My Sisters Eulogy… Celebrating Her!

Unconventional, non-traditional and just plain-old different. That’s what my sister was. And if gathering all together to remember her life at a sports bar isn’t testament to that, then I don’t know what is. There’s salsa music playing in the background. There’s an art station with a Forget-Me-Not painting for all to partake in. Poster board selfies and group pictures to help everyone go down memory lane. And no prayer cards here to hand out. Instead, you have a biography pamphlet the likes of a Playbill as your keepsake. Unconventional to say the least.

My relationship with Nitza was no different either.  Even before I came in to this world she had made me an aunt. My only sister was 19 years older than me and hence began our awkward trip into siblinghood. We encountered some of the stereotypical ordeals many siblings go through. She’d yell at me when I’d touch any of her belongings. As the older sibling, she always thought she knew better. She’d give me orders and I would ignore them. And she’d try to pin our mom against me, all to win an argument and reign proudly as the firstborn. My most “traumatic” sibling rivalry memory?… I was 13 years old and I was having a hideous, frizzy, looked like a boy hair day in the 80’s. My mom who was big on understanding the ordeals of vanity, to my relief agreed to keep me home from school that day. But instead of having my sister on my side, she reminded my mother that beauty is skin deep and that she should not encourage the importance of outward appearance. She tapped in to that motherly guilt. Nitza one, Elke zero. To my dismay, I was sent to school. 

For all you here that have siblings I’m sure you can relate. As a kid though, I was torn between needing that sisterly bond with this adult woman, and just viewing her as another parental figure. And she was equally as torn. But despite this, I carry with me the fondest of memories of my sister. She meticulously put my hair up in rollers for my 4th birthday. She took me on my first pony ride when I was 6. She gave me my first lessons in playing handball when I was 9. She’d take me with her roller skating to the rink when I was 11. She taught me the intricacies of tanning when I was 12. She took me to a Menudo concert when I was 13 (I guess to make up for the hideous hair day ordeal). She’d badger me with boy questions when I was in HS. She gave birth to my beautiful niece when I was 15 (yes, I took that as a personal gift to me). She gave me advice for my “first time” to drink some champagne to help me relax.  When she found out I got plastered and sadly couldn’t do anything that evening because the room was spinning so badly, she laughed at me, and told me “I said SOME champagne tonta, not the whole bottle!” then gave me a hug.

And with all the beautiful, funny memories also came the arguments, the difficult times and the sad moments in life as I seemingly caught up to her. We were now two adults and both moms, with still a 19-year age gap. We always butted heads. We never let the other win an argument. She complained a lot, and I rolled my eyes a lot. I’d stand my ground and she’d get frustrated. She over shared and I under shared. But again, despite all this push and pull, when I needed an ally I knew that Nitza would be ready and willing to fit that role. 

She longed to listen, and did. She longed to be the shoulder I needed to cry on, and was. She greeted me with open arms whenever I’d have a shift in life or beliefs. We were the epitome of two sisters always trying to fit a traditional role knowing there was nothing normal about either of us.

And that’s what I hold closest to me about my sister. She was different. She was a lot of woman, a lot of person. She would laugh and dance and sing; and use that very same moment to be emotional, deep and reflective. You never knew what Nitza you were going to get at any given moment. She didn’t have to fit in to any expectations except her own. She was loving and strong, she was sympathetic and bad-ass, she was independent and needing of others. She was both the ying and the yang, the black and the white, the ups and the downs. And for some people, THAT may have been too much,, SHE may have been too much, I get it. But to the women in my family, to my sister, that was and IS our normal.

My sister was and will forever be loved.  People may think that not seeing eye to eye, or arguing on mostly any topic can compromise one’s love. But not when true love is involved. I have true love for this woman. And it pains me that I won’t be able to argue with her again. I won’t be able to tell her “I told you so”…again. I won’t be able to remind her that it doesn’t matter that I’m the younger one. I will have to dig inward to feel her, to hear her and to smell her scent. I will miss my dear sis dearly. But what keeps me going is that I am forever bonded to her even in this new stage of our lives. Yes, our new stage, because that’s what keeps us unconventional folks going.

So, I want to leave you with this. I don’t want people to remember Nitza in her finest days, or just in her younger vibrant years because that would mean her life stopped way before it physically did. I want you to remember my sister even at her worst. Nitza suffered from depression since childhood, and yet she never allowed it to stop her. She loved being out and about. She loved nature and sports. She loved dancing. She loved life. In her last three years, she struggled until the end. She wasn’t ready to go. These last three years of struggle NEED to mean something. What would my sister want you to learn from her early deterioration? That you need to dream NOW, act Now, make it happen NOW. Do something you love. Spend time with those that you love. Try something new. Do something scary. And be kind to others and especially to yourself. And in that way, you make my sisters unconventional story part of your history and wonderfully, also part of your future.

See you in my dreams Sis!

 

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a Little Jealous of the Kids!

Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” comes to mind. I have an extra verse for her… Only child status without actually being an only child.

The story of my life given that my sister came 19 years before my appearance in to this world. My only sister, my only sibling lived outside of our home, already a parent to her own child by the time I was born. I surely couldn’t compete with her own offspring for attention. As a parent myself now, I know she couldn’t just drop being a mom to be a sister to a little girl. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want her to. Oh, how I yearned for the relationship some of my friends had with their own siblings, fights and all. I wanted to have a doubled wardrobe. I wanted to sit crossed legged in the dark with her talking about boys. I wanted shared secrets, and a secret language. Well, as we all know, we can go ahead and dream our lives differently, but that doesn’t change a thing. So you grow up, you acclimate and you move on.

Fast forward to my 40’s. I am now a parent to three boys, three brothers, three different types of personalities and hence three different types of relationships. But when I look at my two youngest boys, which are closer in age, I find myself fascinated with their dynamic. You may even say borderline jealous. No, no, not in a dysfunctional, weird mom kind of way. And no, I don’t have “sibling issues”. What I do have is a keen eye for the little meaningful things, the details, and that’s due to my endearing flaw of observing everything and everyone. That includes primarily my kids.

My two youngest, 8 and 5, will love each other to annoyance. I am constantly yelling at them to shut it, to be nice, to give it back, to stop the name calling, to stop tattling, to stop blaming, and to not hit each other. Sounds dreadful? Not really, since more than that are the moments I catch them chatting about “kid” topics, having shared interests, playing Nerf tag or air hockey. The eight year old helping the 5-year-old get through a video game level. The 5-year-old reminding me he needs to give his brothers a goodnight kiss before going to bed. I watch the two of them laying together in bed laughing about nonsense. They build forts together. They even share the same neighborhood best friend, for now at least.

 

I pride myself in having instilled in them the importance for closeness, the need to be there for each other, to share themselves, to defend each other against the world and to be “brothers” in both flesh and spirit. So yes, when I encapsulate the beauty of these two boys, I am an itty-bitty, teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy jealous. Deep down wishing I had this same type of relationship with my own sis. Imagining what it would have been like had we been close in age, growing up together, experiencing things within the same household, driving our poor mother crazy. I would guess it would be somewhat similar (female version of course).

Hey, if you’re a parent and you take stock of your kids beautiful life and have gotten just a little green, don’t be so hard on yourself, albeit of course lovingly, functionally and sanely. I certainly don’t feel bad about it. We are giving them more than what we had. We are providing them with opportunities we may not have had ourselves. We are teaching and guiding in a way more suitable to them. And isn’t that what every parent wants for their kids? More opportunities, more love, more laughter, more fun, more adventure and more growth? Absolutely!!!

I’ll leave you to the rest of your day, since now I’ve got to go investigate what that sound of breaking glass was. I’m sure those boys will blame each other. Ah!, brotherly love.

— The Pretty Platform

The Sound of Silence

We can all agree that radio, television, children, and gatherings are all producers of sound, both pleasant and unpleasant… of course depending on the receiver. Your favorite song. A funny sitcom. Laughter from your little ones. Great conversation with family and friends. All positive things for sure, and I thankfully find myself being a willing receiver to it all. But equally… well, actually if not more important to me is SILENCE. It’s in silence that I can “hear” my own voice. If we take out time to listen to other people’s rants on various topics…be it on the news, or a YouTube channel, or reading it in an article, then one should also take time out to hear (insert your name here) internal voice, thoughts and ideas. Surprisingly though, through my conversations with different types of people, I have learned that silence is a very scary thing for many. They cringe at the idea of having thoughts running out of their inner depths up to the surface of their minds, and hence they look to drown out the opportunity with outward, loud, consistent sounds.

I have no right to tell you that you need to change, because change is a personal decision taken when your current path no longer benefits your needs. But since you’re still reading this, let me tell you that silence CAN be and IS a beautiful sound. It’s a put your feet up and cuddle with a soft, plush blanket by candlelight kind of sound. It’s a watch the sunrise/sunset with your feet in the sand kind of sound. Its a soak in a warm bath when you’re cold kind of sound. Silence can help with relaxing the mind to then allow for an inner thought to be heard.

During that silence, alone with that thought….

  • You’ll be able to hear your thought and even be able to outline reasons for the thought.
  • You can mentally scratch out the thought as “done” after coming up with various solutions.
  • You can make plans, you can set goals, you can recollect memories, you can even have a conversation with yourself.
  • You can nurture your imagination and fantasize.
  • You can judge your thoughts or you can excuse them.
  • You can analyze where you went wrong, or relive what helped you succeed.
  • You can become that friend to yourself that always listens and uplifts.
  • You can give yourself the advice you’re always dishing out to others, and actually hear it.
  • You can swear as much as you’d like in thought without disrupting others. When my eight year old gets angry, he asks me if he can swear to himself in thought. I tell him that his thoughts are completely his and he can definitely swear through his anger. As long it doesn’t escape in sound to others. He’s happy and ultimately, I’m happy.

And there’s always time to be in thought. Driving is my favorite time to discuss things with myself. Especially when the kids are not in the car. But when they are, and I’ve given them enough time to express themselves, I require some silence for thinking. They find it interesting that I want to just think, but by osmosis it’s becoming part of their weekly routine. Hopefully they will enjoy it and benefit from it as they travel in to adulthood. My shower time is also mine to be in thought. I’ve read that some people’s best ideas have come to them when they are sitting peacefully on the commode.

I really encourage you to try it. I encourage you to turn off the radio and television. Take off the headphones. Sure, it might be scary to be alone with your thoughts, but so was your first date, and you got through that. You may discover an amazing friend within yourself. And don’t forget to be a friend right back. Happy 2018 everyone!!!

— The Pretty Platform

The Fear Factor

I don’t get it! What’s the appeal in jumping out of a plane anyway? My husband, during our first year of marriage went skydiving. One of those cool sessions where they even videotape you for an astronomical price, but you’ll have the memory forever on tape. When we gathered around as a family to watch it as he sat next to us safely in our living room, we saw something very interesting from this courageous soul. When it was time for him to jump, “one, two, three”, he grabbed hold of the edge of the door opening, stopping the jump. “I’m sorry, I did it without thinking”, he told the tandem instructor. “Okay, let’s try again”…. “one, two, three”, and his arms automatically and quickly shot up and stopped his jump again. As we watched, we all laughed. He laughed as well. Maybe out of surprise or maybe a bit embarrassed. The tandem instructor assured him that this was a very natural response from first time jumpers. That all he needed was a bit of a nudge and this time to brace his arms across his body. “One, two, three”… and out in to nothing they went, for what he says was the most amazing experience ever.

Fear is an automatic human response to help protect us from danger or threat. Hey, stepping out in to the open expanse of air with nothing beneath you is definitely a cause for fear. But fear is present even in moments where the end of your life is not an outcome. Like standing in front of a crowd to present a speech. Or asking the love of your life to marry you. Maybe you need to admit to your family that you’re gay. Or that you want to change your college major. Fear….even without a direct threat to your life, can stop you from taking that “jump” or step forward. It can paralyze you in to secrecy, or keep you stuck in your current situation.

But just like the tandem instructor told my husband, all you may need is a little nudge as you prepare yourself before stepping out. He didn’t tell him that it’s silly to be scared. He didn’t tell him not to be afraid. He told him to brace himself and accept a little help.

So, what would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would you do if fear was not a factor? What would you change in your life? The reality is though, you can’t stop the fear from occurring. But, you can admit what it is that you want to do, what you want to change, where you want to go, or who you want to speak to. Then…. take THAT knowledge and let the “nudge”, or help and encouragement from others to push you to take that all important step as you prepare yourself physically and emotionally to do it.

Here is hopefully the NUDGE you need as you brace yourself for your step out in to the open expanse of your new life. Listen to the video as I share my experience, and please tell me about yours.

— The Pretty Platform