"The United States - how can you live in that country?" the man had asked. She had shrugged. "A lot of my stuff is there," she said, and it was then she first felt all the dark love and shame that came from the pure accident of home, the deep and arbitrary place that happened to be yours.
-Lori Moore, Agnes of Iowa
It was probably sometime in 2001 that I bought a pair of Doc Marten boots covered in the American flag. Ironically, I bought them in Canada, when I was visiting Toronto with my family on summer vacation. I was proud to be an American, and I loved those freaking boots.
I was driving in my Pap's red truck when I heard that President Bush had officially declared war. I cried a little, and vowed that until the war was over, I would not wear those boots again.
Sometime in 2005, I sold my American flag boots on eBay. There was no end to the war in sight, and I was sick of the shame I felt each time I saw those boots in my closet.
In 2008, I voted for the man who would become our president and cried again as I heard him tell our nation "Yes we can." I only wished that I could have been wearing my boots that day. But time went on, as it does, and two years later while we've moved a bit forward, I don't know that I'd be parading around town in those boots, even if I had them.
It is election season and I suppose it is inevitable that I've got politics on the brain. But for me, this election has been different. Maybe it's just because I live in Delaware and have been subject to these ridiculous Christine O'Donnell ads. Maybe it's because in between those ads are previews of Sarah Palin's new TLC show. But it has struck me how absolutely ludicrous American politics has become. From "I'm not a witch" to "Golly gee, I can see Russia from my house!" to one I just heard about recently - Republican candidate Ken Buck comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.
I know that all of these examples are of Republican candidates, but to me, this isn't about being a Democrat or a Republican. This is about being an American. This is about taking some pride in our political system and people who we choose to represent us. Partisan politics aside, I believe that we all want to work towards a better America. A country that continues to flourish and prosper. A country where we take care of our children and our elderly, where everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation can be themselves and lead happy lives. I know that we disagree of what that looks like and how to make it happen, but I don't believe that many folks would argue that we're not going to go anywhere very fast when we've got these absurd caricatures of politicians leading the way. It is time for us to demand more of our candidates, of our elected officials, and of ourselves. I would lead the charge, but unfortunately I seem to have misplaced my army boots...
"My childhood had no narrative; it was all just a combination of air and no air: waiting for life to happen, the body to get big, the mind to grow fearless. There were no stories, no ideas, not really, not yet. Just things unearthed from elsewhere and propped up later to help the mind get around. At the time, however, it was liquid, like a song - nothing much. It was just a space with some people in it.
But one can tell a story anyway.
One can get a running start, then begin, do it, and be done."
I got home this evening after yet another crazy monday to a note and two boxes on the kitchen table. The note was a really awesome thank you from my husband that was really appreciated. I'd like to say that was the best part, and I mean, it WAS really nice, and would have been the best part except that I opened the boxes and found...
....wait for it....
... an ipad!!!
We've been talking about getting one for a few weeks now, but me and my frugal scroogey self just couldn't seem to pull the trigger. He knew I wanted one, and knew we had a little "extra" in the budget this month and more than that, he knew that I deserved it. We work hard for our money, and it's nice and appropriate to treat ourselves every once in awhile.
Let me just tell you - 6 hours later - it is as awesome as it looks.
There was one thing that I didn't write about in my post about A's Gram that I wanted to be sure that I remembered and wanted to record on the old (new) blog.
When we were at the funeral, one of his mom's cousins came up to us and shared her favorite memory of Gram. She told us that she would always remember opening one of Gram's drawers and seeing all of the clothes folded so neatly. She said that as a little girl she loved to look in Gram's closets because her color coordinated hangers were so pretty.
You know how there are some things that you just "don't get" about your spouse? The color coordination of hangers is one of those things. You see - A does that too. We each have our own colors and I believe there is even an intricate system of what type of clothes get what hangers. I mean, my family has a pretty neat house but A takes organization (especially of clothes) to the extreme. The way he stacks his socks has always driven me nuts.
But that moment was like when you are taking a photo and suddenly the lens zooms out and what you were focused on just becomes a small part of a bigger picture. I didn't know that A got that from his Gram, and in that moment, that annoying little habit turned into a piece of his history - his inheritance - something that was not a unique quirk but something that identified him as a part of a bigger group.
I can't say that it won't still get on my nerves, but when it does, at least I'll know whose name to mutter under my breath when I roll my eyes. Nevertheless, I'm glad that we'll always have a way to keep Gram in our hearts - or in our sock drawer, at least.
If you had to tell the world one thing about you, what would it be?
Christine O'Donnell paid hundreds of thousands of dollars on an ad campaign to do just that. What did she have to say? Check it out for yourself.
I'm not a witch.
Really? I mean, REALLY? I'm not a witch? One thing you'd like to tell Delaware voters and that's what you pick? That's the best you've got?!
I'm nothing you've heard.
Now this part really gets me. You're NOTHING I've heard?! Am I the only one who understands the implied logic here? If you're NOTHING I've heard, then you must be assuming that I've heard only horrible things about you. Do you actually believe that the general opinion about you is that awful? IS the general opinion about you THAT BAD?!?! I mean - WHOA.
None of us are perfect.
Um, okay. I'll take that I'm not perfect and you - well, I mean. Yeah, we'll agree on that one.
None of us can be happy about what we see around us.
Well, if we include this ad then we can pretty much agree on that too.
I'd go to Washington and do what you'd do.
You know what I'd do in Washington? I'd wander around like a tourist with no freaking clue what's going on. I'd go out and get wasted and probably wake up wondering how the hell I got there in the first place. So again, I mean - I can't really argue except she gets to save a buck by skipping the booze.
PS - This post is full of links - please mouse over the text for the hyperlinks. I wish they appeared in a different color and there is probably a way to do it but I don't know how. Don't miss her actual ad and in the final paragraph there are four links and a final one where she speaks directly about her "dabbling."
We Yings are a rather creative people, but mostly it's my sisters and my mama who get the creative street cred, if you know what I mean.
Well, not to be outdone, Papa Ying has proved that it's a marathon not a sprint and while this project took him many months (years?), it is well worth the wait. How seriously awesome is this?
While some of the pattern is random, there are also some cool designs and some meaningful symbols inlaid as well. He even put in a button he received when he ran the Marine Corp marathon a few years ago. The neatest part is that the table actually belonged to his grandmother so it is not only hip and cool it is kind of antique as well.
Despite battling a few setbacks (as he was in the final stages of grouting for some reason he tried to vacuum the top of the table and sucked up a bunch of tiles!), the finished product is a true work of art. Do you think he needs convincing?
Well done, Papa Ying. Maybe someday this table will belong to YOUR grandchildren!
I'm not gonna lie to you folks. These past six weeks have been a giant emotional rollercoaster. So many things have happened that I want to share my thoughts about, and I do plan to go back and write a few posts that I will just post-date for my own sanity. But to give a brief overview...
A interviewed for a promotion in Tampa, FL.
We rescued a little kitty we named Oliver.
The Steelers won the first game of the season without Ben.
I can't sleep.
A got the job in Tampa.
We found out Oliver was a lady cat.
We found out our house was worth $10.
The Steelers lost their second starting quaterback. Still won game 2.
A was offered $3 more in salary per year to move.
A got an interview with a new company.
I can't sleep.
We survived the Cat Crisis of 2010.
I cry myself to sleep.
The Steelers won game 3.
A turned down the promotion.
A flew to New Hampshire on a day's notice to meet with new company.
New company offered him job.
A accepts job with new company, 10 days after first intervew.
We have a giant party at our house with over a dozen out of town guests to celebrate A's big birthday.
I wake up sick as a dog with a sore throat that I attempt to tame with frequent sips of Apple Cider Vinegar (which works but OMG almost makes you throw up).
ON A's actual birthday, he accidentally shuts Compass' tail in our front door.
While at the vet on his birthday, A gets a call that his Gramma had passed away.
We pack up 2 cats, 1 dog and a week's worth of shiz-nitz and head to Pittsburgh.
I can't sleep.
We spend an emotional week with A's family saying goodbye to Gram.
A comes down with my illness.
We drive back across the turnpike and arrive home at midnight on Saturday.
Praise the Lord, at least the Steelers have a BYE week so we can lie in bed and recover. Although I sleep most of the day Sunday, you guessed it - by Sunday night - I can't sleep.
Seriously folks. That is pretty much more excitement crammed into 6 weeks than we sometimes have all year. And while there is a lot of good news sprinkled in there (NEW JOB - did you see that?!?!) I am honestly just ready for a bit of an emotional break.
There are a few things that I've still got bumping around in my head and I'm looking forward to typing them out in the next few days.
I made my first and second etsy sales lickety-split just like that! Two of my fall collars - a 2 inch martingale for a greyhound and a chic leaves tag collar for a sweet Jack Russell. Neither people I "know" so it's not even nepotism! YES!
Very exciting news for my burgeoning etsy career. I'm now only $999,975 away from making a million dollars. You know what they say - you can make it a dollar at a time. Clearly I'm out to prove it.
Who can find a virtuous woman? She is far more precious than jewels...
Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her: Many women are capable, but you surpass them all! Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.
~Proverbs 31:10, 25-30
A J M, 82, of Springdale, passed away Monday, Oct. 4, 2010, surrounded by her loving family at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, Pittsburgh. She was born Aug. 24, 1928, in Russellton, to the late F and B S L, and has been a lifelong resident of this area. Mrs. M was a member of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church in Springdale. Among her interests, she enjoyed shopping, watching her grandchildren and cooking for her family. Survivors include her husband of 62 years, C M; daughters, K (A) R, of Springdale, K M C, of Harwick, and K M, of New Kensington; grandchildren, A (A) R, K R and T M; sisters, C M and D (F) T; brother, B (J) L; also nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; a sister, J D; and two brothers, A L and J L. Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in Springdale at the CHARLES B. JARVIE FUNERAL HOME INC., 801 Pittsburgh St. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday in St. Alphonsus Church with entombment to follow in Our Lady of Hope Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to Central Blood Bank, 5 Parkway Center, 875 Greentree Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15220.
Gram's obituary ran in all the local Pittsburgh papers. I thought I'd start with it, just because it laid out the facts. Date of birth, date of death. Recording of all family members. A place to start, I guess, an outline that I could try to fill in with color as best I can.
Gram was A's maternal grandmother. I didn't meet her until late 2002, when I had begun dating A. By that time, her health had already declined. She walked with a cane, and macular degeneration had slowly begun to rob her of her vision. Despite that, she was a spitfire. A real trip. She would always ask you to come "real close" so that she could see you, and she'd hold your face a few inches from hers and look at you very carefully before saying "Oh my, you're so pretty." I guess that I got her seal of approval pretty quick, and it was a good thing because it was clear that in this family Gram's approval carried some pretty heavy weight.
There are stories that I can share. About her love of cooking and food. Of her, hardly able to stand, propping herself up on the stove to make sure that Christmas dinner turned out just right. I'll always remember her teaching me how to fry apple fritters on Christmas eve - even though she couldn't see two feet in front of her damned if she didn't bark at me each time I accidentally stuck the fork into one of those fritters. I will always remember her like this - at her best even when she was physically suffering - in her kitchen cooking too much food for the people she loved.
But what I really want to do is not to just give more facts, but to try to share who she was, for my children and for their children, too. She was the strongest woman I've ever known. She fought so hard to live, even if living meant just lying in a hospital bed holding hands with her daughters and her husband. She held her family together with an iron fist. She was a true example of a matriarch - a powerful woman who led her family. There was never any doubt what was most important to Gram - and it wasn't money or fame - it was the faces around her kitchen table.
Now, don't get me wrong. She could be proud. I had witnessed her sharpness, hurting her daughters in a way that only a mother can. She had that "my way or the highway" attitude that made her impossible to argue with. She could be harsh in her opinions and she never hesitated to express them regardless of the company she kept. But these things - well, they all just made her who she was.
In the final years of her life, she suffered. There isn't a way to candy-coat the ending. But she was a faithful woman. She prayed the rosary with her daughters. She believed in her church and in her God, and I am certain that she believed that she would be rewarded for her suffering. And when that reward came both in the form of spending more days with her family and eventually in her release to heaven, I feel that she was at peace.
I spent some time last week going through photos and preparing a collage for the funeral. From small black and white photos to full color snapshots, I watched her life fly by. Dozens of photos of family - weddings, new babies, family vacations, special events. So many smiling faces, with Gram always in the center of it all. It struck me that this was the hard evidence of a life well-lived.
I have to say just a few words about her funeral, not really because I want to record it but because I think that it reveals who she was as a person in her life. To be honest, it was really my first experience of death in that up-close-and-personal way. But to be with her family - with her daughters, with her husband and with her grandchildren and see the way that they loved her and remembered her - it was truly remarkable. There was sadness, of course. But I could see how she had helped her daughters prepare for her ending. I could see her strength in them, and her faith that she had gone to a better place. I could see her husband's love for her - 62 years of marriage between them. It was Pap that nearly made my heart break in two as he struggled to say goodbye to the love of his life. I watched as her grandson, my husband, stood in a church in front of dozens of people and fought back tears as he spoke about his Gram. Afterwards, my father said, "You know, I felt like I watched A become a man today," and I thought that after eight years together, I saw a new side of my husband. It was as though as one generation passed, the next summoned her strength and the family that she had built prepared to move forward - without her physical body beside them, but with her spirit in their hearts. I did not find it ironic that she passed on his thirtieth birthday, it seemed was a sign that she knew that her family was well-prepared to go on.
As we said goodbye, I felt my own sadness, too, that she had been my Gram too - while eight years isn't a lifetime, it's no small thing, either. I grieved her loss for my children that would never know her. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to imagine that isn't quite the case at all. Probably, she's meeting them on the other side of heaven right now. I can see her caring for them, whispering to them about the family who is waiting for them, preparing to wrap them up and send them on the journey of a lifetime, straight into our arms. I can imagine years from now, when her great-grandaughter stomps to her room or her great-grandson refuses to finish his dinner, I will remember her, and know that she lives on in them, too.
Rest in peace, Gram.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God upon every remembrance of you. ~Philippians 1:2-3