Thursday, 21 January 2021

Marking the Day


I mentioned last week that the 23rd marks one year since my grandmother passed away.  I’m spending tomorrow with family.  Since I usually don’t get on the internet over the weekend, I wanted to put up this post today.  I spoke at my grandmother’s memorial service.  I was determined to give her the honor and respect that she deserved, and desperate to make her proud.  This is what I said.

My grandmother was the best person that I have ever known.  It’s not possible, to sum up, 94 years' worth of living in just a few minutes, and I’m not going to try.  What I do want to talk about is how special grandma was, and how influential she was in my life.  She truly was one of a kind.

Grandma had the purest heart of anyone I have ever met, and she touched everyone who came in contact with her.  Everyone who met grandma fell in love with her.  Her sweetness and light were infectious and she approached people with an openness that never failed to make others feel included and wanted.  When I was a child, I was always at her feet.  No matter what she was doing, I was never too far away.  She loved children, and always included all of us kids; teaching us how to cook and how to make tortillas, telling us stories of her childhood, and playing with us.  She made the same newspaper boats and hats for Aubrey that she did for Deborah and I.  Playing in the corner of the kitchen while she was cooking, reading on her bed while she watched TV… it didn’t matter; I just always wanted to be near her and she was always happy to have me.  Because of that, I learned a lot about life watching her and talking with her.  I want to share with you the person that I knew, and the invaluable lessons that she gave me.

One thing that Grandma taught me is to regularly exercise my mind.  She didn’t have the luxury of proper education, but she didn’t let that stop her from learning what she could and using the mind that she had.  Even at 94, she was pretty quick-witted, and that was largely due to her love for puzzles.  When I was a child she would let me “help” her do the crosswords out of the paper or search her word finds with her. She taught me to love words and puzzles and to keep my mind active and in shape.

She taught me to be resourceful and to think outside the box.  She could entertain me for hours with a balloon made from a grocery bag.  My mom often said that you could look into the kitchen and see nothing to eat, but grandma could turn around and feed four or five people off of what she could MacGyver out of a potato and some spices.  She knew poverty and she survived.  She made do with what she had and taught me that a little goes a long way when you approach it with creativity and determination.

I learned about love and marriage from talking to her about grandpa.  She loved my grandfather; he was her whole life.  He was truly her soul mate and she talked about him all the time.  She longed for the day when she would see him again in heaven and be reunited with him once more.  I learned from her that when it came time to choose a partner, not to settle for anything less than someone with whom my soul would be entwined for eternity, because epic love is totally possible if you believe in it enough to be patient and wait for it to arrive.

A lesson that took me a very long time to learn is one of perseverance.  Grandma suffered from phlebitis for decades and lived in a constant state of pain that got progressively worse over the years.  As she lost mobility, the limitations of her body continued to rob her of the things she loved to do.  Grandma taught me that life is hard and doesn’t make sense.  The longer you live, the more you will experience pain and loss.  Life isn’t fair, but you can’t run away from it.  You have to face the pain head-on and accept it.  You play the hand that you’re dealt and you do the best you can with it, not making excuses, but thriving in spite of how hard the circumstances may be.  Grandma’s body was weak and fragile, but she had amazing strength of spirit.  She taught me that the strongest people aren’t necessarily the ones who shout the loudest or who control and overpower.  In fact, grandma was much more likely to listen and witness than to speak out.  The quiet strength of simply surviving, of standing tall and going on while the fire threatens to consume you, that’s what real strength is.  She lived a life full of pain and loss, but she never let it rob her of her joy.  She cried, she grieved, and she kept right on going.  She never let it turn her bitter.  She never allowed it to cause her to be closed off or shut down.  She stayed optimistic, despite all of her sufferings and was quick to laugh or sing.  She taught me that it’s okay if you have to cry, and it’s okay if you have to crawl, as long as you keep going.

Grandma showed me what faith looks like.  She had a strong sense of right and wrong and was honest and uncompromising.  She prayed to God several times a day for herself, and especially for those she loved.  Despite how hard grandma’s life was, her faith never wavered.  There were a lot of things about her life that she didn’t understand.  She didn’t know why she was made to suffer and she wondered about God’s plan, but she never doubted that He had one.  Sometimes I wonder if faith like that only comes with age.  There are those few people who you come across whose faith is so strong that they stand like giants among us, and many of them are older.  Grandma was a Goliath in her faith, and it left an impression.  Perhaps it takes a lifetime of testing to believe so solidly, as tangible as the rock beneath your feet.  I don’t know the answer to that, and this is a lesson that I am still learning.  Because of her faith, though, I know that she is in heaven.

Grandma told me several times that when she died she didn’t want me to cry and she didn’t want me to be sad.  It’s not that easy, though.  I want to be happy for her, and in a way I am.  I am so thankful that her pain is over and she is finally at peace.  I’m glad that she was able to shed her earthly body that was always at war with her and can now run and dance and be free.  I’m glad that she is reunited with all of the family that she lost, especially her husband.  But I miss her.

The last couple of weeks my mind has been flooded with a lifetime of memories.  I miss her cooking.  No one was a better cook than grandma.  I miss her humor.  She really was a funny lady and I miss the sound of her laugh.  Mostly, though, I will miss experiencing how much she loved me.  She was always so happy to see me, no matter what was going on.  All I had to do was walk into the room and she lit up.  Her love was unconditional, the purest love I’ve ever known.  She taught me that family isn’t limited to bloodlines.  Family can include neighbors and friends and many of you can attest to being “adopted” by my grandma.  Whether we were born in, married in, or adopted in, she loved us with the same fierce devotion.  It was a selfless love, doing whatever she could, giving everything away, wanting the best for everyone else before herself.  I don’t think I will ever find a pure love here on earth like what I received from grandma.  She was one of a kind and a blessing to everyone who met her.  And though I am happy that grandma has gone on to a better place, I am so sad for the hole that she has left behind.  To me, grandma was safety and love and acceptance.  She was truly special, and we are all so lucky to have known her.  I feel honored to be her granddaughter, and so blessed to have had her in my life.  I loved my grandmother with all my heart, and she lives on through what she passed on to me.  She didn’t have much, and she didn’t leave a wealth of possessions behind.  What she did leave was the memory of her love.  We are better people for having known her.  We are her legacy, and she will live on in the hearts of everyone she touched.

It’s 2014, and it’s Going to be BIG

 So, it’s 2014.  Doesn’t that sound like science fiction?  I guess if you were born at the tail end of the millennium, then it ain’t no thang, but the rest of us were supposed to have shiny jumpsuits and flying cars by now.  It’s pretty funny to think about where we thought we’d be.  I’ve never been a fan of science fiction, but I still find it kind of amazing that we haven’t managed to blow up the planet or go extinct by now.  Yay us!

My last post in this blog was back in April, so I should probably update you on how the last 8-9 months have gone.  Things were not great at the beginning of 2013.  I was still grieving over the loss of my grandmother, had some health problems to deal with, and Tim (the hubs) was having a hell of a time at work.  Add in some financial stress and the first half of 2013 pretty much sucked.  Things really turned around in the latter half of June.  We were able to consolidate our credit card debt into an easy loan with really low interest, which was a huge load off our minds.  We even took out a little extra for our first big vacation since we got married.  We opted to go to Disney World to celebrate our anniversary, so much of July through October was spent planning for the trip.  Tim’s work life started to improve in late summer and that helped out a lot.  He was so stressed and depressed about work, that it had really been taking a toll on our time together.  In August we decided to train for our first 5K, which we ran in September and met each of our personal goals for the race.  I’ve been wanting to do a 5K for years, so this was a really big thing for me.  Between the training, vacation planning, and relief about our debt, we both managed to climb out of the depressive funks we were in.  Our trip to Disney was amazing and exactly what we needed.  We both loved it and want to go back when we get a chance.  November and December, the holiday season, is my favorite time of year.  We had an uneventful, but still the fun holiday season.  We didn’t end up performing this year, which was kind of a bummer (we are usually in choirs or music groups of some sort, but aren’t involved with any at the moment), but we had a good holiday season anyway.  And that pretty much catches you up, which brings us to 2014.

I am not really a New Year’s Resolution kind of girl, but I do have some very clear goals for this year.  The first of which is to keep this blog going.  I have been doing a good job on my beauty blog, but obviously neglected this one last year.  I want to change that.  As much as I enjoy my beauty blog, I’d like to have a space to talk about non-beauty stuff.  That’s why I started this blog in the first place; to talk about my real life and what I’m thinking about.  I want to post regularly, at last once or twice a week.  It’s really tough to keep two blogs going at once, but I am determined to make a go at it.

My second goal is to re-commit to my diet and really lose weight.  I was doing pretty well and lost about 25 pounds until my grandma got sick and then things kind of went to hell.  I tried to eat healthily, but I ended up giving in to depression and grief.  2013 was especially bad as far as food was concerned, and Tim and I both ate like crap.  Over the last two years, I have gained back almost all of the weight that I lost, which is unacceptable.  I am determined to lose and keep going until I reach my goal weight.  I’ve been fat my entire life, even when I was playing sports in junior high and high school, and I’m sick of it.  When I lose a bit, I want to go for another 5K and try to beat my previous time.  I want to make sure that I’m eating clean foods, not processed, and try to get healthy.  I don’t want to get skinny, I want to be fit and strong.  This is going to happen.

The final goal that I have for this year is to move.  I will have more details about this by the end of the month (hopefully) because things are still very much up in the air.  A lot depends on other people’s decisions at the moment (which is driving me crazy) so I will know more once those decisions have been made.  But I can say for certain that by the end of 2014 I will be living somewhere else.  Although I will regret leaving my apartment’s giant built-in bookshelf and vaulted ceilings, I am super stoked about this movie.  I am also trying to convince my sister that, when I move, she needs to be my new next-door neighbor.  That would be the coolest thing ever.  Just sayin’.

So, that’s what I have in store for 2014.  It’s going to be a big, big year.  I also have the nebulous goal of “simplifying” but I’m not sure what that means for me yet, so I have to do more thinking about it.  I just feel like the last couple of years have been ones of excess and I need to pare down a bit.  There will be more on that later when I have a better grasp of what I want.  At any rate, I am excited about what this year has to offer and am in a really good place.  I am prepared for this year to rock.

We Need to Talk

 We need to talk.   I am outraged.  And I think that anyone who is a woman or who loves women should be outraged too.  There are a lot of conversations that could be had in response to the shooting at UCSB, but I am not going to talk about most of them.  I’m not here to talk about gun violence/gun control.  I don’t want to talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness, the speed at which the media assigns labels or characteristic traits of Aspergers, and how it does not equate to violence.  I don’t want to talk about the shooter at all.  What I want to talk about is the positive response his actions are getting on the internet.  I want to talk about the many men who think he had the right idea.  What I want to talk about is the Men’s Rights Movement, the message that young men are being raised with, and the fact that this is not a one-off incident.  The tragedy of the UCSB shooting is that it has happened before and it will happen again unless we all start having more conversations about misogyny and start changing our culture.

Elliot Rodger was a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA), a member of many MRA websites and forums, and subscribed to several “pick-up artist” and “player” channels on Youtube.  The sole purpose of these sites is to teach men how to manipulate women into having sex with them and also to blame women for withholding sex.  They are taught that just for being men, and therefore superior, they deserve sex.  They feel entitled to access to women’s bodies.  The MRA sites teach that women lie, cheat, and manipulate men, trying to steal their power.  They teach that men need to take their power back, by force if necessary, and become the “true alpha male”.  Each of these websites and Youtube channels have tens of thousands (if not more) of subscribers.  So, we aren’t talking about a few “gun-toting crazy” men who are going to snap and kill everybody.  We are talking about normal, everyday men that you may know, and that is what is truly terrifying.  The UCSB shooting didn’t happen because one man was (allegedly) mentally ill, it happened because this viewpoint has become normal.  This happened because last month a 16-year-old girl was stabbed to death by a classmate for refusing to go to the prom with him, and it’s so normal that you probably didn’t hear a thing about it.  Six people are dead because Elliot Rodger couldn’t get laid when society taught him he had a right to it.

It is truly frightening to see how many positive responses there are to the UCSB shooting.  And these horrible sentiments are getting “likes” and upvotes, so it’s not only a case of the extremist minority.  Whether the comments are sincere or said in jest (there are some of both), these thoughts are out there in the mainstream.  Here are some real-life responses that I have seen:

  • “I applaud what this guy did and encourage other young men to take women’s lives, it’s the only way we can fight feminism.”
  • “Whenever a crazy guy asks for sex, you better drop them panties and take one for humanity.”
  • “This would never have happened if those stuck up women had given him a chance.”
  • “Thank you, Elliot, for putting these bitches in their place.  I really appreciate your sacrifice.  R.I.P.”
  • “I really feel bad for him, rejection is agony.”
  • “Involuntary celibacy [screws] with a man’s mind… No one cares about a man’s suffering until he starts killing people.”
  • And one of the worst to a current UCSB student: “If you had just given him a little ass, those people would still be alive today.”

People, what the fuck!  Why are you defending a mass murderer?  We need to talk about this.  I realize that the majority of my audience is female, but that’s fine.  Talk to your brothers and your friends, and especially your sons.  Tell the men and boys in your life that sex is not a right, it’s a gift.  Tell them that no means no, and it doesn’t mean they are now challenged to wear the women down.  Tell them that real men respect women.  Tell them that feeling “entitled” to sex is a short step away from taking it by force.  Ask them to think about the mothers, sisters, and female friends in their lives and take those women as evidence that not all women want to manipulate and use them.  Give them examples of how humanity works best when men and women work together.  Explain that there is no “one right way” that a man should be.  Explain that men come in all different shapes and personalities, with different talents that are just as valid as the next.  Explain that women are the same way.  Women aren’t objects, or property, or receptacles, or trophies, or caricatures, or body parts.  Explain that a woman might say “no” for any number of reasons and many of them may not have anything to do with the guy, but the important part is that they have the right for that “no” to be respected.  Teach them that they don’t have to fear a smart, successful woman.  Teach them that capable women make excellent partners.  Teach them to respect a woman, not because she is someone’s sister or daughter, but because she’s a fucking human being and we share a planet together.

This conversation needs to happen.  “But,” you say, “the men in my life are all fine upstanding citizens who love women.”  That’s awesome!  Get them to talk to their friends.  We can not keep perpetuating a misogynist culture where rape jokes are perfectly acceptable on Facebook, men can make youtube channels dedicated to tricking women into sleeping with them, and women get brutalized (verbally and physically) every day simply for being a woman.  My heart goes out to all of the victims that were shot, stabbed, and run down by Elliot Rodger.  But mostly I am pissed off that even one person can look at this guy and his manifesto of hate with sympathy, understanding, or agreement.  There is a very popular Margaret Atwood quote circulating the internet right now: “Why do men feel threatened by women?  They’re afraid women will laugh at them and undercut their world view.  Why do women feel threatened by men? They’re afraid of being killed.”

I am not an activist.  I have never been very focused on politics.  I don’t follow the news, I don’t listen to talk radio, and I am not as aware of the world around me as I should be.  But, I do know that without the actions of good people who can’t stand the way of things, the world will never change.  I have become more politically aware as I’ve gotten older.  There are certain causes that I truly believe in.  Mainly, though, I simply refuse to remain silent as society crumbles around my feet.  So, instead of leaving you with that sobering quote from Margaret Atwood, I will choose to end on a different note.  Have a conversation.  Don’t talk about the gory details of what happened at UCSB.  Talk about why it happened.  Talk about gun violence and gun control.  Talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the speed at which the media assigns labels.  Educate yourself on the characteristic traits of Aspergers and then talk about how it does not equate to violence.  Talk about misogyny and the Men’s Rights Movement.  Educate yourself, and then spread the word because we have a hell of a lot to talk about.

Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

This is How I am Doing


Life is stressin’ the hell out of me right now.  For those who do not know me personally, I am not a very patient person.  I’m working on it, but that’s the truth.  This year has been a real test of my patience so far.  We are being relocated by Tim’s work from North Carolina back to California.  It’s very exciting, and we are so happy to be going back home.  The only problem is that we have no information about the move.  The “plan” is that the company is going to buy a building in “the LA area” to open up a West Coast office.  This has been the plan since January, and nothing has happened yet.  They have signed contacts promising that the office will be up and running by the end of the year, but that’s all we have.  There have been tentative general plans made, but even those are behind schedule because the CA office keeps getting pushed back by more pressing matters.  And it is so very frustrating!

I can’t even explain how not knowing the where and when of the move is driving me crazy.  I can’t make plans for birthdays or small getaways because I don’t know what state I will be in.  I can’t start looking for places to live, because I don’t know where the office will be located.  “The LA area” is gigantic, stretching from Ventura County down to the border of Orange County, and from the Inland Empire to the Ocean.  That’s well over 30,000 square miles. I don’t want to look for a place to live in the San Gabriel valley if the office in El Segundo or Silverlake.  (I realize that this doesn’t make much sense to those who are not familiar with SoCal geography.  Sorry.)  Not knowing the where and when is really taking its toll on me.  I’ve tried to be patient, but it’s been six months and I feel like I am in the exact same place as I was back in January.

The other thing that has been an emotional blow is that we had a possible adoption fall through.  Tim and I randomly had the possibility of adopting a baby boy.  It was a long-shot, a young couple in a bad spot that knows my sister, not through an agency.  We tried not to get our hopes up because we knew the situation was precarious, but it was still a disappointment when it didn’t happen.  The good that came out of it was that it got us talking a lot about IVF and adoption, and I think we have decided to go the adoption route instead of risking IVF.  I’ll be looking into California agencies.  We keep trying to tell ourselves that this just wasn’t the right baby for us, but it’s hard.  The whole process has brought emotions to the surface that had been pushed down for a long time.

So, that’s how I am doing.  A lot of stress and a lot of emotions.  Tim and I are in a holding pattern right now, and it’s a tough place to be.  My guess is that we will move sometime in the Fall.  We will be renewing our lease for a shorter term, so I’m hoping that we can move in late October.  Nothing for sure, though.  I’m just trying to get through the day to day without getting crushed by the giant ball of stress hanging over my head.  Some days are better than others.  The good news is that I get another summer to play with my sister and my niece.  I plan to pack it full of days at the pool, backyard BBQs, and hanging out at Panera.  Other than that. I’ll just be here waiting… and waiting.

Marking the Day

  I mentioned last week that the 23rd marks one year since my grandmother passed away.  I’m spending tomorrow with family.  Since I usually ...