Like My Mother

I have this memory of my Mom. I distinctly remember sitting outside in the backyard of my childhood house- it was sunny and she was laying on a lounge chair and I was sitting in a chair, poolside. I was talking to her about a project I had to do for school, a college writing course on oral histories, and mulling over ideas of whom I’d like to profile. My grandma? Mrs. Miller, the spry old lady who worked at our elementary school all those years? Or maybe, her? My very own Mother? As a Women’s Studies/Literature major, I wanted to focus on a strong woman and her story.

I don’t recall exactly how we came to discuss the next bit but I remember saying to her that I was a lot like her in personality to which she disagreed. She pointed out that I was brave and smart and strong, that I plowed ahead with my goals and was unstoppable. I tried to counter that all those things she thought I was, I learned from her. But she wasn’t convinced. That conversation has always stuck with me- how a person can’t see themselves the way the people who love them see them is one of the great misfortunes of life.

I will tell you this now- my Mom is the bravest woman I know. She is brave with love and gives everything she has to the people she cares about. Years and years ago she fell in love with a man who later would break her heart in a million pieces and yet she kept on loving him. She raised my sister and I amidst the chaos and turmoil of alcoholism. She worked two jobs to make sure we could keep our house and maintain a semblance of our lifestyle when my Dad could no longer work. She never stopped encouraging us to go to college and thanks to her, I was the first one to graduate from a 4 year university from my extended family. She was at her best friend’s side daily as she battled cancer. She quit her job and became a full-time caregiver of my Grandma when the Parkinson’s became too much. She packed up her comfortable life with a view of the Pacific, friends, and a house, to move to Seattle and be with us.

When I think about my Mom, I am struck by her dedication to the people she loves, her courage in the face of great sorrow, her ability to laugh at life and enjoy the little moments, her welcoming warmth that has made her a second mother to many of our friends, her big heart that makes her give and give some more, and her tenacity of spirit.

I am my Mother’s daughter and I could not be more proud of that fact.

Happy Birthday, Mom. You are beautiful.

I love you.

To My Nephew on His 5th Birthday

I’m sitting here typing this in the building you were born in five years ago today. It was hot that day like it will be here later. The sun is bright and the fans are whirling in anticipation. In a few minutes I will wrap your presents and later your uncle and I will drive over to your Grandma’s house for the birthday party in your honor. You’ll probably already be in your swim trunks, ankle-deep in the little pool, laughing with your friends. We will have cupcakes and sing and you will open gifts and it will be a lot of fun. It’s always fun with you.

You are a great kid. You make friends easily – you have a sweet openness, a friendly smile and adventurous spirit. You’re happy and loving and funny. You’re incredibly smart and insightful and inquisitive. You make us all better people just by being you.

There is no such thing as a bad day when you are around.

You will start kindergarten this Fall. How is it possible? It was just the other day I could pick you up and carry you around easily. Now you’re tall and lean and when you run to me for a hug I have to brace my muscles for the effort it is to lift you. You love superheroes and ponies and sometimes you quote Scooby Doo. Animals are drawn to you- you even learned how to take Tweety out of the cage and hold her. She likes you. But then, who doesn’t?

1st birthday, AKA The Year of Balloon Fascination

2nd Birthday and your first bike

3rd birthday, already upgraded from a tricycle

Now you can ride a bike all by yourself, no training wheels, no one holding on. Sigh. You are growing up so fast.

Finn's 4th birthday, AKA The Year of Superheroes

Mr. Darcy and I gave you that costume on the morning we left for New Jersey to visit his family and attend Dumpling & Jersey Girl’s wedding. You apparently wore it all day, up until you and Grandma were at a store and some bigger kids were making fun of it. You took it off and handed it to Grandma saying, “Here Grandma, hold this.” When she told me that story my heart broke. I wanted to protect you from the jabs and jeers of other kids who might squash your joy, your imagination and your free spirit. Don’t let anyone take away your uniqueness, kiddo. I will always remind you to hold steadfast to your joy.

You are fearless and love the water.

I bought you that robot t-shirt years ago but they sent the wrong size. Now you actually fit in it. Time flies.

You love to do anything athletic or adventurous. (Though your Pops is holding onto your legs out of sight of this photo, shh!)

You have awesome parents who love you with everything they have and who always put you first and a Grandma who moved her whole life to make you her life. And you have an Aunt, your Tee Tee, who loves you more than she ever thought it was possible to love another person and who would get you the moon if that’s what you wanted.

Happiest of birthdays, little blue-eyed wonder!

I love you,

Your Tee Tee

 

 

My sister, my heart.

When I think about my sister, my heart swells.

There is no other person who has walked through life with me, side by side, like she has. Through every thick and thin. Every low and high. Every ebb and flow. Every tear and belly laugh. We’ve been together.

I love no one in the world like I love my little sister.

Today she turns 36 and I pause to wonder where the time went. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was telling her to leave me alone because I was too busy reading to play with her? Wasn’t it just a few years ago that we would choreograph synchronized swimming routines in the pool to Whitney Houston songs? Wasn’t it just the other day that we lived in that beach house in Santa Cruz? The one with the closet that had the secret door that connected her room to mine? Wasn’t it a little while ago that I held her hand as she brought Finn into the world?

Time sure does fly.

In the past couple years she has been through a lot and has grown in ways maybe even she didn’t realize were possible for her. I see how she’s deepened into a more solid sense of who she is and I am proud of her. It’s no small feat to change your life, to admit to yourself that you want something different, that you want to BE different and then strive for it.

I wish for her every happiness and for the pockets of struggle and the opportunity to break down walls within her, for laughter till she cries and smiles so frequent they leave their mark around the eyes, for peace and comfort and deep knowing, for adventure and thrill and little moments of wonder. For so much love her heart near bursts.

Happy birthday, Dokey- my sister, my heart.

I love you.

Sisters

A 4 Day Celebration Worthy of Turning 38

Ringing in my 38th birthday was a lot of fun.  Here’s photographic proof:

Friday night date with my sister at a local wine bar, she shot this:

It was the end of happy hour so I had to double up. HAD TO. (No, that is not a young Gary Busey behind me.)

Saturday after getting my groove on at Zumba (no photos because that’d just be waaaay to sweaty and red-faced), Mr. Darcy & I drove up to see the tulips:

This is not a picture of tulips but rather the best part of the adventure which was NOT the tulips.

I had very much-anticipated seeing the tulips but sadly with all the rain and cold we’ve had, very few had opened and the fields were VERY muddy (re: slippery!). Plus, there were throngs of screaming, wild children running amok. SO! Mr. Darcy and I have now made a pact that we will not visit places with the word “field” or “farm” or “patch” in them unless we have children with us. We feel very good about this agreement.

Sunday was breakfast with my family at my favorite joint:

Entertaining the nephew while we wait for PANCAKES.

As we were eating our pancakes my nephew says to me, “After this we can go to your house and have your pancakes,” to which my heart melted a little bit because that boy sure does love my pancakes. He’s declared them The Best. And tells my Mom that her pancakes are the worst but she makes really good hot dogs. (Ha!)

Double B behaves while Supple doesn't.

Kaply came because, yes, she's part of my family. Plus, she really likes hollandaise sauce.

My Mom has adopted Supple.

My sister and I are big on self-portraiture.

Then I met my friends Aimee and Meghan for massages. They’d never been to this particular place but I go all the time. Unfortunately, the masseuse I got had hands that reeked of cigarette smoke and he wheezed like he was down a lung. It was giving me flashbacks. Uncomfortable flashbacks. Luckily most of the massage is focused on the feet (it’s a foot reflexology place) so I didn’t have to smell him for long. As Meghan was being massaged, the guy’s elbow working some magic, something popped in her back to which the guy leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Your rib.” Hey, now she doesn’t have to visit the chiropractor for a while!

Jen (pictured in the middle) met us later for Vietnamese food. It was a good girlie time.

Can you believe we’re just now getting to my ACTUAL birthday?

Mr. Darcy insisted on giving me his gift as he sat on the couch in his towel pre-shower. (Hubba!) And then I was off to Nia before meeting up with my Mom and nephew for “an adventure”. They came over with lunch and lit a candle in a homemade brownie and sang to me.

The sun was actually shining for most of the day. A birthday miracle!

Finn is sprouting like a weed. And he is very athletic. He prefers sports to the arts. I'm not sure my sister knows what to do with that.

Then Supple picked me up for a pre-dinner cocktail wherein we ate olives and talked about her inability to flirt. (I tried to give her tips- first one, Confidence with a capital C.)

I wore a new dress which fits great when I stand up but when I sit it feels too tight. Ooof! I wore it anyhow because what the hell, I'm 38!

Mr. Darcy took me to Dahlia Lounge which was delicious from start to finish. They even comp’d my half-glass flight of wine that accompanied each dish because it was my birthday. They also gave generous pours (so it is no wonder I fell asleep on the couch at 10pm- that was a lot of wine).

Making a wish on the most delicious coconut cream pie EVER.

My man sure does spoil me. I'm so lucky.

It was an awesome birthday from start to finish. From thoughtful friends calling, texting or sending gifts (you shouldn’t have!) to family going above and beyond to make me feel special, I loved every second of it. I can’t really believe I am 38 though the lines on my face remind me daily. I think 38 is going to be a really good year.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Shifting

Yesterday I didn’t do anything except go get a sandwich.

I mean it! I laid upon the couch watching movies and playing games on my iPhone while Mr. Darcy toiled away on a Very Important Artist Project.

It felt weird. I felt restless which at times lead to a feeling of aggressiveness. I know, I know, I am a freak who can’t enjoy a day of nothing to do. I proclaim it and embrace it- I AM FREAK, HEAR ME ROAR.

Clearly, I need a new hobby.

There’s this slump I hit after a big event where I feel a bit lost, like I don’t know what to do with myself. There isn’t anything to obsess on or toil over for 11+ hours a day. There isn’t a looming deadline. It’s over and done with, successfully at that, and yet I can’t just ride the good feeling.

More and more I’ve become acutely aware of my ability to numb out. It’s becoming glaringly obvious in counseling sessions when I am asked “what are you feeling right now?” and my eyes bug out and I can’t name one singular feeling. I’m just… frozen, disconnected, numb. It’s so strange because I am a very feeling-oriented person. I can talk and talk about feelings- mostly other people’s or about mine in a distant way- but in that moment when I’m asked point blank? Nothing comes. It worries me. I don’t want to be this way and yet, training myself to connect to my true feelings in the moment scares me to no end. It’s been my coping mechanism for the greater part of my life. When you have gone to a place where you’ve felt too much, too deeply, you sometimes choose to not feel that much or that deeply ever again. The trouble with that method is that in avoiding feeling pain, you also avoid feeling goodness too.

My half-brother wrote back to me and in his note he shared that his experience of our father was that he was a quiet man and that their relationship felt one-sided (his side). He said he tried to reach out to Dad but there wasn’t much connection and that after a while, he stopped trying. All this time I thought maybe he had some insight into who our Dad was- being much older than I, having grown up in a different family, even being a boy- but it sounds to me like I might have had more of the “good Dad” than he did. Which makes me feel lucky and sad all at once.

It’s time to make my peace with the man I knew and called Dad. Saturday marked 18 years he’s been gone. Soon, I will have been alive longer without him than with him. Something about that fact shakes me to my core. Time is fleeting and while all this pondering and puzzling has its purpose, there is much more than sorrow to carry from that childhood place.

Something is shifting inside of me. And I am listening.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” -Virginia Woolf

 

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou

A year and a half ago I told you all that I have a half-brother and that I had not seen or spoken to him since our dad died, now 18 years ago. I started looking for him on-line but was coming up empty. I felt a lot of mixed feelings and sometimes I was spurred on to search and other times felt like giving up. I mean 18 years is a long time to not know a person. Was it worth it?

About a month ago I met up with  One N Jen at Zumba class. Her mother-in-law*  was visiting and joined us. We all got to talking and it came up that she lives in an area of California I am familiar with because my MIA former best friend lived there for a while and it’s near where my half-brother lived when I knew him. I mentioned that my brother used to teach math in the same area as she still teaches. She asked me his name and when I told her she said it sounded familiar.

Small world, right?

She offered to do a little research and reach out to him on my behalf. I gave her my contact information, excited and nervous. Not too long after that, she sent me an article with a photo of man who was in fact involved in the school district and who had the same name as my brother but he did not look like the man I remembered. I stared at the face and thought, even if 18 years changed a person, they wouldn’t change him into someone unrecognizable. It wasn’t him.

A little later she sleuthed another man by that name who used to teach and became a principal for many years. She sent an article from 2009 that talked about his retirement.There was a photo in the article and, without a doubt, it was my brother. I could see the resemblance though he was gray-haired and thinner. The article said he’d been battling lymphoma for nine and a half years and while he was retiring, he still had more chemo treatments to do before setting out on travel adventures with his wife (the same wife he had when I was little).  I worried that I had waited too long.

She called the school and got his phone number and they also forwarded an email to him on her behalf. He was still alive! She left a message telling him that I was looking for him. A week or two went by and nothing happened. She messaged me wondering if I’d heard and I felt defeated, telling her that no, there had been no message from him. Maybe he wasn’t interested in knowing me? Maybe he wanted to leave all things related to our Dad in the past? I had no idea.

And then I checked my Facebook messages on Saturday. I hardly ever check my Facebook messages you should know but for some reason felt compelled to that day. There was a message from him there saying hello, that a teacher in his school district had messaged him saying she had run into me, inquiring what I’d been up to these past almost-two decades.

Woah.

I wrote him back, of course, but now I’m thinking I said too much or the wrong thing. I filled him in about the family and myself- the Cliff’s Notes version. I asked about his 3 kids and his wife and his health and his retirement. I also said I’d like to talk to him about our Dad since I feel like maybe we had different experiences with him. I’m not sure if I should have said that yet but that is so like me. I always come on too strong and too honestly. But it’s out there. We’re Facebook friends of all things. And there’s been an email exchange.

So now I wait and see what comes next.

*I cannot thank Jen’s mother-in-law enough for going above and beyond to help me find my brother. Thank you Laurel!

Sisters Reunited

My grandma’s sister, my Great Aunt Sissy, passed away last week. She was a lively, statuesque, fun-loving woman with round moon-shaped cheeks and an easy laugh. She and my Gram were the best of friends. I remember that whenever they were together they would laugh and laugh- laughing until they were crying and one was shouting, “I’m going to pee my pants!” And as my Mom likes to say, later in life one of them inevitably did pee their pants. They grew up Chicago in an Irish Catholic clan. Sissy was always called Sissy even though her name is Irene and Gram was called May even though her name was Marion.

I grew up eating what everyone in my family called “Sissy’s Chicken”. It’s basically a chicken casserole made with cream of mushroom soup, cheese, broccoli and bread crumbs. There’s some mayonnaise in there too but what can you expect from an old recipe? It’s served with mashed potatoes (of course, we’re Irish) and biscuits. Last night my family gathered to honor her in our own way since we couldn’t fly back to Chicago for the service. We looked at old photos and dined on Sissy’s Chicken.

It’s been over 10 years  since my Grandma passed and I still miss her. I hope she and Sissy are up in heaven having a vodka tonic and toasting to being together again. Maybe my Dad is there too and they are all laughing til the tears stream down their cheeks.

My Grandma, Marion, on the left and her sister, Irene, who was affectionately known as Sissy.

Hopefully you can’t pee your pants in heaven.

Holiday Cheer to the Max

I’m finally able to breathe through my nose! It’s amazing the things we take for granted- like breathing through unobstructed airways. I’m grateful to be feeling 90% better because there is much holiday-ing I need to participate in and when I am sick, I don’t feel like doing much but laying on the couch streaming Netflix and being crabby. Besides, think of all the holiday booze I am missing out on! I have a lot of catching up to do.

My family volunteers at the Wonderland Carousel every holiday season. It’s fun to do something good with the people you love. Besides, they don’t stand a chance in getting out of it as I am a tried and true Volunteer Coordinator even if that is no longer my title. I think volunteering is a tremendous thing to do with your time all year round.

The Carousel was again, awesome. Though this year there were no marriage proposals. There were 2 drunk Seahawks fans who when I asked for their ticket rifled though some papers in their hand all the while the ticket was sticking out of his mouth. And a lady who when I said she and her daughter might have to wait for the next go round said she would just have to go get her money back because she couldn’t wait. IT WAS A DONATION TO A NON-PROFIT THAT HELPS FOSTER KIDS YOU SCROOGEY BITCH. I mean, Merry Christmas and I hope you are saving up for your daughter’s eventual therapy needs.

I’m pretty sure my nephew rode the Carousel, oh, ten times in the span of 2 hours. At one point while riding it with him he exclaimed, “THE CAROUSEL IS THE BEST!” with delight on his face. That boy loves the Carousel more than his Barbie – a newly acquired toy (thanks thrift store) that he insisted on disrobing while hanging out with us on our volunteer shift. I helped him undress it saying, “Well, I guess Barbie is a nudist.” He looked at me quizzically and asked in all seriousness, “What’s a nudist?” So I told him, “It’s a person who doesn’t like to wear clothes. Now go tell your mother that Barbie is a nudist.” And off he ran, first running into his dad where he held up naked Barbie and proclaimed, “BARBIE IS A NUDIST!” then off to his mom where he giggled the term again.

Hey, what are aunts for if not to teach their nephew terms like “nudist”. It was a teaching moment that I couldn’t pass up.

Finn & Dokey on the Carousel

Man, I love that kid. I can’t wait for Christmas morning and sharing in his insane delight in presents.

Mr. Darcy and I have agreed on a holiday tradition. Since we don’t have that many ornaments and want to start a collection of special ones, we decided we would make each other an ornament each year. I haven’t finished started his yet but the idea is ripe in my head. He made mine yesterday while I was out at yoga. This is what you get when you are living/loving/making a life with an artist.

Mr. Darcy to Ms. Sizzle: 2010 Ornament

How I will match that masterpiece, I have no idea. I do so love it though. And him.

Bonus gratuitous shot of my two favorite boys. I was booted from the seat next to Finn because he always wants Mr. D to sit with him. Awww.

Mr. Darcy & Finn have a man-talk on the Carousel.

Holidays Up In Here

I managed to pack in some holiday cheer this weekend despite feeling like I am fighting off a cold.

I attended the Figgy Pudding Caroling Contest and got to see/kiss on the cheek the lovely Pantsless in Seattle (she was wearing pants though, actually cute stripped tights). Their group, The Carol Brunettes, were my favorite and that’s not just because I love her blog.

Our 1st Christmas Tree

Mr. Darcy and I got our first tree together. We managed to pick it out, cart it home and set it up with nary a disagreement. Poor Mr. Darcy did have to screw, unscrew, then rescrew to right our crooked tree but besides that, it was a breeze. Of course, true to the Jones Family Way, I had to rearrange the furniture to accommodate the tree. The new set up will do until we host Christmas Eve festivities at our home. We like to just sit and look at the tree all lit up. Fills me with Christmas warm & fuzzies.

We went to the South Park Art Under $100 sale in support of my sister and friends. Those of you who have been around a year might recall that I participated in this event last year selling my handmade felt pins. I opted out this year knowing that I did not have the time to make enough goods to sell. My sister slaved away and managed to sell most of her handmade books. Hurrah! While waiting in a very long line to get in, Mr. Darcy and Supple drank contraband beers and we sang along to the busker as he busted out “Sweet Caroline”. I ran into an old co-worker who happened to be with someone I had never met who a) almost had my sister as her wedding photographer and b) reads my blog (Hi!). It’s a small world.

I heard “It’s a marshmallow world that we’re living in…” song for the first time. How have I lived 37 years with no knowledge of this song? I mean the Rat Pack sings it! And how does my own mother know it and I don’t?

I went to book club where in we spent more time talking about our lives than the book (typical, not complaining). We read These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901 Arizona Territories by Nancy E. Turner. Despite that lengthy title it was a quick, engaging read. I also read Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and highly recommend it. The book is the story of the Zeitoun family’s experience of Hurricane Katrina.There was a lot I didn’t know went on during that time and it is appalling how people were treated. The parts about the dogs left behind broke my heart.

We helped my Mom decorate her tree with the family. They went out to a tree farm along with our adopted family member, Supple. Mr. Darcy and I opted to support a local non-profit with our tree purchase. I remember one time my family went to cut down our tree. My dad left the saw somewhere and we wasted a lot of time wandering around searching for it because we couldn’t leave without returning it. Finally my mom found one lying on the ground and regardless of if it was ours, took it so we could get the heck out of there. (Good thinking, Mom!)

I took yesterday off because all weekend I felt run down. On Sunday I slept from 10pm til 7:30am then fell asleep on the couch til 9:30am then got back in bed and slept until 10:30am. I briefly woke up to eat an egg sandwich then fell back to sleep til noon. I NEVER SLEEP THAT MUCH. I’ve been pushing extra vitamins, drinking lots of tea and juice, Zicam-ing and taking my “placebos” as Kaply calls them. If it helps me to believe I am getting better and that is merely the power of positive thinking “healing” me then so be it. I don’t want to be sick. Who has the time? I certainly don’t. Besides, I got a flu shot. I thought that meant that after the injection I was in an invisible fortress of health. WTF?

Next weekend is crafting and holiday baking and a nephew date.

Is it the weekend yet?

 

So That Happened

My sister, Dokey, and I were walking (somewhat illegally) down the street on our way to see Sufjan Stevens at The Paramount Saturday night. Part of the road was blocked off for construction so there was no sidewalk. We were headed in the same direction as the traffic and when the light changed a bus starts headed towards us so we picked up the pace. We were walk/running and I started to panic and Dokey was all “well hurry up!” and I laughed saying, “I feel like we’re in Stand By Me and I’m the fat kid and you’re Gordie.” I was SO Vern in that moment.

You kinda had to be there.

The show was good- definitely more a performance art piece and at points, a sensory overload but still, it was Sufjan which is a good thing in my book.

*****

We carved our first pumpkin together. And by we I mean Mr. Darcy carved it. I pulled out the guts and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Our First Pumpkin

*****

On the fly I decided to dress as Velma for the office Halloween party. I had the skirt and the shoes and glasses. Luckily I found the turtleneck and socks (which fell down all day long) at Goodwill on my way home from work the night before. I also scored a small ceramic dog which Mr. Darcy painted up with black spots and a collar to look more like a miniature Scooby.

Velma Dinkley of Scooby Doo

I am on the F.U.N. Team at work which means we plan parties and happy hours. We created a “haunted hallway” in the office with fake ghosts and spider webs and even a fog machine. Unfortunately with the door closed and curtains hung we were trapping the smoke in that area which set off the fire alarm FOR THE ENTIRE BUILDING. Everyone was forced to evacuate and wait for the firemen to come certify the building was safe for re-entry. Luckily it wasn’t raining but I’m pretty sure the rest of the agencies in the building weren’t too happy with us.

Oops.

****

Two months ago I balked at the idea of holding half-handstand for 60 seconds and yesterday I managed to hold it, entirely unassisted, for 30 seconds before caving. I have, please note, held plank and forearm plank for an entire minute during these past 60 days. When I stop and think about it, I am rather proud of myself. I hope someday to be able to hold half-handstand for a full minute. Maybe even someday do a full handstand.

I went ahead and invested in my very own high quality yoga mat and meditation bolster. I’m serious about my practice and now with my daily mediation, I want to create a welcoming space to devote myself to. I’ve taken to getting up earlier to do some yoga before settling down for my meditation every morning and am already starting to feel the benefits. It’s a peaceful way to start my day and I am grateful for it.