Tag Archives: friendship

The Little Acorn


My Goddaughter called yesterday to tell me she just got her beautiful, long hair cut into a short pixie style.  “Short hair is in now”, she told me with the usual authority of a sixteen year old aware of all the latest cultural conventions.

“Of course it is”, I replied, having just grown mine out from the short cut I’ve worn for years.

As certain as she was about the current fashion trend she was a bit reticent about how it looked on her.  “I’m sure it’s lovely”, I told her, “But if you don’t like it don’t worry.  Like I told you the first time you talked me into getting your hair cut when you were three the beauty of hair is that it always grows back.”

At three she was convinced she wanted the hair dresser to cut her hair short “just like Godmom’s”.  She begged to have it cut.  She told the woman over and over again she was absolutely sure it was what she wanted.  We left the hair salon, the one with chairs shaped like animals and special cartoon videos for the kids to watch so they’ll sit still during their haircut, and the first time she caught site of herself in a shop window she began crying uncontrollably and couldn’t stop, blubbering over and over again, “my hair is gone, my beautiful hair!”.

“I remember Godmom”, she tells me now on the phone.  “You know I wrote that story as part of my autobiography for school.”

“Really?” I replied, always happy to know when the girls have a lasting memory of our time together.

“Yeah, we were supposed to interview someone and ask them about a story from our childhood and I didn’t want to interview anyone so I just pretended I interviewed you and wrote it up.”

Now, as a parent, I knew the correct response to this last comment, and I followed through and told her it was unethical to write something and pretend she’d interviewed someone when she hadn’t.  “Don’t worry”, she replied, “I made you sound cool”.

Inwardly, however, I had to admit I was impressed.  It shows an imagination and writing ability that not everyone is capable of.  I did something very similar my sophomore year in college.  I took a Child Psychology class and my term project was to meet with a child between the ages of three and six several times and write up my observations about our interactions and their play.  Well, I didn’t know any children in that age group back then so I simply made up a five year old and observed her in my mind, writing about how she acted and the things she said.  My project came complete with the child’s simple drawings (which I did myself).  I remember feeling guilty (I still feel a bit guilty relaying it to you now) but I received an “A” on the project, and in the class, and couldn’t help also being pleased with myself.

So, while I’m telling my God Daughter it was inappropriate of her to pretend to interview me for her class I’m actually thinking, “The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree”.  Even though we aren’t blood relations, and share no family connections at all, she sometimes looks and acts a great deal like me. I realize regardless of how misguided her actions may have been my heart is swelling with pride that she takes after me at times.

Unfortunately, although I’m sure she is like me in many ways, including both good and bad traits, it’s usually the rather naughty ones that get noticed.  It’s times like this when her Dad looks at me with a quizzical look and I’m fairly certain he’s asking himself, “Were we wrong to allow our girls to spend so much time with her during their formative years?”

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A Few Good Men


The Marines and I have both been looking for a few good men for some time now.  (Well, actually, they need a few while I honestly only need one.)  When I first began online dating I assumed I would meet a lot of good men and that, among all those good men, there would be one who wasn’t perfect but who suited me perfectly.  What I found instead were droves of men who had attained middle-age with little knowledge of themselves.  Among them were those who seemed completely unaware of their needs, their neurosis, their selfishness, their general lack of social skills, and any part they themselves had played in creating their current circumstances.  Then there were those who I’m sure were not necessarily bad men but who were simply, as my sister would say, “odd”.

You can only go on so many failed coffee dates and then most of us, men and women alike, have to take a break from online dating and focus our energy in other ways in order to maintain our optimism about love, life and the pursuit of happiness.  I took just such a break in the last few months.  Then over the holidays, having a lot of time off work and feeling ready to dance again, I updated my profile and threw it out to the universe with a hopeful sigh.

To my great surprise and joy the outcome was emails and subsequent meetings with several good men.  They are each and every one of them, intelligent, respectful, interesting and self-aware and I am completely enjoying my time getting to know them better.  We’ve shared drinks, meals, movies, and conversations about our life’s journey and our hopes for the future and I imagine we will remain friends regardless of the outcome.  It’s been like a breath of fresh air to someone who’s been dating for way too long.

I suspect that part of the reason it’s working out better for me this time is because I’ve been determined to broaden my own horizons.  I tend to be attracted to and to fall for the tall, dark and handsome types.  The problem with this is that judging a book by its cover has gotten me into repeatedly bad relationships over the years.  This time I promised myself I would place more credence on what each match had to say, how he presented himself, and how he approached me, than in his looks.  Not that any of these men are unattractive, they are simply not my usual 6’2” tall charmers.  So, just as the Marines have adjusted their definition of what it means to be “one of the few” over the years in order to enhance recruitment I’ve found that adjusting my perspective has worked as well.

Since I’ve written enough pieces about my bad dating experiences that they have their own category in the archives (https://freethetwins.wordpress.com/category/mckenzie-james/bad-dates/) I thought it only fair that I report here that I’ve found there are still good, single men out there who are looking for relationships with strong, confident, intelligent women.  It’s way too early to tell if one of these men is the match I’ve been looking for but, whether or not one of these new friends turns out to be perfect for me, they have already renewed my faith in men.  What a wonderful way to begin a new year!


Happy New Year!


Another year has begun.  Every day is a fresh canvas, but for most people the beginning of each New Year brings even a stronger sense of renewal.  Once again we all have a chance for a “do over”; another opportunity to “get it right”.

I rarely go out on New Year’s Eve.  It is my least favorite holiday followed closely by Valentine’s Day.  Both holidays are so over- wrought with romantic illusion that it seems to set everyone up for an evening that fails to meet expectations.  So I simply stay at home and ignore the eve.

However, New Year’s Day is another story.  New Year’s Day I like to fill my house with close friends, delicious food and good conversation and this year was no exception.  As I write this I realize that unlike most years at no point did the conversation turn to New Year’s resolutions.  I suspect we’ve all reached an age where we realize that it takes more than an annual declaration to change our ingrained behaviors.  Most people agree that changing old habits, even when we’re strongly motivated, is one of the most difficult of all human processes.

Recently I gave up alcohol.  Not because I have a problem with it but because I tried to make a deal with the universe regarding the health of a loved one and I wanted the powers that be to know I was really serious.  So I decided to give up something I truly enjoy like a good glass of full-bodied, red wine (rather than the Brussels sprouts and raisins I used to give up during Lent as a child).  What I learned about myself during this lengthy abstinence was that although I normally have very little discipline when following rules regarding my diet I had a great deal of discipline when I was doing it for a purpose greater than myself.

As a writer I do a lot of my living inside my brain.  Not that I don’t lead a busy, active life, but I also spend a great deal of time mulling over things I’ve witnessed during the day, contemplating people’s responses to social cues, thinking about life, wondering “what if?”.  This is where many of my ideas for poetry, essays and short stories come from.

I don’t know exactly why but this holiday season I’ve been thinking a lot about hungry children.  I would like to do something to feel I’m helping to alleviate this problem but I’m on a very limited budget.  This led me to consider how much money I spend annually on Diet Coke alone.  I drink Diet Coke the way most people drink coffee in the morning.  It’s where I get my caffeine and I drink several of them each day.  For years I’ve wanted to quit and I’ve tried and failed to give it up many times.

It occurred to me, after my successful abstinence from alcohol, that I might combine these two very different issues and perhaps do something about them both.  I decided I won’t give up Diet Coke for all my usual reasons –because I think it’s unhealthy and most likely contributes to my weight issues—rather I’ll give it up in order to help feed children.  I’ll take the money I save each month from not purchasing Diet Coke and I will send it to an agency that provides food for needy kids.  Hopefully this will be the winning combination that succeeds in meeting two goals.

From what I’ve read it appears to take approximately three months to genuinely change a habit.  So it will be quite a while before I’ll have a proven outcome but I’ll make a note to post and let you all know if I’ve been able to contribute anything toward reducing childhood hunger.

Meanwhile, remember; if you’ve made resolutions and you find yourself slipping be kind to yourselves.  Change is a process, not a decision, and as I said earlier every day is a new beginning.

I wish everyone a happy and productive New Year!


Catholicism May Save Me in the End


By McKenzie James

Some of my friends have been worried about me of late.  I appear to be in a depression that is deeper and has gone on longer than I’ve experienced in the past.  It is true that I’m not my usual optimistic self and that anti-depressants are not working their magic.

Part of the explanation is that things in my life really are at a low point right now.  I have financial difficulties, my best friend in the area is very ill, I am going to have to move again, I’ve been robbed, my heart’s been broken, my job is particularly stressful, winter’s here suck and the holidays bring their usual reminder of just how dysfunctional my family really is.  All of these are things I’ve experienced and gotten through before but never in such abundance at the same time.

I remember a colleague telling me years ago that depression is simply anger turned in on oneself.  I never quite understood it before but lately, thinking about what’s taking place in my life right now, I think I finally get it.  I really am angry at myself for the position I find myself in.  Other than my friend’s illness, and the weather, I can’t seem to find anyone, or anything, to blame any of it on other than myself.

I am the one who made the decisions that got me exactly where I am today.  I chose to move back to Weird Town, I chose to accept my current job, I have obviously not handled my finances very well (which is especially embarrassing for someone whose spent a lifetime working in Finance and Accounting), I am the one who didn’t double-check whether or not the garage door was working when the weather changed (thereby allowing my burglars to walk right in), and although my lover did treat me badly I’m the one who let him come back into my life after breaking my heart the first time and gave him the opportunity to do it again.

All this said, I want to assure all my friends and loved ones who have been calling to check in on me, that no matter how bad life gets I’m grateful for each and every one of you and I would never take my own life (which I know is what you are all really worried about even though you don’t come right out and say it).

It’s simple: regardless of how hellish my life here on earth becomes being raised Catholic has left me with such an insurmountable fear of the afterlife that I will gladly suffer here forever rather than move on.  Intellectually I know that once we die we simply return to the earth and our energy disburses, but emotionally Catholicism has left me with a fear of the burning hell fires that I can’t get over.

Every time I think perhaps life is not all it’s cracked up to be I am reminded of the alternative and I’m fighting to stay alive with a willpower few can surpass.  For I know, having been a hellion and rebel most of my life, that I am not likely to find myself lulling around on a bed of clouds playing harp music and eating chocolates.  Oh no, if I’m wrong about my atheism I will find myself in burning fires being prodded with a pitchfork every few moments to remind myself of just how much fun I had in my youth.  So friends, never fear, I’m here for the duration however long that may be and I’ll be fighting to remain here on this good earth with my last dying breath.


Friends for Life by McKenzie James Part III


Meredith sat back down at her desk and picked up her pen.

I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve sat alone in this apartment with only the television to keep me company.  Tonight, I came home believing it would be another one of those too quiet evenings but I’ve already had several interruptions.  Sometimes I feel as though I’ve read everything there is to read, traveled everywhere there is to travel, seen everything there is to see, and yet something is missing. 

Listen, when it comes to the obituary…just list Marina as my surviving sister….leave the rest of them out of it completely.  If they couldn’t be close to me in life…they don’t need to be recognized in death.  Do whatever you want about a memorial service.  You know I have never understood why people care what happens after their death.  It is truly the height of self centeredness to try and control things after you’re dead.

The house phone? Carlos must have forgotten something.

—————–

“Thanks for letting me use the house phone, Carlos” Eleanor said.  Eleanor knew Meredith wouldn’t ignore the house phone.   She needed to get through to her and she was fairly certain tomorrow might be too late.

She noticed that Meredith had become more and more withdrawn and quiet lately.  She knew Meredith was saddened that her love life had never gelled but she was such a fabulous friend to so many.  Meredith had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember.  She had changed Eleanor’s life for the better the first day they met.  It was freshman year and Eleanor blushed just thinking about what a techie dork she’d been back then.  Lost and confused on her first day of classes Meredith had helped her find English Lit and then later helped her understand English Lit.

Since then they’d been through everything together from childbirth to planning Eleanor’s mother’s funeral.  She couldn’t imagine her life without Meredith in it.

“Carlos, did you forget something?” Meredith asked as she picked up the phone.

“It’s me, Mer.”

“El, what are you doing?”

“I’m downstairs, can I come up?”

“Well…um…yeah… of course…come on up.”

As Eleanor got in the elevator she found herself thinking back to that day at the campus coffee shop when Meredith decided she’d had enough of Eleanor and Jimmy smiling shyly across the room at each other and got up and invited him to their table.   After that day, it was the three of them against the world.  They got through everything together: finals, Jimmy’s parents’ divorce, graduation and the search for what to do next.  They’d been through a lot and Meredith was still the only one who could make Jimmy smile when he was in his lowest funk.

Eleanor knocked on Meredith’s door.

—————–

“Hey, Meredith, sorry to just pop in but it’s an emergency.  They just hung Jimmy’s last painting at the new gallery and he’s a wreck.  I got him settled down and left him at Louis’ with a drink.  Can you please come out and work your magic on him?”

“’Well El, I had planned to get a lot of writing done tonight.”

“Come on, Meredith, you know you’re the only one he’ll listen to.”

“Okay, okay, let me get my wrap”

As they stepped out on to West 86th Street Meredith took a deep breath and took in the streets of New York in early fall.  She’d always loved this neighborhood with its wonderful, bustling, busy, streets.

As they walked toward Columbus Avenue to make their way to Louis’, Eleanor linked her arm through Meredith’s and spoke.  “Do you want to tell me what’s got you so down lately.”

“I’m fine, Eleanor, really.”

“No, you’re not fine.  I’ve known you for 30 years and loved you for every day of it.  Do you really think I don’t know you well enough to know when the world has you down?  You’re an amazing woman, Meredith, and a woman I can’t imagine not having in my life.  You give so many people so much of yourself.   You normally take on the world with an energy that’s frightening to behold.  You’ve been withdrawn and quiet for weeks.   You haven’t stopped in to see us at home or at Louis’.  Something is terribly wrong.  If you don’t want to tell me about it, that’s fine,  but I’m not letting you out of my site until you can ensure me everything’s okay.“

She looked over at Meredith and saw the tears quietly streaming down her face.  She stopped and wiped them off and hugged Meredith close to her for several long seconds before opening the door to Louis’.  They stepped into Louis’ Place and he greeted them with open arms, planting a kiss of each of Meredith’s cheeks as was his custom.

“My favorite customer returns!  I haven’t seen you for weeks and Jimmy tells me you haven’t been yourself.  I am fixing you something very special tonight of my own creation.  It will make your taste buds burst with joy and make you happy to be alive.  Sit…sit…   Marie!  Bring my guests some fresh, hot bread.”

Jimmy smiled up at her.  “It’s an intervention.  What did you expect?  We love you Babe.  Sit and sink your teeth into these delicious crusty calories.  If my gorgeous face and Louis’ food and hospitality can’t make you feel better then there really is no hope.”

Meredith smiled in spite of herself and sat down between Jimmy and Eleanor.

“Pass the butter,” she said as she grabbed a hot crusty roll out of the bread basket.   “This is no evening to worry about saturated fats.  I love you two, do you know that?  Thank you so much for watching out for me.  Quite a few of my friends have checked in this evening.  It’s hard to believe with so many who obviously love me I was feeling isolated and alone. ”

“You never have to be alone as long as El and I are still kicking, you know that Mer.”  Louis chose that moment to sit a platter featuring a scrumptious, roasted Poulet de Bresse on the table.  There was a group “Mmmmmm……” as they began to dig in and share one of the simplest joys in life.

—————–

Meredith let herself in to her apartment and dropped her wrap on the chair by the door.   She looked over at the clock on the mantel to see it was close to 2am.  They had sat at Louis’ for hours, just like the old days, talking, laughing and simply enjoying the closeness the three of them shared.

She walked over to her desk and looked down at the letter she’d been working on when El had called.  She sighed, picked it up and ripped it in half once and then again and tossed it into her waste basket followed by the pill bottle.

Tomorrow was another day.  Who knew what changes would come with it or what difference the next 24 hours might make?  As long as there are people who love you, and there are tomorrows, the exploration never ends.

THE END


Friends for Life by McKenzie James Part II


(Letter to Eleanor continued)

Well, you’ll know by now that Laura got the part.  Was there ever any question?  How that enormous voice comes out of that tiny girl I’ll never know.  No one hearing her on stage would ever believe there once was a question about whether or not the child would have a normal lung capacity.  That’s one of the things I did right with my life is help out Dottie when she needed help with those babies.  She always thought I was doing her a favor, but you and I know it was the other way around.  I loved mothering those kids.  But they’re all older now and they’ll b e fine on their own.  My work there is done and I rarely see or hear from them now that they’ve been launched into lives of their own.

I know you can’t imagine what it’s even like to be alone every day.  You have Jim and the kids and your house is always bursting at the seams with visitors from all over the world taking advantage of your wonderful hospitality. 

You’ve been a good friend, Eleanor; a lasting friend who has always been there for me.  I thank you for that. I feel badly leaving you this last difficult task to handle for me.

Meredith heard someone knocking on her apartment door.  It must be Carlos, her doorman, because no one else could have gotten by him and up to her floor without being announced.  He knew she was in her apartment so she’d better answer.  She didn’t want him worrying what was wrong and using his key.

Carlos knocked on Ms. Meredith’s door.  He wouldn’t do this for the other tenants, he thought to himself, but Ms. Meredith wasn’t just any tenant.  She treated all of the staff like real people, always asking him about his wife and family, remembering him on holidays and special occasions, not acting as if he was less because of his job.   He had just signed for an international special delivery for her.  The protocol would be to phone and let her know it was there and then leave it on the desk for her to sign for it when she had time to pick it up.  That’s exactly how he’d handle it for anyone else in the building but he thought international special delivery might be really important and Ms. Meredith looked like she needed something to cheer her up when she came in tonight.

“Hello Carlos.  What are you doing up here?”

“Hi Ms. Meredith.  This came in for you just moments ago.  I thought it might be important and I wanted to get it to you.”

“Thanks Carlos.  You know you didn’t have to do that.  I would have gotten it next time I was down.”

“I wanted to.  You’re always good to all of us and I thought you deserved special treatment for a special delivery.”

“Thanks Carlos.  You have a good evening.  Tell Maria I left her some bulbs for the roof garden in the back office.

“Okay, Ms. Meredith.  I’ll let her know.  You have a blessed evening.”

Meredith opened the Express envelope and immediately knew who it was from simply by the beautiful handwriting on the interior envelope.  It was obviously an invitation from Martina and Joaquin.  Martina’s hand writing was exquisite, always had been, even though she’d had no formal education.

Please join us to celebrate the publication

 of Joaquin Aguirre’s first novel:

Evenings in the Vineyard

Saturday, November 13, 2010, 7pm

Aguirre Vineyard

San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina

Inside the invitation was a hand written letter.

Dear Meredith,

You know how upset I was when Joaquin decided to turn over management of the vineyard to Benjamin to spend his time entirely on his creative pursuits.  I was angry at you for a long time for advising him to follow his heart.  I was worried that Benjamin would fail, that Joaquin would fail, and that we’d end up with nothing. Now here it is two years later and both have been successful in their pursuits and none of us have ever been happier.

You must join us for the celebration.  Joaquin listened to you when you told him to do what would feed his soul and the rest would take care of itself.  It’s because of you that he gave himself the time to write the most beautiful and provocative work I have ever read.  (Okay, I admit to being a bit prejudiced.)  It’s a wonderful book.  I know you will love it.  I will let you in on a little secret.  It’s dedicated to you!

So come visit us, my friend.  We love you and can’t wait to celebrate with you.

          Love always,

                   Martina

Meredith had met Martina and Joaquin over ten years ago on a trip to Argentina and they had hit it off immediately.  Two years ago during a visit Joaquin had admitted to her how unhappy he had become.  He told her that the Vineyard, although a part of his family for generations, was not really what made him happy.  They had sat up long after Martina had gone to bed and talked about art and writing and the things that made their hearts swell.  She had told him to feed his soul and the rest would work out.  Thinking about it now, where did she get off telling anyone that?  Had her life worked itself out?

To be continued…


Friends for Life by McKenzie James Part I


From the outside Meredith Blaine looked like a woman who had a full life.  She had experienced things that most people never would.  She’d traveled the world; met many famous, and some infamous, people, drove alone across America, skied the Italian Alps, rode an elephant in India, a camel in Israel, and a horse across the plains of Australia.

It was years before she realized that not everyone felt things with the same level of passionate intensity that she did.  When she loved someone she loved them to the point of aching.  She bonded immediately and would do anything for those she cared about.  She never played games.  She was honest to a fault.  When she cared for someone she let them know.  When they walked away she felt a pain that was indescribable.

She woke each day hopeful that she would meet a man who would understand and cherish her.  She met many men – she married two of them — she entertained them, they talked, they walked, they danced, they shared meals, they shared history, they shared stories, they shared sex – but always, for one reason or another, it ended.

There were professional men, educated men, simple men, working stiffs, artists; it didn’t seem to matter what their background was, where they came from, what they did for a living.  Apparently men never felt for her the type of love that caused them to feel a lasting connection.  She studied the women she knew who seemed to have wonderful relationships and simply could not understand what it was that she was lacking.  She could attract a man, she attracted plenty of men, but none of them seemed to have staying power.  Men were drawn to her for her outgoing personality and passion for life and then immediately upon getting her began the mission to change her.

Her latest heartbreak had been over a year ago and she still thought of him almost daily.  She had been attracted to him from the moment they met.  She was tapping her foot impatiently waiting for her carry out order at Louis’ and he started a conversation with her, finally suggesting they eat there rather than taking their orders back to their empty apartments.   They had gotten to know each other slowly and when he finally asked to make love to her she had wanted nothing more.  The courtship had lasted longer than the actual relationship.  Her time with Charles was over almost before it began for reasons she still couldn’t understand.

Meredith sat alone in her doorman apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan and wondered why she bothered any more.  What exactly was the point of getting up each morning and continuing on when every day was the same as the day before?  She got up, made herself beautiful, went into the office and managed all the issues that came up with intelligence and finesse and then came home to her stunningly decorated but very empty apartment.  She laughed sometimes thinking that most people would be shocked to know that Meredith Blaine spent most nights alone ordering in from the many fine restaurants in her neighborhood and watching reruns of NCIS on TV.

This particular night she felt empty and tired beyond anything a good night’s sleep could help her recover from.  She got up from her favorite chair and went to the medicine chest to get the sleeping pills her doctor had given her at her last visit.  She stared at the prescription bottle for a long time and then she sat down at her antique desk and began to write her good-bye.

September 7, 2010

Dear Eleanor,

I write to you because I know you’ll be the one who finds me.  You will be the one who finally wonders where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, and worries enough about me to come find out.  After calling, texting and emailing me for a couple of days without a response you’ll spend at least an hour looking everywhere for the key I gave you last year (finally finding it in the basket on your dresser) and you’ll let yourself in and find my body.  I hope it’s not too gruesome for you.  I tried to make myself as presentable as possible.  I don’t know if that will make it easier for you, or worse.

I know you won’t understand.  You of all people, the one who has always been content with her life just the way it turned out, won’t be able to understand how achingly empty my life has become.  I will try and write something here that will help you understand.

I know it’s not politically correct to say all you want is a man who cherishes you and your life will be complete but, let’s face it, I’ve already got everything else and truly that is the one thing I’ve always wanted and that has always eluded me.  All the education, world travel and wild experiences in the world can’t top the look I see in Jim’s eyes when he’s watching you from across the room.  He truly thinks you are the most wonderful woman in the world and you can tell he still feels like the luckiest man on earth that you agreed to share your life with him. 

No man has ever felt that for me.  Do you know how it feels to have been married twice,  and to never have a man buy you a ring or ask you the question?  As you well know, both my husband’s had to be pushed, pulled and prodded down the aisle.  And neither of them, nor any man since, has ever looked at me with the love struck joy in his eyes that Jim has when he gazes at you.

So two marriages, an incredible career, and no children later…what has it all gotten me?–empty nights and emptier days.  My world is filled with activities but I’ve apparently failed miserably at the most meaningful part of life, human relationships.

The phone rang and Meredith wondered out loud if she should answer it.  “It may be an emergency”, she thought as she picked up the phone.

Dottie dialed her friend Meredith’s number hoping she would be home.  She just had to tell her the good news.  Her daughter, Laura, had just been chosen for the lead in an off Broadway musical.  Laura knew it was mostly Meredith who had given her daughter the courage to be herself and go for her dream.  She was always there for the kids one hundred percent and she had an enormous impact on the young woman Laura had become.  Thinking back, she didn’t know how she would have gotten through being a working Mom with three kids under the age of five if Meredith hadn’t stepped in to help and be there for them.

“Hi Mer, How are you?  I just had to call and tell you Laura got the part!”

“That’s wonderful, Dottie, is she over the moon?”

“That’s putting it mildly.  She started memorizing her lines the moment they called.  She really feels like this could be the beginning of something for her but she also keeps reminding me what you told her, success is doing what you love every day.  Wait, here she is, I know she’ll want to talk to you.”

“Hi Mama Mer, did Mom tell you?”

“Yes, sweetie, she did.  I’m so happy for you.  I know it’s what you wanted.  Have you met the rest of the cast?”

“Not everyone, but remember that gorgeous man we saw in “Grease” at the Playhouse last year?  He’ll be playing opposite me.  It could prove to be very interesting!”

“You have fun sweetie.  I know it will be a lot of work and many late nights, but just remember to have fun and enjoy yourself along the way.”

“I will Mama Mer.  Every day I remember how you told me to be true to myself and do what makes me feel good in my soul.  If I hadn’t done that all these years I wouldn’t be here now.  Thanks for always being there.  I’m going to be certain you have tickets with Mom and Dad for opening night.  You’ll come won’t you?”

“You know I’ll be there if I can.  Tell your Mom good-bye for me sweetheart.  I love you.”

“Love you too Mama Mer.  Bye.”

To be continued…..


Paula’s Irreplaceable Beauty


She is beautiful and vibrant and strong and unlike many it goes far deeper than simply the beauty of her youthful body.  No, her beauty comes from being wise beyond her years.  It stems from having already experienced much pain in her short life and having fought through it and risen above it.  Her vibrancy comes from experiencing the world more intensely than most around her and then, not simply allowing it to wash over her, but being driven with curiosity to understand and make sense of it.

She contemplates the world and human relationships with the same intensity and driving quest to understand that makes scientists capable of achieving the next life-saving medical breakthrough.  She loves people while being completely aware of their glaring imperfections and yet she refuses to accept her own human blemishes.

She strives to understand life and the human existence but doesn’t see how important she is to the daily lives of those around her.  She fails to see how many of us are drawn to her vibrancy and light.  She fails to see how many of us would be lost and left with a gaping hole in our souls if she were not a part of our lives.

She is beautiful in her intensity.

She is beautiful in her strength.

She is beautiful in her creativity.

She is beautiful in her intelligence.

She is beautiful in her vibrancy.

She is beautiful in her caring.

She is beautiful in her passion.

She is beautiful in her loyalty.

She is beautiful in her accomplishments.

She is beautiful in her spirit.

She is beautiful in her curiosity.

She is beautiful in her wit.

She is beautiful!

McKenzie James

October 6, 2011


Happy Birthday Matilda!


Happy Birthday Matilda!  You deserve the very best in life and I know this year will bring you all you desire.

You are an amazing woman and a gifted writer; wise beyond your years.  The endless curiosity that keeps you constantly striving to learn all you can about life, the planet we live on, and your fellow inhabitants means you will never be without subject matter.

People may be drawn to you by your beauty and easy smile but they remain entranced by your keen intelligence, bright wit, passion for life and most of all your incredible capacity for joy.

Remain honest to yourself, write courageously about your truth, and continue to live life to the fullest!  I am honored to be your friend and humbled by how many ways you already surpass me.

I know I don’t need to tell you how to celebrate.  You will do it with the same passion you bring to everything you do.  ENJOY!

Love Always,

Mckenzie


An Ode to my Mother


An Ode to my Mother

When I was 8 years old, my mother, older sister, and I, rode bicycles to my soccer game. When we were about to cross the huge highway separating us from the soccer fields, a semi truck blew through the red light and came within inches of hitting me on my pink and white bike. The force of the air as the driver drove by knocked me off my bicycle and scraped up my knees and elbows, right in front of my mother’s eyes. I don’t remember that game, but I remember my mothers lap as she cradled me close to her. She didn’t say a word, but that day I learned the meaning of the word ‘treasured’, I remember her arms around me, the way her thin skin barely wrapped her collarbone where my face was pressed.

When I was 11, my father was gone again on one of his endless business trips, and my mom showed my sister and I the movie “Los Desaparecidos”, and explained to us how she had lost her older brother to forces beyond her control, how a part of her soul had been ripped out in his brutal disappearance and murder. I learned the reason of her almost endless sadness, and her eternal pride in her family and her country. She instilled in me the same pride, the same defensiveness. I am, without a doubt, my mothers’ daughter.

When I was 15, my sister left me to save herself, and us. I watched helplessly as my parents hearts were ripped out of their chests and floated away. It was my mother who stood back up, demanded reparation, made me realize that forgiveness follows heartache, that life is messy, that you must always accept people for exactly who they are. My mother demonstrated to me the power of love, and her incredible capacity for it, and forgiveness.  For what seemed like an eternity, what had always been my source of safety, security, and identity seemed to have crashed and burned. It was my mother who took me by the hand and told me “We are what we think, with our thoughts we create the world”.  Love is only love when you are willing to take someone with all the darkness, with all the eternal flaws, and adore them anyway.

When I was in college, my mother sent me care packages and letters, and would buy me groceries and take me to dinner. She listened to me sob when I missed home, and did not berate me when I forgot to call because I finally didn’t. In her Valentines card to me she wrote to me that she loved me, her sweet butterfly, for being able to see the beauty of life down to the last teardrop. It remains to this day my favorite line anyone has ever written me.

Today, my mother holds my family together still. It is my mother who plans vacations, Christmas, Three Kings, and Thanksgiving. My mother remembers birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. It is my mother who puts dinner on the table, who listens when I am crying, who knows me well enough to know when I need to be left alone, who reminds me that I am good. My mother is strong enough to take the blame from me and my sister whenever anything goes wrong, she has taken the burden of our anger, weathered the storms of my father, understands my sisters needs, my loneliness. It is my mom who transplanted from her homeland years ago and has flourished and thrived in her new home as well. I wish I could explain to her the beauty of her every movement, of how I wish every day that I could be a little more like her. I watch as she pours herself into her work and her family.

When things go wrong, when I am sick, when jobs seem scarce and relationships too frightening to endure, it is my mother who brings me soup, tells me money is fleeting anyway and will always come back, and who iterates time and again that grace and compassion are the backbone of my life. Her strength, resilience, laughter, joy, and small reminders to never drink and drive, and always call home, give us the foundation from which we are able to build our lives. From the day I was born onward, it is my mother who has never stopped believing in me, loving me, and who through her own example of existence has shown me the true meaning of being a lady.

Someday I will have a daughter, a small baby girl who will run too fast and too far, who will climb up the wrong side of the slide, who will break her arm and smash her teeth, who will come home with bruises and sawdust in her hair. She will have her heart broken, will leave me for her life to begin, and if I am lucky, I will be able to give her the same home and the same heart that my mother has bestowed upon me.


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