Friday, August 7, 2009

Grains of Sand

Building a sandcastle with words
Each grain of sand unique on its own
Molded together to build anew
Without structure, they lay flat
Moisture working like conjunctions
Pulling together the grains
Waves pushing and pulling
Restructuring and rebuilding
And finally...a multi layer majesty
We walk away before the big wave.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Run For Those Who Can't

Many runners have mantras that go through their heads to guide them through the toughest of mental struggles during a run. I've heard everything from "I will survive" to "tall and strong" and "light and focused". The running mantra that I use the most is "Run For Those Who Can't".

I run for my grandmother, Rachel Sterne, and uncle, David Sterne who unfortunately are not here with us today. My grandmother used to love to go on walks around her Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood and I run to keep her memory alive.

My grandmother was a generous woman with a compassionate heart. My earliest memories of her were when she fixed zuchinni bread for my cousins and me during a visit to Kansas City. We took a trip with her to Oklahoma to find our heritage and I ended up with an infection and she had her careful eye on me for the entire trip. I would later remember my grandmother hooked up to IVs and tubes in her hospital room in Kansas City. She had purchased all of our Christmas presents back in the summer to prepare her for this moment.

I didn't have a clue as to what was going on with my grandmother at the time. My mom told me that she was getting a tumor removed. What I didn't know was that the tumor was caused by a genetic disorder, Neurofibromatosis. The tumor was cancerous and the doctors found that it had spread too much when they went to remove it. It had also released a lot of adrenaline causing a very complicated surgery. Eventually, they were able to remove the tumor but only with a tough diagnosis-- my grandmother had only a few more months left. My grandmother was undoubtedly worn from the physical and emotional stress of going through this surgery just as many other patients with Neurofibromatosis go through.

What I didn't know about my grandmother is that she had already overcome so many other struggles in her lifetime. She had been in a car accident with my Uncle David. David was the youngest of 7 and was driving the car at the time. My grandmother foresaw the accident happening in front of her and grabbed the handle on the door. This opened the door and my grandmother flew out of the moving vehicle. She was in a coma for a very long time and the doctors said that she was not going to make it. The doctors wanted to take her off of life support but my family refused to let it happen. My grandmother, Rachel Sterne, lived through that horrible car accident. She sustained major brain damage and had to learn to do do everything all over again. She performed miracles by becoming a grandmother who nurtured me during tough times like when the boy down the street chased me down with a mouse or when my baby brother was born and we were moving across the country.

My uncle, David Sterne, came out of the accident walking and talking fine. However, he sustained one large side effect. Just like my grandmother, David had Neurofibromatosis. It was believed that the accident caused his symptoms to flare up and he was diagnosed with cancer attributed to Neurofibromatosis. I can't remember visiting David in the hospital, but there are pictures of my cousin and I holding hands as we went to see him. David died before I really ever got to know him but the memories of him are still very much alive. My mother has told me about how David used to play practical jokes on her all the time and about how he always had a smile on his face. She told me about how my grandpa used to sneak David out of school so that they could go fishing together. I've seen the tears roll down my mother's cheek as she tells me the story about how David had called all of his friends in to say goodbye one last time.

My grandmother and grandfather had a very hard time after the death of their youngest son. This created an even harder time for my grandmother as she laid in the hosptial years later during the removal of her tumor. The surgery went well and my mom flew home to be with us kids for awhile. Meanwhile, my grandmother contracted pneumonia in the hospital. She was tired of struggling and did not want to be treated. My mom planned a trip back to Kansas City and called my grandmother. Grandma told my mother something that she will never forget. "David is in the parking lot waiting for me. I have to be going now." The nurse in the room said, "Rachel, now you know there is no one out there." My grandmother went to be with David shortly after.

My grandmother was only in her 60s when she died. It is hard for me not to be upset that I missed out on spending more time with her but I believe that she has been watching me. I wish I had gotten the chance to actually get to know the uncle that everyone called the jokester. David was younger than I am today when he passed away. They are the reasons that I run and the reason for my mantra.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Please Don't Squeeze the Calico

Lucy was my first cat. She slept around my head at night smothering my nostrils with loose calico fur. Mom would come in and remove the furry ear muffs from my bed every night in fear of suffocation. It was my bed that Lucy gave birth to kittens under when dad thought that she was "leaking water" in the house. Yet for some reason, we always seemed to find some sort of torture for our lovable kitty.

My younger brother, Jeremy, used to tell me that if you squeezed Lucy hard enough, she would say "Matt!!". We continuously squeezed poor Lucy until she would scream out the name. Well, one time, Lucy got mad and rather tired of screaming "Matt" and decided to scratch and bite me in order to get me to stop. I screamed at the top of my lungs and mom came down to rescue me. Just like she would do to me and my brothers when we were in trouble, she held Lucy next to me and told her to tell me "sorry". Somehow, Lucy's unspoken "sorry" made me feel all the more better and we continued being friends.

Mom would later find Jeremy to be the culprit of another crime to the cat. Mom used to Vaseline Jeremy's nose because it would frequently get chapped from being a snotty little kid. Jeremy, decided that this vaseline could make a wonderful costume for the kitty. He smeared Lucy with vaseline from head to toe. Mom came into the room to find a cat that looked more like a rat, covered in a greasy substance. She instantly tried to put Lucy into the bath tub but Lucy decided that she would rather have to deal with her new costume then ever step foot into the bath tub. Mom ended up a scratched mess and Lucy won that battle. She would be named "the cat that looked like a rat" by our neighbors for months later.

There were many more incidents to shape Lucy's life within our house--including getting slammed in a door that resulted in a bented tail--but Lucy always came back to my bed at night and nestled around my head.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Death. I have always been afraid of it. In fact, I've been searching for a blog to write about for months. I realized that I was in fact just avoiding this blog and this topic.

I used to tell my friends not to talk about death around me. I wouldn't even say the word. I disguised the word by calling it "The 'D' Word". Many of my relatives have passed on throughout my lifetime but none of it seemed to really sink in until this past January.

On January 9th, I received a spine tingling voicemail on my phone from my boyfriend, Andy, about the death of his brother. Never has it hit so hard as it did then. I had met Matt on multiple occasions before. We helped Andy roof his house that past summer. We had seen him just weeks earlier at Christmas dinner. He had been wrestling on the floor with Andy. And then the night before, he had called Andy to borrow his snowmobile helmet. I had heard his voice on the phone right next to me.

I've been trying hard to be the support that Andy needs. I was there at his side for all of the preparations and the funeral. It is hard to see someone that you love so much going through so much pain. Sometimes I wish I could rewind time. I wish I could do the impossible and bring Matt back to his brother and family. I wish I could have gotten to know him more.

My mind starts to wonder more lately. I've started to think hard about life. I believe in God and know that Matt is with him in heaven right now. Sometimes I just wish I could give Andy some sort of assurance that Matt is up there looking down right now. I want him to have one last conversation with his brother. I wish we could write letters to Matt and he could send them down to us from heaven. I feel like such a child for saying such strange things.

What will it be like up there for the rest of us? I start to become worried about everything. I worry about driving to work every day in traffic. Or those around me driving to work. You never know when it will happen and who will be taken from us next. I know that there will be more around me. We don't live forever and I've come to face what I fear the most. I want to spend time with those around me more and more. I want to cherish every living moment I have.

And yet...I'm still so scared. I think we all are.

Or most of us. I went back and researched the death of a high school friend who died of bone cancer. They had a quote in the paper about one of the final things that she said. She talked about how she was ready to go. She felt like she had led a good life and she was ready. How brave! I wish I could be half as brave as she was at the age of 20.

I am writing so that maybe I can put these fears aside and live the life I have. Cherish the moments you have. Love life as it is lived.

Friday, January 16, 2009

In Memory

It happened so quick
but the days in which we miss you
seem to be forevor long.
Imagining your smile,
they all line up to see you
one last time.

But your smile will always be
in our hearts and minds.
Your love for others
always there to shine.
The stories of dog sitting, roofing, plowing,
and other good times.
Always lending a helping hand,
your smile continues to shine.

On the rooftops, among the fences and fields
your love is sprinkled.
Sitting in the stands at the races,
getting dirty underneath the 84,
or driving behind a John Deere tractor
your memories will remain.

In Memory of Matthew C. Chrest

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hatred of Minnesota Winters

Growing up as a nomad, I've learned to adjust to many different types of weather, cultures, and people. My father moved us all around the country before he finally settled on bounding us to the coldest state of all- Minnesota.

I won't say that Minnesota is a horrible state. There are many good things about the state. Minneapolis was ranked the most literate city for 2008. St. Paul took 4th. We house the mega mall and plenty of joyful shoppers from around the world. We pride ourselves on hosting two large marathons, The Twin Cities Marathon and Grandma's Marathon. We border Canada and the Great Lakes. And as much as we hate it when people from other states ask us to "repeat Minn-eh-soooh-tah"; we know that you can always find someone with a friendly "Northern Accent" within miles of our front doors.

But along with good always comes a little bit of bad. Or maybe an entire winter of bad.
As usual, I woke up this morning and turned on the news. I like to see the weather in the morning so I can get the bad news out of the way at the start. I glanced to the bottom of the screen and noticed that it was -2. "Okay...I guess I'll be wearing my Cuddleduds today then." Soon enough the weather guy came on to give me his report. "Today, the wind chill isn't so bad at -15. You'll still want to bundle up though." NOT SO BAD? Only in Minnesota will a weather guy say we are doing "not so bad" at -15 degree windchill.

I have come to the realization that I'm stuck here, at least for now. Thus, I do "bundle up" before I leave the house or work. Even if it is below zero. Yesterday I'm pretty sure we were sitting somewhere around 10 degrees when I left work. Naturally, I put the hood to my Columbia coat over my head and zipped it up all the way. My eyes are pretty much the only part of me that you see when it is anything below 20 degrees. Most Minnesotans find this funny. Yesterday, I was walking along with my parka-like outfit when a lady passed me on the sidewalk. She had this smirk on her face that said "You must not be a Minnesotan" It is like they can read you from afar. Another time, I was entering my work building following a 10 minute walk from my car and someone just started laughing at me. Laughing. And that day it was -10 with a -20 degree windchill.

Apparently my body doesn't react well to Minnesota winters either. My skin turns into an alligator with papercuts during winter.

And the roads. Don't even get me started about the roads. Near the start of our cold spell, we also got piled with tons of snow. I believe there was an entire week of 2-3 hour drives to work and home. My drive should normally only be 25 minutes at the most, not 2 hours. What does one do in a car for 2 hours on slippery roads moving like a tortuise? I think they go out of their mind. Oh and when it isn't rush hour, and you are moving at a decent speed, you still have to go slow and clench the steering wheel in fear that you will end up in the ditch like the other 50 cars you've seen along your route. I think all Minnesotans must have a high level of stress from being behind the wheel.

Oh and then you get those Minnesotans who walk slower in the winter. In cold weather, I walk/run to my destination to avoid being outside any longer than neccesary. Sometimes, I end up on a sidewalk behind someone who clearly doesn't think in the same way. Last week, I was following behind a lady who was walking extremely slow. When she realized I was behind her, she said, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize there was someone behind me. It's so cold outside, I don't want to move very fast." I guess I could see your reasoning there. But the faster you move, the faster you get inside right??

Minnesotans LOVE winter sports. There are actually people in Minnesota who favor winter among other seasons. They get out their snow toys and go about their cheery snow business. This past winter, I decided to join in the fun by taking my boyfriend on a ski trip. We went up to Duluth's Spirit Mountain and spent the day skiing down the slopes. By the time that we left the slopes, we were icicles. Frozen to the bone. And Minnesotans thrive on this weather with their snowmobiles, hockey sticks, ice fishing huts, ice skates and ice castles.

Ice castles. That is one of the amazing wonders of Minnesota winters. I will concede, I do enjoy looking at the ice castle and ice sculptures from afar. St.Paul hosts the "winter carnival" every year. Whenever they sum up enough money, they build a large ice castle (not every year) and allow people to come inside and tour the castle. I thought this was a grand idea, until one day I actually stood in line to go through the castle. The line that night was at least an hour long. It was freezing cold outside and I was completely numb by the time we actually entered the castle. Inside, it was basically a big open space where people were dancing and a few sculptures were to be seen. I think the outside of the castle is much more interesting with the way that it lights up the night sky. Driving by now suits me well. I don't find it neccesary to stand in the cold line to see the inside.

Among all the bad, there is one good thing about Minnesota winters. You always know that spring is the next season on the way. Even if it doesn't come until June.