Posts Tagged ‘family’

Not dead yet. Again.

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Wow. No posts since August … Apparently I’m officially back in hedgeturtle mode* (which demands a mascot, yes…must work on that).

Things that have happened since my last post, in no particular order:

  • We drove 2,300 gloriously winding miles to New England and back, and saw mountains and fall foliage and stayed with Will’s grandmother in a lovely Maine fishing village. Sadly, the moose avoided us. This time.
  • The new school year started, and we have a temporary but thoroughly awesome marketing and communications specialist on board for the new year. If they don’t let me keep him, I will cry great tears of fury and then the revenge plotting will begin. Just you wait.
  • My personal laptop had decided its screen looks FABULOUS in rainbow-colored vertical stripes, and so it keeps acquiring more. And more. And we’re quickly reaching the point at which the pretty stripes are making it sort of impossible to read/watch anything.
  • A new season of MLP:FIM has begun, and I’ve not seen any of them. (See FABULOUS rainbow-colored stripes.) Yes, I could watch them on Will’s computer, but I have to wait for him to go to bed and then sit in an uncomfortable chair instead of my comfy couch-nest, and I’m sure I could probably come up with something else to whine about if you give me a minute…
  • A squirrel got stuck in our family room chimney a few weeks ago. It’s still there, as the critter catchers couldn’t get to it without either removing the back furnace or the fireplace itself. So huzzah for space heaters! Boo on  contractors and critter catchers not returning calls! [Filed under: The House Is Trying to Kill Us.]
  • Samhain quietly came and went. Peace to all who observed third harvest, and spent time remembering their Honored Dead. Blessings also to the Honored Dead among us. May we make you proud, and be always mindful of those who have gone before.
  • We spent fourth harvest (Thanksgiving) with Will’s family. It was both delicious and entertaining, as expected. I was most impressed by the small child who clearly preferred cheese over cookies. Cheeeese. Smart kid.
  • I voted in our local elections and was cheered by the staffers and saluted by a veteran for taking the time to do so. (Next time I’ll ask where the cookies/massage line starts. I bet you’d get a lot more voters…) This particular vote was important to me, because I very badly wanted to see some city council members replaced — specifically those who kept blocking gender-based anti-discrimination policies in housing, employment, public facilities, etc.
  • Collaborative yoga is on hiatus because we lost our teacher and couch-nesting season makes me not want to go Out There unless I absolutely have to. Also, hedgeturtle. I rest my case.
  • We discovered a sushi/boba tea shop at the southern end of downtown St. Joseph. As much as I like Sweet Moon Tea, this other place is kind of awesome — they don’t use powders, but fresh ingredients. The taro was kind of amazing. If only I could remember the name.
  • Skyrim and Saints Row: The Third came out. I have mixed feelings on both games, though SR3 might warrant its own post. I’m replaying SMT: Strange Journeys on the DS. Maybe I’ll finish it this time! A girl can dream.
  • We are now in the “consume ALL the things” phase of the “holiday” season. November is almost over. Seriously. When did that happen?

That is all.

This site desperately needs an overhaul. Put that on the things to do list, Ghost Assistant.

*Hedgeturtle: My antisocial side when I’m in hiding mode — a cross between a hedgehog and turtle, all prickly and withdrawn. Coined during a conversation with the lovely Erin Palette.

A post of scraps

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

As usual, vacation week did not go as planned. There were no trips to Indy or elsewhere, so hopefully we’ll get those another time. Early on, I passed out while making lunch and smacked my head on the ground, and then wound up with an eye infection on top of the mild concussion. So, lumpy forehead, massive headaches, and the most bizarrely perfect eyeliner-esque infection/bruise along the eyelash edge of my right eye, right down to a little semi-Egyptian flourish at the corner. (What gives? Seriously, I could never get eyeliner to do that when I was actually wearing the stuff…!) Mostly there was a lot of sleeping, although we did manage to get out of the house for a walk a few times. Friday there was a lovely trip up to Cafe Gulistan and a walk along the Union Pier beach. Lots of sunny, window-down driving. It was probably one of the best days we’ve had this summer, in all honesty.

The headache lingers, though it’s bearable this week. The eye seems to be healing well enough. At least it just looks like I cut my lid or something, rather than walking around with half makeup. Haha.

MrFenris lives. I hope to have visual confirmation soon.

Will played through L.A. Noire and continues to battle the frustration-fest that is Alice: The Madness Returns. I’m running through Kingdom Hearts Re:coded on the DS. Mostly it’s good and fun, but wow, do I suck at the platformer bits.  Also, it suffers greatly from magic camera syndrome at the most inopportune times.

I got about 90% through Okamiden before succumbing to frustration at a boss battle redux (the giant kabuki puppet) and walking away from it. It’s a cute, fun little game, although the inaccuracy of the stylus as a brush mechanism drove me batty at times, and I was terrible at mining the demons for organs and whatnot to improve my weapons. Ah, well, maybe I’ll come back to it and suddenly Renjishi won’t be such a cheating bitch. I can dream.  But seriously … how can you not look at Chibiterasu and want to plaaaay? That pup is the incarnation of all things adorable!

Ghost Trick has been enjoyable, although it relies heavily on timing, which is another of my weaknesses.  It has a sarcastic sense of humor that appeals to me, though.  9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is also good, if a bit daunting. There are so many different endings — and most of them are pretty horrible.  The one big gripe I have with it are the long sections of cut-scenes. Multiple endings makes it theoretically replayable, but I’m just not sure I can sit through those again. The Unskippable crew would have a field day with the entire game.

Yesterday would have been my dad’s 74th birthday. I don’t know why that seems vaguely impossible; he was close to retirement when he died, his thick, wavy black hair all shot through with gray when he forgot to color it.  He’d had reading glasses for a good decade by then, and had finally (grudgingly) accepted a hearing aid. He was in the midst of completing a second bachelor’s in computer science, despite having worked as a programmer for most of his life, and was working full time for a local payroll company. Still. He always seemed far too ornery to grow old like normal people do.

Yesterday was also my youngest brother’s 29th.  That’s more believable.  Even so, he’s been in Japan for four years, now, and has weathered employer bankruptcy,  Tokyo train commutes, negotiating rent and utilities red tape in Japanese, several pairs of shoes and many more socks worn clear through, terrible bosses, bizarre seafood pizzas at the Tokyo Shakey’s, a trip to South Korea, the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima meltdown, and, from a distance, Mom’s eternal fretting. I’m glad he’s having the experiences he is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wanna give him a good shake so he’ll send Mom a freaking postcard. Sheesh.

That’s all for now. Sleep time and all that.

January down

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Well, the deadline is past, anyway. I was nervous because the submissions had gone so well up until about Wednesday last week, when the problem children began to surface — and oh, were there some spectacular ones this time around.

Let’s just say I’m continuously amazed that TPTB are perfectly willing to give some of these people a PhD and send them out into the big bad world with their stamp of approval. We joke that the first test to see whether someone is eligible for graduation ought to be a simple one: following instructions. How do you possibly make it through four years of undergrad and up to eight years of grad school and still not know how to follow directions?

/sigh

My hand is killing me. Far too much PDF viewing, mouse clicking, arrow key pushing and all that fun stuff. I think I’m developing a sensitivity to the Icy Hot adhesive tape I’ve been slapping onto those swollen tendons all week.

On the plus side, I accompanied Mom to her office dinner last night. She works for a surgeon, and his family and her office mates are all pretty cool. The doctor’s toddler grandkids were in attendance, and were scary cute, I have to admit. Also, the pomegranate martinis were as delicious this year as they were last.  Sadly (*cough*) I’m skipping my own office party this week to go gaming. My head may not be in the games so much these days, but still — given a choice?   Story time trumps office politics and Christmas speeches. I just don’t have the patience for the dean’s sermon this year, it turns out.

Mom and I drove past the old St. Joe hospital campus on our way downtown to the dinner last night, and later I borrowed her camera and went back to take pictures. The pavilion where she worked is all but gone, a skeleton of steel girders and wilted sheets of steel that remind me of a strange sort of seaweed hanging from its bones. You can see the ambient glow of the winter night straight through on the other side. Most of the main hospital itself is gone as well, and what’s left looks like the bombed-out set of an apocalyptic zombie flick. I’m just waiting for it to show up in my dreams — I dreamt about the old Studebaker corridor as a setting for years and years when I was a kid. That sort of massive structure urban decay seems to stick with me, for some reason.

New hearing for the WM3

Friday, November 5th, 2010

I’m compelled to pay attention whenever a new development in the West Memphis Three trials wanders into my field of vision. Why? Baldwin, Echols and Misskelly are the same age I am. I never knew them, but I knew people like them. Hell, I was someome like them — even though they were in rural Arkansas, and I was in rural Indiana, we listened to similar music, tended to wear a lot of black, didn’t particularly fit in with the local culture, and hung out with misfits and troublemakers. We could have been friends.

I remember the Satanic Panic period very well. In fact, that looming threat spanned most of my childhood, all the way up through the end of high school. I remember being made to watch horrible documentaries and listen to “expert” guest speakers at my parents’ respective churches (one a rural country church, and the other a slick evangelical faith-healing/demon-banishing operation), about how this terrible plague of Satanism and demonic possession had infiltrated everyday life. Satan was clearly bent on corrupting susceptible kids through TV and music and dabbling in the occult. So of course, we weren’t allowed to watch the Smurfs or the D&D cartoon, or V , or … well, the list goes on. When I was, oh, 10 or so, I think, Dad confiscated all my music and anything remotely relating to dragons, fairies, magic, etc. He was sure those fantasy novels and that dragon keychain were going to lead me into witchcraft, after all, and that would lead to Satanism.

Why? Because that’s what his venom peddlers preached at him, and fear is a powerful weapon.

I remember being called a witch at school and on the bus, even though I was still technically a Christian back then. (Hey, it did mean I got a whole seat to myself on the bus, at least. Eventually I got to share it with a sweet little girl who was being bullied. No one messed with her when she was sitting with the witch.) I remember learning that my boyfriend had been called into the principal’s office because of some vague rumors or accusations that he’d thrown a severed goat’s head onto the windshield of a car or something stupid like that. (Yes, it really was that idiotic.) I think he got suspended, if I recall correctly — but knowing him, that was more so because he found the accusations hilarious and got snarky with the principal. The rumors around school clearly equated his absence with guilt, though.

So anyway, yes. When the WM3 case appears in the news, I pay attention.

The state Supreme Court has ordered a new circuit court evidentiary hearing on Damien Echols’ appeal of his conviction and death sentence in the West Memphis Three case. It issued similar orders for co-defendants Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, both serving life sentences. – wm3org.typepad.com

Yes, that’s right. The Arkansas Supreme Court is granting the WM3 a new hearing that will take into account DNA evidence and evidence of jury misconduct during the trials. I just hope the cases remain at the top level from this point forward, and that Judge Burnett won’t be presiding over the hearing or the new trial it will likely engender. He still seems utterly entrenched in the idea that the police can do no wrong and remains a staunch defender of the assertion that three teenage misfits were “Satanists” who raped and killed three little boys. Despite there being no actual evidence linking them to the crime scene.

Lawyers for Echols argued at a hearing in September that Circuit Court Judge David Burnett should have taken the DNA test results into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant him a new trial; however, in 2008, Burnett rejected Echol’s request for a new trial without ever holding an evidentiary hearing. - CBS News

What’s interesting is that one victim’s mother, and another victim’s biological and adoptive fathers have all expressed their concerns about the handling of the case and the guilt of Baldwin, Echols and Misskelly. And even that wasn’t enough to sway the judge.

Here’s hoping that the defending attorneys are convincing enough at the hearing to get new trials for the WM3, and that they’re exonerated this time. The real killer is presumably still out there, after all.

Edit: Jason over at Wild Hunt just posted an excellent summary of the ruling that gives more perspective on the history of the WM3 convictions.

Catching up

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Has it really been that long since I wrote here?

There has been busy-ness. In a nutshell:

  • A family wedding (middle brother!)
  • A friend wedding (geeks!)
  • Yard work
  • Freelance work
  • Work, work, work
  • Web tinkering (work)
  • Yoga (+ tea shopping)
  • Etrian Oddyssey III (too much)
  • Puzzle Quest II (done)
  • Writing (not enough)

There have also been musings, which have not been shared here — probably for the best. Musings on friendship and relationships and hobbies and stress and life in general. Perhaps it is something like a  ”midlife crisis” phase, but it feels like things are shifting in a different direction. I’m just not sure where it’s leading me, yet.

On another note, we escaped SB yesterday to enjoy a gorgeous drive up along the Red Arrow Highway from New Buffalo to St. Joseph. We had decided to try something new for dinner, so we stopped at Café Gulistan in Harbert. I had no idea what to expect going in, but it was delicious. We shared the shiitake mushroom appetizer and I had the Ispanak, which was hands-down the best falafel dish I’ve ever had — sweet and savory and satisfying. I also had my eye on a few MidEastern lamb dishes. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve opted for something not-lamb, and did not end up with buyer’s remorse. I even had enough left over to bring for lunch. It’s a little pricey, but I highly recommend it if you have a chance.

I wasn’t aware, also, that Ibrahim Parlak‘s legal status was still in limbo. I thought that had all been cleared up. Apparently he’s still in danger of being deported at some point. WTF, Homeland Security?

Those who have gone before

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

This was a strange summer — busier than usual, and everything seemed to have just been a little bit more. More problems with students, more health concerns, more soul-baking heat, more exhaustion.  I began to feel a subtle shift, at the end of last week, out of the winds of more, but perhaps that’s just to be expected with the sudden advent of autumn-like weather. The break from the heat is welcome, but a little bittersweet — I missed the last few perfect driving nights of August. If I’m lucky we’ll see one or two yet before the leaves begin to fall.

Recent events have had me thinking of those who have passed away over the years. Not in a sad way, necessarily. I believe it’s important to remember our honored dead and their places in our lives;  when they first pass, it’s difficult not to. The reminders are there in every impulse and every breath. As time goes on, the sting of their loss recedes into our hearts. We never lose it completely, but their memories become woven into the fabric of who we are and who we want to become. We’re no longer faced with hourly, daily, weekly reminders of the loss because it’s no longer an external awareness of separation. Until, that is, something suddenly triggers a memory — a photo, a song, a memento, a favorite food or TV show, a silly in-joke that no one else would get. The unmistakable and undeniable feeling of their presence there in the room with you (regardless of what you believe happens after death).

June 4 was the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. It’s a strange thing to commemorate, the day someone passed away. By itself, it’s just another calendar date that means nothing at all, but the abrupt realization that a particular date and time is suddenly upon you can be an instant and powerful memory trigger (sometimes good … but more often, not). So I mark these days on my calendar just as I do birthdays. I make plans to spend some time with my memories that day in whatever way seems natural at the time.

In many ways, this is hardest with my father. Although we were close when I was very young, Dad and I grew apart in drastic ways as soon as I hit double-digits. That rift never really healed, although we were just beginning to find common ground again when the heart attack took him. After ten years, though, my mother still misses him terribly, so we make a point to spend time together on the important days — his birthday, the anniversary of his death, their wedding anniversary — so she can share her memories if she feels up to it. This year was harder for her than the last few, perhaps because the number ten seems intrinsically momentous to our modern reckoning.

I usually don’t have much to say, beyond asking questions. Ten years on, there’s still too much regret and bitterness muddying the waters for the little girl who used to live for Saturday bike rides with her daddy.

And still, his photo is on my mantle. I make a point to remember, because for good or ill, he had a large part in making me who I am. When Samhain comes, I’ll have the peanut brittle and cigars waiting for him, this year and for many years to come.

He is my father, and he is one of many among my honored dead.

Edit: Strange timing. Not ten minutes after posting this, a post along similar lines popped up in my RSS feed by Jason over at Wild Hunt (titled “How We Deal with Our Dead”).

Why the increased interest in reincarnation, in ancestor veneration, in being remembered? I think it has partially to do with an impulse that has always been with us. One that, to certain extents, has been discouraged by our post-Enlightenment culture, or only approved in special contexts (saintsnational heroes). For so long we have been afraid to acknowledge that we long to make the dead a part of our lives. To not simply “move on”, but to continue to weave them into the tapestry of our existence. That it isn’t morbid, but loving. As we approach SamhainDay of the Dead, and other Winter holidays of remembrance and ancestor veneration, let us focus on how we integrate those who are no longer with us, but are still very much with us.

Boba tea and nerd rock

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

After missing nearly the whole summer, my friend H. and I finally got together for a boba tea night. It was delicious, as usual, and conversation largely flowed in eddies around the last few hectic and challenging months: family, travels, the novel she’s writing, our usual venting, and loved ones who have recently passed away.  It was a good evening on many levels.

I keep meaning to mention her husband’s musical pursuits here, and finally decided I had to do it tonight after they treated me to two new songs and a sneak preview of the current project. Brian is a great example of the fantastic “get excited and make things” bug you might’ve seen espoused by the likes of the Space Bastard and Wil Wheaton.  If you’re at all amused by nerd rock  à la Jonathan “Skullcrusher Mountain” Coulton or are just curious what a clever man can put together with a guitar, a piano, and a Mac laptop, please do check out Brian Gray’s music.

Reflections on death

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Uncle Jim’s funeral was today. I saw out-of-state cousins I haven’t seen in 20+ years, most of whom I didn’t even recognize. Thankfully, there was minimal drama. I’m considering that a win.

The minister was half an hour late; he’d written the time down wrong and had to scramble over when the funeral director called to find out where he was. As another aunt pointed out, though, Uncle Jim would have thought that quite a hoot — there would have been much in the way of eye-rolling and dramatic sighs and and head shaking. And he would’ve groused about it to anyone who would listen. Repeatedly, and with a gusto he might otherwise reserve for ND games and NASCAR races. As soon as Aunt D. pointed that out, an audible chuckle made its way around the room. No one was particularly upset by the delay, and apparently the minister did a fine job in the end, I’m told.

My family is typically Midwestern in that they all consider themselves Christian (Methodist or non-denominational, mostly), regardless of how many years it’s been since the last time they attended church or read the Bible.  I’m the black sheep in that regard; my beliefs have changed drastically since the days of youth groups, thrice-weekly church services and at-home Bible lessons. So although I know the minister’s words were meant to comfort my aunt and the rest of the family, I found myself seething after a few minutes and ended up reciting song lyrics to myself to tune him out. So much emphasis on “defeating” death and how unnatural it is; so many assurances that belief in God supposedly robs it of its power and sting. So many promises of eternal and perfect life in a heavenly mansion.

It is one of the great tragedies of Western civilization that we demonize death to such an extent. We’re taught from an early age to fear death — which is necessary for self-preservation, yes — but there’s also the insinuation that it’s some sort of nebulous, evil force in the world that needs to be overcome, banished, defeated.  As soon as someone dies, they’re whisked away and hidden from view, sterilized and either burned or made into some waxen effigy of the person we knew. We’re awkward and uncomfortable around those who have just experienced such a personal loss; we allow them a certain brief period of private grieving, and then expect the mourners to get on with their lives according to some arbitrary self-determined timeline.  We avert our eyes from death, we speak of it in somber and hushed tones and make it into something wicked and fearful.

Worst of all, though, are the Bible passages that are inevitably recited in a vague attempt at offering comfort. To tell a woman who has just lost her husband of 53 years that Jesus has “defeated” death, that death has no sting, because her husband is now dining at the right hand of God instead of sitting beside her …  how dismissive that is, how it diminishes of the importance of her grief and pain and turns the focus away from the loss and to vague promises.

I would much rather we faced death head-on. One of my co-workers told me a little of her grandmother’s funeral in Jamaica, how everyone went out and bought new clothes in a specific color, based on your generation in relation to the deceased; how they sang and celebrated her grandmother’s life for the traditional nine nights and then on the final day, led a colorful procession to the burial site. There are traditions to uphold, and often food and drink offerings to the deceased, and stories and songs and commiserating amongst family and friends for at least 10 days following the death. There is sorrow, to be sure, but it’s balanced by companionship and celebration.

And I can’t help but feel a little jealous at that.

Congratulations, MrFenris

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Pup #3 of MF’s own personal pack has entered the world. He’s a feisty one, if the nickname is any indication. And that’s a good thing — not only does he have some catching up to do, but he’s going to need that orneriness to keep up with the rest of the clan. Especially the dog.

Welcome, Big Kick. And thank you for reminding us that the world carries on.

Henu Akhu

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

My uncle, James Radics, joined the honored dead this morning at 5:30 AM.

It has been a very long week, full of deadlines and projects and an insane amount of last-minute problems. A friend moved out of state, and I had to bow out of one of my favorite games. Again. I can’t remember ever missing so many in so short a timespan.

And then, I was supposed to have a small break from the terrible last night. Mom called early yesterday evening — just as friends had begun to arrive — and left a message telling me the doctor had said it was unlikely that my uncle would last until midnight. Her voice wavered when she said she didn’t know whom I prayed to, but that my aunt and uncle needed prayers.

I cried a little, but I couldn’t pray right then. Even though we’d known for a couple of weeks, now, that this day was fast approaching, I couldn’t find the words.

It’s strange, how your mind tries to rationalize things upon receiving such news. I told Will that I couldn’t stay but that he should go on with our plans, since one friend had already arrived; he instantly recognized that I was in no state to drive over to say my goodbyes by myself, and insisted on driving me. Somehow he managed to convince me of this, and quietly made apologies, in-person and on the phone, to our friends for the cancellation.

It was a difficult visit. When we arrived, Mom and middle brother were there along with several members of Uncle Jim’s family. There had already been drama, with one of the brothers storming off earlier in the day. My aunt was talking on the phone with their son, who had been allowed to call twice, once on his own dime, and once for free when the chaplain made the arrangements.

The interior bedroom was small and cramped and hot, and their two small, anxious dogs refused to leave his side. I went in and out a few times, staying as long as I could before the conditions became overwhelming. I badly wanted to stay with my aunt until he passed — after all, where else should a child of the crossroads be? — but in the end, I had to admit I couldn’t stay. Making myself sick wasn’t going to make anything easier for either my aunt or my uncle.

It wasn’t until the ride home, after I had seen how miserable my uncle was, and how my quiet aunt held his hand so gently and with such love, that I finally found the words for my prayer.

Goodbye, Uncle Jim. I hope you’ve found peace and comfort at last.