Yesterday was a snow day. What I like about snow days is how the world halts so that you and your family can focus on what needs to be taken care of at home. There’s something really special about everyone working together to shovel, cook, and play.
We took a time out from the driveway to build a small snowman and to have regular intervals of snowball fights. It snowed 35 inches over by us, the first big snowfall of the year and the biggest my daughter can ever remember seeing. Because school is virtual these days they did not have a snow day but I pulled her out early to enjoy the weather. Had I not she’d have maybe 2 hours to play before it gets dark and in my opinion that’s not enough. She didn’t want to come inside by the end of it.
In ten minutes my mother would have been 52 years old. I’ve made chocolate pudding and tomorrow I’ll make a cake. I’ll celebrate her life quietly, reflect on photographs, and read the birthday and Christmas cards she’s given me over the years.
Since her death I’ve let a lot go to waste in my life and in myself. This is a fact. However, I’ve learned how valuable my family is and I cherish the time I have with them more than the allure of money and accomplishments.
I don’t believe in heaven, but that doesn’t mean I know what happens after. It means I haven’t been convinced. My mother died a year (exactly) prior to her final death and she told me she saw nothing. She thought that was really fucked up, having gone her whole life believing every touched by an angel type story. It is fucked up.
It was fucked up. She died afraid to die. I would have wanted better for her. I would have wanted for her the peace that comes with old age. She didn’t want to die at 50. She was murdered. I am forever haunted by the circumstances and the facts.
These birthdays seem to get harder every year. I miss her greatly. I love her dearly.
I watched Grave of the Fireflies this morning and hate how I can’t suspend my belief enough to imagine there’s a life after death. I’m stuck on how depressing and terrible the life the main character lived was, and no reassurance of heaven from any book or mouth can quell the nausea. Maybe I’ve spent too many years in foster care to enjoy these kinds of films, despite how much I truly appreciate them.
I think about the things we carry, the way Seita carried his mother’s ashes and his father’s photograph only to lose them, to die in squalor with nothing more than a tin of his sister’s ashes on his person. To live a lonely life where possessions are truly meaningless in comparison to the loss. Seita was berated by disdain from his family and at large society since the day his mother passed on throughout the film. It was hard to watch.
I think about what I carry with me. My mother wrote me a beautiful card that I’d thought I’d lost. In it she told me how truly happy she was that I was near her. Yet while she was still alive I saw her infrequently, despite the short distance. I know this was because of her addiction, but it was also because I had grown used to being alone. Now I am alone. When I found the card preserved perfectly in a notebook sleeve I broke down and cried from relief. However upon reading, the card did little more than riddle me with guilt.
Still, like her ashes I can’t ever imagine leaving it behind. For all the faults of my mother’s choices, and for all the luxury she discarded in her drug addiction, there’s still a hole where her presence filled in my heart. I carry with me the burden, the memory, and her ashes. I regret that she never separated herself from the things that tore her down. I am possessed by unseasonable rage that our family chose their own luxuries and turned blind eyes while she disintegrated, and I wish I had gotten my act together sooner joined the military and got her the hell out of there. I have so many regrets.
What I don’t regret is being there. Which when I’d first came back to that old town I thought I would. Life has a funny way of always making me eat my own words. I had quiet, I had fire flies to catch before they disappear, as did my daughter. I had my own home, I had holidays with my mother, I had a career that made me happy and the freedom to explore while my mother had time at home with her granddaughter. I’m sure if we could go back there would be things we’d both change, but there is no going back and I cherish the good parts that I did grab. I cherish even more the good parts that came upon me by way of fortune, like having the mother I had. So many people lose their warmth in the rapture of addiction and she never did. In a world where I had no one my mother was a beacon to call me home and hold me up. She prevented me from ever spiraling out of control and for that I am a better woman. She made me a better woman.
I don’t know what fate and circumstance will allow me to further embark upon down the road. I don’t know if I’ll live to see my daughter turn 30 as my mother did not. I do not know if I’ll ever be old. If I am given the gift of a comfortable life I am sure I’ll never forget what it was like to be a beggar. I’ll surely judge less harshly, I’ll attempt to tread more humbly. And of course I’ll attempt to become a better mother with every day, and hope my daughter can forgive me for my faults as I have learned to forgive my own mother for hers.
At the wake of 2021 I would like to share with you one of my favorite poems. It’s helped me to reflect upon my life and motivations time and time again since the young age of 18 when a stranger shared it with me. I hope that as you continue to grow, as you learn to form better habits, and as you take time each new year to reflect on your life that you find this poem an appropriate companion piece. Personally I find it rings true in 2021 as ever it did in 2008, as ever it did in 1927 when it was written.
Desiderata: Words for Life by Max Enhrmann:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
I want to read 52 classic novels this year, if you’d like to join me and start a casual book discussion please let me know! I finished 20,000 Leagues Under the Seatoday, and am about to embark upon The Three Musketeers!
All the books I’ll be reading for this challenge will be available for free, completely legally, online and on any e-reader. Although I suggest whole-heartedly you consider digitally borrowing from your local library which during COVID I’m sure has taken quite a blow.
Happy New Year, let’s do this right! Feel free to comment, email me, and join any time!
(Complete list in progress, order subject to change! — *bold = completed reads)
After nearly 2 years I finally received my entire collection of wedding photographs! Chuck and I are thrilled with how they came out, and since we had 3 photographers (all of them thoughtful gifts), we have a stunning variety to chose from to print for an album.
I’m a little bit outraged by the cost of a wedding album via Shutterfly, but I guess that’s just something the hubby and I are going to have to save up for if we want the top-of-the-line make and model. *Which we do!
I really wish I’d received these photos sooner, only because I never got a chance to show them to my mother. I did have a few candid and side profile shots, which I did send her, but our main portraits were never seen by her eyes. Which is particularly solemn for me as these photos are the only professional shots of her with all of her children.
The whole wedding we planned in 3 weeks, and we handmade everything we could including the cake. I’d never made a tiered cake before and neither had my husband, but it was a great team experience and we ultimately had a worthwhile time learning how to create and decorate the pastry. Our colors were cardinal, cream, and navy (that’s Wedding for red, white and blue) so we made a red velvet cake, covered in butter cream rosettes, and wrapped in a navy ribbon embellished with pearl pins to keep it in place.
In retrospect having been able to have my mother be present at my wedding was one of the last and most meaningful gifts the universe and all of serendipity could have given me while she was alive. So thank you serendipity. Had you asked me just a month before that day I’d have told you I was never getting married. I told my now husband as much just a month before, honestly! Life has a way of making me eat my own words. I’ve learned to appreciate the irony, I’m very bad at knowing what I want. I’ve wasted nearly every wish on every star or coin thrown into a wishing well.
If you’d like to know what I wish now; wish I’d slowed down more and gotten more photographs with my mother, with my daughter, and with my whole family (new and old). Aside from not doing my own hair that day, it’s my only regret. If you want my advice make sure you make the most of those photographs. Well, that and don’t let anyone rush you if you’re late to go down the aisle but your hair isn’t perfect!
Here are a few of my favorite shots from the big day:
I’ve been on a baking binge here at home with my family. This morning after straightening up the kitchen, putting the night’s dishes away after the dishwasher, I decided to put the 3 ripened bananas sitting on my counter to delicious use.
The featured photo is *not my bread, however I am not talented at taking photos of my food. But I am very well versed in creating delicious baked goods for those I love. I’d like to extend that circle to you all who read this blog. ♥
The truth is there are many ways to make a loaf of banana bread, but much like cake if you memorize the basic ingredients, you can do so without ever looking it up again.
A basic loaf usually calls for:
1 stick of butter melted or soft
3 ripened bananas
1 tablespoon of vanilla (I ♥ vanilla)
2 cup of white flour
1 cup of white sugar
1 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 – 1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup of chocolate chips
1 cup of walnuts
1 cup of raisins (*my favorite if making muffins)
*It’s not uncommon for folks to replace the eggs and butter with their favorite oil, or applesauce. This is great if you are short wet ingredients, it’s delicious and vegan friendly, and probably a tad healthier.
Preheat your oven to imperial US standard of 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Prepare your 9.5 inch loaf pan with butter or spray and set it aside.
I prepared in a loaf pan, however muffin tins will work perfectly.
Combine your wet ingredients in a large bowl with a hand masher (if necessary) and a wet spatula.
Combine your dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
Slowly add the dry mix into your wet and fold to combine.
Sifting adds a nice smooth texture to your bread.
Once combined pour into your prepared pan, and place into the oven for 40-50 minutes
Test your loaf with a toothpick in the center, when the toothpick returns dry your loaf is finished.
Muffin tins will usually cook in 25-35 minutes.
Set out to cool for 20 minutes before serving. (Just a suggestion, it’s your mouth-roof)
In my house this loaf is lucky to last a day, but it should sit at least 3 days wrapped in plastic on the counter. Disclaimer: I’m not a professional; just sharing some sweet sweet banana bread flavor with the world. I hope it brought some joy to your day, your quarantine, and to your cold last days of Autumn.
In other news: Last night in a pinch I put together a gigantic cast-iron skillet cookie which naturally we topped with ice cream. Needless to mention, my daughter devoured it along with the rest of us. However I’m still working on the recipe, it was too dry for my tastes, so I don’t think I should share it just yet. But if you’re interested in me posting that once I’ve worked out the kinks let me know!
Our past relationships mean a lot to who we are today. It is upon mulling over such a simple and obvious sentiment that I realized that I never really understood that concept and hardly started cultivating my family relationships until I was 30. I’ve always been an idiosyncratic blip within the harmony of my family. I’m a track that gets skipped and would never make the greatest hits, the Ringo to their The Beatles. Or at least that is how it feels. So while I don’t take complete responsibility for the strained string of “relationships” that semi-survived my more than quarter of a century on Earth (I was the child in most instances, to be fair), I’ve accepted this, and so find family elsewhere. It feels like I’m an alien when we share a table, an alien with my own unique spectral sensory organs unique from their species. So they stopped inviting me to holidays, and I saw them less and less often. I’ve spent most of my life by this point orbiting them from a distance relative to Neptune to the Sun. It’s in this way that I’ve come to realize that I’m most like Pluto; never actually a planet in their Solar System, at all.
Have you ever watched WAKING LIFE? It’s one of my favorite films and I believe you should watch it if you haven’t yet. There is one line in it in particular that sticks to me, it suggests ( for thought) that reincarnation is humanity’s poetic expression for collective consciousness.
I think about that often, and especially since my mother passed. Occasionally I try to speak with her “ghost”, connect with whatever is out there of hers, because I imagine that parts of us have no choice but to linger where they naturally existed. Granted I’m usually stoned when I do this, so take that for what it’s worth.
When I was in college I wrote a thesis on geisha, the point of the paper was that art is the most integral part of any culture for connecting generations to their roots. As I had a panic attack on my 31st birthday trying to feel my mother’s presence again I held her prayer card. We spent a lot of money paying for her prayer cards to have gold-inlay. I studied Art History, my favorite religious art period was the Byzantine era, so that’s what I wanted for her funeral card’s art. If you have never seen Byzantine era art, you can see similar religious art today in Greek Orthodox churches, and dare I say Catholic churches, although not quite as extravagantly.
I was raised Catholic and I believe there’s an intrinsic aesthetic influence due to that fact. I see how Catholicism domineers my tastes, my visual art, and my poetry. I believe once you were raised Catholic a little bit (or a lot) of it always lives in you. How could it not? The art and architecture is so breathtaking, the poetry is moving, and the cultural impact the Catholic church has had on the world is powerful.
That’s how, I guess, how even without a solid belief in religion I still find peace in the iconography, and the symbolism. My point being that art is a mysterious tool that should not be taken for granted.
I don’t know if I believe in a “beyond” in the traditional sense, but the more I ponder what I do believe the more I believe in a reality. My doubts come with only our limits of perception, even if we’re holograms. (Although my expertise falls way short of holography at this point in my life!) I think it’s imperative that artifacts of our culture’s art history to be preserved, because they’re sacred. Sacred is a powerful word if we allow it to be, sacred status gives people something to connect with that’s unpolluted when they’re completely lost. At least it has for me.
I think as a mother I might have taken this for granted, so far as raising my child is concerned. I don’t want the cultural significance of our most brilliant artistic masterpieces to disintegrate like old photos in a shoebox, or like the geisha are disappearing from Japanese landscapes taking with them many delicate trades the likes of musical instrument makers, silk craftsmen, and more. It’s my job as a parent who values art history to continue taking her to museums, travel with her if I can, and to talk to her about which art meant something to her family. It is my duty to show her the value in the art of other cultures which melts into the melting pot of human perseverance. If I don’t what was the point of that education? Why be cultured if you are going to take your culture for granted?