all of my dreams about her, Mom is healthy... and that freaks me out.

Part of me feels normal, because I am back to my normal routine in a place where I feel loved and comfortable. I also feel like I've been grieving for her for a year and half now. But then I'll see or hear something that reminds me of Mom, and it will all hit me.

I know I may feel differently in the upcoming months. I may have a breakdown or I may be fine... I don't know what's going to happen, and that really scares me. But I'm trying to just take everything one day at a time.

One thing I know though... I will always, always love her and miss her. I do feel cheated out of a mom... why do some people get to have their parents until they themselves are in their old age, while others lose them when they're 13, like my brother? It's just not fair, but I guess life isn't fair. I'll never understand why this happened, but it has happened, and I have accepted that.

I want to try and move on and live my life... because she gave me this life to live, and to live it to the fullest. And I know she is always with me.... I was a part of her and she is a part of me.... and death can't separate us that way. I won't be afraid to die because I know she will be the first person to greet me into Heaven... and that gives me some peace thinking about that.

Whoa... OK, this was a lot, I know. Sorry for rambling. But I had to get this out now, to record how I'm feeling right now. I hope to one day write a book about my experience, or compile essays from people who have lost their parents to cancer.

One more thing... THANK YOU SO MUCH for being such wonderful friends. I seriously wouldn't be able to function if I didn't have you all supporting me. I love you all.... and I'm here for you in a heartbeat if you ever need me, just like you were there for me!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Extraordinary Mom

I am planning on blogging about my whole experience with my mom's illness and death sometime within the next few weeks, but I don't have the energy to do it now. I did want to share what I wrote for her memorial service, and what my sister so beautifully read, so here it is.

I'm trying to get back to you all personally, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for the beautiful support -- everyone who wrote on my wall or sent me a message, wrote on my mom's guestbook, came to the services or sent me cards. One thing that is keeping me going right now is knowing I have so many wonderful friends and family members who are there for me. Thank you so much.


How do I pay tribute to the person I loved the most? How do I describe someone whose life was so woven wth mine? How can I talk about such a wonderful mother who was also my best friend?

I can tell you her favorite color was purple, she loved the movie Remember the Titans and she was a lifelong General Hospital watcher. She was one of the only people I know who hated the beach—she wasn’t a big fan of sand. She had a sweet tooth and she loved listening to oldies music and current pop music, including boy bands. And who can forget her infamous holiday sweaters and earrings?

But I believe what I’ll always remember about my mom is the kind of person she was. She was a joyful woman who loved others wholeheartedly. My mother was definetly a people person and she loved chatting for hours to her closest friends. She preferred a night in talking around our kitchen table with her girlfriends to a night out.

She was vibrant and lively, and had the spirit of a younger woman but the maturity and wisdom for someone her age. When I was in high school, I used to tease her that she was a 16-year-old trapped in a 40something’s body, because she enjoyed working at a high school just as much as I liked being a student there. She loved working in schools and being with students, and who had more Northampton spirit than my mom did? She owned more black and orange than any other person I know, besides maybe my sister.

I’ll always remember the sound of my mom’s laugh. It was a distinctive, cute little giggle that earned her, along with Robin Schultz, the nicknames of Betty and Wilma. And I’ll always remember the warmth and strength of her hugs. No matter what I was going through, a hug from Mom always made things better.

I’ve never heard anyone say an unkind word about my mom, but what negative thing is there to say about her? She was nothing but sweet to everyone around her. She would bend over backwards for anyone, but there are three specific people she would go to the ends of the earth for: her kids.

So many people have told me, “Roma’s kids were her life.” And being one of her kids, of course I already knew that. Any time any of us were sick or had an injury, she wouldn’t leave our side and helped us to feel better. She was the first to suit up and go to battle for us if we needed a defender. And I can’t imagine how many miles she’s put on all her vehicles driving us to and from friends’ houses, shopping malls and sports fields.

She supported us in all our endeavors. She wouldn’t miss even one of Emily’s games. She was most definetly Em’s biggest fan, which is a hard title to hold, considering Emily played sports year-round. She got so into what Emily was doing that she held office as the president of the field hockey and basketball booster clubs.

No matter how stupid Emily and I thought it was, she bought Brandon every Pokemon nicknack imaginable. I know she would be supportive of his recent love of video making and would watch all of his videos with pride.

When I became a Backstreet Boys fanatic in 8th grade, Mom bought me everything BSB – hats, T-shirts, etc. She fell in love with their music as well, and every Friday on the way to school would be “Backstreet Friday” and we’d pop a BSB CD in and sing along.

When I was in elementary school and decided I wanted to be a writer, Mom steered me in the right direction. She read all my stories and became my editor as well. No one was more proud of me than she was. Without my mom’s encouragement and support, I’m not sure if I’d be a journalist today.

I’m lucky to be able to say my mom was more than just a mother to me – she was my best friend, too. No one knew more about me than she did, and I would confide in her about everything – school, crushes, my fears. Even throughout college, she would be my sounding board when I had to make big decisions… and she would even answer the phone when I’d call for the fifth time with a laundry question. She could always calm me down and consol me over a break-up, a bad grade or a fight with a friend.

We were so in tune with each other that, even though I haven’t been able to go to her for advice in almost two years, I feel that in most situations, I’d already know what she would have told me to do. There have even been times when I’d be driving in the car and hear a song and think, “Mom really likes this song.” Then I would realize it came out after she got sick and she never even heard it – I just knew so well what she liked.

The biggest compliment I’ve ever received is when people tell me they see a lot of qualities of my mother in me. Mom once said she thought all three of her kids were very loving and caring people – and that’s because you raised us to be that way, Mom. We learned how to be good people by looking at you and your interactions with others. You set an amazing example.

I know time will help us all heal from the pain of losing such a wonderful woman, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to listen to certain songs without crying and thinking of her, or if I’ll be able to see a Ford Escape while driving and not feel a flicker of hope and excitement that it’s my mom I’m passing on the road.

I may never understand why she had to be taken away from us at such a young age, but I do know I’d much rather have 23 years of an extraordinary mother than a lifetime of a mediocre mom.

Mom, thank you so much for all you’ve done for me and for loving me so much. I promise I’ll remember what you’ve taught me and I’ll live my life in a way that would make you proud. I love you forever, and thanks for being extraordinary. Rest in peace.