Watermelon Roses

A collection of random thoughts, commentaries, and journaling. There is a lot to explore here, including links to other sites of mine. These are mostly for my own benefit, but guests are welcome to browse and explore as much or as little as they like.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Trash Talk

On my way out of the house this morning, I discovered that our neighbors deposited three bags of trash in our recycling bin, I'm guessing because their trash bin was full of Christmas trash. Not only will recycling bins be left unemptied if they have trash in them, violators can be fined. How do we know it was our neighbor's trash? We looked at the address on the junk mail that was clearly facing out through their clear trash bags. Not too clever on their part.

I seethed for about 5 minutes before deciding what to do, which was to kindly return their misplaced trash to their newly emptied trash bin, and to put a note in their mailbox. I actually tried ringing their doorbell first, to give them a chance to blame their kids or something, but apparently no one wanted to be confronted. The note was pretty civil, considering, and requested that they not do it again because we didn't want hard feelings among our neighbors. Unfortunately, it may be a while until my hard feelings pass unless I get an apology, but we'll see. I'm still undecided about reporting them on Monday. Should I let this go in the spirit of forgiveness and second chances, or make sure they get the message that it's illegal?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Memories

My earliest Christmas memories were all at my Nana's house in McLean, Virginia. I remember hardly being able to sleep the night before in my Mom's old room and waking up so early that I was often sent back to bed, but not before catching a glimpse of whatever was sticking out of the stocking that was bigger than I was. I remember piles and piles of gaily wrapped presents, most of which bore my name. I remember passing out the presents from under the tree. I remember being 6 and having my Uncle Stuart (an actor/opera singer affectionately known as Uncle Loud-Mouth) there when I received my first tape-recorder. I still have the tape I made that Christmas morning, and I never would have believed I was that obnoxious had I not heard it for myself. I remember getting a doctor's kit that year, as well. I'm sure I was a nuisance with that!

I remember being about 9 and having my little cousin Erik there, who is 5 years younger than I am (and who recently married and is now expecting his first child.) I was heavily into my play-producing phase at that time and directed our Christmas play in which I was an angel and Erik was ... whatever I told him to be, no doubt. My favorite presents over the years included a Crissy doll with hair that "grows," a small toy kitchen with a real dishwasher and tiny toy dishes, my first Monopoly game (and the beginning of my love of games,) and my grandmother's piano.

I remember the first Christmas that I wasn't the first one to wake up ... I was actually the last! I was 10 at my other grandparents' Crystal City apartment. I know I must have been 10 because of all the talk about Ronald Reagan and the hostage crisis. I remember the shock the Christmas after my first child was born ... the stocking and the piles of presents were all for Justin and I had become an adult all of the sudden! I remember my grandfather always playfully crying out "I got gipped!" My uncles and my mother would no doubt chime in as well.

I remember the Christmas after getting my first credit card, and how great it felt to buy everyone real presents for the first time in my life. That was also my first lesson about debt, which I've tried to pass on to my son before he learns it for himself.

I know I'm fortunate to have so many wonderful memories of my family Christmases to revisit through the years, and I'm grateful for them all.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Blues

I usually refrain from ranting here for fear of hurting someone's feelings or getting in trouble with someone, but my feelings count too, and I need to express them. If any choose to read further, they have been fairly warned, and they should take note that this is not aimed at any one person. There are many cumulative factors, my own personal choices in life included, that lead to me crying my way through most Christmas seasons.

This is the eleventh year that I have been unable to celebrate Christmas the way I always celebrated Christmas in the past. That which was my favorite holiday has become a source of unhappiness, arguments, and bad feelings. I found myself whispering that I hate Christmas today as I drove through the rain, sobbing. I've become a Scrooge!

For eleven years, I haven't been able to decorate my home for Christmas. I haven't been able to fill my home with the scent of a freshly cut pine tree, or fall asleep on the couch listening to my favorite Christmas music while watching the colorful twinkling lights on the tree in an otherwise dark and quiet room. I haven't been able to buy presents for my family, fill my children's stockings, or set out gingerbread cookies and milk for Santa. I haven't spent Christmas eve and Christmas morning with my son Justin since 1994. My other children hardly even know what Christmas is, and they certainly have no idea who Santa is or what he does. The magic of Christmas is not allowed into my home, because my Muslim husband would be offended. I've been told I should do it anyway, and I've had that thought myself, but I don't think I'd really get much joy from it, knowing how unhappy I was making him. I miss the Christmas of my childhood, and it pains me that I can't share that joy with my own children.

My constant readers will know that I no longer consider myself either Christian or Muslim, but fall somewhere in the middle. I believe many things that Christians do, and many things that Muslims do (in fact, Christians and Muslims are often surprised to learn how many beliefs they have in common,) but I don't agree with everything taught by either religion. Certain Christian members of my family can't help making occasional snide or derogatory comments about Islam, others can't help but insist that I'm destined for Hell and that there's no way to avoid it unless I am a Christian. Certain Muslim members of my family can't help but chide me for not doing the required daily prayers or being more diligent about teaching them to my children. As far as I'm concerned, I will never be persuaded to one side or the other by snide remarks, pushy comments, or intolerance. I've been hurt by both poor examples of Christianity and poor examples of Islam, both of which drive me further from any set "religion" and more into my personal quest for what is right. God knows, whether anyone else knows or believes it or not, that I want nothing more than to please him and to be assured a place in heaven with my girls when this life is finished. He knows what I read, what I study, and what I pray in my search for answers and He alone knows my relationship with Him. The suffering I feel is not because of my lack of a relationship with God. It is because of intolerance on both sides of my family and the omnipresent lack of acceptance that I feel from any of them. That is not to say that they don't love me. I know that they all love me very much. However, I can't think of one person in my family (other than my youngest children) who accepts me just the way I am and doesn't want me to change to be more like them in their beliefs.

My Christmas wish is to be accepted for who I am and to be supported in my journey through this life as I learn and grow spiritually, rather than to be condemned for who I am not. To my family and friends: I love all of you, and I condemn none of you. For those who have faith in God, no matter what religion, I am glad of it, and for those who have none, I am sorry for you, but I don't condemn you, and I love you still. I will not try to force my beliefs on any of you nor change your beliefs, though if you ask, I will try to help you understand mine.

Thank you to those of you who have tried not to judge me and who are willing to agree to disagree. Thank you to those of you who have answered my questions honestly and engaged in civil discussion about religious beliefs without being either defensive or offensive. Thank you to those of you who have wished me love and peace, and may you receive twice what you wished for me.

Wishing all of you love, joy, comfort, and acceptance this holiday season,
¸.· ;♥¸.·*♥´¨) ¸.♥·*¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.♥· Nikki .♥·*¨)

Friday, December 15, 2006


I know some people don't like the surveys that make the rounds in e-mail and on MySpace. You know the ones. They expect you to answer all kinds of personal questions about yourself and post them for the world to see. I have no excuse and no explanation for it, but I love these! I like learning new things about my friends and acquaintances, and can't help but assume that someone out there would be just as interested in learning new things about me.

That being said, I've been tagged by Bethany, and am supposed to list 10 things that most people don't know about me. I have no idea who I would tag, but here are my 10 things.

1. I learned to love my curls by accident in 10th grade. I had tried for years to brush out my curls, resulting in frizzy, still-not-straight hair and unflattering namecalling. I especially remember being called the Shaggy DA in the ever-cruel junior high school. In 10th grade, the Golden Pride (our high school band) went to compete in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. My grandparents met me there and I received permission to stay with them in the hotel instead of classmates. I was running late for the bus one day and had to run for it straight out of the shower, with no time to torture my hair. I received many compliments and was asked by several people if I had gotten a perm. I haven't brushed it out since. I don't even own a blowdryer, and just run my fingers through it after washing it.

2. Two of my teeth aren't real. I had a cyst removed from my jaw in 2003 that resulted in the loss of two of my back teeth and some bone from the jaw. I later had a bone graft from my hip to my jaw to allow for the implanting of the two teeth. You'd never be able to tell which two are implants without the help of an x-ray. Oh, the looks I would get when I was discussing my "implants" on the phone back then ...

3. I nearly drowned in 4th grade. It was a field trip to a swimming pool, and I thought if I went on the waterslide like my friends, I could flip around at the end and grab the wall. It didn't work. I was inhaling water and panicking as I tried to find the wall until someone lifted me out of the water. Interestingly, my teacher was the one who saved me, as the lifeguard leaned forward in her elevated chair and looked on.

4. I know what drug addiction feels like. When I was hospitalized with Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 2004, it was discovered that I am somewhat allergic to Morphine. I was given a drug called Dilaudid for weeks. I still remember the exact feeling when it was pushed into my IV, the immediate discomfort between my shoulder and my heart, followed instantly by a warm, all-over rush of nothingness. All pain stopped, all worries were gone, there was just a blissful nothing. If I was undisturbed at this point, I could sleep, but if someone tried to interact with me during this window of nothingness, it would keep me from sleeping and the feeling would dissipate within about 15 minutes, leaving me depressed and cranky. I asked for my dose every 6 hours on the dot, and the day my pic line (a semi-permanent IV line) failed and I was told I wouldn't be getting my fix anymore, I literally cried. To this day, I remember Dilaudid fondly and would happily ask for it if I were ever hospitalized for anything. Fortunately, the pills don't have the same effect as the IV dose, so I don't have to worry about addiction outside of the hospital.

5. I had fun being Superjacket, my high school mascot, my senior year, but I was painfully aware of how much better my predecessor had been, and I always regretted leaving the Golden Pride. I still remember the shocked disappointment on Mr. Helmcamp's face when I told him I was leaving the band to be Superjacket. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't leave the band. I felt like an outsider when I went back after football season.

6. I can't go to the grocery store without spending two hours there. It doesn't matter if there's a list or not, or whether I stick to the list or not, or whether there are 5 things or 50 on the list. I'm always there almost exactly two hours. There have been exceptions, but they've been rare. I windowshop.

7. I really miss celebrating Christmas at home, and it breaks my heart that my children can't experience it like I did. K is Muslim, and doesn't object (much) to us celebrating (a little) at my mom's house, but I can't buy presents or decorate the house. I had to explain to my 4-year-old the other day who Santa was, and didn't do a very good job of it, because I don't want him feeling deprived.

8. I was traumatized by turning 30, but am not bothered about turning 40. I think it's because after losing the girls, my age seems completely insignificant.

9. I love pregnancy and childbirth, and feel sad that I'm going to have to be finished with it forever soon. I sometimes consider studying to be a labor and delivery nurse, just so I can continue to experience it vicariously.

10. I rarely get enough sleep. I'm a night owl, my children are up early, and I lack the self-discipline to make myself go to bed on time two nights in a row. If I do go to bed on time, I'm almost sure to be up even later than usual the next night. I can't seem to stop what I'm doing and go to bed, whether it's playing games online, watching tv, reading, writing, whatever. Every late night, I tell myself I'm turning over a new leaf tomorrow. Which leads me to ...

11. BONUS! I love Mondays. Mondays represent the start of a new week, a chance to start fresh with all the things I want to do to better myself. Keep a cleaner house, eat better, exercise more, sleep more, etc.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Worldwide Candle Lighting

Held annually the second Sunday in December, this year December 10, The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting unites family and friends around the globe as they light candles for one hour to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause. As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

I was the guest speaker at our chapter this year. By request, I'm posting the transcript here. Just for the record, I actually said K's name, and didn't just call him K.


In June of 2003, we had two beautiful daughters, Mina, who was 6, and Layla, who was 4. Mina had graduated from kindergarten the month before. She was beautiful and smart, as we all think our children are. She loved reading, writing, and drawing. She loved Hamtaro and Powerpuff Girls. She wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up. She loved to make new friends. Layla kept more to herself, and didn't love the idea of school the way Mina did. We had recently taken her out of preschool because she just wanted to stay home with me. She was happy to play by herself in a corner with all her toy horses, or to color pictures. Where Mina's pictures were as realistic as she could make them, Layla's pictures were filled with beautiful combinations of colors that covered the whole page. Layla was our cuddler. She also loved Hamtaro and the Powerpuff Girls, and she loved animals, but hadn't started thinking about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Mina was a mama's girl, but Layla was not only her daddy's girl, or Gaga as the girls called him, but everyone's girl. She and Mina were 19 months apart, best friends, and couldn't even remember a time when they didn't have each other.

On June 29, 2003, we had just celebrated the birthdays of our sons in the past week. My son Justin had just turned 14, and our son Layth had just turned 1. I was planning to take them to a new playground that afternoon, but K offered to take them to their favorite playground instead, what they called the lake playground at Cedar Hill State Park on Joe Pool Lake. I stayed home with the boys to set up the new inflatable swimming pool and to cook dinner. My husband and I have completely different perspectives on the events of the evening from that point onward. I can only tell you mine.

I got the girls into their bathing suits and kissed them goodbye, rushing them into the car and urging them to hurry before it got too dark for them to play, because the sun was on its way down. I remember standing in the door of the garage waving at them, and Layla calling out for one more Mama hug and kiss. I told her no because they had to hurry, and blew kisses instead. I'm sure I told them I loved them as they backed out of the driveway, but I'll never forget how concerned they looked and I'll always regret not giving those last hugs and kisses.

K called from the car a few minutes later to tell me that Mina remembered that their swimming vests were still in my car, and to ask me if he should turn back for them. I told him no, because then they wouldn't have time to play, and just to let them wade in the shallow part. I'll always regret that, too. I got to work setting up the new swimming pool and filling it with water. Later, as it filled, I tried to call K a few times to ask him to bring rice home, but he wasn't answering his phone. I didn't think anything of it, knowing he'd call me when he left the park. When the phone rang later, I assumed it was him. Instead, it was a police officer who asked if I had spoken to my husband recently, and in response to my asking what had happened, he said, "Wellll, there's been a little accident." As though at most there might be a dented car and a broken bone. I took his directions to the hospital, managing to stay calm though I was feeling a bit anxious. Once I had the directions, I asked him again what had happened, at which point he gave the phone to K. I was told the girls had drowned at the lake. I'm sure all of us who received the devastating news about our children over the phone will never forget those phone calls. Indeed, I remember every detail of that evening from the time I sent the girls on their way to singing them their favorite lullabies one last time before I left their bodies in the hospital. The way the waves of grief would come over me and leave me doubled over with a very real pain in my heart, then subside and leave me feeling just tired and numb, reminded me very much of being in labor when they were born.

It is a sad story, as all of our stories are, but it's not the sadness I want to leave you with tonight. I want to leave those of you who are newer to their grief than I am with a message of hope, and to let you see that we CAN get through this, as difficult or even impossible as it may seem at times. Those first days are crushing, suffocating, and all you can do is muddle through one day at a time any way you can. Some of us rely on family and friends to lean on. Some of us need time alone. Many of us turn to prayer, and all of us shed fountains of tears. One of the most useful things that I learned when I started reading everything I could in search of a way to get through the grief, was that though there are similar stages of grief that we all go through, we go through them in our own individual ways, and on our own individual timelines. For me, denial came early, every time I woke up and for a brief, blissful moment thought everything was as it was. For weeks, I kept hoping I would wake up, or tried to figure out how I could make things right. This led to my bargaining with God, begging him to give them back or to take me to be with them. At that time, it didn't matter to me that I had family here that would be devastated to lose me. All that mattered was that I needed to be with them, to see where they were, what they were doing, and to know that they were happy. We hear that everything is perfect in heaven, that there is no pain or unhappiness, so did that mean they didn't even miss me? I couldn't bear that. But if they were missing me, they couldn't be perfectly happy, and I couldn't bear that, either. I finally reconciled this by coming to believe that their sense of time in heaven is not like ours. I may live 50 more years without them, which seems impossible at times, but for them, in the grand scheme of the eternity that they now have, it's but a few moments or days, time enough for them to anticipate my arrival, but not for them to be sad. Believing this gives me a sense of peace. If you haven't already, as you come to terms with the loss of your child, you'll find concepts like this that give you a sense of hope or peace, perhaps from a book, a compassionate friend, or just from prayer.

I had anger. I had a brief time of anger at Layla, for not listening and going out too far, and at Mina, for trying to help Layla instead of yelling for help. I've been angry with K, because he was there and I was not. I was angry with the police, for their poor handling of the delicate duty of informing me of the tragedy. Three and a half years later, I still bristle when I think of that police officer saying "Wellll, there's been a little accident." I've been depressed, and felt like there was no possible way I could get through another day or another week. I didn't want to know what it felt like to be a year away from them, or three years away from them. It helps me now to think of it as being a year closer to being with them again, rather than a year farther from the time I was last with them. I didn't want memories to fade, painful or not, but clung to them as they were all I had left of the girls.

Some of us can't bear to look at pictures of the ones we've lost, as they serve as painful reminders, so we pack away the pictures, or leave them up but try not to look at them too long or too often. For me, I keep their pictures up and love to look at them, because it makes me feel closer to them. There may be some of us who don't like to talk about our children and find it too painful, but I think most of us benefit from being able to talk about them. It keeps them alive, in a way, and for me, it always helped to be able to talk about what I was feeling. It helps so much to have a safe place like Compassionate Friends to talk about them, where no one will try to change the subject for fear of seeing you get upset, and where people understand exactly what you're feeling. For some of us, visiting the cemetery often and keeping their graves decorated with flowers and gifts makes us feel close to them. For me, I wanted a place where their names would be seen and they could be remembered that was a happier place, so K and I sponsor the Mina and Layla Butterfly Garden at the Dallas Zoo, as well as the annual butterfly festival and butterfly release there. It makes me feel so happy to know that hundreds of people, even if they don't know who Mina and Layla are, see their names and enjoy the garden with their children. We've also been very blessed to be able to have more children, who can never replace Mina and Layla, but are wonderful and special in their own ways, and have gone a long way toward helping us heal.

Our perspectives on things change after a loss like this. We often find that we have little patience for our neighbor who complains about the weather, or the cousin who complains about how incompetent her mother is, or especially the coworker who complains about how much trouble her child has been lately. I remember being told by someone that he knew just how I felt, because his best friend had drowned in high school. I'm sorry for him, sure, but no, he does NOT know how I feel. I remember someone coming to visit me to offer their condolences who couldn't stop crying because her dog had just had to be put down. I know people love their dogs, but I couldn't muster even a scrap of sympathy for her at that moment. I remember sobbing one time as I sat alone in a parked car, and asking God why he couldn't take me home to be with the girls. I heard the answer, very distinctly, "because you have a lot left to learn." I felt a stillness come over me, and I knew that something significant had just happened to me, and I had nothing else to say, other than something like, "Ok, let's learn it and get it over with." Of course, it didn't work like that, and I find that when things happen now, I try to figure out what it is I'm supposed to learn from it. I'm pretty sure that patience is a big one for me, and I think I still have a long way to go there,

I've had wonderful dreams about the girls. In the beginning, they were interactive, and felt more like visits from them. We could talk, and hug, and they always left me feeling comforted. After a while, I started seeing them in someone else's care. I missed them, and wanted to talk to them. I couldn't, but I could see that they were happy where they were. These dreams weren't quite as satisfying, but still somewhat comforting. Lately the dreams have tapered off, and I miss them, but I feel lucky to have had them. K rarely remembers his dreams and hasn't had more than one or two about them.

I've had a sense of the girls from time to time. The night we lost them, our cat stopped near their bedroom door and all her hackles went up. She arched her back, her fur stood straight up, and she stared at that door, unmoving, for about a minute. It was a long minute, as I tried to reassure her to no avail. I whispered "I love you" to the girls, just in case they were there. The cat did this twice more over the next couple of months, both times near the girls' room, and never since. About a year ago, I was driving and thinking of the girls, when I smelled a very clean, soapy smell for no apparent reason. The smell lasted about half a minute, and I felt comforted somehow. Another time, I was sitting at the computer when I smelled a very strong floral smell, sweeter than any of the flowers I love like lilacs and gardenias, and had a very strong sense of Mina. I hadn't been dwelling on them at the time, and the smell and the sense of her just came out of the blue. I wondered if that was what the flowers in heaven smell like, and I was very comforted. K found a note one time written by Mina that said, "I love you. I miss you. I'll see you again." I remembered her writing that for a friend at school, but the fact that K found it when he did gave me goosebumps, and it felt like it was meant for us to find.

I've heard many stories like these, some from some of you, some from other people, and they always give me comfort and hope. This is a long healing process and amazingly difficult, especially in the early days and on holidays, but know that moments of peace and comfort will find you. People will tell you they're amazed at your strength, when we really don't feel strong at all. We're just doing the best we can. But we are strong, and we've been given the amazing ability to experience both love and heartbreak, joy and sorrow, and we have an amazing ability to heal even when it seems impossible. My hope for all of you is that you can hang in there, one day at a time when necessary, and be on the lookout for those peaceful moments, and those moments of hope. If you keep your heart open to them, I think you'll find that they find you more and more as time passes. Thank you.