Birthdays are celebrations of life. But even in death, one’s life and memory can be celebrated.  My baby sister would have turned 40 today.  Five years ago, she celebrated her final birthday in a hospital, hanging on to life support.  She left behind her precious kiddos and family who miss her more than she probably ever thought possible.  As my sister and I were learning to juggle kids and family in our 30s, we were also slowly learning to appreciate this complicated dynamic called sisterhood…which had been strained for so many years.  We were only beginning to understand that the little things are just that…little things.  That the big things are what matter…the memories we create, the unwavering support through life’s trials, the understanding that sisters are the ties that bind…no matter the little things.  One summer, just as we were figuring this out, not long before we lost her, Mandy and I took a getaway trip to a casino.  No kids.  Just the two of us.  The first time we had ever done a sister trip, we had more fun than I ever imagined we could together.  It was as if we suddenly remembered what it was like to laugh together, like we were the only two in on a joke.  We hysterically giggled our way through getting lost, losing money on the slot machines, finding that the valet had left our sunroof open for the 2 rain-filled days we were there,  and a very wet ride home on squishy, puddled seats.  We even giggled at our girlish giggling.  I regret that this was the one and only time we ever got away as sisters and left all of life’s noise behind.  Now, there are only memories…memories that make me smile or laugh and, of course, memories in the end that hurt beyond words.  But the real pain lies in the fact that there could have been so many more good ones, given the time.  There were so many things she never got to do, to experience, to see.  I find that with every new experience I have, with every new place I travel, with every new life development…regret finds me…regret that she isn’t here to do it with me.  That she was cheated of so much that life has to offer.  It’s in these moments that the familiar grief washes over me once again.  The loss.  Her loss of watching her children grow, of having grandchildren, of seeing the world, of everything we take for granted.  Her children’s unimaginable loss of having a mother to turn to, to rely on, to love.  My loss of a sister, of a friend, of opportunity to build on a foundation we were just learning we had.  So much loss.

Five years out, the loss is still so tangible.  Today that loss lies in the inability to wish my baby sister a happy birthday on a day we celebrated for so many years.  Her day.  This grief is a roller coaster of memories, tears, and regret.  Regret that instead of birthdays, all I have of her are yesterdays.  But after some thought, I have realized that throughout our life, I never shied away from giving her my two cents, often times two cents more than she wanted.  It may sound silly…it may be silly… but one thing that can live on is my two cents.  The one thing I have left of our sisterhood is that behind closed doors, whenever the mood strikes, I can still talk to her.  She may not answer me with words, but her memory lingers.  Memories of her answer me when she cannot.  So, with that, I’d like to wish her a happy birthday. What I would give to celebrate it with her today.  What I would give to have, with her, birthdays…instead of just yesterdays.

 

“The root of hate is usually ignorance with a side of fear.  We fear that which is unknown to us and that which is different from us.”  ~ from a previous 2010 article

Over the course of this presidential campaign, I have watched a narcissistic man with no political experience, no accountability, no respect for humanity, and no desire to unify a nation push and bully his way into a position usually reserved for a leader who embodies the exact opposite.  This man, ethically and morally bankrupt, has managed to ignite hate and bigotry that has long been forced into hiding.  By tapping into that fearful deep-seated hatred, he has managed to divide the country both on a large scale…and on a smaller scale…dividing friends, families, races, and cultures in a manner so toxic, so charged, that I worry about our ability to rebound.

I was confident there was no possible way this country would elect a man to lead us who admitted to avoiding paying taxes for his entire adult life to the very government he now wanted to represent, who bragged about sexually groping women simply because he “could,” a man who is a known playboy with his hand in the cookie jar every chance he gets, a man who (while running for president) had the audacity and ignorance to propose and encourage violence to get his way, a man who repeatedly sounded like a tantrum throwing 5 year old nearly every time we saw him debate.  I just never imagined that someone like Trump would ever stand the remote chance of obtaining a respected role like the presidency…I had more confidence in my country than that.  Especially with his contender being Hillary Clinton.  While not perfect, she had long standing political experience, she had devoted her life to standing up for women, and she could complete a fucking educated thought with responsible, thought out responses…whereas Trump jumped from one fourth grade word to the next, from one self pat on the back to another, from one half-brained thought to yet another self pat on the back, from one easily triggered childish backlash to the effortless throwing around of bombing threats.  The man left me utterly speechless during his debates.  I was sure that he was far too off base to ever actually win.  So I laughed it off.

Like so many others, I thought Hillary had this one in the bag.  And like so many others, the result of this election has left me feeling like I’ve been gutted, like the country that I took pride in…had faith in…had somehow been hijacked by hate.  When election night began, I had an ominous feeling.  But I convinced myself that we had nothing to worry about.  That the polls and political predictions were dead on and knew far more than I.  However, as election night marched on, I felt that dread grow.  It was a nightmare that wouldn’t end. Each time another state was given to Trump, I felt another sliver of hope vanish.  And the dread in my gut ballooned.  Once I finally realized it was over and he had won, I cried.  Hard.  I cried for my country.  I cried for its people.  I cried for what felt like the sudden death of growth and progress that had been fought for over so many years and tears.  I cried for children who were watching a bully be granted the biggest prize of all.  I cried for aspiring girls, for ambitious women, for all the “fat, ugly pigs” and “nasty women” out there whom he’d made to feel worthless.  I cried for the uncertainty of our planet if led by a man who dismissed science and global warming as a hoax.  I cried for the looming instability of peace when left in the hands of someone so egotistically and irrationally trigger happy and unwilling to listen to advisors on world issues.

But mostly, I just cried.  Because it felt as if the racist hate of the world had come out of hiding and raped America of its love and unity in an unexpected, and unprecedented night raid.  But I wasn’t alone…far from it.

It’s now being said that Trump’s campaign was just that…a campaign…nothing more.  That he chose a target audience and played right into what they wanted to hear.  I know this, to an extent.  But I also know that my gut feelings on character are rarely wrong and that if people show you who they are, it’s usually because that’s who they are.  After all, how often do people put great effort into faking despicable characteristics, while hiding their best traits?  It’s always the other way around.  I also know that human beings, when facing uncertainty and shock, will grasp for some sort of rationale, some kind of self-soothing peace of mind to convince themselves that all will be ok.  It’s basic self preservation to do so.

I truly hope that his campaign does not foretell his presidency.  I hope, for the sake of our country, that this hate that has been unleashed will be somehow rectified…that the division upon which his entire campaign was based was merely a con man’s tool to be elected…that there is some aspect of hope in him that I have missed.

Regardless of how he got here, or how we feel about it, or what his campaign tactics were…this is where we are…treading dangerous waters.  He will be our president for the next four years.  It’s our responsibility to put our differences aside, to make every effort to come together, unify the nation, and just be grown ups.  We must be our own life raft.

If we are to resist the division that has so quickly and easily reemerged, we must do so either with Trump, or despite him.  Either way, our children are watching.  They are watching our every move and counting on us for their future security.

Despite all of the ways we are different as people, we all share the most basic quality…biology.  We are one species…let us not use hate to self destruct. Let us rely on love, compassion, and unity to light the way.  It’s the path of least resistance to survival.

“Humanity is our one common thread.   We differ in every other way imaginable: culture, race, religion, opinion, sexual preference, personality…and so on and so on.   We are infinitely different…but ALL human.   Isn’t that enough common ground?  Must we force uniformity and resist individuality?  What a boring existence that would be.” ~ from 2010

 

~ Chick Hughes

“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.” ~ Roger Ebert

7 Behaviors most people think are negative that are actually healthy

~ Lifehack

“It’s impossible,” said pride.

“Its risky,” said experience.

“Its pointless,” said reason.

 “Give it a try,” whispered the heart.

(author unknown)

 

 

This is my favorite of the many exquisitely poetic quotes scattered throughout Château de Gudanes, a website following the restoration of a 1700’s French chateau.  A huge undertaking fueled by pure passion for restoring what was once, and what will again be, a French gem.  As I scroll through the images and the thoughts of those charting the progress, I am lost in the beauty of not only the property, the landscape, and the architecture…but also in the romance and charm with which the story is documented.  As I watch the transformation of this centuries old architectural masterpiece, as I live vicariously through the images and anticipate the treasures unfolded inside , as I long to aimlessly wander the french countryside…I look forward to getting lost in love with each and every virtual visit to Château de Gudanes.

Chick Hughes

~ Sign of truly talented writer:  Successfully writing about not writing ~

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Given the choice of what to watch, I will almost always opt for a documentary.  While watching this particular one, I became captivated…by the family, by the story, by the blemished humanity, by the unconditional love, by the heart.  This story consists of countless layers of love, of dissection, of self analysis, of emotional maturity, of an understanding that one will never fully understand the boundless complexities that love unleashes on humanity.  And yet at the very core of the documentary lies an intelligent attempt to understand what we know we never will.  Watching or reading such stories leaves me hopelessly and passionately in love with the human heart (and all of its infinite capabilities) in a world that so often does the opposite.

Stories We Tell is such an inspiration to the heart.  To love without end.  To overcome without bitterness.  To ceaselessly grow, to endure, and to transcend death.  And to constantly self analyze in an attempt to better understand the heart’s untapped potential.  This film was just that…an attempt that left me in tears, in thought…in love.

The entire documentary is available here:

Stories We Tell

 

~ Chick Hughes

“Live while you can, because you don’t have much time to do so. Be nice to others, make people laugh, find love, accept all forms of love, question everything, make smart decisions, let loose every now and then, take risks, break molds, do what you believe is great work, shatter expectations, write legends. The future is ours for the asking. So ask. Question everything” ~ author unknown

Times together that once were

Memories of youth, faded to blur

 

Days of past, for granted taken

Days of future, forever shaken

 

Chances thrown away, I curse

To never start anew, nothing worse

 

Regrets I shout for all to hear

Hopes I guard, their ruin, I fear

 

I close my eyes and see your face

Drink it in, your soul, your grace

 

To touch you, hold you, see you too

Your smell, your voice, your eyes shine true

 

A dream I dream that’s never to be

One dream plus two, alive only in me

 

With selfless release of love locked away

Let go… ’tis yesterday, some may say

 

With arrogant self proclaimed wisdom astray

Patience, one day, others will say

 

But if I might, if I may

 

With innocent desire, child-like greed at play

Seize the day…this day I say.

 

Today! Today!      …this day, I say.

 

~ Chick Hughes

 

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.” ~ James Dean