Monday, November 22, 2010

Refuge in rituals

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:

[morning coffee]



[walks to/from the bus stop]

And on Monday mornings: Post Secret.  What regular activities are your little indulgences?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kauai revisited

I mentioned briefly that I went to Hawaii last summer.  I needed to get away on the heels of having called off the engagement, and my folks gladly let me tag along.  I'd never spent so much time with just my parents before, which made the week interesting, intense, and insightful all at once.  We had a good time overall, and now that I look back on it as the last trip I took with my mom, it's so much more meaningful.

[beach, kauai]

[shaved ice]


[4th of july]

[eating in]

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]

[sunset, kauai]

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

First firsts

My younger brother had a birthday this past Tuesday: the first family birthday after our mom's passing.. I didn't think too much of it (I texted him on the day; we had dinner plans for the day after) until we met up on Wednesday, when he shared that he was feeling sad and was particularly missing Mom. Because it was his birthday and he was remembering where he came from. And that person is no longer here.

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

Apple crumble, crumbled

There's still the everyday stuff of life, and even new things.  Like baking.  Not because I enjoy baking (I've never owned a set of measuring spoons).  But I didn't want the apples (where oh where did they all come from?) to go to waste.  So with Jaxs' help, I measured, peeled, grated, mixed, mashed, and baked an apple crumble. 

[apples, grated]

[ready for baking]

[beautifully browned]

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

49 Days

Halloween was especially on the periphery this year because of my mom's passing.  Last weekend marked a milestone in the mourning process: 49 days.  We -- my family, my aunt, my cousins -- had been going to the gravesite and then the temple for the past six Sundays.  On the 49th day extended family and friends are invited to come to the temple and join in the ceremony and a vegetarian meal afterwards. 

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


It's probably my least favorite 'holiday,' but I simply must post a picture of the Goo's first Halloween.

[monkey, crawling]

[monkey, getting up]

[monkey, standing]

[monkey, playing]

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.

  [mini pumpkins]

 [mr. monkey]

[mrs. banana + me]

 [costumed college crew]