Monthly Archives: December 2012

Goodbye, 2012. Welcome, 2013!

I love school with my whole heart– I do– and I love learning (which are not always as hand-in-hand as they should be).  But I am most CREATIVE when I’m not there.  I get my most creative ideas doing simple things.  Driving, showering, just being.  Times when my mind can wander.  Mundane things.  Repetitive tasks.  Just like The Artist’s Way teaches.  This vacation has given me time so far to sing, read, cook, and plan.  And today, on the last day of 2012, with my bread in the oven and my ingredients for Cream of Tomato soup sit on the table, I can reflect on the year– and prepare my heart for the next one.

2012 has been a weird year.  There were serious ups and serious downs.  I lost my grandmother and continued to grieve for Deda. I got into grad school.  Another hurricane rocked this island– and my family.  I made unexpected friends.  I lost friends for reasons still unknown to me.  I drew closer to God.  I had a rocky year in my romantic life (Grad school is not really great on relationships).  I got my own apartment.  It’s been a year of great growth, and deep loss.  I cannot wait to leave 2012 behind.  I love where I am now.  I love school.  I love knowing that I’m on the right path– I can feel it with every cell.  But the pain 2012 brought was too great.  And in the joyous moments, there was pain in knowing that they couldn’t be shared with everyone who was important to me.  I’m still waiting for God to redeem and revive those parts.  Because it doesn’t seem possible for life to get better.  My life is now without Grandma and Deda– surely “the best year of my life” must be one of my first 25.  One of the ones they were here for.  It seems impossible that “the best is yet to come.”  It is hard to admit that, but even harder to believe that the best year of my life can possibly happen without them here.

It feels wrong.  Wrong to wish 2012 away.  My grandmother is still in 2012 (or is she?).  Deda died when it was still 2011. Wishing in 2013 feels like pushing him further away, putting distance between us.  There’s an inkling of guilt in a New Year when you’re grieving.  

But I’m excited about 2013.  And I think my grandparents would’ve been too.  And after the pain of 2012, they would want better days to come.  Not in the way people say “he would have wanted it this way” or “she would want me to do this,” just to make themselves feel better, but I can say that because i know my grandparents loved me.  And they were full of common sense and feisty spirits.  And humor.  And warmth.  And when a bad thing happened, they moved through it.  With strength, and dignity, and grace.  Because my grandparents were of the generation of respect and good manners.  And they loved being around people. And they welcomed the new.  Deda liked using his cell phone.  And grandma liked funny stories and jokes that Mommy would bring over to her, things that she had found online.  They welcomed new people– of all different cultures.  They welcomed technology.  And they were smart enough, and strong enough, to leave things behind, too.  Whenever there was an event and you were waiting to hear back RSVPs, and someone wasn’t responding, Grandma’s mother used to say, “they do you one favor if they come, they do you two favors if they don’t.”  I remember Grandma saying this at times.  2012 would have done me two favors if it hadn’t come at all.  And I think Grandma and Deda would have totally understood that.

So I’m done with 2012.  And I’m laying out a welcome mat for 2013.  For fresh, new holidays and memories to be made.  For New Year’s day.  A bright new semester.  For Valentine’s, and St. Patrick’s Day.  For Easter and the Fourth of July.  For Harvest and the Fall glow and Thanksgiving Dinner and trying to balance Advent with the Christmas rush.  All in 2013.  For all the birthdays, and babies, and weddings that will come this year.  For new friends.  For new opportunities.  For kisses and laughter and the happy kind of tears.  For many more miles on my VW Beetle.  For assignments that keep me working into the night.  For doctor’s appointments and grocery store trips.  For the everyday.  And I’m bringing Grandma and Deda with me.  And all the of the other people I’ve lost along the way.  Because, somehow, 2013 might be my best year yet.  And I’m ready to find out.

Happy New Year, everyone!  Welcome, 2013!

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Getting the itch again…

Last night I had the treat of going to the City with my parents for a fun night of Beatles music. Now, (don’t gasp), but I’m not a huge Beatles fan.  I like their stuff, but it wasn’t the music I grew up with (MOTOWN, Fleetwood Mac, Phil Collins, Elton John, James Taylor, Carole King, etc).  It also was never something I was really exposed to much– although I do enjoy it and it’s obviously a big part of our culture.  

My dad, as time has gone on, has become a huge Beatles fan (although, he’s always been more of a Stones kinda guy).  With his newfound passion for the Beatles, he’s found The Fab Faux.  Having talked about them for several years– he finally invited Mom and I to come with him to see a show.  We love the city– and, of course, music– but last night was a snowy, cold, semi-gross wet night.  But it was a smooth trip and once inside City Winery, it was a cozy (if not a bit crowded) night.  When the band came out, the lights went low and the snow shone outside under the City lights.  It was a perfect evening.  The Faux stayed away from most of the hits (although, we got some Blackbird, which was very pretty), but instead devoted the night to “deep cuts.”  Perhaps because I don’t know the music as well– and because the selections were more obscure anyway, I got to really enjoy the MUSIC.  And my mind drifted to performances past and things I’d like to do– to the many people who have come into my life and been a part of my musical journey (yes, they’ve usually been boys), to the harmonies being sung (they were really good– I was actually surprised how well all 5 of the band members can sing– there’s usually someone in every band who CAN’T).  I reveled as the band swapped instruments.  With almost everyone playing both keys and guitar or bass– and some of them playing drums in addition to that.  Singing for most of my life, I can’t say I play one other instrument to any level to speak of.  And it’s been one of my hardest struggles as I hate singing with recorded tracks but never seem to have anyone reliable to practice and play with– so without accompaniment, I do a lot less performing than I like.

Once upon a time, in a place not far from where I sit now, typing, I played piano. And although (both) times I tried to learn were fairly short-lived, I was pretty good.  I’m no prodigy and I never got terribly far, but what I did was good.  After a year and a half, my piano teacher moved away when I was in 3rd grade.  And later, in college, tendonitis in both wrists short-circuited my training, although I still performed well on my juries and my teacher was always very happy with my progress.  As a music major, I had some harmony training too, although, as a vocalist, I always found this hard. I only deal with one note at a time.  Harmony to me– is melody.  It’s just a different kind.  I can pick out a harmony well enough, but it’s very instinctual and not very deliberate.  Tendonitis also forced me out of my keyboard harmony class that year of college, and although I sought out more training, I never felt I got to where I could have… I’ve lacked practice.

So today, I did something that I haven’t done in a long time (there’s record of this– cuz I blogged about it last time too).  I pulled out my keyboard and played.  I played through a few melodies of my super-beginner John W. Schaum book as a warm up.  Then I took out a Christmas songbook I had, back as a kid.  And I picked out my favorites.  But instead of playing them as written, I decided to put harmonies with them.  They’re simple. Block chords  and such.  And the melodies mostly only call for I,V, and IV’s… which helps.  But I got an inverted I in there and embellished a few melody notes.  And it felt really good!

I know that once the semester starts, I won’t have time for this.  But I really like it.  And I hope I get more time this break to do things like this. I’ve started trying to teach myself a few other songs, too.  And, at only $2-$3 a book on Amazon, maybe I’ll try to complete the John W. Schaum piano course…

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Updating

I’m not feeling so good today, so to be productive, I decided to update my address book.  I’m sending belated Christmas cards to a few people, and decided it was a good time to do it– before I send.  Lest I immediately lose the addresses.  

At my age (mid-twenties), updating my address book is like updating my life.  

Today I:

Separated out businesses/school contacts and doctors/medical contacts into their own lists.
Separated out exes and school acquaintances I rarely speak to into their own list.
Added new grad school friends
Updated addresses and phone numbers for old friends
Changed last names, added spouses and children’s names

These last two were the big ones.  So many of my friends have– over the past two years– gotten married, moved in with a significant other, had a child (or two), moved into a new apartment, bought a house, etc.  It’s staggering.  I go through the M’s… the S’s… and as I update, my friends move across the page– to the H’s, the G’s.  A second line lists their children.  I have my own apartment.  People are or will be doing this with me, too, I’m sure.  But it’s amazing to me.  Updating an address book shouldn’t feel this emotional.  But, when did we all grow up?

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Almost ready for the oven!

Almost ready for the oven!

Last rise! Covered in Grandma’s dishtowels from the Duz detergent boxes 🙂

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December 24, 2012 · 12:27 pm

Christmas Food

I am overjoyed to be home early this year. This is my first Christmas while in school that I can remember ever being home before the 21st.  I have been home since the 14th, with my last assignment turned in on the night of the 16th.  I have spent the past week reading, watching good movies, wrapping gifts, spending time with mom, doing laundry, stocking stuffer shopping and attempting to make post-Christmas plans with friends.  

Last night, I began my contribution to the Christmas meal: dessert.  

Stirring the chocolate pudding for the chocolate pudding pie, I am nostalgic for Grandma.  Chocolate pudding pie was one of her signatures.  I’ve made it a few times to bring places myself, and I always think of her.  Although, unlike me, she always remembered to bring whipped cream to go with it wherever she brought it.  This is our first Christmas without her. I dreamt of her last night, but she was already gone in the dream.  But it felt like she was there and maybe that was good enough.

Today, I’m baking my first Italian bread– or at least trying to.  I’m making the dough in the bread machine since my arm is still messed up (not sure what it is– will be visiting doctor next week).  There were some funny noises happening, but the dough looked good and it seems to be rising alright.  

I remember the priest visiting my Grandma last January, to give her communion and visit.  He was the priest from my grandparents parish.  He had done Deda’s funeral and we had liked him.  He came and had tea and prayed with us that day in January.  Naturally, we talked about food.  Grandma and Deda always loved talking about food, and that didn’t change for Grandma after Deda passed away.  We found out that the priest (I do not remember his name) liked to cook and he baked bread.  

I had first found an interesting Italian Bread recipe last summer.  I’d intended to make it and bring a loaf to Grandma and Deda. I always loved bringing them things I’d made– or grew.  But last summer quickly gave way to Fall and so many changes we are still wrapping our heads around them.  This year, I will eat Italian bread and think of my awesome grandparents.  And how much they inspire me– especially with my cooking.  My food allergies always make me feel a little disconnected from my culture (and others!).  But being able to cook things myself and experience them makes me feel connected.  This Christmas, as Grandma and Deda celebrate Jesus’ birthday with Him in Heaven, and we celebrate on earth, I’ll remember that, just like always, we’re celebrating the same holiday.  And they’re closer to me than ever, in my heart, and as close as the next piece of chocolate pudding pie– or bread and butter.  

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Deda, Mary, and Finding Purpose

I’ve been writing parts of this post in my head for over a week.  I’ve spent a lot of time not writing it because I was trying to make it not sad.  Well, I believe I have found the not-sad part, so here it is.  Please bear with me.  🙂

This Friday will be the last official day of classes of my first semester of grad school.  One year ago on this day, I was submitting my first official grad school application… to the school I am now happily attending.  Also (and more importantly) on this day, my grandfather passed away.  47 days later, on the day my last grad school application was submitted, my grandmother followed.

I think about them every day.  Sometimes, these thoughts are mixed with thoughts of other people I’ve lost– Papa (my other grandfather), Jessica, Aunt Emma, Mr. Kristoff.  Sometimes I dream about them.  Sometimes I find myself talking about them or sharing my grandmother’s stories or sayings.  Or I’ll see an old man in a WWII hat in the grocery store. Sometimes I cry, for seemingly no reason at all. A year later and there are still bad days.  Days where I have flashbacks to hospitals and three months of my life that I can hardly believe were real.  Lately, I have trouble believing it’s been a year.  It doesn’t feel that long. And yet it’s been achingly long since I’ve heard their voices.

I’ve struggled with being normal.  I’m not the same girl I was a year ago.  I’m not sure if everyone else sees it, but it’s visible to me on my face.  Sometimes in my mourning them, I mourn a little for myself.  For the old me who didn’t know the pain of this loss.  For the people who will come into my life one day– like my children– who not only won’t know my grandparents, but won’t know me– the “before” me.  My concept of death is more complicated. Simple worship songs at church that throw around words like “death” and “life” bring about more thought than they ever have before.  I know my grandparents had put their faith in Jesus.  This assures me that they are in Heaven, that I will see them again.  That they are ok– even better than ok in fact– they are living better than they ever have!

Still, this has been bothering me.  And the other night, I prayed that Jesus would help me. I suppose I was looking for some peace.  I asked to see them.  I’m not sure I expected an answer, or what I expected.  But last night I had the most fabulous dream in which I got to “visit” with my grandfather.  We talked, laughed, ate, and danced.  And it was perfect. When I woke up, I felt peaceful and happy.  A little bittersweet as I strain to remember the sound of his voice and the depth of his laugh, but happy.

And I did my morning devotions.  I’m reading from Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s “Pursuing the Christ,” a daily Christmas devotional for the month of December.  Today’s reading is on Gabriel’s visit to Mary, to tell her that she will become pregnant with Jesus.  It talks about the fact that Mary was engaged to Joseph– how she was probably excited and involved in her own life.  Making wedding plans.  Thinking about her own comfy life and future.  Until the angel showed up, that is:

But somehow the reality of Your call on her life settled on her.  You broke through
her uncertainties and made Yourself heard and known.  In the course of a
conversation, all her carefully laid plans were upended and scattered, and Mary
became someone altogether different.  The old Mary–she of little, tightly held plans–
was buried and a new Mary was born.

You reveal Yourself to be One who can use a life only after it has passed through
death.  Your favor on Mary would call her to die to her reputation, to her pride, to her
expectations, to her caution.  But out of death arose a life that You could use to do
more than Mary ever imagined.  (Dean, 2008)

I can’t say that I’ll never feel sorry for myself again.  But I can take comfort knowing that God has a purpose for even this.  My grandparents are happy and healthy and well.  And until I see them in Heaven, they will live in my heart and in my dreams.  And I may never be the same, but neither was Mary.  I will never give birth to the Savior of the world. But I can point to Him.  There is Divine purpose– and Divine Grace– to envelop the time I spent “passing through death.”  So as I remember this week, this Friday, and going forward, I will remember the good.  And when I think about what my grandparents went through, I will remember where they are now.  And when I think of what I used to be, I’ll remember where God is bringing me.  ❤

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