OMG, I just found Frank!

If you’ve been reading the blog over the last couple of weeks, you’ve seen that I’ve mentioned this old stuffed rabbit, Frank, a couple of times.

At the airport. I'm holding my bunny Frank (you might recognize him from my Hurricane Katrina evacuation story). My cousin Amy is assaulting our friend Brandon with a teddy bear. Mrs. Cutler is on the far right of the picture.

At the airport to London in May 1999. I’m holding my bunny Frank.

Frank was important to me. He first arrived in my life in the Christmas of 1998. My Nana and Grandaddy gave him to me as part of my Christmas presents. I’m pretty sure Grandaddy had little to nothing to do with picking the toy out for me, and really I was too old to get a stuffed rabbit for Christmas – I had just turned 16, after all. But for some reason I really liked the rabbit.

Frank was made of brown velveteen, and when I got him, he was wearing a red dress and little red bows on his ears. In other words, Frank was either a lady bunny to begin with, or was a crossdresser. I’ve never quite figured it out. All I know is that I took one look at him and knew that the rabbit was a “he.” After thanking my grandparents (especially my grandfather, whom I adored) for my gifts and going home, I quickly removed Frank’s corny holiday garb, and from then on he was just a regular old bunny.

My Grandaddy died the following October, and it was really tough on me. To be honest, it’s still tough on me. I miss him terribly. Nana and I haven’t been close since he died, either, so that doesn’t help. It’s just crappy. But Frank helped me with some of the grieving process, and then went on to live some of life’s best memories with me. He went to Europe with me, visiting England, Ireland, Wales, Belgium, Germany, and Austria. He was there in every college apartment, witnessing so many things a silly little velveteen rabbit probably shouldn’t. I needed him to sleep, even in 2005, at 23 years old.

When Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on the city and I was ready to evacuate, I didn’t have that much room in the car. I packed my laptop, my cat, some clothes, and my photo albums and high school yearbook. Everything else went up on shelves and on top of counters. Frank and a few other precious things went in the top shelf of my bedroom closets, the very highest place in the house. It was the last time I saw him. I meant to be gone for a few days, and instead it was almost five months before I returned to New Orleans. My ex had broken into my house early on to get my jewelry and art, and a friend saved some of my books, but the landlord got rid of most of my belongings, including Frank. I’d asked her specifically to save him, but she insisted that she didn’t see him when she was cleaning the place out. I guess I’ll never know where he went, if he was looted after the storm (extremely unlikely) or if he just got tossed out as little more than a worthless toy (probably).

The bed in my new apartment, just before Katrina. The bunny on the bed is Frank the velveteen rabbit. My grandfather gave him to me the Christmas before he died, and my landlord threw him out after Katrina. I was devastated, as he was the ONLY thing I had asked her to save.

The bed in my new apartment in 2005, a couple of months before Katrina. Frank the bunny is on the bed.

I’ve mourned him for years. I know it sounds petty, but he meant something to me. Writing about it on the blog has been a big help, actually.

But tonight, I saw the photo of him here on the blog, and thought – why don’t I try looking one more time? Of course, not for the real Frank, but for a replacement. And here’s what I found.

Ugly red dress and all...

Ugly red dress and all…

So guess who just bought a $40 collector’s toy that will promptly be stripped naked and renamed Frank? I’m so ridiculously happy right now.

Raising the Bar

Today I read an update posted by a dear friend on Facebook. She declared herself to be in a very low place, feeling unlike herself. Being no stranger to highs and lows, I immediately wrote back with a few suggestions for crawling out of the rut, but if she is anything like me, I know she took my suggestions more as meddling than helpful hints.

In my own life, periods of the blues have been frequent and often quite deep. As I aged, I mellowed. Part of this change was no doubt due to pesky hormones, part to a change in lifestyle, and a large part in a change in how I nourish myself spiritually, mentally & physically. We’ve probably all been through this in some way or another. One of the best things about being human is the capacity for growth and change, the journey ever upward (with occasional sidesteps and roadblocks).

I wish that I could help my friend see life in a different light, but we live so far apart, and all I can do is be there in spirit. It’s disappointing, and frustrating, especially when I know my words sound empty to someone in such a different place. All I can do is offer her hope that life gets better, and it doesn’t have to be boring, or sad, or lonely.

You just have to reach out, and someone, somewhere will be there to enrich your experience. It might take awhile. It might not be immediate. It might be the smallest return, like someone commenting on your FB status, or letting you ahead of them in line at the grocery store (talk about small miracles, right?) The Universe is looking after you, whether or not you believe it or choose to acknowledge it. If a beautiful flower can grow out of a crack in the sidewalk, it is possible to make a good life grow out of a series of not so great days. You’ve just got to be open to the opportunities, looking for the tiny happy moments and being conscious of how they all link together. Once you can do that, you’ve got a good thing going. Sometimes I forget this, the same as everyone else. This is as much an affirmation as it is admonishment to myself to be more grateful of the love that surrounds me.

My little advice to my friend: collect one pretty image a day that makes you smile or laugh (online or elsewhere) – that way you’ll always be able to go somewhere for a smile or laugh when life is getting you down. Come to visit, so I can make you laugh. I don’t care how old we are, I will always love to see your beautiful smile.

My own personal plan: look for moments that teach me something, whether or not I like what I’ve been taught. Try to be mindful of these lessons, and carry them with me. Take time to be active every day, and don’t do active things that seem boring or like a chore (I go to Zumba, go dancing, and run, run, run). Get pampered often, even if it’s something as little as taking time to give myself a scalp massage while I’m washing my hair. Tell my friends I love them every time I talk to them. Think about what it means to love. Envision good, wholesome energy flooding from me to my friends & relatives whenever I share my love with them. Share nice thoughts with people I meet – if I see a stranger wearing a beautiful dress, I work up the courage to tell her how nice she looks. All of these things come back to us. Try to imagine what other people are thinking and feeling, and will think and feel about whatever action I’m taking. If I can see a negative outcome, determine if that outcome is what I really want before taking the action. Sometimes I miscalculate, and I end up having to apologize. Either explain why I meant what I said, or just suck it up and apologize – it’s good for everyone involved. Embarrassment is inevitable at some points in life; try to be graceful about it, or at least wear smudge-free mascara. Breathe, breathe, breathe – deeply and often. Eat real food, not processed crap. Hydrate – it makes your brain happy! And I sing and write whenever the hell I feel like it, as a matter of principle.

What do you do to make your life a better place to be? I know that one person who reads my blog travels the world to bring medical care to those who need it. Another takes time out to care for special needs cats at her local shelter. Still another writes enough great content to fuel a small magazine; I wonder if she ever sleeps! Then there’s a very special cat who is training to be a model yet somehow finds time to keep a great blog. I’m so inspired by reading all of your blogs and seeing what inspires you – I’d love to hear your own personal recipes for happiness. Comment away!