Tribute to Love (Songs)

Yep, you know me. I’m a sucker for for love songs.

Well, this year I’ve been in a little panic because I’ve barely had time to breathe, much less formulate a playlist–and even though I have kept a running list of songs throughout the year, nothing was really feeling right to me. I was about to skip this year. I was going to give up (despite the pull toward tradition). And then something happened.

Last night, while driving to a class, I turned on the radio–and a slew of songs old and new flooded my ears. I felt like I was given a gift, a tender mercy, an encouragement, a blessing. Making this playlist is important to me, and what is important to me is important to others–especially those who love me.

I sent a request to a friend for a cover of a song that I love (but it has words that I don’t like to voluntarily listen to), and she sent a text back that she would edit the song for me. It was in my inbox before my class was finished.

And, this morning, I had a little pocket of time to work on it…and, with the help of heaven and the love of sweet friends, I just might make it.

Here are a few songs that made the cut for the official 2014 Love Songs Playlist (in celebration of another year of marriage):


Justin Timberlake – “Not a Bad Thing”


Katy Perry – “Unconditionally”


Tristan Prettyman – “Unconditionally”


Betty Who – “Somebody Loves You”


Goo Goo Dolls – “Come to Me”

Sending love your way…always! ❤

Love Changes Everything

This morning, when the house was quiet and I was doing some research online, my husband switched on the white-noised vacuum. It interrupted my thoughts. As he approached our computer area, he asked me to move. I pulled my chair away, and the vacuum sucked up the dirt, dust, and crumbs under the computer desk. In an instant, he kissed my forehead as I scooted my chair back into its home…and I beamed. (I think I am still smiling.)

A young boy, a little hesitant, entered a classroom with walls plastered in bright colors. He didn’t know what he would find inside the doors. A teacher greeted him with outstretched arms and a welcoming smile, an opposite experience from his past year. Happiness followed.

A little girl looked up at her mother with uneasy eyes. She knew she had made another mistake to add to her already-too-long-to-enumerate list of mistakes. Instead of a forming a frown, her mother swept the girl into her long arms, encompassing a little body filled with worry and a little heart filled with sorrow. Her mother whispered into her ear, “I love everything about you.” The little girl’s furrowed brow released its hold as if her brain and heart were releasing fear, worry, and regret. Vector-Valentine-Heart-of-Hearts-10-by-DragonArt

photo credit

Love changes everything.

Young Again

When I die, will you paint me
Young again…?

Eyes set forward, without tears for Ethan’s cancer at age six (he was here oh-so-briefly)
Brow long and high, not with wrinkles borne of worry for
Kaitlin’s solo, Jonathan’s baseball championship, and later
Kaitlin’s failing marriage, Jonathan’s lost job, and even later
Burying Jim after thirty-six years of happily and not-so-happily
Married life?

Will you paint me innocent? Free from fear?

Yet I look in the mirror at my
aged face,
tired eyes,
wrinkled hands…
Hands once delicately fingering a piano, rolling a cookie, painting a homecoming poster
And I wonder
If each mark of age represents an
unspoken experience,
valuable wisdom,
immeasurable compassion,
Would I trade it all back for a young face, thick hair, and soft hands?

-Karin Salisbury


photo credit

A little fiction: “Something Beautiful”

Most days upon waking, my mind drifts in and out of consciousness, wondering whether or not I will ever feel passionate about anything again.  I marvel back to sixth grade, when Mrs. Schneider gave us “passion” as a vocabulary word.  I sat there, next to Bobby Newenschwander, who, as a typical sixth-grade-boy, snickered incessantly at the word as Mrs. Schneider’s chalk scraped white letters across a golf-course-lawn colored chalk board.  I copied the list down into my vocabulary notebook, reached into my desk for my copy of A Student’s Dictionary and found the word right between “passenger” and “passionate.”  I noted a small n. next to the word and copied, “a strong feeling or desire, enthusiasm.”  I couldn’t help but read the next entry—“adjective, ardent in feeling or desire.”  I wondered then, in my eleven-year-old-self, if I had ever felt passionate about anything.

My mother was working on dinner when I tossed my backpack across the table, poured a glass of cherry Kool-Aid and sat at a bar stool across the counter from her bowl of cornbread stuffing and sliced chicken breasts.

“How was school today?”  And then, “did you copy your vocabulary list?”  This question was always part of my Monday interrogation.

“Fine, Mom.  Thanks.  And yes, I have my vocabulary list with definitions.”  Even though I hadn’t missed any words the past few weeks, I had spent the first quarter missing several words…okay, more like half the words…on the list each week.  Doing better lately didn’t erase the concern from her brow, though.  “One of our words this week is ‘passion.’  Do you know what that is?”

My mother’s hands stopped stuffing moistened bread bits and seasonings into the open breast as she looked into my face.  “Yes.  Did you look it up?”

“Sure, but I just wondered what you thought about it, and what I could do with it for my vocab. sentences for homework tonight.”

“Well,” she began, as I could see her mind working between handfuls of stuffing, carefully placing the prepared chicken into the casserole dish and just as carefully placing words, “people can be passionate about lots of things—like politics,…sports,…hobbies.  Sometimes people use the word in reference to feeling strongly about a relationship.”

I remembered looking for that relationship many years later as a college student at Emery.  Back during a time when we had no classes on Wednesday, I would wander through the tree-strewn campus, walking up and down paved hills, reciting formulas for OChem and wishing I could find that feeling of passion for someone.  Sure, I’d dated lots of guys—frat guys, athletes, intellectuals—all without a glimmer of that “strong feeling or desire” I wanted.  I became passionate about searching for passion.

Then, one Wednesday, I saw this guy driving a golf cart with lawn tools in the back as I was out for a morning run.  I waved to him, as I had grown accustomed to waving to everyone I passed, and his eyes looked eager as he returned my wave.  The tips of his hair stuck out in dark tufts under his Red Sox cap as his eyes met mine.  I passed him to feel a drop from somewhere in the vicinity of my chest cavity to my abdomen (I was pre-med at that point), and I decided to circle around and see where the golf cart was travelling.

About a mile of up and down the grey stripe of pavement dividing a sea of green, I noticed the Red Sox cap turned backwards on a body, stooped over some type of planting area.  I saw rhododendrons and azaleas, which I recognized, but he looked to be planting some type of annual as a border plant around the edge of the bed.

“Good work,” I remarked, keeping up a stationary jog.  He startled a bit, turned, and stood to face me.

“Uh, thanks.”  I watched him dust his shirt with his dirt-stained hands, hands which would later arouse feelings within me I didn’t know I could have.

“What are you planting?”

“Madagascar periwinkle.”

“Oh, it’s very nice.  I love the color.”

“Would you like one?  I have more than I need.”  He took a step toward me with flower in hand.

“I have to finish my jog now, but maybe I could catch you later,” I offered as I continued a stationary jog.  “When’s your lunch break?”

“Oh, I just have to finish this bed and two more.  I should be done about 11:30, and then I’ll need to shower.  Want to meet up at the cafeteria?”

“Sure.  I’ll see you there—a little less sweaty—around noon?”

“See you then.”

I jogged back toward my dorm with a smile all the way. We met for lunch (where he gave me a flower), and so began our two-year courtship, eight-month engagement, and twenty-seven-year marriage, filled with moments of passion so indelible…moments of support, love, and companionship mixed with anger, frustration, exhaustion, and the act of passion that would land me here.

I opened my eyes to look up at the tall ceiling.  My lovely orange suit (I look much better in red) hung over my delicate bones, my small hands that once performed surgery to sustain life were calloused and swollen from manual labor, my lovely size 6 feet that used to slide in and out of Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo were now lacing into something more like generic Converse—and I didn’t care.  I had a momentary flush of feeling as I remembered that Clara and Angelique were coming for a visit today, but it did not last long.  A pang of guilt filtered from my bed-headed hair to my bulging cotton socks, but that didn’t last long, either.  “I guess I have finally shut down, after all,” I muttered to an open cell, with no one around to hear.  If I cared anymore, I think I might try to get out, to appeal, to kill myself, but I don’t.

So I sit here, and lie here, and eat here—well, I eat sometimes—and pay my debt to society.  Never mind all the lives I saved once upon a time (which, I recorded once in med school alone to be around 27, 28 if your counted that little girl who I Heimliched in the cafeteria), but I guess that was another life…another feeling of passion.  Passion for life.  My passion for him was different.  He needed me, and I needed him.  Together we fit in ways I could not describe with words in any language I knew (which included six conversational, two dead, and one more just reading since I never learned to pronounce correctly in German).  But then, he needed me to help him leave.  And I didn’t want to; I really didn’t.  I fought against the need for the better part of a year.  But I loved him.  And he was in so much pain.  So much suffering.  “I save lives; I do not take them away,” was my mantra each day.  But he would look at me with his dark, undiscerning eyes, which reminded me of his dark hair sticking out of a Red Sox hat one spring day in Atlanta.  I put Madagascar periwinkle by our bed, but he didn’t notice.  At that moment, I realized that we could leave—like a dream—together.  He would leave his body and I would leave my emotions and we could survive in some other sphere of existence where passion filled our days and nights, where we only existed for each other.  So I did it.  It was an act of mercy as much as it was to save what we had—to save our marriage, our passion, our daughters.  And no good or great attorney could get me out of what I started, and no good or great therapist could help me live again the way I lived with him.

I guess eating really doesn’t matter anymore.  I’ll see the girls today and tell them that everything is fine, remind them to put fresh flowers over his stone.  Spring must be right around the corner.  I don’t feel as cold right now.  Or as warm, either, come to think of it.  Maybe I don’t feel anything.  I wonder what death feels like.  Cold, or warm, or like walking or running or singing or dancing or praying.  Maybe it feels like the moment you release all that energy from a lifetime of learning and going and doing and working and saving.  Some of my patients would talk about a light, bright like the sun.

I loved our honeymoon.  We spent four glorious days on St. Pete Beach at the Don.  We swam out as far as we could to the buoys each morning and ran along the beach in the evening sunset.  He wandered the gardens, with hands and nails cleaned for our wedding, but I knew he longed for the feeling of earth, of planting, of growth.  He went on to teach landscape architecture at Purdue for fifteen years, but still he was happiest with soil under his fingernails and the smell of earth imbedded in his skin.  I could see his shadow, over me, his face filled with love, then excitement, then relief.  I remember each spring, he would bring me a small pot of something new, mixed in with Madagascar periwinkle.  He would often ask me, “What if I had been planting geraniums that day?”

“You weren’t.”  I would smile back at his teasing.  “Geraniums stink.  We were both sweaty and smelly enough that day—so you needed to be planting something simply beautiful.”

And we were.  Together.  Somehow.  Simply beautiful.

In All Your Forms

As we continue to celebrate love during this Valentine’s Week on the blog, here is a tender clip from a movie that teaches about love:

I love the line in his vows that says, “I vow to fiercely love you, in all your forms.”

Anyone who has been in a relationship for just about any amount of time has learned that people do change in many ways. For those seasoned couples who have been together through decades, through health challenges, through childbirth or infertility, through loss and renewed love, this line may be particularly poignant.

In my own life, I have watched couples endure in love through physical changes. We lose hair. We gain wrinkles. When a woman undergoes the decision to have a child, her belly grows, her breasts become enlarged, and her form changes. When a baby is born, skin and tissue and stretch marks can change her form from what it once was. When a partner undergoes treatment for cancer, he or she loses hair, color, and can lose or gain weight. Love endures these changes.

When one or both partners are stressed or undergo the difficulties of life, they can experience emotional changes. Maybe they are not as stable as they once were. Still, love presses on through these challenges.

When we vow or promise or covenant to love each other through life and beyond, we stand by each other–in all our forms. I know my husband sees me at my best and at my worst. I took a long time to fully let him into my heart, misled by the screaming thought inside me that if he really knew me he wouldn’t want to be with me. Thankfully, I was wrong. And he has been faithful to me–in all my forms–over many years and many struggles. He continues to strengthen me, and I hope to do the same for him.

In the film The Vow (based on a true story), the main character suffers a brain injury where she doesn’t recall the past three years (years in which she brought about pivotal changes in her life and relationships–including relocation, changes in her studies/major, and her marriage). (SPOILER ALERT) As her husband tries to help her remember, she continues to struggle. She ends up going back to her old life that she remembers, leaving her husband alone. At the end of the film, she makes the same decisions on her own that she did years ago (leaving law studies to continue her work as an artist, moving from the suburbs back into Chicago). They meet again and the end credit song begins to play as the couple head out to eat at “someplace new.” The true story couple is then pictured with their two sons, and viewers are left to assume that they remarried and are now living happily.

I am touched by his determination to love her in the way she needed to be loved, to give her some space to heal without taking away his love. He truly lived up to his vow to love her in all her forms.

🙂

“You were my new dream.”

I woke up in the early morning last week, when the house was quiet. As I lay there, sandwiched between covers of cotton and down, I thought about dreams…not the kind that were evading me at the moment, but dreams of life and love and achievement.

Remember the moment in Tangled when Eugene is about to die and he utters these words to Rapunzel: “You were my new dream.”…?

She gently and ever-so-quietly replies, “And you were mine.”

In my marriage, my husband is my new dream every day. As we have changed together over the past several years, we have created new dreams that always include each other. I do not think of life without him. He is my new dream…and each day that we wake up together, we get to know each other–in whatever forms that day may bring.

What is your dream? Does it change? Does it include anyone special?

Sending you love as we begin this Valentine’s Week here on MiddleofMyStory! xoxoxo

Last…

The last website which was open was a shopping cart from Victoria’s Secret filled with items for their anniversary in two weeks.

The last playlist played on iTunes was simply titled, “dance.”

The last note was a grocery list including items for next week’s menu.

The last phone call listed on her cell was to the school, scheduling her days to volunteer for next month’s fundraiser.

The last food she ate was half of a pastrami sandwich on rye, with Dijon mustard, pickles, and provolone.

The last text message she sent was to her husband, a simple, “i ❤ u, always."

He had sent back an "I love you, too" reply, followed by a request for the new password she set for the email that was recently hacked. After his seventh rapid-fire text, he began to wonder. The children would be getting home soon.

He left his work for a "late lunch" and travelled the roads, winding in, and out, and through, like black ribbons weaving their ways through grasses and businesses, restaurants and car lots. He tried to call. Maybe she was taking a long shower.

He arrived home just before 2 p.m. and felt a flood of relief as the water was running in the shower upstairs. Surely she was out of hot water now, though.

He slid off his loafers by the door and mounted the steps, taking them two at a time–and the last one in a leap of three. He rounded the corner into the master bath, filled with steam that was beginning to settle like fog on the slate floor. She was sitting at the base of the water, with a calm expression on her face, her eyes as still as glass. She did not blink.

He pulled her cold body from the hot water, wrapped her gently in a towel, and called 9-1-1.