blossom and bloom

bloom

A lot has been floating through my mind lately.  From seizures to medical procedures to just…a lot of weird stuff, it’s been a rough past year – but I’ve learned so much about myself already.  That I’m capable of becoming what I want, that I can chase and catch up to my dreams, and that putting positivity out in the universe means it will come back around to you.

My therapist said he can tell I’m so much more confident than I used to be.  I’m finally getting used to my body and loving that despite all my medical flaws, but I’m finally here.  Years of dysphoria from ballet have lessened, and I have a very healthy attitude of “This is me and I’m not apologizing for it anymore.”

The last 4-5 months have been a roller coaster.  Someone I never expected to come along did despite my strong desire to stay single/not even get into the dating scene.  Ever since, I’ve been on a roller coaster that seems like it never ends with him.  I’m about to rent a house, and getting utilities established in my name is a daunting task.  I’ve been through so much back-and-forth this week that I’m exhausted.  I need a nap daily.  But what gets me through is that the house is one I’ll be proud of, one I’m ready to come home to and to be happy, to be relaxed.  I’ll even have a craft room.

Speaking of crafts, I’m starting up my home crafting business again soon.  For a while back in 2009-2010, I created and sold crocheted goods at Kami-con (back then, held in Tuscaloosa).  I undercharged by a lot, according to the calculator websites I’ve been using, but it was a good learning experience.  When the festival up in Steele, AL – Cukorakko – starts, we’re hoping to rent out a booth or table to sell stuff.  Anything to help with rent and still being able to live life.  I love handcrafted goods.  Everything is unique, and everything has a piece of the maker’s heart in it.  (That’s why it’s so easy to want to keep things…)  I’m also getting back into painting.

So many times I’ve thought, “am I ready for this?” And the answer is: of course.  I’m 27.  I am grateful for my mother letting me stay in our house as long as I needed, but it’s time.  To walk into the living (ha) room and see the spot where my father died and his mother before him is painful.  In the back of my mind, I can never separate that from the way the room is now.  His final expression still haunts me.

He would be thrilled for me, for my future.  When I think about how he would have thought about my life path, I feel nothing but warmth.  His high school graduation card to me read something to the effect of, “keep being just the way you are and you’ll be able to accomplish anything in life.”

I’m not perfect by any means, but I have drive.  I have ambition and a tender heart and a pretty good sense of humor (unless I’m in a bad mood).

Every day I’m working on blooming from within.  I can only see myself blossoming more from here.  With every test life throws my way, I learn something new about myself.  And there’s nowhere to go but up.

“and when you hear a song or see a bird I loved, please do not let the thought of me be sad…”

(Disclaimer: sorry if I reiterate the same ol’ stuff I’ve talked about in posts before; it’s hard to keep up with what I’ve said about him and what I haven’t.)

Today marks five years since I’ve talked to my dad, since I’ve heard his voice in person in this house, not just through recordings.  Technically, it will be as of around 6:30 a.m. (my memory’s fuzzy on the exact time I went to bed), but it doesn’t matter.  October 6 will always be a day I solemnly remember, a day that will never go by unnoticed.

And so much about my life has changed.  The pre-October 6, 2007 Christina’s life seems like a dream sometimes rather than memories.  Or like a really elaborate movie I’ve had in my head all these years.  If six-year-old, even sixteen-year-old me looked at my life right now, she wouldn’t recognize much at all.  She probably wouldn’t believe it.  How could things be this different?  How could dark wood paneling become bright pastel walls?  How could the machine shop and wood shop in the backyard not produce the sound of hammering or bandsaws or the hiss of the air compressor anymore, but the former stand as a storage unit, yet both tombs of their own?  How could the sound of heavy footfalls in boots not echo through this old house anymore?  It’s unfathomable to the past-me, but it’s my present-me’s…well, present.  I can fathom it now because I had to.  Cancer doesn’t care.  It’s a learn-by-experience kind of thing; you can’t possibly know, really know–understand, comprehend, etc.–until you’ve been there.

I definitely think my dad would be proud of the woman I’ve become.  He would understand the mistakes I’ve made.  He would probably be surprised (along with a lot of other people who’ve expressed such) that I “kept on truckin'” as he often said–complete with silly motions–through college after he died, graduating in the projected four years, and with honors.  He would be happy I chose a field of study that makes me happy, odds of finding a job in that field just after graduating with just a bachelor’s be damned.

Sometimes I think his death even helped me blossom as a young woman, made me let go of stuff I realized doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things (though I am always still learning with this, too).  I’ve made the steps to mend friendships I thought forever broken because his death made me realize life is too short to hold grudges.

And he left me–us–in good hands.  Mom and I have such a strong safety net of family and friends, and we have each other.  I hope I help her as much as she helps me.  And our family and friends are wonderful to us.  I know without a doubt I could not have made it through college without their help and love and support and care packages and exam-o-grams and encouraging words (and I didn’t say all this when we were gathered in the Oak Mountain cabin on the lake the day of my graduation because I was so overwhelmed by it all–in a good way–but here it is now, and I hope they read this and know how much I appreciate them and all they did for me–us–over the years, and continue to do for me–us–now).

He was not overly-religious, never attended church in the years I knew him, at least that I remember, but he knew the Bible more than most Christians I know.  He always quoted and stressed the Golden Rule, and often bent over backwards for people who probably didn’t deserve it.  probably didn’t deserve it at times, but he was always there.  He led by doing instead of telling.

But I think it’s wrong to leave out people’s faults when talking about them or thinking about them.  It isn’t doing their memory justice, because it isn’t the whole picture of that person.  He had a short temper and would complain about Mom and me taking a long time to get ready and then make us late because he’d take so long getting ready when we were done and ready to go!  He fell asleep during NASCAR races, but when we changed the channel he’d wake up and gripe because “he was watching that.”  I guess snoring was just part of his Watching NASCAR Routine.  When he was working on one of our many used cars, he’d cuss and yell and get mad about the stupidest, littlest things (a trait I must have inherited).

But he was–is–my dad, and I feel his absence almost everyday.  It’s hard when I realize I haven’t thought about him in a day or two, like a fresh punch to the gut after the last punch’s wounds began to heal.  Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever fully accept that he’s gone.  One night recently Mom and I were laughing loudly in the living room late at night, and as I got up and walked to the bathroom–walking by Mom’s bedroom–I thought, Crap, we’ve gotta be quiet or Dad’s gonna wake up and be pissed.  And the second I thought it, I realized it didn’t matter how loud we got, because we only had each other to answer to.  It was a jarring and upsetting thought and brought me, face-planting and bruised, to the floor of fresh grief.

But, I’m dealing.  I have a nice little routine that doesn’t change too much day-to-day, trivia every week with few exceptions, and Limbo when I can get my lazy butt up early enough (it’s not my fault Sundays are supposed to be ‘lazy Sundays’, okay?), and writing stories, and watching lots of TV and anime and movies, and working somewhere in between all that.  It helped to have college to take my mind off it all sometimes, too; instead of crying and moping about Dad, I could cry and mope about papers due, or tear my hair out over lack of ideas for said papers, or worry about being late to a presentation in a class I loved, or making it to College Night Purple Orchestra rehearsals late at night.  It was a way to be stressed out about something other than something I could never change.  I had some control over school.

So many times I’ve needed to ask him a question only he would know the answer to, and so many times I’ve wanted his advice as I cried to him about whatever was ailing me at the time.  But I can’t have that, and I can’t have him back, and I have learned to let go of so many regrets and grudges and negativity I was holding onto because that’s no way to live one’s life.  He taught me so many valuable things; both my parents did (but one is still teaching me valuable things).

He encouraged reading and learning, soaking up as much knowledge as you can, and he and Mom both taught me the value of hard work and diligence and putting the best effort forward more often than not (of course, everyone has off-days, and I’m no exception).  Mom shares many of these good qualities, and I know she has just as much to do with how well I turned out as he did.  But she’s still here, I’m able to still learn from her; I don’t have that advantage with him.  Mom’s stress manifested itself differently and she and I are so much alike that we butted heads all the time when I was younger.  He always seemed to get me, even if he went and told Mom later.

The things he taught me are invaluable, and as much as I constantly wish he were still here, I’m so grateful I got to know the Dad I knew, and that I had so much time to do so.  Eighteen years is a long time, and I was able to say all the things I wanted to say (except ‘goodbye’) to him, apologize for how I acted in the past, share my early college experiences with him through photos and stories.  I’ll never forget texting him the grade I’d gotten on my German test, an A, and his silly response: “Guten Grade!” even while sick and feeling miserable, I’m sure.

Today, Mom and I plan on doing stuff he loved or would love, because what better way is there to celebrate the life of a loved one?  I’ve already cried many times writing this post, and I know I will cry more today, but that’s okay.  He’s still very much alive in memories, home movies, recordings on old cell phones, the smell of the inside of his tall rolling toolbox standing in our living room, my bed and dresser and ceiling-high bookshelf he made me, the computer desks he made my mom, the hardwood floor he laid in the living room, his favorite songs and records and CDs, and everything that makes up the remnants of my dad’s time here on earth.

Isn’t that all you can ask for when you can’t cheat death?

Here’s to five years, some of which felt like forever ago, some of which feels like just yesterday.  Everything changed five years ago  today, but doesn’t everything change at some point?

Goodbye, Dad.  I don’t know if I’ll ever say it enough.  Thanks for being there and for being you and for not hating me for being a little twerp when I was a teenager and for everything you taught me, from how to hammer a nail correctly to how to treat people with respect.

And thanks to you, reader, for letting me share my experiences with and stories about my dad, for helping me to keep him alive.  I appreciate it more than you can imagine.

-o-

“We’re meant to lose the people we love. How else would we know how important they are to us?” -The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

My November 23, 2011 Resolution: Never stop learning.

So I was just reading this article, and I got a feeling I haven’t remembered feeling in a long, long time.

You see, when I was little, I read encyclopedias like crazy.  My grandmother bought me this really awesome, big encyclopedia in which I first read about the sun’s fate to become a red giant in 7.5 billion years, then cool to a white dwarf (which freaked me out as a 6-year-old, I tell you what), but I reread and reread it all the time, always learning things I’d missed the previous times.

When I would read these encyclopedias, I would read about places like Australia and New Zealand and their natives (for some reason, Oceania has always fascinated me as a place, who knows why?) and other places too!, and always get this leap in my stomach, almost, like it was something I wanted to learn about forever and ever.

Then I read atlases, and just studied my globe – another gift from my grandmother, I believe – all the time.  I would just sit in my room and stare at it.

And I just really sometimes (okay, all the time when I’m reminded of it) feel like I should have majored or should go back to major in archaeology and/or anthropology and linguistics and geography, because I love ancient cultures and indigenous stuff and languages and I always have.  I always get that feeling that I never want to stop learning and I love history, I’m so glad I majored in it, but almost everything I took was Western-biased, and of course not much at all was ever taught about prehistory or early-early history of these places and I know some of that is from lack of information but still.

This sounds so stupid but phrases like

Her speech was rich with words of the natural world, words of the forest and the sea that some linguists suspect date back tens of thousands of years to the first migrations of man.

and

Like some other indigenous groups on this archipelago

…I mean simple phrases (and words, like “archipelago”) like that just really get me excited to learn about this sort of stuff.

I really have always loved history, geography, anthropology, even from an early age, and I never consciously really thought about it.  I mean, I’d be a medievalist if I went into history as a profession (Ph.D.-level), so it’s not like I’m not biased toward the West, too, but reading stuff like this always makes me want to become a prehistory-historian (does even such a thing exist?) or anthropologist or archaeologist and I probably never will, and it makes me sad.

The world is so full of depressing things and I think it made me so sad when I grew up and realized all of these things that went on, like British colonialism – and other colonialism of course but Britain was like, the Queen of Colonization – and world wars and all of that, that it’s very easy to forget the feeling of loving to learn these new things about an indigenous people, even if it’s a sad fate – like the one of the article.

I just love the study of human culture and humanity and its earliest days and it’s so fascinating to me that we’re all from one part of the world yet we all look so different and speak so many languages and I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling like this when I read about this stuff that I love.  I think that’s why the quote at the top of my blog is one of my absolute, all-time favorites, and why I’ll never stop quoting it — “What invisible strings connect us all,” from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This is the kind of stuff that will forever fascinate me.

I just want to get the motivated to want to read about this stuff again, to just spend an afternoon in the library reading encyclopedias, looking at and studying atlases, looking up recent archaeological digs, that sort of thing.  But it’s hard in the day of the internet and working and paying bills and just “being an adult” things that really take so much joy out of the life I had as a child.  I hate being cynical and hearing about depressing current events and being a (mostly) responsible adult, but things change, I guess.

But maybe one day, I’ll spend an off-day at the library, doing these things, feeling that new fascination and leap in the pit of my stomach at all of the new information I absorb.

We’ll see.

“we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.” -Looking for Alaska

I just finished Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, the second of two books I checked out from the Springville Road Library – the first books of many I will be reading during this year off between school and life experiences.  The first book I checked out and read was Looking for Alaska, by John Green, the same John Green who collaborated with David Levithan for WG, WG.

And wow.

These two books were amazing.  I’d first heard of them through tumblr, but especially Looking for Alaska (which I’ll abbreviate as LFA from now on).  Everyone on tumblr seems to worship this book, and I’d seen a few excerpts from it and thought there might be a reason behind this holy love for the book, so I checked it out with WG, WG, and began reading.

LFA takes place in Alabama, at a fictional boarding school called Culver Creek, and although the geography is a little strange (Montevallo is mentioned and the mileage from Birmingham and Culver Creek and Pelham doesn’t add up, but it doesn’t matter), Green himself went to Indian Springs, and so his descriptions of Alabama are pretty perfect.  For instance, the main character is from Florida, and in discussing the head there versus here:

This did not prepare me for the unique sort of heat that one encounters fifteen miles south of Birmingham, Alabama, at Culver Creek Preparatory School.  My parents’ SUV was parked in the grass just a few feet outside my dorm room, Room 43.  But each time I took those few steps to and from the car to unload what now seemed like far too much stuff, the sun burned through my clothes and into my skin with a vicious ferocity that made me genuinely fear hellfire.

Pretty true, right?  Apparently John Green lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and attended Indian Springs, so he has firsthand experience with the heat of Alabama, and I thought while reading that he might be from here or have lived here because of his knowledge of this sort of thing.

So, LFA, by pure virtue of taking place in Alabama, fifteen miles south of Birmingham to be exact, drew me in almost immediately.  While it helps in a book to have landmarks or places or names you know – such as I-65, Pelham, Birmingham, etc. – that’s not the reason I love this book.  Green just has a way with words, and both LFA and WG, WG made me think about authors of ‘teen’ books – or at least John Green and David Levithan – and how amazing they are at describing the teen experience.

There are things both LFA and WG, WG have described that I can relate to so well because I am like a character or see some of myself in a character, but it made me wonder just how much each of us is in a character.  We were all teenagers once if we are no longer teenagers, and we all have struggled with various things these characters have struggled with, and the wonderful thing about Green and Levithan is that they haven’t forgotten this in their age (both in their 30’s, far enough removed from their teen years to perhaps be disgruntled with teenagers as I already am at the age of 21).  Reading these books – especially WG, WG, as I related more to both the Will Graysons than I did Pudge or the Colonel from LFA, but of course could relate to them too – threw me back to the teenage experience, to the almost overwhelming of emotions and hormones and the irrational thoughts that “NO ONE KNOWS HOW I AM FEELING! NOBODY UNDERSTANDS ME!” – yet I am far enough removed from that to say, Wow, I sure have grown a hell of a lot from that person.

How do young adult authors do it?  Do they just channel their teenage selves?  Yet, these kids have individual qualities, they are their own person, and each have different struggles.  I related more to the non-capitalized will grayson than the capitalized Will Grayson because he also struggles with depression and feels many things I felt as a teenager (though he is also gay, and that comes with its own struggles as well), but there were parts of Will Grayson that I could relate to, especially with relationships.  The teen/young adult author is one to be respected, and especially a good writer of young adult/teen books.  Teenagers are hard to deal with, much less write about, but Green and Levithan are amazing at it.

I think young adult/teen books are good for adults to read, especially I would think if one has a kid that age.  I plan on buying both these books and revisiting them over the years to see how my perspective on them and the characters changes, if it does at all.  I think it’s important for everyone to revisit their teen years to an extent, especially when dealing with current teenagers, to really understand why they act the way they do and how to deal with that.  I’m not a parent, so I don’t know firsthand, but I know from my own grief-causing stints as a teenager and looking back on them now how infuriating it must have been to deal with that.  For a kid who never did things like get detention, do drugs and alcohol, run away from home, I certainly did my own share of horrible teenager-y things.  But reading these books made me realize I wasn’t alone in feeling so many feelings, that it’s really a universal sort of thing.

So, this post kind of went in a direction I wasn’t thinking about or planning, but my writing tends to do that (if it’s not for a paper).  The point is that I think every adult can gain something from reading good teen novels, like Looking for Alaska and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, as well as current teens and young adults.  I don’t know if I’m still considered a young adult fiction-wise, but I didn’t find the writing to be below my level and I laughed and cried at both books – laughing aloud and getting the question, “What are you laughing at?” multiple times.  I would recommend these books to anyone, because although some of the character may drive you crazy, I believe anyone could benefit from them.

There are so many quotes I could quote as my favorite, but I’ll save that for another entry because this one’s long enough.  However, I’ll leave with one of many great quotes from Looking for Alaska.

“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. […] You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining the future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” -John Green, Looking for Alaska

Books down for the year: 2
Books to go: ???

PS: This books counter will become a new thing for my blog; I’ll use it to track just how many books I read during this year and to serve as a topic to write on, since I’m so bad at coming up with things to write about!

“a thing that doesn’t change with time is a memory of younger days…”

I woke up at an extremely unusual time for me today–12–and haven’t been back to sleep.  I played Pokémon, won me a gym badge, and then got online and, as per usual, went straight to tumblr to catch up to today’s picture spams.  Then, as per usual during a day I’m home, I started thinking.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Albus Dumbledore so wisely said once.  Well, I have been dwelling on dreams for a while now, I don’t think to the point of forgetting to live, but definitely dwelling.  Creepy dreams of my dad alive once again with me knowing he would die again, dreams of him hugging me, dreams of my grandmother, and as is the norm with me, weird dreams that don’t make an ounce of sense.  But what about dwelling on memories?  Couldn’t that be worse than dwelling on dreams?

Lately, I’ve been increasingly more nostalgic.  I remember the good things, not the infuriatingly frustrating things about a person (my dad included).  Isn’t that the way it always is?  Remember the good times, shut out the bad things, the things that made you want to get away and to separate yourself and the growing apart…or, if it’s a death, the good things they did, the funny moments, the wonderful qualities, but hardly the temper while working on a car, the burning of meat because of falling asleep while barbecuing 99% of the time, the griping because we turned off a NASCAR race while the subject was asleep on the couch and not watching it anyway.  I’ve done well in not sanctifying my father, I think.  Mom and I laugh sometimes about his irrational moods and the double standard he set while griping at us for taking a long time to get ready, but by the time we were ready, he wasn’t ready.  We laugh about them, but more importantly, we acknowledge them.

With you, I’ve been harsher to myself.  I think, with disgust, often about my unrealistic expectations and my histrionic and melodramatic tendencies and find a kind of kinship in Asuka Langley Soryu from Evangelion, who really kind of is a braver version of my fourteen-year-old self…well, without the piloting an Eva kinda thing.  Actually, she’s kind of like me all throughout high school.  The point is, I can hardly see positive things about myself, and that sucks.  I’d like to think I’m a better person than I paint myself to be in my memories, but I don’t know, because I only know what I think I was, and god, ever since I was 11, I never could really distinguish the depression and the anger I felt from how I should act.  And work, if nothing else, has taught me that No Matter What, you must act stoic and cheerful and be A Great Cashier by separating how you feel from how you act.  But I don’t think being dishonest with someone who’s much closer than a customer is the way to go.  So how do I balance these unrealistic expectations with how I act upon them?  I still don’t know.

I take after my dad in a lot of ways.  I get easily pissed off if I’m working on fixing something, though it usually ends in tears for me rather than bitching at someone (such as when I tried to put childproof lever things on our kitchen cabinets and ended up just sitting in the floor and crying because I felt like a failure — over childproof locks, how stupid is that??).  But, unlike me who cries at everything from commercials to not putting on locks, I only saw my dad cry once, at his sister’s memorial service/funeral.  I’m like a more crying version of my mother in this way.  I feel so many things and I don’t know how to handle them so I just stuff them away until one day I have a breakdown and then things are fine again after that, rinse, repeat.

But I’ve been having a hard time with memories lately.  I don’t know how I went off on a tangent like that, but it does relate, so I suppose it’s not much of a tangent (however, this sentence is).  Anyway, I’ve been nostalgic for a time that I’m sure is much more golden in my head than it was at the time.  But I know that with some things, with most things, it’s not.  It was wonderful just the way I’m remembering it.  And I miss that.

I wonder if you ever think of me, of us.  Lately, I do.

The flow of time is always cruel…
Its speed seems different for each person but no one can change it…
A thing that doesn’t change with time is a memory of younger days…
-Sheik, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time