Tuesday, December 28, 2010
(Facebook posting or no, I would've seen it anyway. Love me a good western, gimme that twang!)
Monday, December 27, 2010
The extended family and friends gathered at my dad's and were all there by the time we arrived. I never have to introduce myself: my mom's college friends recognize her in my face. They say that seeing me takes them back; then they all sigh and say, a bit wistfully, "We're all old now." I was grateful to see everyone, even though I don't know everyone's name. It's enough -- more than enough -- that they came because they knew and loved my mom. I gave them all big hugs.
I doodled this the other day, kinda outta nowhere, and posted to P365. My BFF commented, "I miss your mom, too." It makes me tear up just to write that. I am grateful all over again that so many people knew my mom and share, in their own way, this grief.
So what now?
One day at a time. Starting slowly. Maybe I'll paint my toenails red; just like she used to.
Part of each weekend clean has been continuing to pare down my belongings (I think it's great that these days, on the blogosphere at least, it's called "editing" or "curating" -- it allows every Plain Jane to become a little bit fabulous, don't you think?). I even started putting clothes that I really like in the give/sell/donate pile, simply because I don't need so much!
Well, I thought I was doing a good job on cleaning (or "exfoliating," as Jess calls it; during the summer I started her Summer Slim Down and decided to take it into autumn). But then my brother and I started going through my mom's stuff last month. I sorted clothes and toiletries; he did shoes and some paperwork. And I ended up bringing two armfuls of clothes home for myself!
I picked out one or two of her old school blouses, a couple sweaters, and -- ironically -- some pieces I'd given to her back in the day. The gems, though, are her beautiful, hand-sewn traditional ao dai. Some of them are from when she was still single, so they're precious as my-mom-before-she-became-my-mom mementos. The fabrics are something else, too. Lovely silks and brocades. I've always loved the one with multi-color flowers on blue [middle], which I never saw my mom wear, and the teal brocade with spider mums [second from bottom], which is such a unique color and thick and rich and great for winter. The ao dai take up a lot of closet real estate, and I have to squeeze into some of them a bit, but I'm sure they can be altered. It feels nice to have her clothes so seamlessly integrated among my own.
Living simply often means cutting out the sentimentality that makes us keep what we don't need, but I'm allowing myself to hang on. Perhaps, as time passes, I won't feel the need to keep them any longer. And at that time, it'll be okay to let go. Besides, I'm sure I can find something else in my closet to let go... like my old high school prom dress!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I have randomly come across helpful articles. Sitting in the doctor's office I spied an issue of the New Yorker, in which there was an article on Roland Barthes' journal entries as he mourned the loss of his mother. Also -- and again, randomly, as it's not my habit to read magazines -- in an issue of Real Simple magazine I came across a description of The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion's memoir of the year she lost her husband.
Over and above my own findings, I have friends who've had parents pass away. They have rallied to my side through email, text, phone calls, handwritten cards, and even books and music.
Jessica, who lost her dad a couple years ago, sent me When the Heart Waits and A Grace Disguised. I am not quite ready for the former (having picked it up and not been able to get through the introduction) but am finding the latter a treasure. I'm reading it slowly, red pencil in hand, because there's so much goodness to it. Even in things I don't think I need. For example, I skipped over the part on forgiveness because I think of myself as a forgiving person and because I just didn't think it applied to me. But the self-imposed guilt of not reading the whole book got to me and I went back to read the three or four pages. It wasn't just that I saw myself reflected in Sittster's description of an unforgiving person, but he had good advice about how to become a forgiving person. There are things in my heart, attitude, and actions that I can do. So I will try.
I am totally open to recommendations, too, so don't be shy! It feels good to be in the company of good books.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
[piles o' leaves]
At the end of the night I spent some time talking to my aunt, my mom's big sis, who is tiny but has a way of hugging you with the strength of the universe. And who looks so much like my mom that I nearly started crying as I looked at her. She told me stories of my mom as a teenager -- looking in the mirror, worried about this or that -- and as a young woman -- "your mom was the most beautiful I ever saw her when she came back from New Zealand. She was absolutely gorgeous."
And I'd been thinking this for a while, but as I reflected on what my aunt shared, I began to ask: how many people hurt because my mom's not here? How many memories do other people have of her? What kinds of memories? Of when she was a girl? Of when she was somebody's girlfriend? Sister? Daughter? Teacher? Friend? When she was someone who wasn't yet my mom? Who has the greater claim to grief?
There isn't a greater or lesser, a more or less. It's all different. Loss is loss. To each person in their own way.
Mom will never not be in my thoughts or my heart; so I don't know that I need to trek out to the grave to "see" her or talk to her. I don't feel bad that I don't recall the exact time I last spoke with her or that I don't remember exactly what she was wearing. The last time I saw her was in the hospital bed and in the coffin, but those aren't the dominant images I have of her. Her influence on my life will always be so much bigger -- and smaller -- than that.
My college roommate came during the viewing and told me that she felt compelled to come because her mother had suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm, too. She survived, but was not the same. Even before she told me that, I was grateful that I'd been spared a memory and experience of my mother other than who she was when she was alive and truly herself. I remember MyKo's fiance nodding in agreement when I shared that thought (he's a doctor), and I was reminded again when I read Rachel's post about her stepfather.
There isn't a greater or lesser, a more or less. It's all different. Loss is loss. To each person in their own way.
And so, while sadness has taken up residency in my heart this season, somehow -- however strangely -- gratitude finds a home there, too.
This year (and evermore) I am thankful for my mom. Thankful that she loved me completely. Thankful that she did a good job. Thankful that God loves me enough to have given me her as a mother. I'm thankful for friends whose experience of having lost a parent has cushioned my fall. Thankful for my dad and brothers. And for our extended family, whom I've finally gotten to know better. To laugh with. I'm thankful for Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon on sale.
And I'm thankful for rakes.
Monday, November 22, 2010
In addition to the collective cultural mourning customs, I am finding comfort in going back to some of my solitary rituals. Though I'm generally not opposed to change, in the midst of so much of it (and that of the life-altering nature) it's soothes my soul to indulge the creature of habit I know myself to be. In little ways, like:
[walks to/from the bus stop]
And on Monday mornings: Post Secret. What regular activities are your little indulgences?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
[4th of july]
In addition to hanging out by the pool and going to the beach, we took a ukelele lesson and went on a boat/snorkeling tour. We attended an orientation of events at the resort, and the tour struck my mom's interest. She harly ever suggested activities (she always did what everyone else wanted to do), and I knew that she wouldn't have mentioned it if I wasn't on the trip, so I went along (despite my own inclinations to wallow). It was a splurge. We woke up early the next morning and headed out to sea and over about 14 miles of the Napili Coast. I'm glad we had a chance to see Kaua'i from that point of view -- looking inland we saw kayakers and hikers, tons of waterfalls, the mountains and vegetation, and with us out at sea, as dolphins (my first time!); we even stopped for a bit of snorkeling. My poor dad got a bit seasick, but my mom and I loved it.
[folks, napili coast tour]
[napili coast, kauai]
I remember sitting on the boat on the bumpy way back, wind and water whipping my face. I simply closed my eyes and held on, letting nature have its way. I felt vulnerable yet free and strong and able... a bit scared, out of my element, but at peace. Later my mom said that she saw the expression on my face and knew I was in a good place, enjoying the moment. (There are tears in my eyes as I remember and type that.) Of course she knew, because she knew me: she was my mom.
[me and mom, kauai 2010]
[pink plumeria, picked by mom]
I don't know much these days. The person that I always thought would be there, so much so that I never accounted for her absence, is now gone. I wanted her to see me get married, I wanted her to see me become a mother, I wanted her to hold and take naps with her grandchild. And I can't even say that at least she knew who I would marry. How strange, yet how natural, is it to mourn the future, those things that will never be?
Friday, November 12, 2010
Suddenly the coping mechanism of pouring yourself into work, or a new project, or an activity, disappears. You're snapped out of your bubble of concentration unawares, and it takes you especially by surprise because the event that triggers the memory, the reality -- in this case, a birthday -- is something that's always been there, whose date never changes.
In another case, something seemingly routine and uneventful will be a trigger. For me, it was the first Sunday back at church after the funeral. Having been in a haze of shock and logistics and surrounded by family for a week, I thought it would be okay, that I probably needed some 'off' time (my mom never went to church with me). So I drove to church, first for a meeting, then the service. I watched people come and go, say hi and bye, shake hands, and hardly anyone knew that I was going through the hardest time of my life, the greatest loss of my life. It was just another Sunday. I felt so small. And so sad. And so alone. There, in that big, holy sanctuary. Under the big rose window. With the big projection screen. And the worship band rockin' out. I felt like a ghost. Luckily a good friend found me and came and put her arm around me. And I buried myself in her shoulder.
I'm glad that it'd happened at church: a safe place where I have friends who will find me and encircle me and pray for me and protect me. I steeled myself for that same feeling to rush back the following Monday: first day of work after the funeral. Surprisingly, it didn't come. I was relieved. But that didn't mean that the feeling wouldn't come at all. It did, eventually, either because I was thinking of her, or someone said something. But I never knew what or when. The feeling just kinda snuck up. And still sneaks up.
The books and therapists say that the first year is the hardest for all the firsts contained therein. First birthday without mom. Soon, it'll be the first holiday season without her. And then her own birthday in early December.
How do you deal with this but to share your feelings with those who care, reach out for their support, be kind to yourself and allow the time and space needed to reel back a bit, hurt a bit, maybe cry a bit. It's all that I can do.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
[ready for baking]
It took about 30+ minutes to prepare, and an hour to bake. It felt like a long time. But the house smelled wonderful.
Jaxs and I shared a small piece as an initial QC tasting: super apple-y! delicious! I meant to take the rest of it in to work, but mornings have been hectic this week. Yesterday I decided to have a piece after dinner, but noticed tiny green spots of mold on the crust (it's been in the 90s here the past couple of days). So I had to throw it out. BOO.
I feel bad that I not only wasted the apples after all, but all the other ingredients -- and time -- that went into baking. But also mad -- at myself, of course -- for not taking the time to eat it! No more baking misadventures for me, thankyouverymuch. Back to knitting.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The first 49 days is believed by Buddhists to be an important period, during which time the deceased is reincarnated and makes their transition to the new life. Prayers are offered to guide and support the spirit.
Because of my personal religious beliefs -- but moreover because I know my mom didn't believe in reincarnation -- I don't put much stock in the meaning of the ritual (had to find out about it online). I attended more for the cultural aspect of the mourning process, which establishes certain intervals at which the family comes together to grieve and also celebrate the deceased: we went back to the grave three days after the burial, then once a week for seven weeks; the extended family will come together again at 100 days, and again at the year. The increased intervals are meant to "ease" the presence of the deceased out of daily life. I like that we're not expected to jump back into our regular schedules right after the funeral or after the bereavement leave allocated by work. I like that it's a yearlong process, and that we will continue to meet each year on my mom's death anniversary. And always on her birthday, and Mother's Day.
[family at 49]
To me, the larger gatherings are more for the "outer" circles of family and friends, where I am not so much mourning or remembering but simply "showing face." For me and for my immediate family, it's not, "See ya!" until 100 days. We continue to grieve, both as a unit and individually. I do so by allowing the laughs and tears to come as they may, and by (re)turning to words -- self-help books, memoirs, articles, and yes, even my own.
Monday, November 1, 2010
[monkey, getting up]
He went trick-or-treating around the block with his parents, while Ifixed myself a quiet dinner (leftovers, I admit) and called it an early night.
In keeping with the Goo's costume, here are some old Halloween pictures I found, from about two years ago (?). It's the last dress-up party I went to, hosted by Monkey+Banana. I came as Jack Skellington: work clothes + hand-knitted mask.
[mrs. banana + me]
[costumed college crew]
Friday, October 1, 2010
After a surreal week of making decisions and being present and getting very little sleep, I am shifting over to retreat mode: quietly. thinking. remembering. laughing. crying. and slowly: sorting. cleaning. giving away. keeping. smelling. loving.
The words will come back here, sooner or later; my mom would have wanted them to.
I'm around. If you know how to get a hold of me, feel free to reach out.
Friday, August 27, 2010
[melon, on the vine]
[tomatoes, on the vine]
Thursday, August 26, 2010
These days, I am back to eating more chicken than pork. It's still delicious when breaded and fried Japanese style, with tonkatsu sauce to boot! Here's how my Japanese mom taught me to do it.
Pork or Chicken Katsu
Pork (chops, boneless) or Chicken (breasts or thighs)
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
[chicken katsu prep]
First, dust meat in flour until completely covered.
Second, dip meat in egg until completely covered.
Third, dip meat in panko until completely covered.
[ready to fry]
Althought typically this is a deep fried dish, I don't like to use so much oil. I use a smaller pan and about 1/2 inch of oil. Fry the katsu on high until both sides are browned. Turn the heat to medium/low and continue to fry, turning the katsu over evenly. It'll be nice and cooked -- and still tender inside -- in about 12-15 minutes.
Enjoy! Instead of the traditional cabbage that comes with tonkatsu, I occasionally will slice up some cucumbers. It is equally delicious! Though beer or sake is the norm, a sweetish white wine is also appropriate. I suggest a sauvignon blanc or gewurztraminer.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
She was truly a beautiful person, but, more so, she was a beautiful soul. Where can I begin? The first time I met her, I suppose.
But I saw her before I actually met her. In Perspectives. In 2003. At the end of the semester-long class, there was a praise night that incorporated the talents of the students. That's when I saw and heard Jenn sing. She had an absolutely beautiful voice. But beyond that, I was drawn to her joy -- eyes closed, peaceful smile, hands lifted high -- as she sang out in praise to God. The image of her posture continues to be a model for me.
As I transitioned to attending that church I found out that Jenn also went there. I joined a prayer group and study group that she happened to be in, too, and a friendship was born. In addition to seeing her at church and once or twice during the week, there were girls' nights and other hangings out. I still remember the Easter luncheon at her house, where she and her mom fed about 20 of us a traditional meal, complete with ham and pineapple sauce!
Jenn was diagnosed with breast cancer about five years ago -- which surprised all of us as she was in her early 30s. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and got better. I knit her a hat that she said was her favorite (but I'm sure each hat that someone gave her was her favorite). She was a leader in the church and had gone on several overseas missions trips, so many missed her while she was undergoing treatment. Though we went to visit her from time to time, a lot of people were longing for the days when we got to see her regularly again.
A while after she'd gotten better and was around a bit more, probably two and a half years ago, we were told that other cancer had been detected in other parts of her body. So she had to undergo a different type of chemo and radiation. From there, there were snippets of news about surgeries, medications, infections, etc. And requests to pray for Jenn.
Despite the hospital visits and pain, Jenn still moved into a community house where she could serve. We helped her move in, some helping to paint her room pink, and she lived there for about a year. I remember helping her move out last summer, when the house was closed. Her condition was worsening, too, so it made more sense for her to move back home with her mom.
The past year was, obviously, the toughest -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. This past summer I was able to go alone and with friends to the hospital and to her home, bringing food, good cheer, and prayers. Whenever anyone came to visit Jenn, she asked all kinds of questions about their life. She made sure they knew how much she thought about them and missed them. Each conversation felt like we were just picking up from our last talk, no matter how long the time in between. She had a remarkable knack for remembering details about your story, and asking you about how those things were coming along. She would lament, too, about not being able to get out of bed to visit other patients to talk to and pray with them. That's typical Jenn for ya!
The cancer continued to spread. It debilitated her liver, and her white blood cell count was too low to withstand another surgery. So after her last hospitalization, Jen was released home to hospice care. A couple of Sundays ago a bunch of us went to her house after church. We sang songs, held her hand, and prayed for healing, peace, and, most of all, mercy. Jenn was sort of in and out of consciousness then, but every so often she would reach her arms out and say, "Jesus!" Jenn passed away that night, while a few of us lingered out on her driveway, praying for her and her family.
Our pastor hit the nail on its head when he said that Jenn's was a life interrupted. Equally true is that God's ways are higher than our ways. To me, Jenn B. personified the suffering saint. Yet even unto her last breath, no matter how much pain she was in, I believe she also lived with the joy of the Lord. And she truly lived every moment for the glory of God.
I miss my friend dearly. I feel guilty about not visiting her as often as I could have, not praying for her as consistently as I should have. I felt especially guilty when her mom said to me one night, "I'm so glad you could make it tonight, Jean. Jenny talks about you all the time. She loves you so much." But I'm glad, too, that I got to know Jenn B. And not only that I got to know her, but that I got to be known -- and loved -- by her.
I'm so glad that Jenn is no longer suffering, no longer in pain, and is finally Home.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
MyKo picked me up from the office so we got there way ahead of the other gals. So of course we headed to the bar for happy hour margaritas! They don't take reservations and don't seat until the entire party has arrived, so we continued to hang out in the bar until everyone came. We sat upstairs where the decor is sparse but warmed by the exposed brick walls. Lots of gal-talk and catching up. Good times for all.
I had grilled chicken, carne asada, and ground beef with pickles (!) tacos. They were all delicious!
[downstairs dining area]
[taco, taco, taco]
Looks like there's another location coming to DTLA, which means another venue on the happy hour roster! Orale!
Monday, August 23, 2010
Here were are at Monday again; hope it's a good one for you. Let's keep on keepin' on!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I should have taken it as an indication that things weren't going to end up well for me tonight. After grabbing coffee, we got to the theater early and chatted it up. Then the lights dimmed and the trailers -- one of my favorite parts! -- came on.
The first one featured Dwayne Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton. The film's called Faster (I had to look that up just now). I didn't get it.
The next one was with Hilary Swank; she plays the sister of a man convicted to life in prison with no parole, who gets her GED and goes to law school to fight for his vindication and release. It's based on a true story. I almost started to cry. (Maybe it's because I have brothers.)
Then came the one with Robert Downey, Jr. and that guy who plays Alan in The Hangover. He kinda reminds me of Jack Black (they probably get that a lot). The opening of the trailer was a scene at a public transport depot, in the rain. Robert Downey, Jr. is telling the other guy about the last time he saw his father, how he was at that same depot, had two suitcases, boarded a bus (or train), and just left. The other guy-- Zak Galifianakis, I just looked it up -- sitting on a bench with his dog, starts laughing heartily at Robert Downey, Jr.'s story, and says something like, "That's funny. My dad would never do that to me! He loved me!"
At which point the screen flickered, and went black. Deja vu.
"This is what happened when I went to see Inception the first time!" I said, "Only this happened halfway through the movie! Now you know what it's like!"
The darkness continued, and it was a few moments later that a staff member announced that there were technical difficulties they were working on, and that we would all be given free popcorn.
I collected our treat, and we decided to wait another 10 minutes. By 8:10, nothing was happening. So we decided to call it a night and get a refund.
It seems I am starting a collection of these. *sigh* Maybe I should wait until this movie comes out on DVD.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
It was really by chance that DC and I stopped by for lunch last weekend; we were intending to go elsewhere but passed by and saw that there was no line outside. Seating was immediate -- did you know they have a back patio area now? Perhaps it's a new addition for the summer, or to meet the demands of their growth. It was nice to be outside, sheltered from the sun, and not facing the noise and traffic of street-side dining.
[from patio, looking in]
The food was just what we needed: savory yet simple; with coffee and iced tea, respectively, it was an enjoyable summer lunch. Have you had your Auntie Em's lately?