Because He’s My Brother

The past two years have been incredibly hard on my brother. I have no words for what he has been through, or for the things he continues to battle easy day. For the past ten years or so, all we’ve had that we can truly count on, as siblings, is each other.

I remember the day he was born. The phone rang and I wasn’t pleased hearing I had a little brother. I was determined a sister would be coming home. And by determined, I mean adamant. There was simply no way anyone was going to convince me that a brother was a good thing.

We share the same birthday in neighboring months and our birth times are similar. We were born in the same hospital, but because the maternity ward had been moved and remodeled, our birth certificates state we were born in different zip codes.

I remember the day he came home from the hospital. He looked up at me from my mother’s arms and I was suddenly the most important person in his world. He knew exactly who to trust.

He would scream and cry whenever I was out of his visual field. I’d come running into the room and as soon as he saw me, he’d stop crying. He’d go from red-faced hysteria to laughter and giggles, because I always made him smile.

Up until a month ago, I hadn’t heard from my brother in four months. Every single day, I was convinced something horrible had happened and that I would soon get a call from a police officer or a coroner’s office. I was mentally prepared for the worst. What I got was an unfortunate shock I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But ultimately, the shock led to my brother being okay, and that is a relief.

A lot of people do not share close relationships with their siblings, for various reasons, and I understand that. But for me, my brother is the one person who will always have my back. He is someone who knows me really well. He’s one of my best friends.

I haven’t seen my brother in nearly two years, but nothing and no one can break the bond between us. He is the one living person who knows how to take the things I say. He knows when I’m truly being sarcastic, or when I’m simply making a statement. Even via text, my humor and delivery are not lost on him. He makes no assumptions with me because he actually knows me.

Together, and individually, we’ve been through a lot. It’s mind-numbing and disturbing to think about, but it’s life. Each of us is on a journey and for a while now, I’ve known that I somehow got dragged into my brother’s journey and life lessons. I wish I knew how to focus solely on myself, but I wasn’t raised to be selfish or to pretend that another person doesn’t matter. There are many people you walk away from, including family members, but I choose not to walk away from my brother because I know his heart. I don’t know one side to base my judgment on; I know the entirety.

I have the “luxury” of focusing solely on my health right now, but I know the odds aren’t in my favor. My brother has managed to survive quadruple bypass surgery, two operations due to staph infections, and several other procedures, all in less than two years. He has another treatment in a few months, and it scares me because I don’t trust it. I have a right to be concerned because as he pointed out “You’re the only one who truly cares.” He’s right, and knowing that angers the hell out of me.

Every family is different and each family’s dynamics are also going to be different. However, I was clearly raised right. I can go from zero to psycho in less than three seconds, but when it comes to most people, they simply aren’t worth it. My brother may not be of value to other “family members”, most of whom should be lined up and shot, but he’s of value to me because he’s MY brother. You don’t mess with what’s MINE, and that includes people. It may seem arrogant, but once you’re a part of my life and heart, I won’t allow you to be hurt by others.

I am proud of how far he has come, and I won’t allow anyone else to take the credit for it. He still has battles and challenges, and I will forever be a dragon slayer for him, if need be.

So today, on his birthday, I say “Welcome to the rest of your life. Don’t fuck it up.”

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.



Medical Miracles For Michael

I will pretty much NEVER forget a single person who makes a contribution to helping my brother. My cousin was the first person to get the ball rolling. I don’t care if you’re family, a friend, or a perfect stranger, it will mean the absolute WORLD to me to keep my brother alive.

Our Grandfather died at 40 due to a massive heart attack. The advancements of modern medicine and surgery have done wonders for my brother, but he is far from out of the woods and may require additional surgery up the road. The medicine and co-pays on his most recent surgeries are slaughtering him. I am hoping to get some of his bills paid quickly and the rest I will negotiate with the various parties involved, but ultimately, even $5-$20 is a help to him.

I thank you in advance. And by all means, share it with people who you think can help him.

Personal Year In Review


I wish I had fabulous things to share here as I look back on 2016, the year itself as a complete “body of work”, as opposed to how I genuinely feel about it.

Here’s the unadulterated truth; I’m filled with mixed emotions, anger, pain, and the more I think about it, additional anger on top of the original anger, which is never a good sign. I make no apologies for my honesty. I’m many things in my imperfect human way, but dishonest isn’t on the list.

I take no issue with the company in my life, or lack thereof. I am a firm believer that we all go through hard times and that hard work, love, and prayer will get us through it. I take no issue with surviving (Life should be more than that though, right?) and having a few good days here and there (Though I am determined to not allow people to ruin my days when I’m feeling good and their moods aren’t meant for me. However, this is a process. It will not happen instantaneously.), but I do take issue with things outside my control.

I am a self-admitted control freak when it pertains to a lot of things in my life, and with other things, not so much. Overall, I’m tired of my best not being good enough, and having people remind me of my failures. Never look down upon someone unless you’re helping them up. Asking for help through tough times is not a grave sin. It’s honest, it’s real, and it’s admitting something vulnerable and scary is occurring that you cannot figure out how to face on your own. Why do we diminish that?!

I was raised to believe that as long as I do my best, it is always “good enough”, because it shows effort. And then I moved to another state where I know very few people, where “my best” is NEVER “good enough” because some unattainable level of perfection is expected at all times. It makes me feel like a bad Stepford Wife. 😦 I would not know what happiness was if a radioactive spider bit my ass. I haven’t known happiness in so long, it scares me. I feel emotions, yes, but happiness is almost never among them. How’s that for honest?

My brother has been through a torturous, evil kind of hell this year. I highly suspect that whatever was done to his heart set off a myriad of other health issues because I cannot recall a time when he wasn’t under the age of ten and on antibiotics as often as he’s been this year. He has been in and out of the hospital so many times that I’ve damn near had a multitude of nervous breakdowns every single time. I am currently waiting to hear back from a surgeon as he embarks on surgery number five in just slightly over a year; which is more surgery than he’s ever had in his entire life. It worries me on such a deep level, it’s difficult to convey.

I am immensely disheartened by how uncaring and unkind people are being towards him. At the beginning and end of each day, we only have so many family members in life, and as we’ve established, life is as short as it is long. My brother & I don’t have a lot of family, so we’ve had to rally around each other and be each other’s biggest support system through what has been, in essence, the gates of Hell. I may yell at him and get frustrated, I may say nasty things to him in the heat of the moment because he pushes my buttons, but ultimately, I’m not ignoring him or pretending he doesn’t exist in the hopes he’ll simply go away. I might not respond to a phone call or a text message when I’m sleeping, and sometimes I am guilty of ignoring him for a full twenty-four hours because I can’t handle the stress, but I do speak to my brother. I might not admit this to him, but he’s one of my best friends.

I say a painful goodbye to 2016, a year that has made me suffer in ways I can’t discuss; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I hope and pray that 2017 offers me more opportunities, better work, better pay, the same high-quality friendships I’ve maintained since day one (I’ve gotta say it; my friends are the BEST friends. They’re the first people to ask if I’m okay, to see through answers when I’m 100% NOT okay, and be as supportive as they can through crises. I would not have made it through parts of this year if it weren’t for the relationships in my life, both old and new, that have helped reinforce who I am as a person.), a real directional shift that leads me exactly where I need to be lead, and a year that allows me to achieve goals I have set for myself. The big goals, because at the moment, small goals aren’t cutting it.

I’d like to see some medical breakthroughs to help me better manage my pain and overall health. I was hit in the back with a shopping cart today at a local grocery store. This woman was on her cell phone and obviously thought she had enough room and/or didn’t even see me. I swear I am invisible to 99% of the “human race”. Initially my response was “Excuse YOU!”, but the lunatic just kept on walking, loudly debating stupidity on her phone. I did not feel it was worth pursuing in the moment, but now I am sorry I didn’t. I’m not sure if she did any real damage that wasn’t already there, but the level of pain I’m in is not something I want to take with me into the coming year, or any other year. I truly think CBD oil is in my future, as the “war on opiates” in this state is far too ridiculous to pursue with a doctor. I will, but I, like so many others, need a backup plan to help manage the pain in my life. No one should ever have to live like this.

Blessings to you all, as we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in what will hopefully a bright New Year! 

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.



Thankful, Grateful, Yet Pissed Off

My ancestors didn’t come to this country until the late 1800’s or 1920ish, if not later than that.

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States. There is much history behind this holiday (I currently live in Massachusetts and you can’t escape people talking about spending the holiday in Plymouth. I’ve never spent Thanksgiving at a restaurant; I’ve always participated among family, cooked it myself, etc.), but for me, especially this year, this is the first Thanksgiving where I’ll be completely without my brother.

He was just released from the hospital once again. He’s SO sick, and while I am thankful and grateful that he is alive, I am exceptionally upset that he isn’t in a good situation and is so far away. It makes me ill. The fact that the medicine he needs for his heart and lungs is more expensive than I can handle is also too much for me emotionally. I want to help him, to fix the situation and the problems, but I can’t fix every problem he presents me with. It kills me. You are only given so many people in a life and I have been given one living brother. Not helping when he asks (or doesn’t ask) is to be a lower life form. I can’t be like that. I stand up as much as humanly possible.

I have much to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for what little in my life is mine. I’m grateful for the roof over my head, clothes, food, Cat and Kitten, my friends, and family. However, I’m also pissed off.

This has been an extremely painful year for me. I don’t know when it gets easier, or if it ever does, but I hope and pray that the coming year (and years) won’t wreck me like the previous dozen, or so, have. I’m a human-being, I’m imperfect, my feelings are real, and valid, and in 2017, I’d like to break out of this horrible shell I am in and be reborn in some way.

For the past six months or so, I’ve been experiencing bouts of Fibro Fog that are terrifying. I’ve done so many bizarre things that I’d never normally do if I was at 100% capacity (like trying to put black pepper in the freezer). For over seven months, I’ve been experiencing blackouts where I cannot account for my time. I’m not passing out and waking up on the side of the road or anything, and I’m lucky that they are no longer happening daily, but there are far too many days where I look at the clock and it’s 9:00 a.m. and the next thing I know, it’s 4:00 PM and I couldn’t tell you where my day went if you paid me a million dollars. These are not normal things for anyone, leave alone me. I stopped talking about these episodes with friends and family because no one seemed that interested or concerned, but I’m walking around on auto-pilot and I have no idea how I get from point A to point B most days. It’s scary and it’s completely unlike me.


This year, Thanksgiving will lack all forms of tradition. The only “tradition” I’ll be bringing to the table is a 40+ year old recipe for stuffing. In my entire life, I’ve only eaten one other type of stuffing and it paled in comparison to my Mom’s. However, to highlight my Fibro Fog I have to say I’m embarrassed and mortified that I remembered all of the ingredients for the stuffing, but once I hit store #3 on Sunday, I realized I never purchased the actual stuffing, herbs, or a turkey pan for it. I tend to make stuffing the night before, that way it’s perfect Thanksgiving Day (and only takes a little while to heat up). It also helps me pace myself because making it involves a lot of vegetable chopping and ingredient play. However, I am happy to make it and enjoy that piece of my Mom that she passed on to me; the ability to cook and cook well (In fairness, I did inherit other things from her, for which I am also eternally grateful.).

So yeah, lots of sadness at the moment. I’m praying I will somehow be able to come through for my brother, and as it has been nearly a year since I’ve seen him (Unheard of!), I am hoping & praying I will be able to see him next month. I have learned this year that the person who knows me best is my brother (only regarding certain things, not all things). Part of me finds that exceptionally sad, and the other part thinks it’s extremely fitting.

Wishing everyone, in advance, a wonderful start to the holiday season. You don’t have to be American to appreciate that sentiment.


Be safe, everyone!

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

An Open Letter To The “Person” Who Hurt My Brother

An Open Letter To The “Person” Who Hurt My Brother

Let’s pretend, for a second, that I don’t know who you are. I’d simply hunt you down slowly and throw you to a pack of wolves. I wouldn’t shed a tear. My tolerance level for such behavior is nil.

However, I know precisely who you are, which makes this ten times worse than if you’d been a mere stranger. This information is dangerous because, in doing what you did, you pissed off the wrong person. Moreover, you left evidence of your “attack”. It wasn’t an attack in the physical sense; or you’d be dead. No, your attack was low, cheap, deplorable, offensive, and you’re incredibly lucky I haven’t ripped you to shreds and fed you to wild pigs. You fed someone lies in an effort to hurt them. It was not “tough love”; it was pure, unadulterated viciousness and hatred. I know you think you’ve gotten away with it, but you haven’t. Knowledge is power. Nothing will ever protect you in this life again. I work best when I’m angry.

My brother is 100% my blood. He is one of few people in this life that I would kill for. The remainder of the list is shorter than an ant hill in winter, and getting shorter each day. I think some people mistake passion and/or rage for love. They’d be wrong. If I don’t love you, you do not benefit from my loyalty and fierceness.

Like most girls, I didn’t want a baby brother. I genuinely wanted a sister, but G-d gives you what He gives you. You learn to deal with such things as you grow up. I’ve been there for my brother since before he came into this world. I was there when we brought him home from the hospital. I vividly remember the first time I saw him. He was quiet; looking directly at me as if he knew who I was; with wide, searching eyes. From day one, I was his protector. He would cry hysterically if I was out of his sight for a minute, and he always wanted to follow me everywhere. He was obsessed with his older sister. Thankfully, he outgrew that, but still, a person remembers.

No matter how mad I get at him, a siblings’ prerogative, I will always have his back. Not to stab him in it, but to shield him from as much as humanly possible. Not because he needs the protection, but because it’s what a good sibling does. Take notes.

Just because you lack quality communication skills does not give you the right to take shit out on my brother. If you want to be ugly, take it out on someone else. Go see a fucking therapist or a psychiatrist for much-needed medication, but don’t attack a person for existing and being human. Don’t swipe claws at someone unless you’re prepared to be attacked in kind by someone far more lethal. Sadly, my brother is too good a person to confront you. He’d rather pray for you and hope that you develop a heart. I have no such issues.

There are maybe a handful of people I will go to bat for in life, and my brother is one of them. You hurt him and even if it takes me five years or ten, I will figure out precisely what it is that will bother you the most. Hell hath NO FURY like me when angered to this level. I wasn’t raised to eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, and I will not allow him to believe lies about himself, or lies fed to him about me. Something you do not seem to understand is that he knows me and I know him. You can’t feed people lies about each other when they know the absolute truth.

One aspect of being bonded, close siblings is that my brother talks to me. If someone says something to him he will say “Hey, let me tell you about this and get your take on it.” But this time, the issue at hand was taken way too far. He doesn’t deserve to be hurt like this, and to feel such hatred from someone he’s never harmed. If you want to pick on someone, pick on someone your own size. In fact, attack the person staring back at you in the mirror, because after all, that’s who you’re really mad at, not him.

If you love someone, love them wholeheartedly. Love them unconditionally. Love them while you’re still alive. “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.” You can bandage certain wounds, but not caring and letting a person know how much you don’t care? Not everyone recovers from that. You cannot fix wounds that deep. Unlike him, I won’t pray for you. I’m not that kind.

I cannot unlearn what I’ve learned. It is one of the most astounding things, and yet, I’m not surprised. The fact that I have managed to restrain myself this long speaks VOLUMES for how well I have learned to manage my temper. Ten years ago, you would still be explaining to people why you got beaten with your own arm; after I ripped it out of its socket and broke your face with it. Some people talk tough, but I have the capacity to do what I say I will do. My temper is infamous. People do not expect it. They see a petite (read: short) woman. They smile, I smile, but they have no idea what lurks beneath the pretty exterior if you piss me off or hurt someone I love. I am a protector, but I won’t be fooled.

Not to get it confused or twisted; I yell at my brother a lot. We get into very heated arguments because he pushes my buttons and keeps pushing until I lose my temper. However, when I tell him the truth about something, it isn’t to be mean and hurtful, it’s because I’m that direct. He doesn’t take it personally because honesty from me is acceptable, but someone else being cruel to him for the sheer satisfaction of being cruel? NO. That’s unacceptable, and he knows I will inevitably say or do something to put a stop to it. I didn’t major in drama because I lack the ability to be fake. But some people behave like insane sociopaths, and it makes me question their many faces.

I refuse to make excuses for your behavior from here on out. I refuse to say kind things or to temper things gently. From here on in, I am going to be the biggest, most vicious pain in your ass. I’d start investing in hemorrhoid cream now.

If you cannot be a solid person, at least have the decency to tell someone honestly, instead of hanging up on their phone calls and ignoring them for months at a time. If you pulled that crap with me, you’d come to find that he’s the nice sibling. Me? I enjoy being bad cop, even though I’d be an amazing one.

Knock off the drama or deal with me. The choice, ultimately, is yours. Do what you can live with. You’re closer to leaving this world than I am.

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Life’s Battles & Celebrations

Last year, the day after my birthday, my brother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure that required a quadruple bypass. It was an extremely scary time in which I functioned on G-d only knows what, and forced myself to remain strong through prayer and talking to people who did their best to emotionally support me through that horrible time.

Today, I celebrate my brother’s birthday. In the past year, through horrific battles that life has challenged us with, we have become a more united brother & sister. I’m proud of that. The ugliness and evil of others cannot destroy what he & I have built. It’s a horrible situation, but through bad, there is also good.

In the past year my brother has lived through three life-threatening operations and a horrific maze of challenges that have been cruel, harsh, evil, and vicious. I pray that this year is better to him; that promises made are promises kept, and that a year from now, we can laugh instead of cry.

As so many of us know, life itself can be a harsh task master. If you have the power to make someone’s life better, greater, happier, more secure, etc., even if only for a short period of time, then you should be selfless and act, not say one thing and do another. Life is SO short and none of us want to live with regrets. My father (May He Rest In Peace) spent most of his life not speaking to his brother. This would go on for five years, ten years, etc., until eventually my Uncle was 71 and dying from cancer. Instead of calling my father, I was the one to receive the call that my Uncle had cancer and didn’t have much longer to live. I had to break the news to my father and plan a day for the entire family to be together. They bonded in those last moments as though they’d never bonded before, and I know it gave them both a sense of peace. My Uncle passed away, and nearly two years later my father passed, from the exact same disease.

I’d slay dragons and demons to make sure my brother remains alive and in tact. I may very well have to do that; but today I thank all that is Holy that he is alive, that he has survived, and ultimately, that he is MY brother.

I know things are bad at the moment, M, but I am ALWAYS, ALWAYS with you.



“They tried to break us, but that didn’t work. And they tried to destroy us, but that didn’t work. They sent every form of evil our way, and still we stood tall. For that is the bond of this blood, once and for all.”  

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Strength Through Adversity


Week two of this 10 level Fibro flare. Each day I have said “Tomorrow.” Yesterday I said “Self-care and work.”, because walking was out of the question in terms of pain, and even when the edge was taken off, I was concerned about further damage.

Waking up at 1:00 a.m. two days in a row with a migraine and excruciating hip pain is NOT doing much for my mood. I did about 10% of the proofreading job yesterday, and called it an early day. I am grateful it’s under 62,000 words, or I’d be furious with myself based on how hard I am working. I have a deadline to meet and I need to get this done. The sooner, the better. Brain cells died off yesterday. 😦

I’m struggling right now with the pain, with what my brother is going through. Another life-threatening infection, another stay in the hospital. More surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning. I am devastated and heartbroken, worried that my brother won’t make it through the year, and I am withdrawing from negative people who don’t want good things for me. If you treat me like a real person, I will be there for you through thick & thin, but when you treat me like an animal and/or a personal maid, it won’t take long before I get sick and tired of it.

The best was the phone call I received yesterday morning from a friend, asking if I could “pop down to New York real quick for the next week because her babysitter backed out and she has to work New York Fashion Week”. She hasn’t spoken to me in months (six, to be exact), but calls out of the blue for a favor. It’s not even a small favor, it’s the favor of entertaining a five year old for a week in New York City, as if I’m five minutes away. I very nearly responded by saying “She should be in school.” (which I firmly believe) and hanging up. What’s the point of enrolling your child in a nearly $40,000 a year private school if she is going to be missing a month traveling with you from New York to London, and then on to Milan and Paris? She could have stayed home and remained on schedule. I sat here, shaking my head no, and finally said “This time, I can’t do it.” I did NOT elaborate as to why or explain my feelings. It was as if I’d said NOTHING though, because then she asked if I’d be attending her 20th wedding anniversary party next year. One) I have not received an invitation; this is the first I’m hearing about it. Two) I wasn’t invited to the wedding, despite the fact that we’ve been friends since we were kids. Three) Maybe not. If I’m only good enough to be present for certain things and I’m not important enough for you to return my calls or text messages in a timely fashion (I don’t care who you are, no one is THAT busy, unless they’re off saving lives or have been deployed overseas.), please don’t expect me to jump when you DO deign to call. What little of a life I have, despite the fact that it makes me fucking miserable, is mine and I’m not a servant to be called in at the last-minute.

I am dead tired and would really like to sit and cry. However, I have to be strong for my brother and do what I can to help him get through another hurdle. Despite all the horrible shit I am going through, no one is cutting me open in an operating room (They’re simply doing it verbally.) and giving me bad news on that level. I pray he comes through this healthier, and I pray no family ever has to go through what he & I have been through over the past year.

I will be back as soon as I am able. For now, it’s back to the grindstone. G-d Help Me!

copyright © 2016 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I’m legitimately tired of pausing and not reacting the way people deserve.