Friends

ROSIE’S GIRLS

Just a week ago we gathered to celebrate Rose Lewandowski’s art show at The Carr Center in Detroit (See the Carr at: http://www.thecarrcenter.org/ and visit Rosie on Facebook).

We love Rosie and her beautiful brilliant brain. She’s a painter and photographer, and she creates the most elegant pottery. Tonight it’s her pottery that’s being featured and I love to see the world through her eyes, as reflected in her pieces. She has incredible perspective. And depth of heart.

aaROSIE QUOTE

Actually, both of the other girls are creatives as well; Desiree’s a painter, gardener, and creator of fairy gardens and anything else her beautiful brain can imagine; and Patti is a photographer, chef extraordinaire, and probably a few other things that I’m not remembering right now. Me? I write a bit. And I take a few photographs now and then.

Rosie’s show was fabulous. The attendance was good and the room was abuzz with creative energy and the chatter and support of friends. Our Motley Crew was there to celebrate our friend, who passionately and relentlessly does the work of art; this night was just one result and reward. She has the heart of an artist, the soul of an ancient, and the work ethic of a Fortune 500 CEO. Needless to say, her pottery pieces just blew everyone away. I wasn’t surprised. Of course they did.

ROSIE TABLE

We even made some new friends.

aROSIE DANA FUNNY

Say hello to Dana and Dom (Rosie is on the right). They are delightful spirited characters and we all bonded rather naturally (you learn to spot the good ones quickly!).They are soon expecting a beautiful baby boy named, Alexio. Isn’t that a wonderful name? I’ve already called dibs on his first photo shoot!

 

In the afterglow of the evening, we left Detroit, and each ventured ahead into the upcoming week.

NIGHT

I know that Desiree has been nonstop busy with family duties and activities, and assisting in the care of an ailing loved one, while babysitting her granddaughter (the light of her life), and while being in physical pain. She’s had an incredibly rough year of family losses, but you’d never know it to look at her. Or be with her. She always sees the beauty in everything. And she’s a firecracker. She’s also a fluttering little firefly flapping her wings and being beautiful while trying to shed some light in all the darkness that surrounds her.

I also know that Patti has had the same kind of busyness, even though it was her week of vacation; errands and family duties never stop. She just got her second tattoo; a bracelet of flowers, inspired by her late mother’s ring. Her first tattoo, in honor of her infant daughter, Sara, was an angel with wings, and now rests just above her heart . . . the same heart that broke the day she lost her. Patti’s the calming force in our little rock band of middle-aged, Zen-seeking, hippie-embracing, creative girlfriends. She brings balance (That’s why she carries a cane! She’s also highly skilled in navigation…and sarcastic humor).

Rosie did not escape unscathed. She had a minute of joy at her show and then the next day, she got clobbered . . . really hard. She lost her beautiful friend, Marty; someone she’s loved for a lifetime. And it broke her heart. There are no words. Only tears. Later, the memories will come that will comfort her. She will honor Marty by living life with love and joy in her heart.

Me?

Nothing too major. I got crushed by bronchitis, which spurred a three-day migraine, while a number of important things were happening. It was crazy-bad timing and I cried a lot, but I pushed through it. Even the smallest tasks required tremendous effort and attention, with relatively few positive results. It’s frustrating; and that’s a word my bipolar disorder doesn’t like. We don’t care much for emotional roller coasters either, but we’ve been privy to a ride on one of those this week as well. Yeah . . . I’m tired.

(I keep writing this paragraph over because I need want to tell you all of the bad things that happened to me. I want to name them off, “This and this and this and this…..”, and then say, “See how rough my week was?” But I will resist that urge.

(You’re welcome).

So, exactly what is this blog about?

Embracing moments.

And honoring our beautiful friends.

Just as they are.

Not because we accept them or tolerate them.

But because we love them.

And we want to celebrate them.

Life’s gifts come with no guarantees. One minute you’re enjoying the night with your friends and the next minute you’re up to your eyeballs in turmoil and pain and everything’s different. Sometimes, it’s major and life-altering. And sometimes we just go through a rough patch . . . for maybe a day, or a few months, or even a few years. But not one of us will get through it without a little help.

Nope, not even you.

We need someone to listen and to share it all with. We need a couple of good friends. The love and laughter they bring is as vital to our existence as the air we breathe.

This beautiful band of girlfriends I jokingly call backup singers and Zen-hippie girls, and indeed we are; but you can be assured, we are also warriors. And we’re fighting for love, comfort, peace, and a little bit of the happy stuff.

aGIRLScropped

(From left: Rose Lewandowski, Desiree Mate, Julia Kovach, Pat Petroline).

Tomorrow, come hell or high water, we will reassemble for a girls-therapy session luncheon, where we will hug and chat and laugh and love for hours.

And we’ll embrace these moments as tightly as we embrace each other.

Because that’s just how we roll.

And because this is the important stuff.

The stuff to cherish.

It’s a rare find.

**********

This blog is dedicated to Rosie’s dear friend, Marty Gratz, who left this earth much too soon, and who will be greatly missed by all who had the honor and privilege of knowing and loving her.

ROSIE'S MARTY

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Categories: Art, Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

SENSITIVE STEEL

I have bipolar disorder.

I am constantly challenged by my own intense emotions.

I feel everything you feel . . . times a thousand.

The good, the bad, and the ugly . . . times a thousand.

The loneliness and depression can be devastating, and the endless and exhausting struggle to cope, pure torture.

The statistics confirm it. One out of every five people afflicted with bipolar disorder successfully takes their own life.

My life consists of agitated anxious thinking and tormented isolation, with brief intermittent bursts of joy.

Even the happiness is heartbreaking. So erratic. And fleeting.

When I feel a joyous moment, I try to grab hold of it and capture it like a lightning bug in a jar. I embrace it. I consume it and feed it to my hungry heart. I am a quiet little hoarder of happiness.

Because I don’t know when I’ll see another lightning bug again.

Maybe never.

When most of you meet new people, you get to know them and then you judge whether or not to trust them and let them into your heart.

I do the opposite.

I take people at face value, and after a quick scan of my instincts, I pretty much let everyone in. And then I judge, as they prove dramatic, unstable, or hurtful, which ones are unhealthy for me.

It’s an awful way to live, but I’ve tried being careful and guarded, and it’s just not my nature.

I love quickly and with a wide open heart.

I view everyone as being unique and magnificent, and I let them come in, and I celebrate them loudly. That’s how I am.

But I forget.

I forget that people don’t always say what they mean. And sometimes they’ll say what they mean all day long until you need them to, and then they won’t. People are funny like that.

I also forget that people misuse the word “love”, and when they hug me and say it, they mean it casually like, “It’s been nice to see you”. They don’t really love me.

And I forget that people don’t feel as intensely as I do.

And when I am reminded, it breaks my heart.

I am a constant victim . . . of my own brain.

So I strive to make better choices about people. Who I let in. Who I believe. And trust. And love.

And when I get hurt, as surely I will, because I will always love quickly and hugely, I will take the hit to my heart, lick my wounds, adjust, and then get right back out into the world.

But I will remember this pain.

For a little while anyway.

And then I’ll forget again.

Because that’s just my nature.

I love quickly. And I have a terrible memory. Sheesh.

The irony is, that as sensitive as I am . . .

I am as strong as you are . . .  times a thousand.

We bipolars are funny that way.

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(Read, “Being Bipolar” at: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-hF).

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Friends, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

BEING BIPOLAR

BEING BIPOLAR.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Friends, Inspiration/Motivation, Mental Health, Suicide | Leave a comment

CHRISTMAS MORNING

I awaken early. It is still dark. And quiet.

“Merry Christmas” I whisper to the dog as I rise.

Not too many tears this morning. I’m sort of tear-ed out. Although I fight the good fight, it’s been a long pre-holiday week of them.

I feed the animals and take my coffee to the sofa.

I switch on my Christmas angel and she quietly changes from glowing red to green to blue. She is my only decoration.

angel in globe

I pray.

I have already grieved those I’m missing and cried the tears of things that are no longer; the excitement of Christmas morning and gifts piled high around the tree, and the comfort of family gathered around the table for a meal.

Those seats are empty now. Those times have passed. As have too many loved ones. As do all the holidays anymore.

No more celebrations. Just endurances.

But that’s okay.

I think of friends who have risen early to ready themselves for a busy family day of gifts and food. They enjoy their quiet time to reflect and prepare. They fill my heart, but how I envy them.

My thoughts are interrupted by a commotion in the kitchen.

I look up to see that the cat is eating the dog’s food . . . and the dog is humping his Blue Bear.

((Sigh))

This time of year can be rough on some of us.

blue bear

Merry Christmas, my friends.

I wish you love, peace, health, and happiness.

xoxoJulia

Categories: Family, Friends, God/Spiritual, Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays | Tags: , , , , , , | 26 Comments

THIS BIPOLAR’S FRIENDS

My greatest blessings are my friends. They are priceless.

They don’t walk on eggshells, and they aren’t saints who always understand exactly how I feel.

My friends are brave.

Although I may be cause for concern at times, they love me anyway.

They don’t give me exemptions; they give me allowances, just as I do for them.

I have found that the most secure people I know are also the ones who are the most patient and compassionate.

Maybe with the others, my unstable-ness scares their unstable-ness.

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(This was edited out of my piece, “Being Bipolar” a few weeks ago; please read it, if you haven’t already. And feel free to share it or post it on Facebook. It contains some information that you or others may find useful).

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Friends, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

YOUR BOOBIES & THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

I want to talk about BREAST CANCER.

I’m not going to blog a bunch of cancer statistics and information on research and treatment. Nope. You should know the important stuff and if you don’t, Google it.

What I will do is share my opinion.

And my opinion about breast cancer is this: LISTEN TO YOUR FLIGHT ATTENDANT!

Let me explain.

The key to surviving breast cancer is early detection and treatment. So we women have to do two things: Do breast self-examinations every month, and get a mammogram every year. Pretty simple, right?

                        

Last year, I casually blew-off my mammogram; I just didn’t worry about it. I’m sure I was busy doing something important.

This year is different. I am motivated by the incredibly strong women in my life who have lost so much:   her mom . . . her breasts . . . precious time.

Yesterday, I stopped being stupid and scheduled an appointment.

Today, I drive 15 minutes to the clinic and learn that I have not had a mammogram since 2006. Sheesh.

I lost two of my siblings that year, so I guess I’ve been in a time warp or something. Here I thought I missed one exam, when I have actually missed five. Things happened. I got busy. I got lost. I guess I got diverted.

My mammogram takes all of 15 minutes, involves a little discomfort, and 20 minutes later I am home again.

It is that easy.

So now, I want to know: Have you had your mammogram this year? Why not? It’s already October! What are you waiting for?

I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve been meaning to, I’m just so busy.”

And I get that. I know that you are crazy busy all the time. You have a job. You take care of the house. And the kids. And your partner. Even the dog counts on you. You take care of everything. Every single day. You think you’ll get around to taking care of you, but then . . . you don’t.

Now, think about the last time you were on an airplane. Do you remember when the flight attendant reviewed the emergency and safety procedures? What did she say about your oxygen mask?

She said, “In an emergency, you are to place your oxygen mask on yourself first, and then place one on your child.”

In short, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. It’s that simple.

So just do it. Right now. Make your appointment. Don’t let another day turn into another month. It is too important. You are too important.

This life of ours is a wonderful journey. And we love you and want you here for the entire beautiful flight. So ladies, please, stop with your excuses and put on your damn mask.

Thank you.

Categories: Family, Friends, Inspiration/Motivation, Physical Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

LABOR DAY GIFTS

This week’s blog is dedicated with deep gratitude to my dear friend, Pat Petroline; aka Doc, Momma Patti, Miss Lu, LuLu Yang-Master Chef.

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Making a critical mistake is like getting bit in the butt by a dog . . . you don’t see it coming, you feel the shock of realization, the horrible pain upon infliction, and unless you’re simply unlucky enough to be a random target, you should probably limp away having learned a lesson.

We seldom get a do-over.

Saturday I took a three hour journey across the State of Michigan on a less-than-desirable emotional task of sorts. Without prompting, my friend, Patti, offered to accompany me. I cried during most of the drive.

We arrived, tended to my dreaded personal business, and began the three-hour drive home. I cried during most of the drive back too.

After a restless night, I awoke on Sunday morning in a terrible panic. I telephoned Patti and hysterically screamed that I had to return. I had made an awful mistake and had lost something very precious.

Fifteen minutes later we were on yet another three-hour trek.

We arrived on the western coast of Michigan, managed to un-do my previous day’s doings, and retrieved what I thought was priceless and forever lost.

Yet again, we took one final trip back to Southeastern Michigan. This time we laughed the whole way home.

Two days, twelve hours of driving, and 800 miles later, I walked away having learned two really amazing things:

ONE: Recognizing a mistake is the first step to learning from it. And sometimes, if you are quick enough and lucky enough, you get a do-over. But you have to try or you will never know.

TWO: My friend Patti is a one of a kind blessing.

When I called on her for help for the second time, she did NOT say that she was busy with weekend holiday plans, or that she was tired from her busy week at work. She did NOT say that she was needed at home with her family, or that she just couldn’t handle another six-hour trip. She did NOT complain once during the entire two-day fiasco, and she NEVER called me crazy or irrational or stupid for making the mistake that started it all.

No, when I called her, sobbing and screaming, “I have to go back now!  Can you come? Can you come, please? How soon can you get here?”

Her calm and simple reply was, “I’m on my way. All I have to do is put on my shoes.”

And that was that. No questions and no judgment.

I love her so much for that. I wish I could adequately show my gratitude by buying her something special . . . like a house! LoL.

Patti, thank you will never seem sufficient. And nothing you ask of me will ever be too big.

A do-over.

A rare and special friend.

And a labor of love . . .

Categories: Adventures, Friends, Kindness & Compassion, Love | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

CLASS REUNION

I put the top down on my convertible and start up the car. The air is warm and mild and it smells sweet. It is so quiet that I can hear my tires on the road as I pull away. It is a rare and perfect early summer morning.

I drive slowly from the Grosse Ile Yacht Club while still basking in the afterglow of a successful event and a wonderful night of laughter and silliness with friends. My 35th high school class reunion has just ended.

I leave the radio off, drive in the silence of a 2:00 a.m. morning, and get lost in fun recollections of the evening.

My first thought is of me tending the table at the entrance to our party. I remembered NO ONE! I recall how I began the evening with, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember too many of our classmates; what’s your name, please?” and ended up with, “Who are you?!”

Patti, a kind classmate, recalled me asking her to join the committee and then promptly proclaiming my exasperation at my own involvement and saying, “But I don’t even like people!” She told me tonight, after several drinks, how that had scared her a little. But she joined me anyway. And she was vital to the resulting wonderful evening. I call her brave. And gracious.

One of our committee members wore a striking ensemble that inspired the evening’s most memorable quote which involved a wedge of watermelon and was thusly dubbed, “the watermelon lady!” A title I suspect that she will wear for a very long time. I remember telling her to act like a rind. She laughed and did something funny with her arms. (I will post something like this on her Facebook wall later).

And our poor DJ. I kept calling him Tim, although his name was Paul. Thing is, I hired him. He smiled a lot when he saw me coming.

And my somewhat reserved friend, the “closet” dancer. She was quite the flexible little creature out there dancing tonight. She moved so quickly that I was only able to get one pic of her. I muse now in understanding of her intense addiction to, “So You Think You Can Dance?”. . . And another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

I remember how we all laughed at our graduation pictures that were on our nametags. I never knew the handsome guy I talked to at our pre-party the night before until I saw his nametag tonight. “Oh, THAT’S who you are!” I screamed in recognition.

I think about the infamous “rock” that adorns our school’s entrance and how every year a proud class will declare themselves by painting it with their graduation year. Ours was 1977.

Couple that with the mustache and beard that I drew on my nametag and titled, “Menopause”, and I have just one word of explanation:

Regression. I guess I’m being the bad girl I never was in school. A real rebel, ‘eh? Ha ha. Funny thing is, no one seemed to notice. Sheesh.

A little crazier was the girl I didn’t know who freaked me out by trying to suck on my neck, and the fact that I posed for a picture on a handsome man’s lap, stuck my finger in his ear, and now cannot for the life of me, remember his name. There is something inherently wrong with that. Oh gosh.

I pull myself from the night’s memories and back into the present moment and drive slowly down East River Road. It is a beautiful, quiet night and ever so still.

I round the infamous East River Road bend where the houses cease to be on the right side and there is only the river. I am acutely aware of the silence.

As I resign myself to the conclusion of a memorable evening, I see a shadowy figure up ahead near the water. I stop my car.

A single large, lovely, deer slowly walks across the road immediately in front of me. He turns his head and looks at me as he crosses. My camera is not handy, so I sit perfectly still and watch in awe. But it looks something like this.

Wow.

Now that, my friends, is the perfect ending to a great night; and one that I did not anticipate . . . another precious moment to remember.

Grosse Ile, Michigan, it will always be my home.

Gosh, I love this place.

Categories: Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Friends, Holidays/Birthdays, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

THOUGHTS ON MOTHERS

As it was just Mother’s Day, I feel compelled to write something about them.

I have nothing against mothers, but I could more easily write about a fork.  Really. I could write you a nice little blog about the fork in the road, or the fork that I stuck in your hand, or the way I sometimes just don’t give a fork.

But mothers? The subject encompasses too much and I wouldn’t know where to begin.

So what I’ll do, rather than burn my few remaining cranky old menopausal brain cells, is share a few random thoughts with you about mothers or mothering.

***AM I STILL A MOTHER even though my only child has passed away? I don’t usually leave the house on mother’s day because it hurts when well-intentioned people say things like, “Happy Mother’s Day!” or worse yet, “Are you a mother?”

***THE LOSS OF MY INFANT SON changed my life forever,” I said to my therapist, tearfully. “I not only lost him, but I was robbed of an entire lifetime and a completely different lifestyle.”

“You need to let it go.” She replied.

Then she suddenly switched gears and quickly grabbed her briefcase off the floor.

“Oh, I’m so excited, I’ve finally got my daughter’s wedding pictures and I can’t wait to show them to you! Do you  want  to  see?” She asked brightly.

The thought crossed my mind to snatch them from her hand and set fire to them. Then gone would be her precious paper memories. Poof! And then SHE could just get over it.

“Sure.” I replied.

Later in the car, I cried the entire way home.

***I HAVE GIRLFRIENDS who are mothers. And in my eyes, THEY ARE SUPER HEROS! They astonish me with all they can accomplish in any given day. And they do it ALL. With grace. And humor. And love. I am in awe of every single one of them. I must remember to remind them of that.

***MANY OF MY FRIENDS have had to mother their own parents. We are of that generation. I admire and am humbled by them.

***MOM IS THE ONE who will be there no matter what. So what happens when she’s gone? I have friends who have lost one or both parents . . . and it breaks my heart.

***NO MATTER HOW MEEK OR SHY some of us may feel at times, most of us turn into a MOMMA BEAR if someone threatens harm to a child. We don’t even have to know that child and we would protect them without hesitation. We need to protect and love our own child within with the same voracity and ferociousness. We must learn to mother, nurture, and protect ourselves.

***I HAVE THE MOST REMARKABLE GIRLFRIENDS who have mothered me at times. I am grateful for their comfort, love, and precious time. They touch and inspire me.

***MY MOM created some special memories for us children. Here are two of my favorites:

1) All six of us kids would sit at the dining room table and mom would provide us with all the makings for homemade pizza:flour, dough, sauce, and a variety of toppings, and we all made our own individual mini pizzas for dinner.

2) All four of us sisters would sit in a row in front of the television set, and with a gentle touch, mom would brush and curl our hair; one by one. Sometimes I would get “spit” curls or banana curls, and sometimes the Marlo Thomas, “That Girl”, flip.

Please tell me, what are your favorite memories of you and your mom?

Categories: Family, Friends, Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays | Tags: , , , , , | 29 Comments

EARNING MY EULOGY

This posting is dedicated to JAMES JOSEPH BUJNO.

Although I never met Jim, (his sister, Sandy, is my friend), I learned some things about him as his friends and family paid tribute at his memorial service on Saturday, April 21st.

I looked at the photograph collages displayed at his service and it was clear that he was a man who was full of life. His smile was huge and his spirit, even larger; there was just no denying it. Picture after picture, he was surrounded by smiling friends and family. I suspect he was greatly responsible for those happy faces, as I couldn’t help but grin as I looked at them.

I learned that he was a really good man who loved life and having fun. He loved shooting pool, bowling, golfing, riding his motorcycle, dirt bikes, and hunting, boating, snowmobiling, and playing video games. He loved watching hockey and the Red Wings. Someone named the things he loved to do. I remember, it was like, everything. Wow, the guy knew how to live. He was a wonderful son, brother, father, and uncle, and he had A LOT of friends.

Every time one of them reminisced about him, they smiled. Even as their tears flowed . . .

What a testament to a man.

I sat, reflecting on the crowded room of tearful, smiling, grieving faces, and thought about the man who had brought them all together and how they honored him.

Anyone would be so lucky to be remembered that way . . . but not everyone would be so deserving of it. It is obvious that he was.

And so, this remarkable man whom I never met has inspired this week’s blog. He brought me to a place I needed to revisit.

This one’s for you, Jimmy Bujno, a man who lived life well.

EARNING MY EULOGY

I sat at a funeral recently and was profoundly touched at the sight of those in mourning. What honor they bestowed upon their loved one with their presence, words, and tears.

I’ve given many eulogies over the years. Too many times I’ve stood at the podium singing the praises of someone I had loved and lost. At times I wondered who would be left to sing for me. And when I looked around, it broke my heart; there was no one.

I had to take a close look at why. And then I needed to climb the steep steps to change. I needed to make some important adjustments in ME and the way I was behaving and living. And I had to learn to be a better friend. And I am learning; because I have some pretty amazing girlfriends who teach me by example every day.

Now, I’m pretty sure, there would be someone to say a kind word or two on my behalf after I’m gone.

A friend jokingly told me that she was working on the photo collage for her “someday funeral” NOW because she didn’t trust her sons to pick out her best, most flattering pictures. Although we mused over this, it got me to thinking.

NOW IS THE TIME to create the memories and live the experiences that are reflected in those wonderful photograph collages. And NOW IS THE TIME to become the person worthy of the eulogy that I would want spoken in my honor.

But I had to wonder, “How would I be remembered?”

Upon reflection, these are the words that I would want spoken:

“Julia was a kind and compassionate Christian woman who helped people and animals humbly and without expectation. Through her writing she shared her greatest weaknesses and joys in an effort to comfort, share, and show a new perspective. She was honest, brave, and passionate. She strived to be a better person, lived life to the fullest; made us laugh, and was well-loved. She was a good friend.”

Just as my friend gathers the pictures she hopes will be displayed at her own memorial service one day, I will strive to live my life NOW in a way that will earn me these words LATER.

We determine how we are to be remembered.

Tell me, what do you want your eulogy to say?

Categories: Family, Friends, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation | 26 Comments

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