Monthly Archives: January 2012

Guest Blogger, Erica Brings Us: A Room Of My Own.

I have never lived alone. Ever. I mean EVER. Isn’t that crazy? I went right from my parents’ house to college, where I moved in with my roommate, a stunning, silken-haired goofy goddess whom I believed would never be my friend because she was too beautiful. Turns out we fell madly in love and made a home in the Terrace 5 dorm; above her bed, Patti Lupone as Evita, above mine, a shirtless Jim Morrison looking high and brooding and sexy. Quotes and photos cluttering our bulletin boards, clothes and books cluttering the floor, we would blast Rusted Root once a month and clean top to bottom. Late-night dance parties and pizza in our big room with our two other best friends, who lived in singles. And for me there was not even a vague desire to have alone time. Space of my own. Solitary confinement. Nope. I was in heaven.

From the dorms to our apartment, two years later, the four of us giddily moved. The place where we discovered labeling the food that we put in the fridge, and not doing dishes (much to the neater roommates’ chagrin), and that splitting bills and cleaning the bathroom and cooking dinner and how much time to we spend at home can all be challenging on a friendship. There was a Monet print over the marble fireplace, and a tacky black couch with big pink flowers . . . and plants. Plants are key. We all knew this to be true. And there I was again, not feeling like I needed any time to myself that wasn’t already built in. We all had busy lives: classes, dating, rehearsals, work, trips out of town, family . . . we hardly saw each other, really. And when we did, we would snuggle on each other’s beds and talk about the idiotic boys who made us laugh and roll our eyes and weep with a breaking heart because we knew there would never be another boy to love us as much, as deeply, as real. We would squirrel away clothes from each other’s closets, and leave notes inside bedroom doorways: “Miss you. Have a good day. XOXO.” “Love you.” “You are magical. I’m here for you.”

Then the unthinkable happened. A scant three months in our dreamy little play-home, and there was a knock on our door very early one autumn morning. On the porch stood my parents, my boyfriend, and, behind them, my mom’s best friend with her husband. They came up to my room where I was still wound up in my blankets, face smashed into the pillow, sleeping hard and fast, my body subconsciously anticipating the alarm’s inevitable screech to wake me for class. That’s the day I found out my sister, my older sister and protector and best friend and, and, and . . . well, she was dead. She had been murdered.

How can one even hear that? How do you process that? You don’t. Barely awake. My girls all around me, on my bed, holding me. While I convulsed. While I screamed. While I shook and wailed. And can I even imagine having been alone? No. Those girls saved me. The people in my room that early morning saved me.

And that is the morning I wonder about. It is the place of divergence. It is the morning of “what if.”

From then, I don’t think I could be alone. This of course, is debatable, but from where I stand—looking back, my hindsight through the wrong end of the binoculars, so that everything is tiny and distorted and very, very blurry—well, being alone was not an option. I would withdraw into my head and needed gentle tugging to get me out. I drifted in and out of classes, and rehearsals, and performances, and life. I needed anchors. And I had them. It solidified my relationship with the man I eventually married. It bound me to my girls with a love so fierce that I called them my sisters with every molecule of me.

Then. Later. But not so much later. The move from roommates to partnership in a home with my future husband is the step that I wonder about now . . . what would have been? I moved from that home of sisterhood into a home of adulthood. Of we’re-about-to-get-married-please-put-all-my-shit-in-your-studio. Combining. Mashing together two lives. Urgency can be a dangerous thing. A sense that others need your happiness as much as you do is also a dangerous thing. I have absolutely no regrets about this time in my life. It was exciting. It was full of love and adventure and hardship and need. It was bursting with youth. And yet here was the time to live alone—the time just after college, before family, a magical time of exploration. What do I want to be when I grow up? No. What do I want to be RIGHT NOW? Who am I today? That “today” so many years ago was tangled and knotted around another human being. A person who, when the world exploded, was at my side gathering the tiny bits from the floors and ceilings and walls and helping me fit them back together. There were bits that we never found, though. And some tiny fragments that, when we put them back together, weren’t quite in the right place. We didn’t know. We did our best. With love and respect and tenderness, we just did our best.

Today-today. The real today. The one I’m sitting in, at my (my!) kitchen table, in front of my (again!) window. This today, 13 years later I am in my first solitary space. I share it with my son, of course. That is far, far from solitary. But solitary in that it is mine: my responsibility, my haven. Mine. And it is also a reflection of who. Who got stirred up and became cloudy with me-ness when my marriage was ending? Oh, hey, there! Haven’t seen you in a while! I recognize you. I think I do. It’s been so long. The clouds are incorporating into the mix now. The Home I am in is a part of the swirl of Me.

No more Jim Morrison posters. Too bad. Instead, photos of my sister. One over my left shoulder as I sit, with her sticking her tongue out as she takes something out of a kitchen drawer. Standing on the black-and-white tile of her kitchen. In that apartment that was only hers. My tea gets cold as I sit here. It’s ok. I can always boil more. I can leave my cup in the sink. I’ll wash it later. I know I will.

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Filed under Erica.

There’s Something About Erica.

In 1994, things were not looking good for me. For one, my hair was really, really, really big-so as to make my nose appear smaller comparatively. I dressed in clothing that was 8-10 times larger than my actual size-so as to deflect attention away from my butt, which these days would be called “bootylicious” by really ridiculous people, but I believe it to be my second major physical flaw. I lived in a studio apartment that was crawling with ants, and buzzing with flies, not because I was disgusting (alright, maybe I was a little disgusting), but because the building was quite old and dilapidated. Years later it would burn to the ground, which I have always imagined as something that happened quickly, since it was the true definition of a tinder box.

I lived alone, and unlike years later when I yearned to be alone, this was my “close-to-slitting-my-wrists- I’m-so-depressed” age, so being alone was brutal for me. I was knee deep in therapy, chain smoking to keep myself busy, and mostly eating my food out of a can. This clearly was not my finest moment, and I imagine that any person that was watching me during this phase, watched me with great relief that it was not, in fact, their own life they were observing.

This too, was the time in my life where I met my dear friend, Erica. You all got to know her (unless, of course, you already did know her…lucky bastards) last week when she cracked open her rib cage so she could pour her heart into her guest blog post. But I met her almost 20 years ago, and it stands alone as a relationship that brought me great joy in the midst of terrible emotional pain, and internal struggle.

Talk about hair! Good god, have you SEEN her hair? Well, in 1994 it was delightful, and so, of course, was she. We both had the great misfortune of working for a horrible mother fucking asshole (I’m being nice, actually) that owned and operated a local gas station and ice cream stand. I ran the register and sold beer to all the alcoholics, and cigarettes to myself and the working man. I saw so many men in Dickies during this time in my life that I have always despised the trend they became later. Anyway, Erica scooped and served the shit out of some ice cream, and also kept me company.

She’s younger than I am, and so I would hear all about her high school life while we listened to music together, and I chain smoked. We shared a love for music and singing, which is something I shared with very few people. Erica knew of me before she met me. She knew that I was a singer, and so the day she asked me if I liked Tori Amos and I rolled my eyes and said something terribly snarky, Erica planted her feet and told me I was a ridiculous fool. She said it the way Erica says things, which is hard to explain (she has a way…trust me… she’s like a character that’s been written so clearly in books, but she’s real!) and it cracked me the hell up. And anyone that knows me ought to know that if you crack me up? I will love you forever.

Unless you’re an asshole.

This story is longer, but I’m keeping it mine. I left the gas station eventually, and left New York. I moved around, and lost touch with many people, including Erica. I wasn’t around when Jenna died, and although I heard about what happened I didn’t insert myself back in Erica’s life and offer my help. I told myself then that it would seem voyeuristic, or insincere, but to tell you the truth, what happened to Jenna, and Erica, and Janice, and Bruce…to all the friends and family…was too horrible for me to know how to be what I thought she needed. How terribly naïve I was! I would give anything to go back in time and at the very least, send her a card so she knew how often I thought of her, and how deeply I cared. I was a coward.

All these years later, when I saw Erica again it was like no time had passed. She got off the plane fabulous, sharp, funny, and self aware. It was love at first (or I suppose, second) sight, I think. She’s a fixture in my life, and someone that I will know and love forever. It’s a powerful force, friendship. She’s one of the truest people I know. I feel both fiercely protective of her, and incredible humbled by her at the same time. Plus, she brings the funny. And that HAIR!

For the next few weeks, my dear friend will be my guest blogger. She has stories to tell…things to share, and I want to read them. I have a feeling that you want to read them, too. So, I am trusting you with my friend, and I know you will be kind and loving. And then, Sugar Snap Me will be back. Back and ready for action! In the meantime, enjoy my friend, and what she’s chosen to share. It takes a lot to share yourself, and I’m so grateful that she has.

Sarah

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Filed under Women and friendship.

Guest Blogger, Erica brings us: I Have A Sister.

When people ask me if I have any siblings, I’m totally stumped. I become a mute for about 15 looong seconds, and then I say, “Welllllllllll . . . I lost my sister when I was twenty.” Like I misplaced her and can’t quite remember where. It’s the polite thing—the easy thing to say, so that I don’t cause their eyes to widen in horror and then downshift quickly into a sickening pity. Because yes, I have a sister. She just isn’t here anymore. And such an innocent question leads to such a harsh truth. She’s dead. Someone decided that he could choose if she lived or not. And he chose not. So there’s that. And when someone asks me, I know I brush it away. I give the easy little explanation and promptly change the subject. So . . . it could’ve been sickness, right? Car accident? I let the assumptions hang in the air, unanswered. If pressed, then it happens. The pity. The horrified look. The stammering and inability to “say the right thing.” What’s worse, that or having it go ignored? No questions? No outward compassion? Distance? Yeah. That’s probably worse.

My sister was murdered in her apartment. When she was just 22. Weeks away from graduating from school—a nurse/midwife-to-be. Yes, she was my older sister. Yes, we were very close. I miss her every day (I usually leave this part out—too vulnerable). It was 1997. God, could it be? That long? I almost hate to admit how long it’s been—I’m afraid it makes people think that I should be “over it.” Or that at least it’s less painful. (What Other People Think Of Me Is None Of My Business). Admittedly, of course it is. Painful, that is. I don’t live in such a raw place on a daily basis, like I did back then—one, two, five, eight years . . . But now, this will be fifteen years? Fifteen. Such a round solid number, fifteen. Fourteen seems like a lot, and then . . . fifteen.

And here it is: I DO miss her every single day. I DO sometimes cry because I want to talk to her so fucking badly it makes me taste metal. I hate that I sometimes can’t remember what her voice sounds like. I hate how much I miss her spindly fingers digging into my hand as she squeezes it to violently show her love for me. I hate that she never did get to pay for my first tattoo. She wanted to. But thank SIPNEL I didn’t do it then. At eighteen, on spring break from my freshman year of college. Visiting her in Albany, and the two of us taking a road trip from her apartment through Massachusetts, Vermont, and back home again. Stopping at art galleries, little coffee shops, head shops, museums, a Buddhist temple, and . . . a tattoo parlor. Oh, it would’ve been quite the sun/moon eighteen-year-old-hippie-chick tattoo, I’m sure (shudder). I’m quite sure she was so enthusiastic to “get me my first tattoo” just to drive our parents through the roof. She had a special kind of talent for that.

So the crux of it is . . . how does one “deal?” I don’t know. I haven’t any idea. Ask my therapist. What I do know is that, over time, I have found myself adopting women. Sisters. Even before she was gone, I met three women who became sisters to me as I started life in college. They were my roommates, best friends, and fierce advocates. They were with me when I found out. They were awakened by knocks on our apartment door at six in the morning on November 7, 1997. They were in my bedroom standing next to my bed when my parents told me. They held me so tightly over the following weeks, months, years—they still do. And then there are the others, the women in my life, who may not even know. The parents of students who have become friends. The women I have met through my work, through theatre, through mutual friends. They inspire and support me, and probably have no idea.

I do it and I know I’m doing it. I look for sisters. I look for women who have a little nurturing gene, a penchant for taking care. And I snuggle into that. It is so comforting and makes me take a deep breath. I hold my breath so much, it’s amazing I can sing at all. And they exist, these women! Everywhere! In that, I know that even though I lost one, I gained many. And boy, if that isn’t just what gets me through the day.

This adoption process is just one of the ways that my loss manifests itself. I know I also have a tendency to throw love around like confetti. There’s just so much of it! Look! It’s so colorful! Prettyyyyy . . . See, there’s a part of me that just feels like life is too fucking short. We are all dying. Every moment. Right now. You’re dying! I am, too! But it’s ok. I have this deep need to let every person in my life who moves me, who is dear to me, who I love—well, I have to let them know how much I love them. All the time. I think it’s important. And I’m not sorry. I’m not going to put away the sparkly goodness, as my cousin Erin would say. It might be a bit much. It might be scary. It might make me too vulnerable. I’ll take it. Hit me with your best shot, life! I ain’t scared o’ you!

I have written about this many times, in many different ways. To write it here, and allow it out of reach into the scary, judgey interwebs is somewhat terrifying. I can’t help feeling that I’ve written better, that I’ve been clearer, more interesting. What is true is this: losing my sister at the hands of another human being did not make me hate, fear, or withdraw. It has made me cry, rage, question, and become fiercely assured that people are generally good, and that love is everything, and that hating will never solve anything, and that everyone deserves to hear how much they are loved. All the time. So hear it. It might just be coming from me.

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Filed under All of them., Women and friendship.

Central New York.

Here’s a little something that I’ve been working on in my, ahem, spare time. The beginning of a book, perhaps? Either way, I hope you enjoy it!

It’s so early. Like the time in between nighttime and day time, which I’m sure has a name, but I don’t know what that is. All I know is it’s really freaking early. And I’m tired, both physically and mentally. Spending my nights making the doughnuts is exactly like they make it look in the old commercial. It’s surprisingly accurate, actually, with the doughnut guy half comatose, constantly needing to slap his co-workers awake. I’ve been making the doughnuts and waiting on men in Dickies all night, as they stop in for crappy coffee and crappy food to fuel all of the plowing and towing they’ll be doing at night and into the morning. As I left work this (very) early morning, it became obvious that I was leaving at the peak of a snowstorm, driving on not-yet-cleared roads the 7 windy miles to my dad’s house, where I will sleep for 4 hours until I get up for my next job. That is, if I make it home.

And I do. As I approach the ridiculously steep, nearly vertical driveway of my parents’ house, I am reminded of the conversation that I had with my father a few nights before:

“It’s going to start snowing soon. You may have trouble making it up the driveway with those tires.”

“I know, Dad. I’ve got it.”

“Alright then. Just remember that you’re going to want to straighten your wheel at the bottom, and then I recommend gunning it. Otherwise you may want to just park at the bottom.”

“God! I am not parking at the bottom of the driveway and walking up to the top at 6 in the morning in the middle of a snowstorm after working all night! Seriously! It’s not a big deal! I know how to drive!”

And then, I huffed.

Like, totally.

I’m remembering this as I straighten my wheel and gun it. I’m still thinking of this as my tires spin and I reverse to try it again. And I’m still thinking of this as, halfway up the long, treacherous driveway, the car itself begins to spin out of control and finally comes to a stop wedged between two trees, nice and tight. And also while I call a tow truck and spend an hour and a half of my four-hour sleep time waiting and then watching the guy I just served hot shitty coffee to try to dislodge my poor car from between the two trees, I am thinking of that conversation. And I will think of it each time my car gets stuck in the driveway that winter, including the morning that I try to leave my father’s house for warmer pastures (are there pastures in the west?) but am unable to do so, because of the copious amounts of stupid fucking snow that piled up overnight. And finally, I will think of it as I watch my stepmother—who was most likely desperate for her bitter, sarcastic, know-it-all daughter to get the hell out of her house, but was too nice to make that known—drive her jeep up and down the driveway over and over again, so as to clear my path straight out of Central New York.

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Filed under Before Children.

The Guide To A Better, Moister Sarah.

Resolutions are weird. In fact, I think they’re sorta dumb, but at the same time, fun. Mostly because I can put them in a list, and I really, really like lists. The average person seems to have one, maybe two resolutions on their list, typically featuring weight-loss goals, insane physical-feat goals, and the occasional sobriety goal. For me, since I have no real desire to lose weight, will never run a motherfucking marathon, and have no problem with alcohol, I feel like my resolutions are realistic, and less annoying. Which is funny, because one of my resolutions (or just, you know, goals) is to be less annoying than usual. So, by simply making a less annoying list than, say, you, I have succeeded at one of my resolution/goals, which henceforth will be called: reso-goal.

Here is my “Incomplete Because Some things Aren’t Any Of Your Business” reso-goal list:

  • See a Pearl Jam concert with my cousin Matt, who prefers to be called “Overlord.”
  • Moisturize so I look less loose. I’m assuming moisture has special powers.
  • Read more.
  • Watch less.
  • Stop telling embarrassing things to strangers.
  • Listen more.
  • Be less annoying.
  • Be more awesome.
  • Stop calling the boys “chicken” as a term of endearment. Eventually, it’s going to confuse them.
  • Stop pointing out how cute I am to people, as it may hurt their feelings.
  • Try to not turn every single thing into an annoying song, therefore being less annoying.
  • Look into girdles.
  • Buy a new bra. One that makes my boobs look less sad and dejected.
  • Stop burning/bruising/cutting myself. This could also fall under:
  • Slow the fuck down.
  • See some ladies that I love for an entire weekend of debauchery and purging.
  • Find a way to dominate the world with my blog.
  • Learn how to edit my writing, so the time between writing and posting is shorter. Much, much, much shorter.

So, there you have it. My reso-goal list. Realistic! Attainable! And requiring absolutely nothing from my quads, hamstrings or abs. Some of them, I think, are self explanatory. For example, “read more.” Needs little explanation, eh? Except of course, for the few of you that know me well and are thinking, “don’t you read, like, four books a week?” to which I must sadly admit, no. No, I don’t. I fondly remember the time when I did, but the children, as I am sure I’ve mentioned before, have eaten my brain, and thus, I read maybe one book in a two-week period.

The body stuff is pretty obvious. I mean, look at me! I look like a pale, tired, melting Italian.

I should also turn down the vanity, which I use as a way to deflect my true feelings of self. Clearly. Although, at times, I really do look in the mirror and think, “Who’s adorable? YOU ARE!”

Watch less. Now here’s the one that is hard to discuss, because it requires me to admit that, at times, I have been known to watch shows like Prison Wives or The First 48. I think about the why behind this, and what I’ve managed to come up with is simply that I don’t have the mental capacity for much. I’m a busy girl, doing a million things, and thinking all the time about these million things. Rarely do I get a chance during the day to zone out, and so, when I do get that chance, I don’t want to watch something I have to pay super-close attention to. So, I watch crap. And that is why I want to watch less.

Go ahead and commence your mocking.

Really, the two things I would love to do this year that require a little travel and expense are the ones I’m most excited about. I’m planning my second Woman’s Retreat in Sedona this year and I would tell you all about it, but then I would have to ask you to sign a waiver.

The other requires some information. See, my cousin—er . . . Overlord—is a fan of Pearl Jam. Well, let me rephrase that . . . my cousin fucking loves Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam is to my cousin as the Pope is to millions of Catholics. It’s been this way for more than half of my life, and his too, of course. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that, when Matt was in his late teens, early twenties, Pearl Jam was his life raft, and Eddie Vedder was quite possibly one of the best male role models for him at that time. I’ve always known this, and if you know my cousin even a little, you probably know it too, but last night John and I watched the Pearl Jam documentary, Pearl Jam 20, and it all makes sense. Not that it didn’t before, just that now it makes more specific sense. So, there. Now I HAVE to see a show with him. I would see it by myself, but it would be way less awesome, so, Overlord? Get ready.

One thing that isn’t on my list that maybe sort of should  be is to eat less pudding. But I love pudding. And if I stop eating what I love, I will become a bitter, sad, and angry woman. And since that would probably cause wrinkles, and I have already decided to moisturize more so I get fewer wrinkles, I consider pudding to be a kind of preventative medicine.

It’s the first post of the new year, all and I didn’t say the word vagina at all! May your year be full of satisfaction and understanding, and may the reso-goals you make for yourself be realistic and attainable, thereby cutting down on any self loathing that would occur if you don’t reach them.

Happy New Year!

Vagina.

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Filed under Children., Confessions., Women and friendship.