Wednesday, 26 January 2011


I just got back from spending the afternoon and evening with a friend. I braved the cold, wet weather in order to force myself out of the house. Now I'm back, have slipped into my soft, slinky, black robe and have just sat down to a piping hot cup of coffee and two varieties of milk chocolate; one basic Swiss milk, the other a Cadburys Dairy Milk with Turkish Delight inside. I'm going to savour the taste of the chocolate for Star.

Star was one serious chocoholic. But she wasn't no fiend - she was a certifiable chocolate snob. She had a taste for refined chocolates, not the waxy, cheap kind so familiar to the millions who've experienced the likes of Hershey's. She was more of a Harrods or Godiva girl but, admittedly, in a pinch she'd take basically good chocolate loot, which is what I've got.

Star was also fond of a good old chin wag with friends, which is why I went to meet up with Cam, a person who, now that I think about it, reminds me the most of Star in temperament; jovial, merry, slow to anger, talkative, and very pretty in her own special way. One of those people who carries their very own beam of light which radiates from within seemed to be the sort of person I needed to see today. Cam is that way, and so was Star.

My black lab is lying on the floor behind my desk chair. I was sure to greet her and thank her for guarding the house when I got back in. Star would be very proud of the wild, hyper rescue pup which I raised into a happy, intelligent, focused dog. Star loved all animals, but was particularly fond of dogs. Dogs were her heart. She hadn't seen my dog in years since I moved abroad, but I know that she would be proud of how the dog turned out.

The fact that I came home, pet the dog, and then went straight for taking off my bra and getting into comfortable lounge gear is also something which reminds me of Star. No matter where she'd been, what she'd been doing, or how early or late she got home, once she was home she'd go straight into her bedroom and change into pajamas. Once she conquered a day, she'd be ready to chill. And she did conquer each day.

Star is my younger sister. A year ago today she passed away.

Star lived all her 28 years of life as a physically disabled woman. Yep. Every day was a fighting day for Star, and she did it all with a sort of dainty grace. She lived without complaint and was ridiculously positive. You'd never know we had that sort of pluck in our family by observing me. I'm a brooding, complaining, worrier compared to my sister. I'm femme fatale to Star's faerie princess. Night and day. Or at least that's the way I interpret it. People who've met, then spent time with me - once they got past the tons of black eyeliner, large breasts, and dark clothing - often end up calling me a ray of sunshine, a cherub, or both... at which point I usually blush, then smirk, and think to myself, They've obviously never met Star. Maybe in a world without Star my being a ray of sunshine or a cherub would ring true to me. But siblings have a way of doing funny things to you, like partially defining who you are.

Small elements, like being the sibling of a ridiculously positive person, or large elements like being the sibling of a person with a disability, really help create a sort of integral definition of you, or at least, that's my belief. It's not so much a case of comparison, but more of a case of subjectivity or perspective. Grey may be grey, but if you place it next to red, it takes on a greenish cast - red's complimentary color. So in my microcosm, I'm the dark, sarcastic one with a smart mouth, and Star was the positive ray of sunshine in the pink angora sweater. But then, if your sibling is taken away, you lose part of yourself - you sort of feel like you lack definition.

Like most people, image is very important to me. For several years now I've worked in an industry where I help to enhance or create images of individuals for the public to see. But for me, the most important image is the inner image; the core, and the core values of a person. Having Star in my life at an early age acclimated me to this orientation. And not only that, she was the litmus test for most people I got close to. Anyone who wanted to get close to me would have to come through Star; simply by virtue of being part of a closely knit family, you were expected to bring people around to meet everybody. But let me tell you, physical disability has a way of exposing and blocking the most shallow people. Simply put, I always knew that if Star couldn't win a person's heart, then they basically didn't have one - and we're not talking about winning people's hearts through pity or sympathy; more like winning their hearts through goodness, coolness, and inner strength all wrapped up in an unusual and cute package. That was Star. Testing the sincerity of people was just one of her many gifts. And partially defining each other was our lot as siblings.

So now, I feel a bit lost, since I'm the one left behind here on earth. Sometimes I wonder how I'm going to make sure my possible future children will adopt my orientation about the importance of core values as I learned them. Sometimes I wonder how many people with disabilities my children will actually know now that Star has crossed over to the other side. I think about how most of my little cousins know what it's like to climb all over a wheelchair as toddlers without shame or hesitation, or how people in wheelchairs don't freak any of them out because of their amazing big cousin Star... and then I wonder how that will happen for my own children. I wouldn't even know how or where to begin again without Star in our lives. But I have to keep trying, don't I?

I had all of these mental plans for today: I thought I might go to church or synagogue today to honour her memory, but truthfully, I got up this morning, had a cup of coffee, thought about how much of a struggle this year has been, then went back to bed for several hours. Eventually I pulled myself together and stuck with the only plans that I'd managed to commit myself to; hanging out with Cam. So that's what I did. And all the details of my day I've just described would be the things that Star would have wanted for herself and also for me; chocolate, good friendship, home comforts, and a great dog... and then indulging in a bit of writing.

In a little while, I'm going to go call my parents in the U.S. Tonight they'll be celebrating Star's life by having a chocolate party, complete with Mexican chocolate soup and chocolate fondue. I'll check in with them, none of us will know what to say, it will be strange, but we'll all make it through. We have to, because our lives go on.

You probably don't know me, and you probably didn't know Star - there would be no way of capturing the essence of her on this page; she was way too awesome to be captured in words, anyway. But one thing I know is that I'm a better person for having had her as long as I did. Anybody who knew her would say the same. The heart of the world feels stonier, colder somehow, without her in this particular dimension. One thing this loss has taught me, as cliche as it is going to sound, is that you really have to love fully, love hard, and always count the blessings of knowing and loving the beautiful people in your life. It really is true. The other thing about life that I now realize is that if you live long enough, you will eventually get to know what I'm going through today. As my friend Jake and I agreed when we last spoke about our sisters who'd both passed on in 2010, this is an unfortunate club, but eventually everybody gets to become a member. If you don't understand today, one day you will. For now, love fully, love hard, eat chocolate, pet the dog, and put on your pajamas. Good night, dearest readers.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Is this thing on?

I'd be willing to bet that the phrase, "Is this thing on?" has to be one of the most often used opening lines in the introduction of a fresh new blog. I haven't googled it to find out, but I wouldn't be surprised. Maybe I should google it, but I probably won't... or maybe one day I will, but not right now. Right now, my primary goal is to do what's implied in my quite possibly, very likely cliche title above, by typing this out and then madly clicking and pointing to see if my new blog works ok.

Onwards and upwards. I'm the new girl, and I'll tell you why - and it's fairly simple: I'm new to Blogger (though not totally new to blogging of sorts) and this is a new year. Last year was very probably the single worst year of my life. And before you roll your eyes and ask "Well did anyone die? Was it that bad?" I'll save you the trouble and reply, yes and yes. So yeah, it was that bad, and now it's time to start anew. New year, new goals, new and improved me - or at least a work-in-progress me. So there it is, can I get an amen?

I chose my alias and the title of my blog page based primarily on those two factors, and I think those are fairly good reasons, though I'd be amis if I didn't tell you that referring to myself as girl could be construed as a bit misleading - I'm not a girl, I'm more of a woman, really; way out of my girlhood, to be sure. But calling myself the new woman wouldn't have had the same implications as the phrase, the new girl, which carries with it universally familiar thematic rings like starting fresh in a new place, or entering into a strange and unfamiliar environment full of new people, all while being unsure of your own potential for success. Plus the new woman sounds either like the chick some middle aged dude just left his loyal wife of thirty three years for, or some sort of special triple issue of a corny womens' magazine. So I went for The New Girl.

My mother won't like it. She'll say that my alias represents the swinging of the socio-political pendulum again; a return to the bad old days when men were referred to as Men, and women were referred to as girls. It's not that I'm not aware of the significance of such nuances - once you get to know me, it will be pretty obvious that social nuances like that mean quite a bit to me in general - it's just that in this case, I'm not going to read into it all that deeply. I just don't feel like it today. I'm tired and I'm hungover. I needed an alias, and this one seemed to work just fine. So here I am; the new girl. Welcome to my blog, and thank you for reading, you gorgeous creatures.