Sunday, March 30, 2008

The New Theory of Relativity

Motion is defined by a point of reference.
There are two directions in which you can move - backward from the date of death or forward from it. All things are defined by this point - a nondescript Monday evening in February when the wind was cold and dry. Perhaps it was the wind that defined the motion, sweeping away all that came before and bringing in the chilling days that followed.


There is the other point, the great leap of faith from the shores of North Carolina back to the red clay hills of Georgia. The movement from that to this. The movement of time from there to here. The shift in self from the person I was then - so uncertain, so broken, so full of questions - to the person I am now, forged in flame and still standing.

Space and time are relative.
Distance from the point of reference is widened as the days pass. But relatively speaking, the space isn't making the passage of time any easier. As the chasm between then and now broadens, the pain shifts from the sharp, knife-twisting pain to the persistent weight of a leaden heart. And though the weeks roll past, the space of it from everyday life isn't easing. It is there, in your face, on your mind, demanding your attention every second of every day.


It's 385 miles from here to there. It's almost been 365 days since I left. The distance sometimes seems other worldly, and the time, another life entirely.

There is no motion greater than the speed of light in a vacuum.
In an instant - the flicker of light hitting the back of your retina, reflected piercingly through the lens - in the vacuum of a sterile white room, life passed. One breath emitted quietly, one last heartbeat against the cavity of a failing body. No motion greater than this - the final falling of the chest and life extinguished, all the light fleeing the world for a moment.

This motion swung swiftly through my world like an unmerciful pendulum severing all the lines of second thoughts and uncertainty. On the heels of the light leaving the room, all my questions followed. I stood certainly on polished eggshell white tiles, my hands seeking those of my brother, my father, my mother, my sister, my sister-in-law, and I said, "I am here."

Mass increases as velocity increases.
The faster you try to outrun this tragedy, the greater the weight of the shackles that bind you to it. You can try to escape, pushing one foot in front of the other, call it "going forward" or "moving on", but the truth is, the speed at which you move only heaps the heaviness of heartache upon you, bringing you slowly but surely to a full stop. The sadness alone will determine speed - however achingly slow it wishes to pass, it will do so, without regard to how heavy the burden is to carry.

I am running a hundred miles an hour against the wind trying to make sense of this world in which I find myself. And everything I try to outrun is just clinging to my back. Flying unfettered behind me are all sorts of ghosts - sometimes, the ghost of my apartment in the golden spring light; sometimes the job where I felt so sure and accepted; sometimes the friends who knew me soul-deep. And I imagine myself with exacted light steps that fall to the earth with the heaviness of all the filmy white memories streaming behind me.

Mass and energy are equivalent.
This heaviness finds its way into your bones, making them leaden. This heaviness steeps in your veins and dilutes energy. Every time you stand, you are assaulted by lethargy. Every time you think about your heart, you are exhausted. Every time you think of all of the life that has left your sister, you realize that there is nothing left with which to fight.

For so long, I fretted over whether I'd done the right thing and gone the right way. I carried the burden of my decision around in my pocket, pulling it out from time to time to reflect upon it. With feverish energy, I reviewed it from every possible angle until there was absolutely no stone left unturned - until there was a rote memory of what lay beneath each stone.

Time is dependent on the relative motion of the observer measuring the time.
Others are simpling measuring days on the calendar. Today is Tuesday. Next week there's a holiday. When can we schedule this meeting? And I see the days marked by days forward from it and days since it happened. And as everyone moves through life, heedless of what happened, I seem to have come to an abrupt standstill.

I'm not sure how to go about redefining the time. I'm not sure how to be a different kind of observer. I'm not sure when the day that Ronnie died will stop feeling like a nightmarish Maypole around which I keep twisting and twisting...

The days have ticked off the calendar with astounding speed - at the time, those days seemed to go by with impudent slowness. And yet, here it is, that time when I almost can't say "this time last year" anymore without including a geographical shift. And with that point of reference diminished, I know that there will be nothing left to observe other than the days trickling away from the very worst day of my life. And even as we move forward, it will be a long time before we can say anything is "good" or "happy" or "joyful" without the suffix, "relatively speaking."

Wisdom, Stumbled Upon, Worth Sharing

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.

--Annie Dillard

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Confessions of the Strange but True

* Tonight I attended a sheep shearing. I also correctly identified a tool used for castration.

* I have taken to wearing a velour track suit cast off to me by Anna who received it as a Christmas gift from her in-laws. I am so ashamed.

* I bought three pair of shoes this weekend. And two of them were comfortable. I know. I don't know what's wrong with me.

* I went to a groundbreaking today for the very first hotel in my home county. Scout's honor.

* In the office NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament pool, I am currently in 51st place out of 51. There goes my $5.

Threesdays: I'm Just Not That Into You

* Amy Winehouse: her whereabouts, her in-and-out relationship with rehab, her crazy husband who is currently incarcerated, her signature beehive, her insistence on wearing ballet slippers everywhere...and her music. Yeah, I don't get it. I didn't drink the Kool-Aid. It's just not that great to me.

* The Hills: Lauren and Heidi and Audrina and...I don't even know anymore. Everyone's all aflutter over whether or it's real or fake, and I just can't watch a show featuring a guy who's last name is "Pratt." I mean, I get that it's entertainment, and if you dig it, so be it. But me? So disinterested.

* Ashley Dupre: I really don't care about the high-class hooker that got Elliot Spitzer booted from the NY Gov's office. I don't care how much Larry Flynt offered her to pose for Penthouse. Or that she was spotted on Girls Gone Wild as an 18-year-old. I don't care where she lives or what her sad, sad story is. I don't want to be her friend on MySpace. And I'm not sorry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dillon: 14 1/2 months

Makes: Animal noises: chicken = bok, duck = ack, and monkey = ooh ooh (accompanied by shoulder motions); refusal to speak of what a kitty or doggy says

Says: please, outside, more, again, ball (pronounced "baaawllll")

Wears: Size 5 shoes, big boy pants, most of his meals

Walks: Leading with the belly, arms unpredictable

Watches: Baby Einstein's Animals in the Neighborhood (except for the part with the cat mobile), Mickey Mouse Club, Curious George, and The Wonder Pets Save the Unicorn (possibly the most bizarre children's show I have seen yet...)

Grows: Teeth - an even dozen - 12 teeth!!, a thatch of baby-fine white blonde hair

Eats: Nana Bread (otherwise known as Mom's homemade sourdough bread), dried apples, and yogurt

Firsts: Haircut, Easter basket

Dances: To the banjo music on the Leapfrog magnetic barn and the marching band version of "The B-I-B-L-E."

Learned: How to give Anna's dogs treats, blow kisses, open markers (uh-oh)

Continues: To be a delightful and hilarious little boy, to make us smile, to remind us of innocence, to steal my heart

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ronnie in Sketches

I realize how very few of you knew Ronnie...and to my discredit, I haven't blogged a great deal about him. He was a hard person to get to know. And to be honest, I know that I didn't know as much of him as I would have liked. But here is what I know...

Ronnie was born and raised in the smallest of small towns in Mississippi. The kind of town that's outside the town that's outside the town that's closest to the bigger, somewhat recognizable town. Anna mentioned that he had something like 53 people in his graduating class.

He grew up pretty impoverished. His father was an alcoholic. His mother was his saving grace. I don't know that I've ever known a man who revered his mother quite like Ronnie. She died of cancer when he was in college. On their wedding day, Anna had one white rose placed on a little table alongside a candle in her memory. Ronnie cried when he saw it.

He went to a community college and then on to Ole Miss. And I must say, I've known some folks in my time who were college proud, being from the Bulldawg Nation, but I don't know that any of them surpassed Ronnie. I'm not sure you could name an item of clothing or a basic household item that they didn't have imprinted with Ole Miss: sweatshirts, t-shirts, ties, socks, pajamas, rugs, lamps, the trailer hitch on the truck and the Sequoia. Everything navy and red.

As a kid, he used to listen to the St. Louis Cardinals games on the radio. He was almost as die-hard about those guys as he was for the Rebels. He and Anna went to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play for their honeymoon.

He loved sports - especially football and baseball. He started his career in south Atlanta coaching high school baseball and teaching adaptive P.E. county-wide - meaning he developed physical education programs for the special ed kids. To this day, he's still the winningest baseball coach at that south Atlanta high school.

He moved to the northwest Atlanta suburb to be an assistant coach for football and head baseball coach at the school where Anna taught. That's where they met.

Ronnie doesn't have a lot of family. With his mother and father gone, and a stepfather remaining that he didn't like so much, he's got a brother who still lives in Mississippi and a half-sister who's in Atlanta. His brother didn't come to the wedding. So the family pew on his side was filled with the freshly scrubbed faces and uncomfortably starched shirts and tightly cinched ties of the high school baseball team. Every year, Ronnie and Anna would have the team over for a steak dinner at Christmas.

And when you talk about Christmas, you have to know that Ronnie was Clark Griswald incarnate. In fact, Anna mentioned this similarity in her remarks at the memorial service. He loved Christmas. Over the years, Ronnie collected more than 300 nutcrackers. Small, medium, large and 5-foot tall. Wood, ceramic, glass, dancing, light-up, robotic. Sportsmen, presidents, Biblical characters, tradesmen, cowboys, and your classic Nutcracker prince. They started decorating their house for Christmas the week after Halloween in order to get it all done. Two trees - all decorated with nutcracker ornaments.

Ronnie shopped on Black Friday. He'd get the paper and mark out his purchases and make a plan. He would get up at 4 a.m. to get a deal on the day after Thanksgiving. He usually bought his wrapping paper that day, too. He didn't like it to get picked over.

But probably what everyone will remember most about Ronnie and Christmas was his candy. Every year, he made tins and buckets and boxes of candy to give away to friends and family. Chocolate peanut butter balls, white and milk chocolate dipped pretzels, date balls, white and milk chocolate dipped Ritz crackers with peanut butter sandwiched in between. Baby Ruth bars and Reese's Cup cookies. I would get a gallon bucket stuffed to the brim with all the handmade treats. And so did his coworkers. And the nurses at Emory that administered his chemo treatments.

A year and half into their marriage, Ronnie ran over a rock with the lawn mower and sustained a pretty serious injury when it hit his leg. But after stitches, he struggled with the wound, and weeks later an MRI revealed an enormous blood clot - from calf to groin. He was admitted to the hospital for intensive blood thinning and subsequent tests to ensure there were no more clots. And there weren't - but there were two curious spots behind his diaphragm, clouds that looked suspiciously like cancerous tumors in the lymph nodes. The day before Thanksgiving that year, we got word that he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

He underwent chemo, lost his hair, took steroids to bolster his strength. Three months into his treatments, I came home from NC, and on the way to meet Anna and Ronnie for lunch, Mom prepared me for his appearance. But nothing ever quite prepares you for the sick look of cancer - the pasty skin, the distorted body shape, the haggard tiredness. He never missed a day of work. Not one single day. And he only missed coaching one baseball game, because it fell during the time of his treatment.

All along the way, he helped kids in whom he saw himself. One of his former baseball players lived with Ronnie and Anna for a couple of years after his home life fell apart and he needed to get his bearings. At the visitation, he wore one of Ronnie's shirts and ties and stood with the family. Ronnie and Anna put together sheets and towels and all the dorm essentials for a wrestler who had earned a college scholarship but still was tight on money. He bought lunches for kids. He tried to get them to change their errant ways. One of the students who came to the funeral had been disciplined by Ronnie earlier this year; he came to pay his respects, saying that Ronnie inspired him to try to change himself.

But lest it sound like I'm sanctifying him, I'll tell you right up front that Ronnie was just human. He was obstinate and opinionated in the worst sort of way. Everything was black and white, right or wrong...which really translated into Ronnie's way or the wrong way. He didn't cook or clean, and when he married Anna, he was a bachelor to the "T". I remember cleaning out his apartment - oh, the horror. He could be gruff and aloof. But he had an infectious and unexpected laugh. He had real soul - from his hardships and his hard work - and I wish that I'd gotten to know that soul better. Ronnie was 15 years older than me, and I don't think he ever really knew whether to treat me like one of his students or an equal. I don't think he understood me - nor I him - but I like to think that in the end, we loved one another in our own ways.

There are those minute details that make up the forensic evidence of what you know about a person...tiny facts that you cling to and hope to somehow hold on to, he was extremely picky about dress shirts. Mama and I agonized over getting this shirt at Brooks Brothers for Christmas and I really pulled for it even though I figured he'd hate it; it was hanging in the laundry room, just washed from a wearing when he died. He loved sweet tea. He worried about eating ribs in public because they were messy. Anyone he didn't like was a punk, a turd or a POS. He obsessively cut the lawn every Saturday. He hated lateness. He was a morning person who never needed an alarm. He said Anna had "too much clutter." He bought everyone shoes for Christmas - I haven't bought myself running shoes in six years. He had naturally curly hair, which he kept cut painfully close. He was an avid newspaper reader. He usually stood with his feet spread apart and his arms crossed high over his chest. He mumbled. He always asked me about work - that was his standard question for me, "How's work?" That day in the hospital, when I came in, Anna said, "Smash is here." And that wrenched my heart because I felt that in that moment, if I was Smash to him, I was his sister as much as I was Anna's.

In December, Ronnie had his last CT scan - it marked 4 1/2 year cancer-free. They had moved into a new house in August. He was loving his new job as a high school athletic director - it was what he had always aspired to be. Anna loved her new high school position, too. They had been married for six years...bought their dream house...found themselves settling in to a new community they loved. We celebrated Thanksgiving at their house this year. At Christmas, they came bearing the familiar buckets of candy.

The last time I saw Ronnie before he died was Dillon's birthday. I can see him, sitting on the corner of Justin and Eva's fireplace, Dillon clinging to his knees and him saying, "Hey, buddy" in this voice he used to talk to the dogs. I could mimic it if you could hear me - the pitch, the intonation...the way his voice went up an octave and the "hey" was kind of long and the "buddy" fast. And he chuckled when Dillon had that fistful of cake and crammed it into his mouth.

After he died, I found out all sorts of other things about him. His favorite TV shows ever were Miami Vice, Magnum P.I. and Sanford and Son. He used to have a crush on China Phillips and went to the Wilson Phillips concert back in the day. He once attempted to have two dates in one night - and on another occasion dated a woman he referred to as Hellion 1. His best friend Darryl dated Hellion 2. One of his favorite movies was Grease. He loved disco music.

But I didn't know...and I know now that there are things I missed. And the outpouring of love and compassion and sorrow since he died has made me all the more sad about the parts of him that I never glimpsed. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote at the end of The Great Gatsby, "
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Own Words Come Back to Haunt Me

"But somehow, it was a reminder that the innocent suffer for no apparent reason. That in an instant, something that brought great joy into this world was gone. That there is no rhyme or reason to it. That it's not anyone's fault. And perhaps worst of all, that something like this, some inexplicable terrible thing, will happen again. Sooner or later. And there's nothing I can do it stop it. Death creeps up; it lurks around the corner. Whether it comes for the pets or the people that you love, when death comes, you just have to live with it."

Rock-a-bye Baby, in the Treetops

These photos were taken last month before...well, before. But I loved them and wanted to share.
Besides, life is just a little better with cute photos of the Dillman.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Multiple Choice

Today while walking to a meeting downtown, I spotted a license plate on a slightly older model pickup truck that read: IDOSKN. I do skin?

This person is
A) A dermatologist
B) A taxidermist
C) A tattoo artist
D) A porn star
E) All of the above

Ready for the Big Time?

Thank you, Tempe, for bringing this to light. I'm giddy. It just makes me giddy. And I watched it...twice.

Monday, March 17, 2008

On My Sleeve

Even though one of my New Year's resolutions was to "blog it out", I wonder sometimes if I say too much. I've never been known for my poker face or my bluffs. Like ol' Geo Washington, I cannot tell a lie.

But there's a difference between telling a lie and telling everything you know. And sometimes, I wonder if I err on the side of showing my hand when it really isn't necessary. I wish I was more mysterious, more of the kind of person that intrigues. But the truth is, I tend to blurt out whatever's on my mind whether or not I'm asked to share it. I often say that I'm a teller - I'll tell you anything you want to know about me. I'm a walking Freedom of Information Act.

I suppose in some ways that's how I interpreted blogging it out - using the blog as a forum to sort through things "out loud." Puzzle through whatever is on my mind and come to some conclusion.

But sometimes, I think I've got my thoughts too much on my sleeve. I feel like Slim Goodbody - all my insides on the outside, exposed. Which is my own fault. No one's forcing me to tell what I tell...but is it too much? It was all good and well for Slim to have his spleen on the outside, but I wonder...does everyone wish I'd stop venting mine?

O-love It!

Every once in awhile, I find a product that I feel is worthy of endorsement. So it is with St. Ives' new Olive Scrub. In general, I like St. Ives products - especially their lotions. I'd been looking for a facial cleanser (for the record, Biore's Warming Pore Cleanser is yuck-o), and I saw this advertised in a magazine. They say those in advertising are the most susceptible to it - I picked some up.

Here are the things I enjoy about this cleanser:
1) It smells lovely and fresh and sort of citrus-y.
2) It gently scrubs my face without removing the first layer of skin.
3) It takes off my eye makeup without me having to rub a lot.
4) It's actually helped my rosacea.
5) At a time when I expected my skin to be an absolute mess, it's quite clear.

And for roughly $5 or $6, that's pretty good stuff. Please cleanse responsibly.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Running on Empty

I've been operating under the misconception that grief gets better day by day, inch by inch. The truth is, it's three steps forward and two steps back. Or maybe it's that everything is forward, it's just that some of the forward motion still hurts like it's fresh all over again.

With unexpected death comes unexpected emotions. I've been withdrawn. I don't know what to say or do. I've clung to solitude and the shelter of family. Because when I'm alone or when I'm with them, I'm with someone who feels what I feel.

I feel guilty that I'm being neglectful of friends. I know everyone's life is still going on and that good and bad things continue to happen. And besides that guilt, there is the guilt that I'm a little bit frustrated that my own life isn't going on. Everything is focused on getting through this time, which means we're supporting Anna, which I want to do. But this weekend was the first in over a month that I've been at home, and I resent a little bit (it's so hard to say aloud) that I was just starting to think about getting out there and getting a life and now life is different.

I'm fighting it all, too. I'm fighting the solitude. I'm fighting against myself to seek other people out and talk to them. I'm fighting the guilt. I'm fighting these feelings of frustration that seem so selfish and wrong. I'm fighting and fighting until there's no fight left.

And that's where I was when I got to Thursday - having tossed and turned through another restless night, having fought through the feelings all week. And I crashed. I just crashed. I almost didn't make it through work.

That's when I realized that I can't run like this for weeks at a time. Because day by day, inch by inch, it will get better. But the road is so long, that it's going to be many, many weeks before we get down it. I can't run on empty for all that time. So whether it's two steps back, whether it's selfish, I've got to take some time to focus on myself or else I'm just going to have a complete breakdown and be stranded along this long road, no good to anyone.

Friday, March 14, 2008

26 Grün Balloons

Ronnie coached baseball for many years, and he always wore the 26 jersey. No one knows why, but at every school, whatever the mascot, whatever the colors, he had 26 on his back. Last week, two of the high schools in the county faced off in a baseball game. All of the gate receipts and concessions went to the scholarship fund Anna established in Ronnie's memory.

But before the game, they had a moment of silence and released 26 green balloons. Those of you who know Anna will know the significance of the color. One of the students took this picture. I thought it was lovely and sad. Anna's in the lower left.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dear VH1,

Sometimes in the morning, I turn on your channel to enjoy a little music while getting ready for the day. I'm a pretty regular viewer - five days a week on average. So please consider my request to stop playing the Alicia Keys video for "Like I'll Never See You Again" between 7:30 and 8. It's not anything against Alicia Keys - I think she's lovely. And I'm sure it's a very popular video that a lot of people enjoy, but the whole hospital scene in the beginning with the panicked voices and the heart monitor? I cannot handle that right now. And unfortunately, that's the very beginning of the video and I'm always in the other room so it's only when I hear that flat-lining noise that I know to change the channel and after that, it's a moot point. I've been through a lot the past few weeks, so I really feel like I'm entitled to this one small request.

Thanks so much,

Monday, March 10, 2008

March Madness

In the aftermath of Ronnie's death, I thought I would need to talk. I thought I would be going through my cell phone and calling everyone, finding someone to talk to every night. I don't know what I thought I would say. But I certainly didn't think I would say...nothing. The truth is, I think about calling my friends - all of the wonderful people who said, "Call me if you need me." And I want to call, if nothing else to just say thank you for the offer. But I can't. It's like I am rendered speechless at the very thought of trying to express anything to anyone. I have been struck dumb by this situation, unable to find words that have any meaning.

Last night, Mom wanted to know if I wanted anything to eat before bed. I said no, I would be fine. What I meant was, no my stomach is revolting. I'm taking my medicine dutifully every morning, but it's just...not enough. Under the circumstances, what could possibly be enough? And so, everyday, there is some point in the day that it fails me. There is some moment when I think about Anna being alone, I think about what she's going through (or try to imagine it) and it comes at me in a huge wave. My face burns, the acid pours into my stomach, and my mouth quivers. It's coming - The Panic is coming and I'm too tired to fight it. Most of the time, it just hovers there, threatening, as though it might be taking pity on me.

The last week, I've been having terrible nightmares. I don't know what they're about...they're not storied dreams. Rather they're like bright flashes and scenes, some real and some conjured from the darkest parts of my subconscious. Whatever they are, they are terrifying. I wake up sweating - not perspiring - sweating with rivulets running down my torso, my shirt wet, my sleep pants soaked. And the waking is always sudden, always as though I have just gotten to that moment where I can't take anymore and I have to tell myself, "This isn't real." And I lay in the darkness, eyes open, panting softly, miserable in my damp pajamas, and think that what is real isn't that much better.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


As some of you may know, Anna clips coupons. Like clockwork on Sunday afternoon, she would clip scads of coupons from the AJC. And from time to time, she would mail them to me. Fat envelopes stuffed with buy-one-get-one frees and $1 off Tidy Cat and Swiss Miss hot chocolate - all tucked inside some humorous card or a note that said, "Thinking of you." Sometimes I would use the coupons, and sometimes they expired in the mail pile because I am a thousand times less organized than she is. But she knows what kind of shampoo, contact solution and toothpaste I use - and she'd send me the coupons accordingly.

Last weekend, amid all the chaos of getting documents in order for the probate and this and that, she sat quietly on the couch for half an hour and carefully trimmed out the week's coupons. Justin and Eva were awarded all coupons pertaining to baby supplies. And Mom was given those for coffee and asundry items that we use and she doesn't. After awhile, she murmured, "This is like therapy." And when I needed the IcyHot Patches, she said, "I have a coupon for that!"

Tonight we pulled in the driveway around 9 o'clock. I feel like I haven't had a weekend. The kitchen table is covered with piles of opened mail, sorted and read and tossed into a great heap of condolences and bills. There's dirty laundry spilling out of the hampers; I need to change the sheets on my bed, long overdue for a fresh set. Dad walked through the house looking at the mess and mayhem in every corner and said, "Let's just burn the house down and start over."

He sat at the computer, reading the financial news, and Mom opened the weekend's newspapers. I looked at the stack of inserts she set aside from the middle of the Sunday paper. I went and got the scissors. I started clipping, neatly trimming the sides until I had a stack of coupons. "What are you doing?" Dad asked. "She rubbing off on you?"

"Sort of," I said. "I'm going to write her a card, send them to her." Because I can't do anything to make it better. Because I can't fix it. I'm just going to give her coupons for Advil PM and Nestles Treasures chocolate candy.

Friday, March 07, 2008

This Idea Has Merit

"My new goal in life is to come up with my new reality show called Project Britney where I transform her and I save her life and make her the most fabulous person ever! She needs a gay! She has no gays! Have you ever noticed that? She has no gay boys helping her! She only has straight people and, no offense, but straighties don’t know how to fix the divas! It’s so weird! I’ve never seen any gay stylists working her."

- Christian Siriano, Project Runway Season IV winner

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Fierce!: Part Two

May I ask you to gather round?

I was concerned last week over Tim Gunn's concern over Christian's collection. And when Christian himself became concerned about his work, my heart sank a little. How could my fierce little sprite be lagging in confidence? But, I think it was all about the Bravo editing room having a bit of fun with us, getting us all worked up and fretting over the cohesiveness of Christian's collection.

But he did not disappoint. In fact, none of them disappointed. This finale was by far the strongest of any season. All three of the designers presented amazing work. I didn't feel like there was faltering point in any of the collections - not really a moment when I went, "Ugh! How could they put that on the runway?"

Jillian's collection was very powerful to me. I find the juxtaposition of Jillian's quietness alongside her subtle determination and her masculine/feminine point of view very intriguing. I loved the military inspired coats and pants paired with the more romantic knits. The black knit top with the gold-edged ruffled front was to die for. I actually faltered a bit in my undying love for Christian and sort of loved Jillian's collection. I know Rami's had more detail in a lot of ways, but her attention to fit and femininity and strength outstrip Rami's need to make us all Greek statues.

Rami surprised me because he didn't drape the hell out of everything. I expected a barrage of flowy Grecian-inspired gowns. But he showed restraint and elegance. I agree with Nina Garcia that his taste in color is really off - the pinks and the teals together reminded me of Maurice's and Paris Sport Club and wearing two pairs of socks at one time. Not good. But the dress made out of the antique lace - gasp! Perfection. Sheer perfection! The Violinist at work only wears black - and sometimes red - but she said even she would consider wearing its creamy deliciousness.

And Christian...wee darling Christian did not disappoint me. I know Nina and Tim thought it was overworked and overdesigned, but I loved, loved, loved the ruff collar with the giant black hat. In fact, I thought Christian's hats were fabulous. The fedora/cloche hat the first model had on? I totally want that! And I have to say, the dress with the feathered bodice that melted into the swirls of chiffon...the creams and whites that blended into caramel and sable...was exquisite. I think they purposefully avoided showing that full dress until it came down the runway, and the effect was dramatic. I'm not much for feathers, but I would swear I would wear that dress. So much gorgeousness.

For a moment in the end, I thought they were going to pick Rami. Christian thought so, too, with his wobbling chin and effort to hold back tears. But they picked - and they picked well. Throughout the season, Christian has had the strongest point of view presented in the most consistent - and diverse - work. I think that's the key for me. Although Rami's final collection was more varied in its offerings of separates and evening and Christian's honed in more on the dramatic presentations, I think that's what the collection is supposed to do. Christian has shown throughout the season that he can produce elegant, wearable and salable clothing. But all of that is boiled down from his big, beautiful innovative designs. And of course, his great har.

So, so, so fierce. And yes. I channeled Ricki and cried in delight. Way to make it work!

And just for fun...I'm posting my original predictions from after the first episode (in black) and commentary on those (in green):

Carmen - I like her, but she also has that sort of aggressive Laura-vibe about her. I thought her design last night was interesting even if I didn't love it. Prediction: A strong contender to make it through to the late stages unless overconfidence or bizarre design get in her way.
Carmen was definitely aggressive, and I think she would've made it but she let the menswear challenge totally take her down. I'm not sure she would've made it to the final three.

Chris - A wild card. I liked his dress last night - I thought the purple fabric was gorgeous. He could also teeter toward one of those whose designs never have the wow factor. Prediction: Must wait and see.
Chris was a surprise to me - even in the end. I loved a lot of his work, and I loved him, but I was astounded how he always seemed to gamble in the right direction. I think some of the other designers - like Kit Pistol - had more potential but let challenges get the best of them.

Christian - The New Austin Scarlett. Love him. Love his wacky haircut. Love his sass. Love all of his interviews. And liked his design - didn't love the fabric, but I thought the design was interesting. Prediction: Strong contender for the final three.
Way better than Austin Scarlett. He's fierce. Still love him. Bought the t-shirt.

Elisa - Totally bizarre and over the top. I think she's the new Vincent. And not in a good way. Prediction: Auffed over extreme creative differences with the judges (but great television while she's still around).
Right on, spit mark.

Jack - Beautiful dress. I thought was lovely and wearable. Which may get him into trouble for not establishing a stronger point of view. Prediction: A strong contender, although from the previews, it looks like something horrible will be revealed by him at some point.
Jack would've totally been up in the top three vying against Rami and Jillian if he hadn't gotten ill. But I'm glad he did what he needed to do - and he hasn't ruled out a return for season five!

Jillian - I think Jillian has potential, but for some reason, I can see her being one that has a challenge where she totally flips out and doesn't get it done. Prediction: Auffed in the later part
Jillian definitely flipped out. And she definitely struggled to get things done. I grew to love her understated commentary. And I hope she continues - I loved her clothes and think she has something to contribute to the fashion world.

Kevin - He's trying to be the new Jeffrey/Santino with his elegance-with-an-edge. Didn't love his work last night, but I reserve judgment here. Prediction: Another wait and see.
Right on. I think Kevin way overplayed his punk elegance card.

Kit Pistol - I like Kit Pistol (just because I think that's an awesome name) and I think she has a strong and different POV. I could see her hanging in there into the late game. Prediction: Contender.
I actually liked the dress she made with Ricki, and I thought Ricki got a real steal on that challenge because he purposefully sat back and let Kit take charge - and take the fall. I'm not sure she could've stood up against Jillian and Rami in the late rounds, though.

Marion - I noticed last night that Marion was largely ignored in the storyline, which made me wonder how important he'll be. I felt totally blase about his garment a la Robert last season. Prediction: (Yawn) Auffed early
Right on!

Rami - Fabulous. Beautiful garment. I hope he doesn't get drape-obsessed like Uli did with the billowy dresses. Could be my one sticking point with him. Prediction: Definite contender for top three.
Right on the top three and SO right on the drape obsession. I thought if I saw one more goddess dress, I was going to vomit. His final collection was divine, though. We'll see him again.

- Three words: What happened to Andre? Prediction: Auffed, but not before a spectacular meltdown
So true, so true! The montage of him crying in the reunion special was hilarious.

Simone - Boring. Auffed. Reminded me of the first one to go in Season 2, who, sadly, was from Georgia.

Steven - Steven, Steven, Steven. Could be fabulous. Or take a total turn for the worst. I think, if Steven keeps his head together, that he could be a contender. Prediction: Possible maniac, possible fashionista.
I missed Steven's dry humor after his departure, but I can't say that I remember a single one of his designs.

Sweet P - Hmmm. I get a bad feeling about Sweet P - like she's going to annoy me to no end and produce clothes that she really likes and believes in and will justify til she's blue in the face even though we can all tell they're ugly. Like Angela last season? Prediction: Auffed at the halfway.
Sweet P...does the "p" stand for "panic"? She wasn't Angela - she was actually quite lovable but SO indecisive. Oy. Did she ever go with her initial design on something? I did find her elimination quite touching. And, as STGD pointed out, Tim Gunn's intonation on "Sweet P" is a phenomenon unto itself.

Victorya - She definitely got the Kara Saun/Chloe Dao vibe about her. She's very together, less eccentric than the other designers. I'm expecting elegant, chic work from her that I totally love. Prediction: Judges will coo over her consistency. Final three contender.
I was pretty close in my estimation of Victorya. What I did not scene is her tendancy to be the Ice Queen. Wasn't sorry to see her and her arch eyebrow get auffed.

And now that's it's over, carry on, friends.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I promise that this weekend, maybe tomorrow, I will try, try, try to compose a post about ProRun because I have so much to say, but mostly, I just want to say


And his win was fierce.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Just the Five of Us: The Shape of a Family

On Friday night, from all different directions, we descended on Anna and Ronnie's house. I drove up from midtown after spending the day in the ATL office; Justin trekked from Buckhead. Dad made his way down from the northwestern part of the state. And around 9 o'clock on Friday evening, an anomaly occurred - as cosmically rare as the eclipse or comet tracks in the night sky. It was just the five of us.

Since Anna and Ronnie and Justin and Eva married in the same summer just a month apart six and a half years ago, I don't think we've had a single incident of pentagonal-ness.

Once upon a time, there were only five. Mom and Dad, of course. And then Anna, the oldest, Justin the middle, and me, the caboose. For the longest time, that was the way it was. With designated rooms and places at the table and roles in the family dynamic. We were inseparable -and I grant you, sometimes suffocatingly so - but even still, we were the Smash Family Five. And I treasured those times on family vacations, at the dinner table, in the backyard, when the laughter was riotous, the tears shared and the milestones celebrated together.

But when they married, the fold grew to seven, and the pentagon opened its sides, and we rearranged ourselves into a heptagon. Seven-sided. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Wilmywood, and the opportunities to regroup grew fewer. And the sides of our shape were scattered. And when we came back together, the shape had changed.

For the whole weekend, though, the pentagon reassembled. Eva spent the week in North Carolina keeping her brother while her parents vacationed. And while the circumstances of Ronnie's absence were omnipresent and permeating, the inevitable faltering of every conversation into melancholy silence or even tears, there were golden moments like threads of hope that reminded me how much I love these people. How strong the bonds of blood, so indestructible against the storms outside.

There's a reason that the most impenetrable fortress in this country is the Pentagon. With five sides, nothing can take us down.

Baby Got Back Pain

To add insult to injury (quite literally), cruel fortune has dealt me another blow. The chronic back pain that I've experienced for years, that seemed to have faded into a dull ache, has reared its head with wincing sharpness. Right at the base of my spine, it feels for all the world like someone has smashed me with a lead pipe.

It started on Saturday, a twinge here and there. But Sunday morning, I was stepping gingerly, and by the post-church walk to the car, I almost took Justin up on his offer to carry me. Every step sent shooting pain right up to my shoulder blades. I was holding my breath and my whole body tensed in an effort to keep me from moving in the wrong direction. The ride home yesterday was excruciating. I had no choice but to drive, having headed to Anna's house straight from the ATL office on Friday.

This morning, I almost couldn't get my socks off. I couldn't bend. I couldn't lift my leg. I went to work with an IcyHot patch the size of my lower torso stuck to the offending area and giving off an offending odor. I walked slowly and carefully today. And when I came home, I sat in the recliner on the heating pad. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to have to break down and call the doctor - even if the last place I want to be is a medical office of any sort. It's either that, or consider going House-style and picking out a cane for myself.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Dad sat at the computer last night, tense and pensive. I could tell by the grimace of his profile that he was thinking - weighing the events of the past two weeks, digesting them, working out how to get beyond all this.

"I know this sounds silly," he said. "But I can't stop thinking about it - and it's such a little thing."

"What's that?" I asked.

"Corners," he said. "Ronnie, when he was refinishing the basement - he didn't understand how to make his corner. He never could make the measurements work out because he didn't know how to make a corner." He stops and thinks, takes his glasses off and wipes a strong hand over his face.

"I was going to do that some time. I was going to go up there when I had the time, and I was going to teach him how to make a corner. I was going to show him how to do it right." He pauses, stares at the wall. "And I -" his voice breaks, he clears his throat, spreads his hands in a helpless gesture. "And I never made it."