The first time I saw Jennifer I knew. I knew she was the one. I knew, just like my dad when he sang to his sisters in the winter of 1951 after meeting my mom for the first time, “I found her.”
A month later Jen got a job in Manhattan and left Cleveland. I would go to the city – to see my brother, but really wanting to see Jen. At every visit my heart would scream at my brain, “tell her!!” but I couldn’t work up the courage to tell Jen that I couldn’t live without her. My heart finally prevailed and, like a schoolboy, I told Jen “I have a crush on you.” To the relief of my pounding heart, Jen’s beautiful eyes lit up and she said “Me too!”
Six months later I packed up my belongings and flew to New York with an engagement ring burning a hole in my pocket. That night, at our favorite Italian restaurant, I got down on my knee and asked Jen to marry me. Less than a year later we were married in Central Park, surrounded by our family and friends. Later that night, we danced our first dance as husband and wife, serenaded by my dad and his accordion – ♫ “I’m in the mood for love…”♫
Five months later Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the exact moment…Jen’s voice and the numb feeling that enveloped me. That feeling has never left. I’ll also never forget how we looked into each other’s eyes and held each other’s hands. “We are together, we’ll be ok.”
With each challenge we grew closer. Words became less important. One night Jen had just been admitted to the hospital, her pain was out of control. She grabbed my arm, her eyes watering, “You have to look in my eyes, that’s the only way I can handle this pain.” We loved each other with every bit of our souls.
Jen taught me to love, to listen, to give and to believe in others and myself. I’ve never been as happy as I was during this time.
Throughout our battle we were fortunate to have a strong support group but we still struggled to get people to understand our day-to-day life and the difficulties we faced. Jen was in chronic pain from the side effects of nearly 4 years of treatment and medications. At 39 Jen began to use a walker and was exhausted from being constantly aware of every bump and bruise. Hospital stays of 10-plus days were not uncommon. Frequent doctor visits led to battles with insurance companies. Fear, anxiety and worries were constant.
Sadly, most people do not want to hear these realities and at certain points we felt our support fading away. Other cancer survivors share this loss. People assume that treatment makes you better, that things become OK, that life goes back to “normal.” However, there is no normal in cancer-land. Cancer survivors have to define a new sense of normal, often daily. And how can others understand what we had to live with everyday?
My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife. They show the challenge, difficulty, fear, sadness and loneliness that we faced, that Jennifer faced, as she battled this disease. Most important of all, they show our Love. These photographs do not define us, but they are us.
Cancer is in the news daily, and maybe, through these photographs, the next time a cancer patient is asked how he or she is doing, along with listening, the answer will be met with more knowledge, empathy, deeper understanding, sincere caring and heartfelt concern.
“Love every morsel of the people in your life.” – Jennifer Merendino
Favorite gemstone: opals, preferably raw.
A crow tucks a little boy into bed.
Another excerpt from a David Hockney interview
I hope people don’t stop giving a shit about this in a week or two.
(taken by Opportunity, not Curiosity, but STILL)
I sure haven’t.
Johnny Ramensky (1906-72), also known as Gentle Johnny, was a Scottish career criminal who went on to become a safe-cracking commando during World War II.
As a young man, Ramensky worked in a coalmine, where he got used to handling dynamite. During the depression of the 20s, his family moved to the Gorbals, a slum on the southside of Glasgow, and Johnny began his career as a burglar and skilled safecracker. His nickname, Gentle Johnny, came from the fact that he only ever targeted businesses, never homes, hated violence and was always friendly and cooperative with the police when he was caught.
He was also legendary for his strength and his skill as a gymnast, which I like to imagine made him an early criminal freerunner. These talents helped to escape from formidable Scottish prisons no less than five times; sadly once to attend his wife’s funeral, for which he had been denied leave.
Whilst in prison in 1941, Ramensky wrote to the Governor and begged to be allowed to fight for the Allied cause. Due to his special skills, he became a commando and was parachuted behind enemy lines where he blew up safes and retrieved key documents.
A criminal yes, but also a courageous, kind and strangely honest man, as well as a real cutie. If only James Cagney was still around to play him, it would have made a hell of a movie.
I want this movie immediately.
I want this movie right now.
The Lackadaisy crew! …Of which I was not a part this time! ToT But I let my friend Aaron borrow my Freckle stuff, so that worked out! I brought along Rocky stuff just in case, but was much too comfy in my poofy ninja-ness.
We also made Allyson (akumuhana) a new Ivy dress and I love it. 8D
Jeez. You guys are a full range of adorable on every conceivable axis. Also, I’m very honored. Thanks for sharing these!
This is amazing! Especially the Bolin guy’s hair. (Sorry I’m not linking the actual source of this. The photo was emailed to me.)
So I was literally singing bolin in the deep when I refreshed my dash and this is how it went:
Bolin in the deeeEeeeEEEE- oh my GOD
Perfect Aang is absolutely perfect.
FOLLOWERS, YOU NEED SOME PERFECT AANG ON YOUR DASHES.
from left to right;
I am afraid to hold my boyfriend’s hand.
My friend’s parents sent her away.
I found death threats in my locker.
I submitted to electroshock therapy.
I lost half my friends after coming out.
My grandmother sends me hate mail.
My school won’t let me take my date to prom.
I am not here anymore.
My dad tried to beat it out of me.
No one is proud of me.
This showed up on my blog again. Forever reblog.
My heart is broken. Especially at ‘I’m not here anymore.’
My grandmother sends hate mail.
I… I have to confess, that one in particular stood out to me. Not because of what I myself have experienced, but what I’ve heard in regards to my husband. When the family of my mother’s side (father’s side is all over the map and barely in contact really) first found out that he was bi, the first thing my aunt did was pull me aside and ask if something was wrong.
Then, later, there was various ‘subtle’ mentions of certain verses of the bible, certain things that they wanted to ‘highlight’. Grandma and Grandpa, bless them, didn’t take part- they made clear they didn’t understand or agree, but they didn’t take part, because to them, all that mattered was that I was happy, and that my husband was my husband- he wasn’t about to run away with another man or woman, wasn’t about to cheat on me period.
But my aunt seemed determined to let me know, in tiny fine print, that he was going to burn in hell for any and all attractions we shared, and it frankly disgusted and terrified me- moreso when, upon asking if this was what she believed of all of my friends, trans, gay, bisexual or lesbian, she flat out stated that there would be no forgiveness for them.
It’s one of the biggest reasons that I was, (and still am) entirely confused about my beliefs in religion, and more importantly about just what my aunt is like. My cousins were a-okay; but my aunt just about went fire and brimstone on me.
I still haven’t gotten over it.
Part of the “Breaking the Silence 2010” event at World’s Fair Park on April 16, supporting GLBT youth from local high schools.