Lost love is still love. It takes a different form

On April 16th, I lost one of the most important people in my life- my grandpop. I had the opportunity to spend the last days with him, am so grateful I was able to tell him everything I wanted to before he went to join my grandmom in heaven. On April 27th, I had the privilege of giving his eulogy. Words can’t do justice to the impact he had on my life.

“Lost love is still love. It takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.” ― Mitch Albom

My name is Patrice, and I am Al’s granddaughter. Just 16 days’ shy to the exact date two years ago, I was at this same podium sharing the impact my grandmother had on my life. Like deja vu, I’m here again, this time celebrating the life of my Grandpop. So, who was Al Bendig?

30741477_10160152224815063_2065413347028762624_nHe was a bartender who shared with us his appreciation of cosmos, vodka and cranberries, fuzzy navels and apple martinis. Later in life, I was able to share with him craft beer, especially Not Your Father’s Root Beer & Cherry Cola. He was always rocking his trademark plaid flannel button up shirts, striped polos in the summer, and one of his array of baseball caps. He was proud resident of Pebble Beach drive, living in a community that truly cared about him. The highlight of his week was the golf outing played at the Mays Landing Country Club, literally in his backyard. His neighbors became his second family, providing him care and comfort. Thank you for helping to care for my grandparents during the last few years of their lives. He was also proud ride operator at Storybook Land, a place where he was able to form new friendships later in life.

He was man of faith, a parishioner of St. Anselm’s Church in Philadelphia for over 40 years, and then St. Katharine Drexel for the past 15 years.  He & my grandmother had a permanent seat at Saturday night mass, which they never missed. He also took his commitment as an usher very seriously, going faithfully until illness prevented him to do so. He had even lamented how upset he was that he wasn’t able to attend Easter mass for the first time in his life, just two weeks before his passing. After moving down to Mays Landing, he became a member of the Knights of Columbus, something he took much pride in and had always said that they would be standing guard at his funeral one day. Thank you for being here today.

He was a dedicated husband and father. For 61 years, he lived this crazy adventure with the love his life Pat. Meeting in their early teens, they literally grew up and grew old together. They raised four upstanding children, in which he passed on appreciation for a strong mixed drink, the importance of knowing how to grill anything, and how to analyze any sport. Of course like anyone who lived together for over 22,080 days, him and Grandmom had their squabbles. When he was being extra grumpy, Grandmom had no problem turning down her hearing aid. He was notorious for making silly faces behind Grandmom’s back when she would remind him to behave. When his back was turned, she would wave her fist at him. As much as my heart is breaking, there is a comfort knowing that after 23 months apart, my grandparents are back together again.

There were many roles Al Bendig played in his life, but the one that he excelled in the most was being my grandfather. As a little girl, my favorite thing was when my parents would have them over. Kneeling on the couch, I’d prop myself up to look out the window. When the red two door Oldsmobile would appear in view, I’d jump up and yell ‘grandmom and grandpop are here’.  

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Every time we left their house, Grandpop would stand outside of the car, making funny faces at us while our parents got situated. He’d stand there waving until we were completely out of sight. He introduced us to Entiemens, sherbet, the joys of coffee creamers, ketchup chips, hot sausage and crab dip. We introduced him to texting, snapchat, Taylor Swift and Beanie Babies.  He was always in the center of the action, making continuous efforts to be on our level. Like when he would pretend to be a monster and lift up each of us in the swimming pool while making funny faces and sound effects, then plunging us into the deep end. When I was a little girl while they still lived on their house on Medford road, I remember sitting in his chair on his lap as he sang me songs like ‘Camp Granada’ and ‘A You’re Adorable’, while making over the top facial expressions and bouncing me on his knee. Growing up, our conversations were the highlight of my week. They took part after dinner, whatever Grandmom has made that night at our weekly Tuesday night dinners in Yardley. Usually we would sit at the kitchen table, him at the head of table and me next to him. We would linger once everyone cleared the table after desert, which was usually some sort of cake from Mccaffrey’s.

Grandpop was always ‘one of the kids’, never spared any expense to make us laugh. He’d go through the revolving door with us at Wanamakers at Christmas team until we were dizzy. I can still hear Grandmom yelling ‘Al, Al’ as he would swing us up in the air by our ankles and arms while we shrieked with delight. He taught me important life lessons: Never cut a loaf bread, always break, how to blow bubble gum despite my mom being against me having any sort of gym until I was 15, how to whistle and how to snap.  Growing up, he would sneak five dollar bills in the palm of hands so we would have money for the ice cream truck. During our Disney World vacation when I was nine years old, I had my heart set on this huge figment puppet. It was about 3 feet tall, would not easily fit in a suitcase and was way more expensive than any stuffed animal should be. Even when my parents said no way, Grandpop had snuck back to the area to buy me the puppet.

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My favorite memories of my childhood are the summers spent in Margate. We would spend all day at the beach, right in front of Lucy the Elephant. He would always go into the ocean with us kids, where we would be clinging on to him when the waves got to be too much. Even after my cousins went back to the pool at the condo, he would stay out in the ocean with me as we bobbed the waves. We would go to Lucy’s food stand, where we would get ice cream and walk along the beach. One of his favorite stories to share was the summer vacation when my new shoes made my feet get blisters. At six-years-old, this of course felt like the end of the world and there was no way I’d be able to walk the highly anticipated boardwalk. So what did he do? Grandpop carried me the entire length of the Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk, just so my feet wouldn’t hurt and I could enjoy the evening.

Almost 2 decades later, I can still see Grandpop walking up the grass field in his business suit after a long day of work to watch my softball games. He would sit on the bleachers during my CYO Saturday morning basketball games, cheering me on despite not being very good at all. Years later, he told me one afternoon while out back eating lunch “You know sweetheart, you’re weren’t very good at basketball” he admitted.  Recently while going through his office, I stumbled across a box with my name on it, I found he kept all of my writings. The melodramatic Christmas story I wrote for him when I was thirteen based off of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, My high school and college newspapers, all of my published essays from my career, which we talked about each one in detail. He even had a few of our emails printed out- the ones that had updates from college.

When my mother first got sick when I was 12 years old, every day after work he would drive up to our house and sit with me. While other adults were busy making arrangements, getting health updates or visiting my mom, he would come directly to me. It was time where I didn’t have much to say because I was in shock. He sat there on the sofa and asked how I was doing; his concern was my feelings. He was always on my side, and the face in the crowd that was guaranteed to be there. Even as an adult, he continued to connect through text message when I couldn’t get down to visit as much. Before starting my current job a few years ago, he would text me everyday giving me encouragement to calm my nerves. My two of my favorite texts from him were when he told me I’d love the new Taylor Swift Diet Coke commercial that featured her cat, and when he reminded me when the Grumpy Cat Christmas television special was airing. The Saturday before Easter, two weeks before his passing, his ‘girls’ visited him. “We are your Charlie’s Angels” Kelly joked, pointing out there was a blonde, a brunette and a redhead. “How lucky am I to have my girls”, he’d always say. As you’ve probably noticed, one of the classic photos we took was with him and his girls. We have so many from throughout the years, and I’m so glad for some reason we took one last shot that Saturday.

30741408_10160152225050063_9006463054396784640_nDuring the last few weeks of my grandfather’s life, I learned that the memories that remind you what family is about aren’t the scrapbook snapshots or the Christmas-card scenes- though they make for great photo collages. Family is about dropping everything to sit in throughout the night in the hospital room, bringing a purse full of Burger King because you know your cousin hasn’t eaten anything and is too tired to make any decisions. Family is walking outside of a nursing home making stupid jokes because if you would have stayed in that room for another minute, your heart would have exploded from grief. Family is sitting in a shoebox sized, 90-degree room watching Law and Order SVU together while your grandfather and father is on the brink of death. Family is spending every Sunday morning meeting at Ihop for two years straight making plans over pancakes. Family is filling the plastic cup with cold water and moistening your grandfather’s lips when he can no longer eat. Family is leaning your head against their shoulder despite squabbling moments earlier, without having to say a word, and receiving solace without speaking a single word.

My father, John, and my aunt, Suzanne, have been pillars of strength during the loss of both of our grandparents. For the past 4 years, they’ve put much of their own lives on hold to care for my grandparents while they were struggling at the end of their lives. Always bringing a chai vanilla latte or a milkshake, they took on the role of caretakers, advocates, and even barbers. Clearly it wasn’t easy, but the dedication to their parents up until their final breath gave me a newfound respect for them. Thank you both for once again setting an example of doing the right thing, no matter what the circumstance may be. I know Grandmom would be so incredibly proud of the way you cared for grandpop the final two years of his life.

I had the privilege of having my grandfather for 28 years- which is more than many have, and nearly double of the time I had with my other grandfather. Grandpop has been one of the few consistent things in my life- and for all of us. It’s been less than two weeks since he passed, and I miss my Grandpop more than words can say. Personally, this is the hardest loss of my life up and will always be one of the hardest.  Both my grandparents are gone. For many of here, two of the important and influential people in our lives are gone. The gravity of the situation has been weighing on my shoulders throughout the past few weeks as Grandpop began to slip away. I will never hear him say another blessing before grace on a holiday meal, nor will I ever look up to see him making a goofy face from across the table. I will never hear his personalized text tone signaling he sent me a message.

There will be no one waving to me as the car pulls away from the house, there will be no more house. There will be no more Sunday morning drives down to Grandmom and Grandpops. There will be no more summer bbqs in their backyard where we had to be vigilant of being hit with golf balls. A new chapter now begins as we continue their legacy by now being the ones to make the time and effort to create the memories over baked goods and coffee, sharing barbecue dinners while watching the Phillies, and just being present when one of us needs each other. Based on the last few weeks, I am sure we will rise to the occasion. We already have.

“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here. -Morrie” ― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie

Each of us, we will have a special way of knowing Grandpop is with us. For me, whenever I sip on a vodka and cranberry, see a bottle of Propel, listen to Frank Sinatra, and bob in the ocean- he will be there. I love you Grandpop, and I am and will always be your girl. And as your favorite guy Frankie says “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places,” until we meet again Pop.

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Recalibrating the Reality of a Mother-Daughter Relationship

Although I have been known as a chronic daydreamer and an outward over-optimistic person, my grasp on reality has always been firm. While this momentarily causes me to be figuratively and literally unsteady while recalibrating myself, it has been the reason that throughout everything that has erupted throughout my life, I have managed to stay upright. But at this point in time, more than ever, all I want to do is run as far as possible beyond the grasp of the reality surrounding my mother.

Right now it is a struggle to accept the person my mother has become, trying my best to learn to love her as she is now, but is beyond hard. It has been so fucking hard. Perhaps this appears harsh or selfish. Despite my best intentions to convince myself things will go back to the old, not-even-close- to-perfect normal, the reality playing before my eyes cannot be ignored.

This is not the first time I have had to reconfigure my senses regarding my mother. At barely twelve years old, I was forced to adapt with the changes our mother-daughter relationship endured under the strain of chronic illness, as her physical and mental health conditions became the fourth member of our household. For over sixteen years, more than half my existence, I’ve lived with this adjusted role as my mother’s only child. Now as an adult who is acutely aware of the gravity of what is happening, the realistic outlook for the future and the pain plastered across my father’s face, this shift to this new ‘normal’ has been absolutely gut wrenching.

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When Emotional Chaos isn’t Penciled into My Planner

At the end of December, I spent a laughable amount of time researching planners to make 2017 the year of doing. To help manage my goals in every area of my life, and trying to be more present by actually penciling in time to decompress.

The 2 untouched planners on my dresser remind me how completely unplanned the last 3 months of my life have been. Honestly, shit has been off the rails for the past year in the realm of being blindsided.

But back to the planners. 

So I spent an absurd amount of money because can there really be a price limit on peace of mind and organization? They were delivered in fancy packaging in a box to pretty to throw out, and for an entire night I spent placing glittery stickers and mapping out important things I knew were coming up. With all of the other white blocks left to be filled in, the possibility of unknown felt exciting because it was centered on ideas like trying the recipes I pinned on Pinterest, and a writing schedule to revisit the writings I had shelved away since late summer.

Maybe the planners jinxed me, or perhaps the Universe decided to send me a wake up call that nothing ever will go as planned.

No sooner did I buy the planners, the rails of routine went rouge.

The only items being added to an ever growing list were the unimaginable situations that seemed to be popping up faster than I could deal with properly. Imagine a whack-a-mole arcade game, but replace the plastic rodents with emotionally charged situations springing up without rhyme or reason. Because it wasn’t feasible to take out my aggression with a rubber hammer, my only choice  was springing towards each one at a rapid pace without any plan of attack other than dealing with as best as an unsuspecting person can.

Rather than share my list of big plan for the new year, I find myself only being able to share the list of the completely unplanned clusterfucks…I mean events…that were not penciled into my planners.

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Feeding the Fire, Fueling a Legacy

WestonEditedBV-1Yesterday when I went for a walk after work, I never expected to get upset when passing a bakery.

Taking advantage of the short-lived sunny weather, I took the long way to my doctor’s appointment taking in the sights of Rittenhouse Square. I’ve worked in the Rittenhouse Square area for the past 2 ½ years, but my memories of the area go back farther. It’s the neighborhood where I spent many of brunches and dinners with the Keeton family. I can’t pass the park without remembering the evening where Julie and I ran from rats while Easton laughed at us. Or when I took six of the kids plus my own niece trick-or-treating alone, which somehow involved a cab ride.

The bakery was one of the rare times I was able to see Weston out of the hospital or Gift of Life Family House. I had just moved down to my first apartment in Fishtown in early 2013, and went over to meet Julie, Easton and Weston for breakfast. On the way back, Weston asked to ride on my back as we went to the Metropolitan Bakery to get cherry chocolate bread. He was so light on my back I could barely feel he was there, but his laughter and navigation could be heard a mile away.

So during my walk yesterday I found myself outside of the bakery, realizing it’s been four years since that day. And ever since the calendar flipped to March, the 23rd sticks out like an eyesore reminding me Weston gained his wings 3 years ago. Tears started to well up in my eyes as I quickly fumbled through my purse for sunglasses. The ache of time passed just hit me in that moment, and the disbelief that it has been 3 years since March 23rd became the day I want to punch in the face the most out of any other day of the year. And with the countless of lives Weston has touched, I know there are others who will be dealing with heartache this month.

Despite feeling the moments of grief and sadness attached to this month, I am also choosing to celebrate Weston’s legacy honoring his biggest heroes- firefighters.While there are many others who would also like to punch March 23rd in the face, they will be delivering baked goods, meals, supplies and love to firehouse & service workers across the country. All as part of the 3rd annual ‘Feed the Fire’ day of service in honor Weston Keeton’s 3rd year angel-versary.

10575303_10205185592312279_5157878559498156333_oFeed the Fire is a call to action for people from across the country to adopt their local fire house or a group that provides service. Weston adored firefighters & dreamed of being one when he grew up. During his lifetime, firefighters from across the country took time to send him letters, photos, gifts & even to make special visits. Julie & Adam Keeton made the decision to honor Weston’s heroes, and asked that all of those who had been touched by their son’s story to do the same.

Since 2015, hundreds firehouses were adopted nationwide with local heroes being treated to potluck dinners, donated supplies, and care packages full of treats (including Weston’s favorite, Hot Cheetos). Even more firehouses & heroes will be honored tomorrow, which is an incredible achievement for the 3rd year of Feed the Fire. While March 23rd will still be a difficult day for so many that miss that sweet little boy, there is comfort knowing that his legacy continues to bring the best out in people. Without a doubt Weston changed the course of my life for the better. I often say the little boy with the broken heart taught me how to love again.  Forever, I will be grateful for the Miracle on 34th Street.

Interested in getting involved in the 2017 Feed the Fire celebration? Visit the Feed the Fire Facebook page or http://www.westonswarriors.com/feed-the-fire.html 

 

This Too Shall Pass: Figuratively & Literally

14203089_10157310096840063_1061076551_oAt this moment in time, I am content. Not this day, not this hour. This moment at 8:42 am. The sun is streaming in from the floor-ceiling window with a gentle breeze causing my fly-away hairs to move. Despite the threats of terrible weather predicted all week, rain is nowhere to be found.

Sitting at my laptop with a large mocha iced latte beside me, I feel more at peace than I have in the last month. Maybe this sense of calmness will only last for the next few minutes. But being able to be in the moment, soaking in the slow introduction of fall and the realization that I infact made way through a rocky month of August, is a gift from the universe I am embracing with open arms.

Another reason I’m grateful for this moment in time is that my body finally feels like my own again. It only takes a short bit of time to know me until it becomes apparent that part of my sparkling personality involves a splash of hypochondria. Okay maybe a few liters or a gallon.

The night before making my First Holy Communion in the 2nd grade, I kept my parents up throughout the evening because I was positive that chicken poxs were going to appear and prevent me from finally getting to eat Jesus.

In college when my hands would begin to tremble, I had convinced myself that it was an early onset of Parkinson’s disease or ALS – at age 20. I totally ignored the fact that I was living off iced coffees and pop tarts, forgetting to eat several times a day while working on the student paper and juggling 20 credits.

13942217_10157160752825063_1537420903_nAnd I’ve lost track on how many times I have been convinced that my headaches were a warning signs of a brain tumor or impending aneurysm. Forget the fact that I was dehydrated/not wearing the glasses/forgot to take my medicine/was over tired.

So when my stomach began to feel increasingly bloated early last month with cramps, my anxiety began to skyrocket. My doctor listened to me as I rattled off potential diagnoses, which I then took a breath and asked her if I had ovarian cancer.  Why ovarian cancer? Because I read the preventive pamphlet in the waiting room lobby and took it as a premonition.

This was all before she had a chance to exam me, order or any tests, or get out any words besides ‘Hi there, so what brings you in today,’.

From being my primary doctor for over a year now, she smiled and knew that this was typical for me. After poking, prodding, a pelvic ultrasound and a blood test, I was given a clean bill of health with the caveat of keeping an eye on the pain as it could be an early sign of gallstones.

Basically the reason I was so uncomfortable was that I was full of shit. Literally. Of course knowing it was nothing more than a back up, my worry subsided. Ha….wishful thinking!

The next phase of my hypochondria was figuring out why I had this sudden back up in my plumbing. Of course, working in healthcare marketing does not help a hypochondriac manage fears. My job actually fuels my fears similar to the pumping a child with pixie sticks- it can get ugly fast.  Part of my work involves capturing patient stories, learning about their sudden onset of illness that caused them to almost lose their lives out of the blue. These diseases and diagnoses swirl through my mind, while I google despite being banned from it from both my primary doctor and my therapist, Dr. R. In the midst of this anxiety all while managing to work full time, I embarked on operation get my shit moving again.

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Things I learned during this unpleasant tasting discovery:

  • Prunes smell horrible, and taste just as bad
  • Prune juice now comes in a 6 pack
  • Miralax tastes best in apple juice
  • Kashi cereal has more fiber than prunes
  • It is never a good idea to take 6 stool softeners at one time
  • Anytime when buying laxatives, it is a rule of the universe that at least 2 people you know will magically appear in the checkout line, causing you to have to awkwardly hide the poop pills
  • An all natural colon cleanse supplement will make you cry out of horror of what is coming out of your body, and joy that shit is FINALLY coming out of your body.

While this ordeal was enough of a shit storm (pun totally intended) to derail a positive frame of mind, I also was alone in my apartment for 2 weeks while my roommate was traveling, and because of scheduling issues, I was unable to go to my weekly therapy sessions with Dr. R for 3 weeks.

Needless to say that this was the perfect setup for a spiral of self pity, worse case scenario planning, and a not-so-compassionate inner dialogue.

14182428_10157310096845063_1757199719_nBut the last week of August brought both cool weather to Philadelphia, and much needed relief to multiple areas of my life. My body finally has working plumbing again, meaning my pants and shirts finally fit again.

Rather than stressing about what my body is plotting against me, my energy can now be redirected to doing productive things like cooking dinner, writing and not being a miserable toad.

I finally went back to therapy, which was like an hour massage for the psyche. And after two weeks, my roommate is in route home from abroad. As much as I love Annie the cat as a roommate, she is not the best person to watch Jeopardy with after work.

Now it is 9:22 am and I am still enjoying the moment of the coffee shop calmness. And that I am breathing. Because the thing that continued to help me move through the hot mess of August was the phrase ‘this too shall pass’.  

Every moment is fleeting. The amazing moments of life surrounded by family members and friends. The terrible situations of grief and heartache that in the moment feel eternal. But no matter how joyus, how soul crushing a moment is, it shall pass.

Unfairly Pointing the PTSD Finger

 

Like most of the nation this week, I have been horrified by the news story of the murder-suicide of the young Short family in Berks County, PA. As if the phrase murder-suicide is not gruesome enough, this particular one takes the devastation to an undescribable heart breaking intensity for a number a reasons:

  • 3 children under the age of 8 were involved, along with their mother & father 
  • The youngest victim was a two-year-old toddler who had underwent a lifesaving heart transplant at CHOP just days after birth
  • The media across the country has put this family under a microscope during a time where their grieving loved ones are having enough time trying to function.

585-34Before the tragedy, Megan was an advocate in the tight-knit Philadelphia Heart Mom groups and transplant. Back in April, she bravely shared her voice about the impact her youngest daughter’s heart transplant had on her family. She wrote from her heart in order to remind the other parents in similar experiences that they were not alone. Megan Short was brave enough to share her experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on Phillyatheart.com, an article that speaks the same life-altering struggles other parents have felt in the past, and will in the future.

But because of a senseless tragedy, Megan is no longer able to share her voice. To advocate for other heart moms, transplant families, or even herself. With coverage of the Short family spanning local papers like the Reading Eagle, to People Magazine– every comment, post, photo and interaction her Facebook page is being put into news articles where speculation is being made of the final moments of her life.

Some outlets have been heavily focusing on the role Megan’s bravely admitted PTSD may have had on the event, with internet trolls placing blame through comments about a situation they do not even know. However, Philadelphia Inquirer &Philadelphia Daily News reporter Ronnie Polaneczky published an article today that asked the question that is being asked by so many who knew Megan or have had PTSD is the past: Why is Everyone so Quick to Blame PTSD in the Berks County Slaying?

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In the article, Ronnie shares the perspective of fellow heart mom and transplant mom Julie Keeton, a dear friend who I have written about several times. Julie is the mother of my little buddy Weston Keeton, the Miracle of 34th Street at CHOP. Throughout the story, Julie shares her own personal experience with dealing with the aftermath of a sick. dying child and the unfairness of using Megan’s PTSD against her.  Says Keeton, “I want people to remember that Megan was a great mom. I want them to know it’s normal for any parent dealing with a chronically sick child to develop PTSD, because it is traumatic to live with the constant possibility of your child dying.”

There is nothing to bring back the lives of Megan & her children. But we can be inspired to share our own personal experiences so that others can feel less alone, and less stigmatized during struggle. 

Donations to the CHOP Cardiac Center are being collected by the Philadelphia Heart Community in honor of Megan & her children, with the goal that other heart families will continue to be able to receive the life-saving care during their darkest hours.

 

When Your Best Friends Gets Married

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When entering your mid-twenties, changes will begin happening throughout your social circle at a rapid-fire pace. Careers will be established, moving trucks will be packed to set forth across the country, and friends will begin to take new last names.

There will be many engagement dinners and wedding receptions where you will be in attendance as just the date of their friend, or because of social courtesy for a co-worker. But then there be the weddings that involve your childhood friends, the group of women who continue to share a deep friendship after surviving puberty.

When the group of women who have known each other since elementary school meet for a weekend brunch, the world may see you as mid-twentysomethings who lead lives full of successful careers, motherhood, and marriage. But to each other a time warp still is in place when you reunite no matter how many weeks or months pass by.

In their faces, you see the eyes of a 16-year-old brimming with tears over her first heartache. You hear the uninhibited giggle of a 15-year-old sharing the first time she went to 3rd base during a sleepover.

1933761_9211215062_2583_nThe voice will always echo the days of when you would drive around in your mother’s car blasting My Chemical Romance, feeling the freedom of a driver’s license that can only be felt at 17-years-old. Your arms have wrapped around each other countless times, providing comfort for every situation from drinking too much at a college party at 20-years-old or sitting numbly trying to process the life threatening illness of a parent too young to be so sick in present day.

And sometimes your group will be in the midst of multiple weddings a month apart, while another is preparing for the birth of her first child several months prior to the nuptials. This means two bridal showers, two bachelorette parties, two rehearsal dinners, two ceremonies, a baby shower, and a christening. Oh – and having to change the last name of two of your two oldest friends in your cell phone for the first time ever.

12027512_10155984686620063_8458987793040532901_nIn the midst of experiencing these life-changing events, you are tasked with coordinating schedules and to-do lists, which seemed harder to do than managing arrivals at Grand Central Station during rush hour. In the mix was dealing with future sister-in-laws and mother in laws that were new to your friends’ lives, but now would be bonded to their future in a more intimate way than we would be.While browsing the home good sections of Macy’s to find the perfect wedding gift in the registry, there may be moments of self-reflection involved. Moments of ‘when me’, that questioned if there will ever be a time in your life where the love of your life will be holding your hand while you wield the registry gun for our own wedding registry? Will there ever be a man that takes your breath away to the point where you are willing to commit your life to being his wife? 

1909751_9210780062_1049_nBut those moments of self-pity and wonder about the future goes away the minute you walk into the room of festivities. Your heart will swell when she steps out from the dressing room of the bridal store, making the choice of her wedding dress.

And when helping her lace up the back of her wedding dress, a sense of deja vu will happen because not so long ago you were doing the same thing while getting ready for the junior prom. When finally sitting down after spending hours setting up for her bridal shower, watching your best friend open each bridal shower gift with glee makes every paper cut from hanging decorations worth it.

The twinkle in her eyes as she unwraps food processors and throw pillows is lit up by all of her future plans to create a home with her future husband. Then on the wedding day, you’re standing up at the altar, waiting, as the doors swing open for her to make the grand entrance. Out of the corner of your eye is her soon-to-be-husband, who was once just a guy your best friend called you about gushing after a first date. He is now just part of your friend group as she is and has already been present for his fair share of best friend moments.

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As she walks down the aisle, the past 15 years scroll through your mind at warp speed.

There is the girl that walked the blocks of your neighborhood after school with knee socks sliding down, and a Jansport backpack tied around her back. Who provided comforted when your crush ended up being a jerk, while rinsing out your retainers in the bathroom

She is the one you cried hysterically with after saying goodbye the night before you both left for college, but the same one who is still able to provide a feeling of home when caught between two worlds. She is the one who will drink with you at the bar without judging when your life is so far from what you imagined post college graduation. And now she is a woman who is about to become a someone’s one, a matriarch of her own family. 

 

Swept off her feetNugget lovingMr and Mrs Devan

 

Then after the post-ceremony group photos are finished and party-bus cocktails are ingested, you will stand proud to witness the first dance of the newly minted Mr. & Mrs. Her eyes are brighter than you ever have seen them before. Although her steps and twirls seem effortless while she’s dancing with her husband, you know it has been a hell of a journey for her. And that her first dance is inspirational. This is her victory dance, her reward for never losing her hope for true love.

Being able to be part of the process of weddings of these girls has given you lessons that will stick with you if there is ever day for it to be your turn to be the bride. But out of all the takeaways from standing beside them on their wedding, one is those important and meaning. When watching your best friends get married, it will take your breath away from how much love and pride swells inside your heart for them.

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And Somehow It’s July 5th

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Somehow it’s July 5th and my desk calendar is still on April. This pretty much sums up my frame of mind while trying to figure out what the hell has been going on over the past few months. Winter felt as if it was going to be around forever and now Philadelphia is in the middle of a heat wave.

In between the madness of starting spring by moving into a new apartment, then trying to juggle filming for my freelance project on top of a full time job, capped off by the abrupt hospice/death of my grandmother at the end of the season, summer kind of just appeared.

Honestly, there hasn’t been any exciting plans so far besides the Weezer concert I’m attending tonight (my first concert in three years) and writing. Actually, the main priority for summer 2016 is getting the first draft of my book completed by the end of season. While I’ve been dabbling with writing the book for over a year and half now, over the past two months my commitment to seeing it through with a deadline is has materialized.

13621465_10157017988190063_1506263234_oMaybe it is because I am now closer to 30 than ever before, or that as a writer who has been fortunate enough to be published in a variety of places, there is something inside me that is craving to dive deeper into my storytelling ability. And the fact that I was at Barnes and Nobles the a few months ago and became unexplainably furious to see that Snookie had a book featured in the New York Times Best Sellers section, and I did not.

Despite my silly notion that my brain should be able to write and create quality content at least 17 hours each day, it cannot. Between growing in my abilities as the Digital Content Program Specialist at work, which has been exciting and rewarding, while working on my first (and highest paying) video project as a side hustle- writing for my book has been increasingly hard to manage.

But with the filming complete for the side hustle video (cannot wait to share it on here when it is live), my free time outside of the 9-5 has been redirected to sitting down with my Google Doc and typing. Some days my hands cannot keep up with the thoughts and emotions tumbling out of my head and it is a struggle to get it all down on paper.

Other days it is a struggle to lift up my fingers to write a complete sentence that has an ounce of redeemable quality. But recently, I have made myself slodge through the heaviness of my thoughts and the clumsiness of my fingers to get through the other side of writer’s block. At the moment, my manuscript has 60,000 words that will be become my first book- which is even bizarre to type.

In order to continue to gain momentum and to organize the mammoth of words that have been strung together in my Google Doc, I enlisted the help of Julie Lenard, from The Storyologist. When I attended as session Julie ran at the PHL Blogger Conference back in April, the notion of a writing coach become appealing.

13588799_10157017988140063_1651447305_oAfter several emails and a meeting, we decided to work together to help reach my goal. I’ll eventually go into more detail of how a writing coach has helped me organize my thoughts, and push myself to write topics that may not come as easily to me as others. Also, for the first time in my personal life since I was a kid, I am being held accountable for doing something.

With work, it is easy for me to not drop the ball since my accountability impacts others in the office as well as my potential paycheck. For my own personal work, the only person that is affected by my lack of action is myself which never really matters to me most of the time. But with Julie, there are multiple check ins each week to see if I actually did my writing during the times we talked about, which she can go in and read in our shared Google Doc folder. Knowing that her email will be coming and that she is expecting to be reading new content, there is a refreshed sense of urgency of me committing to writing.

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Other Things That Have Happened So Far This Summer:

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I’ll Love You Forever, I’ll Like You for Always

On May 8th, my beautiful grandmother left this world surrounded by her family at the age of 81 years old. I had the honor of giving her eulogy at her celebration of life on May, 13. Below are the words I shared that barely scratch the surface of her amazing impact on myself and my family.


13162349_10156797985100063_631360207_nThank you all for coming today to celebrate the life of Pat Bendig. My name is Patrice, and I am Pat’s granddaughter who she affectionately called Tricey.  Your attendance speaks volumes of how many lives she impacted.

Some of you know Pat as an an active member of the Church of St. Katherine Drexel, which she has been since moving to Mays Landing in 2003. Or perhaps from St. Anselm’s Church in Philadelphia, PA for over 40 years prior to relocating. Perhaps some of you know her by her unwavering loyalty to the Phillies & The Eagles (even during losing streaks), or as a Red Hat Lady, or maybe you have been touched by her contagious optimistic outlook on life.

For me, Pat Bendig will forever be remembered by me as grandmom. My grandmom whose laughter filled the room whenever she was surrounded by her family while talking over coffee and cake. Memories of Jersey shore summer vacations, holidays decked out with decorations, warm hugs that smelled like Estee Lauder perfume and selfless love for her family will continue to be cherished.  

I credit my wild imagination to her- she got hooked me hooked soap operas like Young & The Restless and The Guiding Light at an early age while she would watch me. I remember her helping me learn how to read by sounding out the words in Soap Digest that was always in the house, and laying on her couch under a blanket while she read to me ‘I’ll you Forever, I’ll Like you for Always, As Long as I’m Living My Baby You’ll Be” by Robert Munsch.

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Redefining a Mother’s Love

Originally published on Huffington Post

Happy-Mothers-Day-716527Mother’s Day is a punch in the gut for anyone not celebrating with their mother. The ache doesn’t discriminate against the reason of absence. The social media feeds that will be saturated with Mother’s Day tributes will be downright painful for all of us coping with a void.

The feeling of motherlessness is overwhelming countless times throughout the year, but near Mother’s Day its intensity can be downright suffocating. As the days creep closer to that Sunday, my anxiety level continues to steadily increase to an agitated state. This will be the first Mother’s Day without my mom, since making the decision to cut off contact with her for my own sanity earlier this year. Conflicting feelings are battling inside my heart- dread of the actual day and anticipation of its passing until the next year. While traditional holidays celebrated on my own have been developed over the past several years, the awkwardness of establishing a new way to get through the day is fresh.

Not surprisingly, my past several weekly therapy sessions with Dr. R have centered on making sense of the emotional tornado brewing. While working through this, Dr. R has repeatedly encouraged me to really figure out what I needed in order to comfort myself. Pulling the covers over my head with the companionship of pinot noir and Grey’s Anatomy reruns was my first instinct. Or to abandon my smartphone for the weekend and seclude myself at a hotel. To not be reminded of what I am missing on Mother’s Day was the answer I continuously kept arriving at.

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