three

November was a nothing month for most of my life. I mean, there was Thanksgiving, but honestly, I hated that holiday. We spent it at my grandmother’s, just as unnamed (1)we spent Christmas, and the meal was nearly identical. Instead of the silver accoutrements there were gold, and instead of Christmas tree-shaped cutouts of cranberry jelly, it was just plain circles. But it was similar enough to remind me of the big difference: there were no presents to be opened at the end of this meal. While Christmas Eve dinner was eaten in the glow of the Christmas tree’s lights and carols played in the background, Thanksgiving dinner was eaten in the normal, dull light of the dining room overhead, and maybe there’d be music but probably not and could you just finish eating already so we can clean up and take a nap?

So yeah. November. Meh.

In 2001, I met Fred, whose birthday is in November. That livened things up a bit. Also: here was a person who liked Thanksgiving! As I grew older and stopped having two holiday meals a year at my grandmother’s house, I began to appreciate it, too. Also, I learned to make an awesome turkey.

On November 1, 2005, Emma was born. November was now bookended by the birthdays of the two most important people in my life. November was a month of promise, of celebration.

And then.

And then on November 18, 2011, my father passed away.

It’s been three years. THREE YEARS! I can’t even believe that. It sounds terrible to say, “Gosh, but it seems like just yesterday that you died!” but there it is.

I dream about my dad almost every night. And it’s never one of those “OMG you’re alive!” dreams. Rather, he’s just…there. Like he was in my life. Constant. Sturdy. Present. In my dreams, my mom is usually with him because, you know, they’re kind of a package deal in my brain. But the really great thing about these dreams? Whenever my memories of my dad start getting a little squishy, a little too rose colored, I’ll have a dream where my dad just. pisses. me. off. I wake up ENRAGED. Furious and frustrated. And then I laugh, because that’s how I know it’s him, making sure I remember that he was human. “Ah ah ah,” he’s saying. “Let’s not raise my pedestal too high, then.”

Grief is strange. I don’t cry as much as I used to. I can listen to the Rolling Stones without getting maudlin. I can talk to Emma about him without feeling like Fred is waiting for my collapse. But there are moments when it washes over me, and for a second, I can’t breathe.

You don’t realize that once someone you love dies, they keep dying. Every time someone’s father dies, my father dies again. Every time someone’s ANYTHING dies, my father dies again. And each time it’s less than the time before, but it’s always surprising when it happens. It’s that little gut punch, that reminder, reliving the worst parts.

November is changed now. Tempered. There are still those beautiful bookends at the beginning and the end of the month. I still make an amazing turkey, and I’ve grown to appreciate Thanksgiving for what it is and can be. But now the month belongs to my dad. I honestly don’t mind. In some ways, it’s still a celebration — of him, his life and his complete ability to drive me up a fucking wall.

But the worst part about it being his month now? I never knew how he felt about November. Ah, well. Sorry, Papa. You’re stuck with it now.

unnamed

Because tomorrow is Halloween

It’s no secret that I love Halloween. Like, a lot. Always have.

And like many kids and teens, I was obsessed with the paranormal. The interest ran in my family. My dad’s mom loved ghost stories. My dad had a spooky story about when he lived with his grandmother in his 20s and the thing that lived in the dining room. My mom’s side of the family is staunchly Catholic and so we don’t talk about these things. My mom did have some experiences when she was little that she absolutely refuses to discuss. She and my dad also warned me away from Ouija boards and seances, and there’s always been a little part of me that’s pretty sure you’re inviting some scary ass stuff into your life when you play with those things. But I still read the stories and watched the movies and just scared myself silly too many times to count. 

(Here’s the part where I talk about my own spooky thing. And here’s the part where Fred stops reading. He’s a scientist, he’s not down with this stuff. At all. So I love talking about it around him to see how far back in his head his eyes can roll.)

I’ve never seen anything. No ghostly apparitions, no floating orbs, no objects moving of their own volition. The closest I’ve come to an actual sensory (as in, sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing) experience was the night my grandfather died. Technically, he died in the morning, and that night we were staying in my grandparents’ house. And around 3 or 4 in the morning, I heard my grandfather walk down the hall, jiggling the change in his pocket. As a kid, I stayed in that house every summer, and we were there every Christmas and Thanksgiving as well. My grandfather always woke early and would walk to the kitchen, jingling and jangling the change in his pocket. It was a sound I was well accustomed to hearing, and thought nothing of it when I first heard it that night. Until I realized what I was hearing. It wasn’t scary — in fact, quite the contrary. 

But that’s not the spooky story.

(Now, the big reveal and you’ll get to the end and say “That’s it?” I’m always for the big build-up and inevitable let down.)

Eight years ago, Fred and I were living in a little place in Northern California. We liked our landlord, and the location was crazy convenient, but in March, a leak in the roof irreparably damaged some of our furniture, and ants invaded. Our landlord was sympathetic, and offered us another unit in the building. Ours was at the front, right off the street. This new one was set back a ways, down a long driveway. The new unit had just been renovated, was leak- and ant-free, so we agreed to switch. We moved little by little throughout the course of one week, taking non-essentials down when we would get home from work. On Friday, we recruited some friends to help move the furniture, and then Fred and I spent the evening moving the rest of our belongings. We were tired, so rather than walking back and forth, we would load up our little car, drive it down to the new place, unload it, and drive it back. We made trip after trip. Around 9 or 10 that night, I walked outside to put stuff in the car and was immediately anxious. I hurried to finish loading and went back inside. The anxiety lifted. This repeated throughout the night. Outside=anxious. Inside=fine. In fact, it got worse the later it got, to the point where I did not want to go outside anymore. It was heavy, and thick. I found myself looking around constantly while outside. I told Fred, and we hurried to finish, finally collapsing on our couch in the new place, serenaded by the sounds of our neighbor singing karaoke in Tagalog. 

Fred spent the next day at a Little League game (he and some friends were coaches that spring) and after unpacking and arranging for a bit, I decided to take a nap. (I was barely pregnant at this point, and unaware, but my body was already doing weird things, like deciding it was done early in the day. Come to think of it, it never really STOPPED doing that…) I climbed in to bed with one of the cats and started to drift off, when the cat marched to the foot of the bed, looked out in the hallway toward the living room, and began growling. Low, guttural noises that I had never heard him make before. I woke up and everything felt… different. That anxious feeling — the heavy thickness I had felt whenever I had gone outside — was back, and it was bad. It was in my house. I looked in the direction where my cat was staring (he was now standing, back arched, hair up ALL over, ears back, still growling), and didn’t see anything. But I felt it. I even called out, “Hello?” thinking someone had come in. 

(Really. Like, who, a robber? Who would answer back?)

I was terrified. 

So I shouted, “GO AWAY!” in the general direction of the living room. I felt like an idiot. I also didn’t move. Eventually my cat calmed down and came and sat next to me. He never stopped staring down the hall though. I was still in the bed when Fred came home, and as he came in, the last of the anxiety that was lingering dissipated. I told him what had happened, and he stared at me for a bit. 

That I night I blessed the house (kind of like smudging but with less sage and more “The power of Christ compels you”) and as I went into each room I said (in my head), You can’t be here. We’re here now. You have to go. The house felt normal after that. In fact, Fred went out of town the next day and I never had the anxiety return. 

We stayed in that house until December of that year and never had any more incidents. A week after all of this happened, we found out I was pregnant. Throughout my pregnancy and Emma’s first seven weeks, all was quiet. I don’t know what was in that house, but I’m pretty sure it was not happy we had moved in.

 

last night an author saved my life

ImageAt ALA last month, Toby handed out buttons that said “Last night a library saved my life,” and on Tuesday night, that phrase kept running through my head. Kind of. Instead of library, though, I heard author.

Okay, backing up.

A few days before ALA, Leah wrote to ask if I was available to help at an event on July 9th. Stefan, her boyfriend, is the manager at Unabridged Books and they were having an author event and it was going to be pretty large and would I be interested in helping and OH BY THE WAY the author is Neil Gaiman.

Let’s just pause and breathe.

Right.

Image

Photo courtesy of Leah White

I showed up this past Tuesday unsure of what to expect, or even what I would be doing. I did not expect to be heating water for Mr. Gaiman’s tea. Or to listen to him tell bizarre stories while he efficiently pre-signed hundreds of books. Or to stand at the base of the stage while he did a sound check.

I also didn’t expect the mob of people that swarmed the small table where I and another volunteer sold copies of just about every Gaiman title available. The cash and credit cards were flying and people were so excited to get just “one more book,” or “the one they hadn’t been able to find,” or “this is my favorite title and I love this cover,” or “I’m buying a copy for a friend so they’ll finally read something by him.”

But what I really didn’t expect, and what took me completely by surprise, was the level of joy that this man brings to people’s lives. Leah and I worked the signing table. Ruth was given the task of uncapping Sharpies for the author which, frankly, would have reduced me to tears just from the fear of uncapping the wrong one or jerking my hand in panicked seizure and marking the man’s face with silver. I greeted people at one end of the table, collected their books or other items to be signed, and prepped them — opening the books to the correct title page, verifying how many items could be signed, placing the item to be personalized on top of all the others — before passing them to Leah, who in turn passed them to Neil. Our main job was to keep the line moving, to prevent large gaps, and to make sure Neil was never kept waiting. There were over 700 people who would be lining up, and though I’d been told that this event was on the small side, that’s still quite a few people.

ImageOver the course of several hours, I listened to people tell Neil Gaiman how his writing, his stories, he changed their lives. The daughter that now has a relationship to her father because of Neil’s books. The countless number of aspiring authors who credit him with helping them find their voices. The copies of Coraline inscribed to Coralines as yet unborn. The travelers from all over the Midwest who came just to shake his hand. The friends bearing books from family members and best friends too ill to make the trip. The numerous handmade gifts — quills and ink, bookmarks, a Cyberman head, an intricate papercut, pop-up Tardis card. So many photos from past Neil Gaiman signings and meetings. Notes and stories from those times, and people just wanting to come back to tell him how much they treasure the time he was able to give them.

The children. So many children. The little girl who announced that she had been waiting her whole life to meet him and his response that he had been waiting her whole life to meet her. The little boy who spoke about birthday cake for a good three minutes and to whom Neil listened intently and without distraction.

I stood and watched people’s faces when they would come around the corner and see Neil Gaiman, some for the first time, some for the hundredth. But each time the person would smile, a little awestruck, a little shy. Seeing their favorite author sitting less than six feet from them transformed each and every one of their faces. And I listened to the stories, the thanks, the tears, and the gratitude. And sometimes the silence, as a person was just overwhelmed, and Neil’s gracious thanks and appreciation in return.

And at the end of the night, when the last person had left with their books, Leah — my sweet, dear friend — faced Neil Gaiman and told him that all night, as she stood next to him, she had listened to so many people tell him that they were librarians and she just wanted to say that she, too, was a librarian, and the amazing work he has done for the field and for the workers and for the stories had not gone unnoticed. She thanked him for that, and she thanked him for “using his powers for good,” and she shook his hand. And with that small gesture, the entire weight of the night landed square on me.

I tend to be a pretty cynical person. I dislike people in general. I don’t always see the good in something. But that night, I witnessed something amazing. Incredible. Awesome in the true sense of the word. I saw the impact that a single person can have on another soul, and it was brilliant. Truly.

Last night an author saved a lot of lives.

ten

I don’t do schmoopy very well. Whenever stuff tends to get mushy, I feel this uncontrollable urge to make the ugliest face I can, just to ease the schmaltz.

This letter to my husband, on our tenth wedding anniversary, may start to feel a little goopy. If that happens, just make a silly face at the monitor. It will help.

Dear Fred:

Crlyn1091Ten years ago, your friends wrapped you up in duct tape and let you fall face first into the ground. All I could think about is how our wedding photos would be RUINED. Thankfully, you’re like Wolverine and heal quickly, and so the only evidence of your drunken debauchery at your bachelor party in our pictures is the tiniest little mark on your upper lip.

I wish I could go back and tell my 26-year old self to chill. That it didn’t matter that they hadn’t removed the (fake!) ivy from the gazebo or left the mirrored tiles on the tables or would there be enough wine for our friends or what if no one showed up. Because I was marrying you. At the end of the day, we would actually be starting this amazing adventure. An adventure that would take us across the country and back. An adventure that would let us grow as individuals while never having to hide from each other.

I would tell my younger (thinner) self to breathe, because after that day, I would have the most amazing partner a person could wish for. Someone who understood my crazy. Someone who would make me laugh until I couldn’t breathe. Someone who would hold me when I couldn’t think of taking another step forward. Someone who would help me raise the most incredible child I’ve ever met. Someone who dances with me in the kitchen early in the morning and late into the night. Someone who would let me be who I am, 100%, never having to worry that it wasn’t enough. (I would also tell myself to eat a freaking sandwich because my wedding dress wasn’t going to fit.)

I would tell myself that after that day, the person I would wake up next to everyday would be my equal partner. I would support him as much as he was going to support me. Crlyn1096 I would tell myself that I would be surprised by how much I was willing to sacrifice for this person. And how much he would ask me not to.

Honestly, ten years? It’s so trite, but it went by so quickly. It feels like you just asked me to marry you, and I just said “Ohmigod what?! Did you tell my parents?!” It feels like we just walked down the aisle and I said, “I feel like we robbed a bank!”  We just got married. Didn’t we?

You are amazing. You are. No, you are. Shut up. You are. You are the smartest person I know. You are the funniest person I know. And you are the hottest husband ever. I love that we can nerd out together at the movies and you can teach me about space stuff and you let me ramble on about library stuff.

We’re kind of made for each other. And it’s pretty awesome.

I love you.

Crlyn1320

 

 

More pictures on Tumblr. Because DUH.

cough

I’ve had the compose window open here for a while now. Maybe an hour. 

I’m still here. Here at the compose window. Here at this address. Here on this planet. Here.

Every now and then something happens and I think, “I should blog about this.” But that happens so infrequently anymore. More often it goes on Twitter, and even that happens less than it used to.

I have a new job. I started six weeks ago today. In the span of those six weeks, I have gone through such a gamut of emotions. I love my job. I love the new challenges. My brain… does not. I have experienced crazy levels of stress and incredible highs and lows and mostly exhaustion. Each day finds me faced with a ridiculous to-do list and some days it just CLICKS and boom, I’m off. I love those days. Other days, something short-circuits. Misfires. Stops working. Refuses to start in the first place. I flounder, pick something up, start it, realize I need to do something else, start that, move on to the third thing. Look at the clock, which is NOT SLOWING DOWN SLOW DOWN DAMMIT. Sometimes I look at my calendar and cry. Not really. But really. In my head. 

I need to retrain. My body, for one. I am weak and minimal effort makes me sore. There is a gym at my new job. It’s free. I need to get in there and MOVE.

I also need to retrain my mind. I have spent the past few years reducing the amount of information I take in into little bits, so that when I need to ingest more, it’s nigh impossible. I don’t watch movies anymore, and hour-long TV shows are almost too long. Read? Only if the gist can be summed up in 140 characters. It’s taken me so long to finish an entire book. I had last week off for Spring Break and I read more in that week than I’ve read the entire year. It felt… decadent. And hard. It was hard to do.

Needless to say I haven’t written anything in a while. I have work stuff to write. Fun stuff to write. And I’d like to write here again. 

So I’ll begin stretching. 

read

Anna has a post about her favorite reads for the year, and it occurred to me that I’ve never done one. Ever. Shame on me. So here’s my reading wrap-up for 2012.

I read 52 books in 2011, so I set a reasonable (HA HA foreshadowing) goal of 60 books for 2012. How many did I read? 38. Gah.

However! This is not a post about how many books I didn’t read, but the ones that I did!

My favorites:

Five books received five star ratings from me on Goodreads:

Attachments and Eleanor and Park, both by Rainbow Rowell. Both so, so good. The kind of books that you want to live in and never want to end.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. My adoration of The Bloggess is longstanding, and this book only cemented it.

Broken Harbor by Tana French. I hope she writes Dublin Murder Squad books forever and ever.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I am an unapologetic John Green fan so I was predisposed to like this. However, I did not expect to cry — nay, WEEP — the way I did when I read this.

My least favorites:

No one-star stinkers last year, but a few two star ratings:

Familiar by Robert J. Lennon. I was so intrigued by the premise, and stuck with it because I had to know what happened. But I felt as though I’d spent the time reading it locked in a dryer, tumbling all over the place. I was partly dazed, partly angry when I finished it.

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner. I’m not sure why I tried.

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein. Again, suckered in by premise, disappointed by delivery.

This was also the year that sequels didn’t live up to their predecessors. Insurgent, Girl of Nightmares, Reached, and Shadow of Night failed to draw me in and left me wondering how much I would pursue the next installment. Thankfully, one of these ended a trilogy, so I won’t have to worry about that one.

I decided not to sign up for the reading challenge this year, but instead to make sure I devote time each day to reading.

Here’s to:
doing more and spending less
moving my body and my mind
quiet snuggles on the couch
crafty Sunday afternoons
journaling and recording
deep breaths and deeper stretches
climbing the ladder and not looking down
appreciation and gratitude
calm and peace
Happy New Year, everyone.

When I wrote the last post, the first reports of Newtown were just starting to trickle in. I spent the remainder of the day like so many, staring blankly at my screen, the need to squeeze my daughter growing stronger and stronger. On the way home, all the energy used to keep it together during the day vanished, and I sobbed the entire drive. I was wracked with relief over being able to go home to my baby and overcome with guilt that I was able to and so many parents were not. I avoided the TV all weekend, and when an email from the principal at Emma’s school asked parents to please talk with their children about what had happened, I shut down. Nope, not going to do it.

But we did. On Sunday night we sat her down and told her, in the most general terms we could manage, what had happened. We assured her she was safe, which felt like a hollow promise. How can guarantee anything? But we promised. And we told her we would talk to her about anything she wanted, and answer any questions she may have. She was solemn and asked only if they caught the person who did these terrible things. Yes, we said. He won’t hurt anyone else anymore. As I walked her to room at bedtime, she told me she would have rather not known about what happened, confirming my feeling about not wanting to tell her. And that night she asked to sleep with me.

I don’t want to think about it anymore, but I do. I’m angry that I have the luxury of not HAVING to think about it. Guilty. So instead I hug my kid a little harder.

tick

Well.

Honestly, someone should have started a pool on how long it would be until I posted again. One of you would be… not rich. But maybe have a couple of extra dollars in your pocket.

So I’m sitting here in the midst of what I like to call existential crisis mode, where I can’t focus on anything and I fleetingly think about all the things I should be doing, and then, like a boulder dropped onto my chest, I am missing my kid something awful. It’s fierce and piercing and it physically hurts. I’m not sure if it’s because of the child who was just carried out of the library, crying. Or seeing the headlines about the Connecticut school shooting. Or just because sometimes, despite the frustration and the backtalking and the seemingly constant sass, I miss my kid.

I’ve taken no pictures. I’ve written no blog posts. I’ve made no phone calls and I’ve addressed no Christmas cards.

Instead, I wait.

one. kind of.

I wrote this Saturday. With all the best intentions. Let’s try again.

I’ve done this before, not always successfully. But I’m once again feeling the urge to attempt something AND complete it. That urge is a dangerous one and usually results in tears and/or drinking. But fresh starts and all that. 


So we begin. A post a day for the month of December. I also want to do the monthly photo-a-day challenge, so I’ll try to include that picture with the post. 


Day 1: My view today: Emma at swimming lessons.

Do you want to join me with a challenge of your own? Share it in the comments and we’ll be each other’s motivation. 
My plan is to catch up by this weekend. I have the photos. I have the posts. I just have to put them together.