Jillybean's Blog

{July 18, 2012}   A Tribute to my Grandmother…

When Mom asked me to write a eulogy, I was terrified. How do you do a woman justice, who influenced my life with so much passion, determination, and love? This was my first attempt, as read at my Grandmother’s funeral this morning…

“This is gonna be a big challenge for me… This may be the most important thing I’ve ever written in my life.
If Gramma were physically present today, I know she’d gently smile at me, cautioning my candor with a raised eyebrow, and an understanding shake of her head, simply sighing, “Oh, Jilly…”

I should start off by saying I was extremely fortunate to have the chance to say goodbye to my Gramma. Not everyone gets the chance to really honestly say goodbye to someone they love so dearly, and I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am for the opportunity I was given.

We were all feeling anger, despair and extreme sadness in her final days.
To look at her and see the light, NOT beauty, fade from her face, made us feel powerless. This was the challenge of letting go…the lesson I somehow presciently told myself at the start of this year I would need to learn.

How do I let go of my Gramma? How do I let go of the joy I felt when she reacted to my impressions of the high school teachers I enjoyed, yet sometimes loathed? It made her laugh and laugh at such an infectious level that everyone laughed, even if they weren’t in on the joke. She laughed with passion, and I was so committed to seeing this very reaction of merriment and pure joy that I’d even embellish, borderline make stuff up, just to keep her laughing.

I leaned on her, and she rewarded me with wisdom that inspired me. She made me BELIEVE in love through faith, which if you’ve met any of my boyfriends, you’d see this is QUITE the feat… And yet I still, and always will believe, in true love of all kinds, because of her influence.

The most important lesson would come in her final days, which she handled with more grace than I could fathom. Her physical discomfort at times made me question the process of dissipation of the spirit…but I was awed by how amazingly peaceful and perfectly natural this process was for her.

A few days before she died, my Mom opened a fortune cookie that said, “Your family is truly one of nature’s masterpieces.” And today is about the amazing family and friends my Gramma leaves here. Everyone here today.

And Grampa, what a hero he is. I just wrote a thesis about heroes and STILL had no idea what the term hero meant until I watched you and the way you looked after Gramma til her dying day. I never, in my LIFE, have seen so much love, so much dedication, so much disregard for self. I can only wish that when I’m facing the next chapter, there is someone to hold my hand like you held hers. That, everyone, is unconditional love. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Maybe we can now begin to understand what the timing of her death meant. She struggled, but she was strong. She was willing to pay the physical price because her work was not yet done. We thought maybe there were things she needed to hear from US. “It’s ok to let go. We love you.” No. This wasn’t about what WE needed to say. This was about what she needed to teach US.
She was not going to let go until she was sure WE had learned the importance of teamwork, unconditional love, and the power of strong bonds. That we knew we’d always have each other. She needed to be sure we had learned all of this before she left. This was our gift. And when she was sure we learned this lesson, she let go.

Knowing how this family pulls together, unhindered by divorce, or disagreements or by what we do or don’t have in common or where we live, is what she gave to us. We all, everyone here, values whats important, and she taught us that. She illuminated this connection we all have. She taught me, by watching my uncles with her, and ESPECIALLY my Mother, that we are capable of being who we were meant to be. She believed in us even when our faith faltered. She believed in us even when we were afraid to be who we were meant to be, who we really want to be.

Whether or not we know it right this second, we are all now endowed with the strength that comes from this lesson, even if it’s in its nascent stages.

We now know that our bonds as family and friends are strong and she is the glue. No matter what the future brings, she keeps us together. That is the comfort she leaves with us. That’s her gift. That’s her legacy.
We need St. Marilyn up there. From where she is, and from where she now sits, she still loves. And we carry on so that she lives on.
We take her with us as we do, which is all she really wanted to know before she left.
Love is the greatest force on Earth. We know this love today, and because of her…we know that as the soul transforms, love is undying. Thank you, thank you, Marilyn Neher, for showing all of us the truth in that.”



If you just so happen to wake up one day and find yourself in grad school (like I did), you’ll be writing a thesis before you know it. And when you’re staring this beast in the eye, here’s a few things to remember:

1. First and foremost, when it’s time to write, TURN OFF the TV. RIGHT NOW. The silence will only be deafening for a few minutes. Once that passes, you won’t even miss it.

2. Speaking of which, you won’t ever hear yourself say, “Wow, there’s a million channels and nothing’s on.” EVERYTHING on TV is interesting when you’re avoiding the task at hand.

3. There’s no one making sure you’re working on it everyday. Sticking to it takes discipline. Letting yourself down (ironically) is easier than admitting you’ve slacked off to a respected professor.

4. The phone will always ring more often than usual when you’re trying to stay focused. And then, when you actually need a break from writing and need to reconnect with the outside world, your phone will be silent. Turn that off, too.

5. Taking a break means just that. If you use said break to get “a refreshing pedicure” or lunch with your friends, you’re most likely not getting back to work that day.

6. You really won’t get those minutes back you wasted.

7. Not that I believe there is ever a “bad” time to quit smoking…but this probably isn’t a good one.

8. Stop looking at Facebook and Twitter. There’s been nothing new in the last three seconds.

9. The laundry will (eventually) get done. Oh, and you’ll find that ink actually DOES stain. Don’t write notes and wear white pants.

10. On that note, this is an instance (and they are rare these days) where technological advancements won’t really help you. There’s nothing like good ‘ol pen and paper when it comes to organizing your thoughts. And post-its. Just pray you can read your scribbles later.

11. Booze will get the creative juices flowing. Just pace yourself or you’ll have an unscheduled nap ahead of you.

12. If you thought you had knowledge of a topic, you’ll realize you don’t really know anything about it. In fact, you’ll realize you really don’t know a whole lot about a whole lot when you look really hard. I thought a thesis topic on heroes would be relatively easy. As it turned out, I really didn’t have a clue as to what the hell I was talking about to begin with.

13. The messiness of my house is in direct proportion to how scattered and unorganized my thoughts are.

14. Your mind can work just as much for you as against you. It’s the reason I had a good start, a bumpy middle and an even bumpier conclusion. Directing your mind can feel a bit like steering a steamroller. I have yet to figure out how to fix this.

15. Ideas and inspiration are a rude pair. They’re inconsiderate and don’t care what you’re doing when they show up. They have no manners. They come to you in the shower, in the middle of the night, while driving (fast), when your hands are dirty, and even when you’re…um, “reading the newspaper.”

16. Procrastination is a persistent bedfellow. And its perils rival that of the worst boyfriend you’ve ever had. Or the worst job.

17. Truth is your best ally. Unless you’re procrastinating. See #16.

18. Your thesis may or may not be causing you heartburn. See #11.

19. Bribing yourself with a brand new pair of shoes will get you motivated to get off the couch, but you won’t get a whole lot of writing done.

20. Saying “no” to your friends is TOUGH, but they will be there for you when you’re finished. And when you ARE finally finished, you won’t have that pesky task at hand clouding the precious moments.

21. There IS such a thing as a “life journalist.”

22. Skipping four meals in a row is NOT cool. Especially if you buy into #11.

23. No draft will ever be good enough in your mind. But, in the end, all that matters is whether or not the thesis committee stamps “approve.”

24. I imagine finishing a thesis is a lot like giving birth. Except you can drink while bringing it to term. But is it just as painful? I’ll get back to you on that one.

25. You pay TWICE as much for instant gratification.

26. Don’t take it (or yourself) too seriously. In that same vein, you have to really believe it’s possible to finish. You’ll get it done. And if you’re very lucky, another project you don’t yet know about is on the way.

27. When it’s all said and done, you will know a lot more about a topic you really care about. But, more than that, you’ll know a whole lot more about yourself.


Since my birthday, dear friends, I’ve been thinking about a piece of writing… I want to share this…What I’ve learned over the last 33 years of my life. So here it is…

1. Our news is given to us through a lens. We should all be responsible enough to listen to and watch the news with intelligence and not just believe everything we hear.
2. Your heart will heal.
3. Courage is rewarded.
4. Fight procrastination. The win is well worth every agonizing second of work.
5. I will always love Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was my hero as a teenager and as a young twenty-something. But now I’ve judged him. I don’t want a man with THAT particular weakness. Arnold, you made me strong. But ultimately, your penis made you weak. Somehow though, I’ll always admire you.
6. Which leads me to…Even good people let you down. And you let people down, too. It doesn’t mean neither of you are good. It means love includes pain, and that is all part of the experience.
7. You attract your friends and they are a reflection of who you are…so if they’re amazing…congratulations.
8. Friendship is perennial…so again, congrats.
9. Sex is a blast but can be quicksand. Keep your eyes open and don’t let it rule your decisions.
10. Letting go IS the easier way out. So why is it so difficult? Because we have to face the truth, which is only pretty when we’re strong enough to see it as such.
11. I need people and that’s ok. They need me too.
12. You don’t grow out of chick flicks, at least not at 33 years old. And you still hope for the happy ending. The happy ending is not as elusive as you think.
13. We all know we should be grateful. So stop complaining and start praying.
14. Our experiences are not just for our life but also for those around us. Everyone benefits. But just knowing that we’re not alone makes the difficulties of life easier. And if your sadness or anger feeds another’s life, your stock just went up.
15. Facebook may make you feel popular, but real friends go the extra mile when you’ve flown 1000 miles to see them.
16. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t love someone in the same way they love you. Be grateful when someone loves you that much and understand when someone doesn’t love YOU that way. It’s not their fault, nor is it yours. Be grateful for the experience regardless.
17. Los Angeles is home. Ohio is home. CT was home.
18. Home is where the heart is.
19. People can both judge you and yet, surprise you.
20. Sometimes your friends don’t mix with each other and it’s not your fault. You are multi-faceted…and those sides of yourself don’t always jive with one another.
21. I shouldn’t get credit for some shit I should already be doing. I don’t like being praised for calling my family or spending time with a sick friend. I should do that anyway and praise makes me feel like a fraud.
22. Grad school is awesome.
23. Get over it. Move forward and find something great. Let go. Let go of regret. Time to move forward. There’s nothing wrong with that.
24. If you can’t be with your amazing family, channel happiness into the world on their behalf. It strengthens your bond.
25. Break-ups happen and they break you. They deflate you and make you suffer. But one day you’ll wake up and be amazed by how much you’ve grown. And somehow, you’re no longer afraid.
25. It’s out there, waiting for you.
26. Pain makes life beautiful. Let yourself cry…and connect to those offering you a big hug.
27. Buying a homeless woman dinner makes BOTH of you happy.
28. The ocean heals ALL.
29. Fire both warms and burns.
30. We have the choice of lens through which we view the world. Pick an open one.
31. Smile and say, “thank you.” OFTEN.
32. As a man thinketh…
33. I’m lucky to have lived to this age. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead…

And for next year…”Here’s to Another Year…”

{October 10, 2010}   Apples, Oranges and the Office…

It probably wasn’t the best idea in the world to bring up my fascination with “religion vs science” debate at the office.  But since I am pondering a thesis topic, this is always on my mind.  This is my passion.  This is what really makes me think…and makes me LOVE to think.

I should clarify and say that I don’t actually view religion and science as comparable topics, let alone opposites.  They are different languages describing the same thing.  Meaning.  Science gives meaning and order to an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable existence through research and experimentation.  Religion, well, gives meaning and order to an otherwise chaotic and unpredictable existence through faith in what we can’t prove or measure.

When people refer to science as the arch nemesis of religion, or vise versa, I feel like they are majorly missing the point.  The sole purpose of science is not to unravel the threads of a spiritual safety blanket.  Yes, ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power.  Science and the answers resulting from its study empower people to make informed decisions about things they can see and quantify. And that’s great.

But we live in a dual-natured universe.  There are things we can see and things we can’t see.  There are feelings, auras, attitudes and personalities.  There are connections, influences and gravity.  But we can’t SEE them.  We feel them.  There are many forces that influence us…all the while remaining invisible.  Heck, we may even live in a triple-natured universe.  Or a quadruple-natured universe for all we know.  That’s probably for our descendants to figure out.  But for the sake of simplification and argument, I use the two-pronged approach.

So this is where religion comes in.  And depending on your point of view, you can easily say that spirituality is a more important area of emphasis.  (Which, by the way, is no different than saying that proof is the more important of the two.)  Religion does not seek to disprove scientific theories and claims.  Yes, churches and religious denominations may have been late to the party on giving evolution credibility, but not religion as a whole.

For the sake of argument, I’ll rehash the definition of religion (as defined by dictionary.com):

  • a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  • a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  • the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  • the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
  • the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
  • something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.


So if your definition of religion is “the Catholic Church as a whole” or the “Jewish faith,” you’d be mistaken.  Or more accurately, guilty of omission.

In many ways, fanatically religious people just ignore science.  Fanatics blindly site scripture to underscore a preexisting point of view.  In turn, some scientists ignore religion and say that God is unimportant or a byproduct of the brain’s determination to draw connections in seemingly irrational situations.

It’s important to understand that people make these distinctions.  Religion and science don’t.  People draw from certain evidential or anecdotal claims and draw conclusions based on what they interpret.  They jump to conclusions without knowing exactly what motivates them.

So…back to the office.  In the midst of our “religion vs science” discussion, one of my colleagues asked if I would send my child to church knowing that priests have molested children.  I asked him, “would you not send your kids to school because some teachers have been found guilty of molestation as well?”  That’s just something to think about.

I find that science is a good way to understand the world while religion is a good way to understand spirituality.  There really is…no comparison.

{October 10, 2010}   Hello world!

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