“a bride married to amazement”

I never meant for this blog to transform into a constant meditation on loss and all the negativity in my life, and yet, that’s what it is. Today’s post will be no different.

On Friday, my 20-year-old cousin died. She was in a car accident involving two other vehicles. Everyone else walked away, but she died. I don’t know all the details, other than that she was a passenger in the backseat and that no recklessness or foul play is suspected.

I remember when she was born. I was 7, almost 8, and was thrilled to have  a new baby to play with. She was pink and fat and smiley. Her eyes revealed her mischievous spirit. Over the years, she grew into a young woman full of strength and grace. She stood a full six inches taller than me and had been a star basketball player throughout her youth. She opted not to pursue one of the many athletic scholarships offered to her, selecting, instead, a more typical college experience. She was halfway through her junior year when she was taken from us.

On top of being one of the beautiful women I’ve ever seen, she was smart and incredibly funny. She was also fearless and seemed to possess not an ounce of self-doubt. I have always admired her.

Today, I admire her even more. Just as our tragedy began — as she slipped away from us, after multiple surgeries to stop the internal bleeding and to reduce the swelling in her brain, not to mention her crushed bones — she brought an enormous blessing to seven other families. My cousin was an organ donor. Her heart immediately went to save the life of a little girl, and six of her other organs went to waiting children at a leading pediatric hospital.

My cousin lived as a striking, confident young woman, but she died a hero. I’ve never been so proud of her.

The funeral arrangements are still being made. Because she isn’t an immediate family member, I can’t take any bereavement leave, but I will still fly out to attend the service. My aunt, her mother, has always been such an important person in my life. Before she had kids of her own, she and I spent lots of time together. She was even a reader at my wedding. I need to be there for her, and to say goodbye to my beautiful younger cousin.

Tragedies bring out the religion in so many people. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen that way for me. I’m not angry exactly, but I am heartbroken and incredulous. I guess I’m just the kind of person who needs comfort from this world, not the possibility that my existence may continue after death.

This poem, which I found yesterday, reminds me so much of my cousin’s indomitable spirit and her zest for life:

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Advertisements

New Year update

I vanished. Sorry. No good excuse. I wasn’t too busy — most people who talk about being sooooooo busy are full of it. I just didn’t know what to write.

Truthfully, I had a great vacation. My office closed down for a nice, long break, and I got to enjoy about 10 days with my husband and mom. It was relaxing and fun and everything you would want. I ate way too much, got Christmas presents, slept in, all that jazz. We even went with Mom to several open houses. She’s serious about moving out here, and her plan is to buy a duplex or a home that would be easily divided into separate quarters. We would either co-sign on the loan or make monthly payments to her. Something like that. Frankly I don’t know the first thing about real estate other than what I think is pretty, so my husband and I are actually planning to meet with a realtor soon to discuss things.

I also had a job interview during my vacation. I should hear something — yes, no, second interview, what have you — on Friday. I feel cautiously happy. No matter what, though, I’ve decided to keep plugging away.

I tried to register for my first two prerequisites for the Master’s program I want to enter, but they were full before my registration date came. I emailed the professors and of course have heard nothing. I will try just showing up on the first day to see what that gets me. I’ll probably email them again, too. I will wait to do the latter until I hear about the job, however. If I get that job, it will have me working much (much much much) closer to home, so I would actually need to be in class on a different campus. And I just saw that the correct campus would not work, since the lab days would overlap. Oy. Stuff to figure out.

Always so much stuff to figure out.

Incoherent thoughts on a tragedy

I have started and stopped several different posts lately. I don’t know what the trouble is, exactly. I just don’t have the motivation to finish any of them.

Today, though, I’m sad. Very, very sad. The world is full of harshness and pain and suffering and unfairness, but the vast majority of it is nothing compared with what happened in Connecticut today. I am incapable of processing how a person can murder dozens of children. How someone’s mind, no matter how deranged, could believe shooting elementary students would in any way solve a problem. How after pulling the trigger one time and taking a single tiny life wouldn’t cause them to toss their gun to the floor and weep for what they’ve done.

How do you go on after your 5-year-old’s life is taken in a place where he was meant to be safe and protected?

Today I feel angry.

We live in a dangerous world, we live in an uncaring world, and we live in a terrible, awful, hideous world. Hurting anyone is reprehensible, but injuring a child is the lowest of the low. It makes you less than human. It makes you a monster.

And today I feel confused. I want to have a baby, but events like this one make me question that choice.

I don’t have any coherent thoughts today. I’m just processing, like all of us who are affected indirectly. Every place in my heart goes out to the Newtown community, especially to the children who showed up at school this morning eager to finish the year before winter break.

Christmas elf

If you follow me on Twitter, you will notice that I now have an Instagram account. Come check me out if you have one, too. I’m late to the party, as always, but I’m enjoying the thing.

Anyway, I have gone crazy this year and decided I actually like Christmas. I don’t know what has happened to me. I’ve dealt with winter blues for a long time — since my teens, I guess — and always find the holidays to be overly stressful. But for some reason a switch flipped in me, and I can’t get enough. We put our tree up a week ago, as I mentioned, and I’m planning to drag my unsuspecting husband to the tree lighting in Chinatown this Saturday. I’m also planning other decorations I’d like to make — possibly a wreath, stockings, and some ornaments. Stop me!

O Christmas tree, covered in things found around my home. #christmas #christmastree #xmas

A post shared by Average Urbanite (@averageurbanite) on

(Yes, the gingerbread-like people are supposed to be me and my husband. I made them last year just to be silly, but we kinda love them.)

One thing I cannot get behind, however, is a holiday parades. I hate parades. They are like a low-speed car chase full of balloons and weird people and loud noises. *shudder* Last night was the Hollywood Christmas Parade, which closes down our neighborhood. If you look at my Instagram, you can see the empty streets and the crazy people sitting on the curb awaiting the festivities. It was bizarre. Last year, we had no idea the parade was coming and unwisely drove to see a movie at the Arclight (which is within easy walking distance, but my husband was being lazy). It took us hours — three, if I recall correctly — to maneuver our way back home, and that only happened by lying to a police officer (sorry, dude) and cutting off the Days of Our Lives float*. This year, we were prepared. We battened down the hatches by 3:00 and just assumed we’d be stuck at home all evening. We were right. At least the Giants won and I fell asleep before 10:00. Hallelujah.

And as I mentioned in my last post, Thanksgiving was great. The day-of was perfect, and the rest of the weekend was so much fun. We ate and watched a ton of football/basketball/movies and went to LACMA and just enjoyed being together. We both miss the bro-in-law now that he’s gone. Especially since it’s back to work now.

From the Kubrick exhibit at LACMA

*Might be an overstatement. Might not.

Holiday. Happy.

The aftermath: the sink is full of dishes. Food is still sitting on the stove. Both boys are snoozing. I’m sipping wine and peppermint tea and watching football alone.

It was my first year to prepare and host Thanksgiving lunch. We started small with just my husband, his brother (visiting from 1,500 miles away), and me. I cooked everything but the bird since I’m not of the meat-eating inclination. Here’s all of it, minus the pecan pie:

20121122-180044.jpg

Not too shabby. The mashed potatoes were my favorite, thanks to the ultimate wedding present: the Kitchen Aid. Xenu bless it.

The boys are in questionable shape due to killing two pitchers of beer and 3.5 bottles of wine last night. My poor brother-in-law was hit the hardest; he hardly ate any of his food and is on nap #2. My husband felt worse earlier but is now better, though sleepy. I escaped unscathed with my two ciders only and early bedtime.

It was kind of a perfect holiday. I started it with a run/walk and only took off my leggings long enough to shower. I’m the only bathed person in the apartment, actually. We’ve been low-key, and I didn’t stress once about all the prep. It’s a Thanksgiving miracle!

We put up our Christmas tree on Sunday. I know, I know, but for some reason I really wanted to. I’m usually a huge Scrooge about the holidays, so this was a big step. Our tree is borderline ridiculous. The tree itself is actually very nice; it was an almost-new hand-me-down. Our decorations are all things from around the house instead of real ornaments. We love it that way. It’s silly and personal and a tradition we’d actually like to keep.

So, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I am feeling thankful today. I’m thankful for a truly happy holiday. I’m thankful for the family I chose, and the one who chooses me. I’m thankful for baby steps toward controlling my stress and sadness. I’m thankful for relaxation, and hot showers, and my tea kettle. I’m thankful to be able to offer thanks today.

Love and marriage

I update yesterday’s post to reflect what I’ve actually gotten done this weekend. Some of it was saved for today, since I’ve been battling a migraine all weekend. Blergh. I finally took an Imitrex today, so the head pain is gone, but I’ve been lethargic and jut generally icky feeling all day. Still, I have been determined to get some things done, so I did. I’ve been employing the Unfuck Your Habitat 20/10 method to get things done today. With three of ’em, I finished the bathroom, cleaned all the mirrors, put away the groceries, tidied/wiped down the dining table, attempted (but I reckon failed) to fix a broken chair, and swept and Swiffered the kitchen/dinette area. Not bad for 60 minutes of work.

My husband is shooting again today. I really miss him. I hope that doesn’t sound pathetic. And even if it does, it’s still probably a good thing. I read this two-part series called 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage and The Other 15 Ways I Blew My Marriage. Earlier this years, I read 15 Ways to Stay Married for 15 Years. One of the big common threads I’ve noticed in lists like these is to avoid complacency. Like any relationship, it’s easy to start taking your marriage and your partner for granted. I’ve only been marriage for eight months and with my husband for about two years, but even in that short time, I can see little glimpses of it peeking in. It’s an everyday job to fight it. Being comfortable with your partner is wonderful and definitely not a bad thing, but the problem emerges when you stop actively seeing him as your co-pilot and the most important person in your world.

When I was in St. Louis thinking about my life, I realized how lucky I was to have my husband. He was there for me from 1,500+ miles away in exactly the way I needed him. He has an uncanny ability to know when to cheer me up and when to let me be sad, and his texts and calls were always perfectly timed. I’ve been caught up in so much unhappiness recently that I stopped seeing all those beautiful things about him, so sitting sad and alone in that hotel room connected to that hospital, I vowed to appreciate him more honestly and openly. So far, it’s been two lovely weeks, despite external annoyances. I’m so lucky to have him, and I intend to make sure he knows it.

And now I return to patiently awaiting his return whilst eating a giant bowl pf soup and watching Doctor Who.

Domestic day

It’s my husband’s birthday, but sadly we will spend much of it apart. He is at an audition this morning, and then he films this afternoon. I’ve decided to take advantage of the day and get some things done. Here’s my list:

  1. Make tostadas
  2. Make bagels
  3. Pick up bed frame (yay for FreeCycle!)
  4. Clean the bathroom: scrub the tub and the floors, as well as the toilet, sink, shower curtain liner, and blinds
  5. Finish sewing project (I’m transforming one of his old button-ups to a tunic for me, God willing)
  6. Meal plan for the week
  7. If there’s time, attack the kitchen cleaning: dishes (usually his job, but it’s his birthday), scrub sink and stove, wipe down fridge, Swiffer floors

As you can see, I’m a terribly exciting person when left to my own devices. I really hope the bagels turn out well! I will probably have to walk to Trader Joe’s to grab some seasonings for the tops, but otherwise, it’ll be a shut-in day for me. No complaints since it’s actually a little cool out there. Los Angeles is settling into its bastard version of fall.

Serendipity

I have officially been accepted to community college to start work on my prerequisites. Not that there was any doubt since they turn no one away, but it’s nice to have the official word and a registration date. Now I just need to stop driving myself crazy over the fact that the spring classes are only posted for one of the two campuses I could attend. Must breathe.

As freaked as I was yesterday, Election Day sure came without an exhale. It was like obe minute, there was ~*sTrESs*~ and then suddenly it was called for Obama. Bizarre. Anticlimactic. But thank God. I slept so well last night. I think I passed out one second after the acceptance speech. It was glorious.

I am writing this post while riding LA’s illustrious subway. I have been working at our satellite office this week covering for an employee who is on vacation, and I’m really not looking forward to going back to my real office. The commute is shorter. The job is a better balance of direct service and administrative work than what I actually do. And it’s so, so quiet. I have been slowly plugging away at a manual for months, and in the past three days, I basically knocked out the first draft while also doing the job functions over there. If I didn’t love my employee so much, I’d wish for her to leave so I could take over permanently.

Other positives: the hours are better, I can take the train/subway instead of the bus (so much better), and there is the autonomy I thrive on. Unfortunately, Friday is my last day there. Then it’ll be back to life (back to reality).

Saturday is my husband’s birthday. Last year, both of our celebrations were total disasters. We tried too hard in our new city to go as big as we could (not exactly) afford. This year, we are paring back. My birthday, which is two months to the day before his, was just the two of us and a whole lotta Moscow mules. For his, I plan to cook a special dinner and maybe catch a movie. Nothing big, but he’s not crazy about his birthday anyway. I, however, am in love with celebrating everything, so I am working to find a medium between my overwhelming enthusiasm (and tendency to disappoint myself) and his lack thereof. We’re finding a good balance, though I will make a point to go a little bigger when we have children.

The old man sitting next to me is wearing a lovely patterned newsboy cap, brown leather jacket, and what appear to be canvas moccasins. He’s singing himself a love song. He may be the greatest thing in the world.

Today I passed the stop for the community college campus near home and used the train stop for the grad school I plan to attend. I don’t believe in fate, but I do get a kick out of serendipity. I am so ready to do something new.

And now I step onto my soapbox

All right you motherfuckers. My depressed, dejected ass voted at 7:45 this morning (which made me 30 minutes early to work. Ridiculous). Here’s the obligatory boob shot for proof:

Yeah, I’m busty. Anyway, I didn’t sleep well last night I guess out of worry for today. I have hardly been politically active or even that engaged past watching the debates, so it surprised me. I waited to do my ballot-initiative research until the last minute, but I did it. This morning, I drove to my polling place, not sure if I had changed my registration address quickly enough, and there was my weird little name on the registration list. I had to go through a couple of extra steps because I’d been sent a mail-in ballot that I chose not to use, but it all took under 10 minutes. Back home, we voted by completing an arrow (though I hear that’s not the case any more). Here we use this little contraption and a marker that looks like one of those (hanging) chad punchers but is actually inked. Without the contraption, you can’t read the ballot. It was weird but fun.

As disillusioned as I am with life a lot of the time, I’m fairly patriotic. I mean that word in its truest sense, not as a substitution for “nationalist” or “jingoist.” I was an American Studies major in college because I’m fascinated by the complicated fabric of this nation. I also know that things only get better when people who care enough to bitch also care enough to stand up for something. Voting is a right, but it’s also a responsibility. It is how we control our destiny. The system is flawed, but not so deeply as many believe. Travel to Europe or — hell — a non-democratic country. It will force you to reevaluate.

Only 100 years ago, I would have been turned away at the polling place because I have a vagina. One hundred years ago. The same year that women’s suffrage became a constitutional right across this country, electricity was appearing in homes across America. Poignant.

With that in mind, I actually love in-person voting. The months (or in the case of this election, years) leading up to Election Day drive me crazy and remind me of why I don’t pay for TV. But on the day I cast my ballot, I feel so connected to my community. I appreciate the volunteers who rise before the sun to give their days to the political process. I appreciate the government buildings, churches, community centers, and schools who donate their space to allow people to participate in the electoral process. I appreciate the almost universal cheerfulness of my fellow voters. I appreciate living in a country that lets me contribute in a not-insubstantial way to my own leadership.

Are there things I would change about this nation if I could? Hell yes. Would I like a better, less acrimonious, more streamlined election process? Most definitely. But I don’t think abstaining from voting accomplishes anything. We are all free to choose not to vote, but we should all remember that it’s a choice we are fortunate to have. I choose to participate in the future of my country in my own small but important way.

Also, my LA polling place is a fire station. My polling place back home was named after a politician who was in favor of mistreating prisoners at Guantanamo because it was probably better than being in one of Saddam Hussein’s prisons. America, fuck yeah.