Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Crocheted Santa Claus

I was transcribing more of my mom's journals and I came across an entry from November 14, 1980 where she wrote about crocheting some Christmas ornaments.  She said, "I made, stocking, bell, candy cane, gingerbread man, snowman, wreath.  It was fun & some turned out pretty good."

I remember when Mom made these ornaments.  In my house, my family had a tradition of getting new ornaments for each of us every year, and we would decorate our tree with them.  So our decorated tree was always a Hodge-podge of different ornaments.  Jonah tends to do themed trees where all of the ornaments go along with a similar theme, and I know there are many households that do that.  But I am used to decorating a tree with a bunch of unrelated ornaments tied only by the fact that they belonged to us.

So 1980 was the year we got our crocheted ornaments handmade by Mom.  So I was surprised to see that my ornament was not listed.  This guy:

I've had this guy in the same box for years.  This box:

Apparently I was pretty possessive about my ornaments.  How's that for the Christmas spirit?

All the ornaments I've had from my very first one to the last one I obtained are in this box.  I think the earliest is a flat gold (or brass) one shaped liked Santa Claus in his sleigh that has my birth year on it (1971).  Another very early one is a Styrofoam snowman that has seen better days.  He's held together with toothpicks (which aren't doing a good job) and he hasn't been hung on a tree in years.  I probably should throw him away but I can't bring myself to.  He's been with me almost my whole life.  I also have two ornaments that were originally Mom and/or Dad's: a plastic snowman and a plastic Santa, both manufactured in the 50s, which look very similar to the ones pictured here:

I always liked them and Mom or Dad (or both) eventually just gave them to me.  My Santa is broken in the feet area, but I still hang him up.  And my snowman is actually this color:

Anyway, back to the crocheted Santa.  I read in Mom's next entry, November 15, 1980 that she "tried knitting a Santa ornament," and I actually got a little teary-eyed.  That's my ornament.

If I recall correctly, Mom let each of us choose which ornament we wanted, and I wanted the Santa so badly.  I was so happy to score it.  I don't even think Mom was particularly happy with how the Santa turned out compared with some of the others.  But I loved it.  Still do.

  I guess what got me emotional was that Mom was quite a crocheter and knitter in her day.  She was always making afghans.  One time she asked me what kind of afghan I would like her to make for me.  I wanted every color in it, and if I remember correctly, we went to the fabric and yarn store, and I picked out the colors I wanted.  I think Mom felt it would look ugly, but I was insistent.  After she finished it, I think she still felt it was kind of ugly (not up to her afghan standards at least), but I loved with it and slept with it for much of my childhood.  I still have it, although I haven't used it in years.  I mainly keep it around for sentimental value:


Some years later, Mom made me another afghan.  I also requested another multicolored one, but this one was more in line with her style and standards:

I still use this when it gets cold.  It is both beautiful and very warm, and I love it.

After I met Jonah, Mom wanted to make an afghan for him.  She asked me what his favorite color was.  I told her it was purple (same as me), and she made this one for him (for Christmas, I think): 

The cats actually seem to have commandeered the afghan from Jonah.  They use it more than he does.  But I was always so touched that Mom made it for Jonah.

It's hard to believe that was only about six or seven years ago; I'm not even sure Mom would remember how to crochet or knit today.  I was in a play in 2009 where I played a character that needed to knit on stage, and Mom was able to teach me then how to do it then, but I'm not sure if she would still remember now.  Maybe if we brought her some yarn and needles, she might pick it up again.  Who knows?

I guess that's why I got emotional.  Most days I'm at peace with who my mom currently is, but once in a while there are reminders of who she was and what she used to be able to do, and I miss it.  But like Jonah reminds me, Mom seems very happy right now.  She's always very animated and upbeat when I talk to her; she has friends at the assisted living place (including one male friend who is definitely not her boyfriend (although I notice she makes more time for him than for me lately); and she is definitely doing better now that she's there.  Yes, her memory and mental condition continue to get worse, but she is physically healthier and we no longer worry about her endangering herself.  She's actually become so used to where she lives that she rarely even wants to leave (compare that with that terrible first month when she begged to go home every day and was sooo unhappy).

I'm glad she is well.  I miss her a lot.  I wish I could see her more often.  I do talk to her every single day, sometimes just for a few short minutes, sometimes for a half hour; and I've only missed one day since she moved in there in January.  I used to wonder if I was calling too much, if the staff was annoyed by my daily calls, but I learned that they love it.  They say Mom loves getting my calls (which Mom tells me, too), and they said it's really great that I do it when so many other residents' families seem to completely forget about them.  I think that's sad.  After all, she's still my mom, and I love her.  Why would I want to abandon her?

Anyway, it was nice to be reminded of the crocheted Santa Claus from yesteryear. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gift Of Cat Urine

I've mentioned before that Jonah and I own three cats.  I love them all, but the oldest, Trooper, seems to have a special affection for me.  She adores me, and I really love her a lot, too.  She generally sleeps right next to me at night, and she's always wanting to cuddle and for me to rub her tummy.

There is a rather disgusting, chewed up, slobbered-over toy that the cats love.  We call it the "Purple Baby."  I often find the "Purple Baby" on my side of the bed.  I know the cats put it there to express their love, and even though it's kind of gross-looking now, I genuinely am touched when I find it.  It is definitely the most well-traveled toy in the house.

Trooper has been especially affectionate lately.  Yesterday when I was petting her, she wasn't just being her regular purring self: she would playfully "attack" my hand with her head and lick it (Trooper isn't typically a licker, so when she does it, I know she is expressing love and gratitude).  I swear when I looked in her eyes I could feel some sort of telepathic bond where I really felt she was saying, "I love you.  I really love you."  Maybe that sounds weird, but I really felt it.

This morning I was half awake and felt Trooper grooming me.  She was licking and cleaning my hair.  She does this every once in a while, and even though it's the same tongue she uses to drink out of the toilet bowl and lick her butt, I am strangely flattered.

Shortly after this, I heard her scratching in a place that wasn't a litter box.  This is never a good sign.  It means she is either about to pee or that she already has.  The place she happened to be scratching around was on the floor where I put my jeans and shoes.  It's where I always put them and she has never peed on them.  Jonah's clothes, yes.  Mine, never.

Until today.

My jeans were wet and there was a puddle of urine in my shoe.  The same shoe where I put my watch and wedding ring.


I was upset.  There is a perfectly good litter box less than 15 feet away.  Why did she have to pee in my shoe?

The more I thought about it, the less upset I became.  Cats often pee to mark their territory, to claim ownership, and I actually believe that in her own way, Trooper was telling me that I belong to her, that I am hers, and the pee was simply her way of making sure I knew that.  I do not feel it was malicious, and even think she felt bad that I didn't immediately understand her intentions.

Of course this didn't change the fact that there was still cat pee in my shoe and on my jeans.  The good thing was that it was fresh, and we were able to wash them before the urine soaked in.  But this also means I can't put my shoes and jeans on the floor anymore.  Once a cat marks its territory, it thinks it's okay to keep peeing there, and that is not acceptable.

Hopefully we have got the smell out.  The shoes are fairly new, so I'm not too excited about having to possibly get rid of them.

I'm glad my cat loves me; I just wish she would other ways of showing it.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Four Funerals

In the last month and a half I have been to four funerals.  Two were for people I knew well and two were for people I didn't know at all.

The first funeral was for a man who died at 60 of HIV-related causes.  His funeral was kind of light affair, non-denominational.  People told funny stories about him.  There was no body present.  I don't even know whether he was buried or cremated (although I would guess the latter).  He was ready to die and I think he found much peace in the end that perhaps he didn't experience much of in life.

The second funeral was for my father-in-law.  He was about to turn 76.  I don't know if he was ready to go.  He had many health problems, but his death was sudden and unexpected.  Whether or not he was ready to go, we believe it was his time to go and we trust that he is in a better place.

His funeral was a very large affair with many, many friends and family members in attendance.  It was a Pentecostal service.  There was lots of noise and gospel music and including the viewing, funeral, and reception, it was a two day affair with much family togetherness many days after.  Of course, this was probably the most stressful of the funerals for me.

The third funeral was a woman I did not know at all.  She was only 30 and left two young children behind.  Her death was sudden and unexpected, an accident, a tragedy.  She worked at the same place I work at, but we were not acquainted.  I do not even know if our paths ever crossed.  Yet her death has affected many of the people I work with and I felt compelled to go.

Her funeral was a very solemn, quiet affair with many of her friends, family, and co-workers still deep in shock and unbelief over what happened.  I got the impression she was probably Catholic.  As I looked at her body, I was struck by how young she was.  Perhaps the most touching and sorrowful moment was when her two children placed roses in her casket.

Another coworker of mine was there and has had a very hard time dealing with it.  I think I ended up being at this woman's funeral more for him than for me.

The fourth funeral, which was today, was for the mother of one of Jonah's friends.  She was 80 and knew she was going to die.  She had prepared well for it.  Her service was very sparsely attended.  There were maybe 15 people total.  This is because most of her friends are deceased and because she had only lived in our city for two years, and most of her living friends are in Connecticut, where she was originally from.

Aside from Jonah, I knew no one at the funeral.  Like the first funeral and unlike the second two, there was no body.  Her only living son had already had her cremated.  The only speakers were a female Episcopalian pastor and Jonah, who also sang perhaps one of the most tender-hearted and beautiful renditions of "Ave Maria" I have ever heard.  The pastor did give family and friends the opportunity to share memories or thoughts, but no one did.  There was a small reception afterwards.

I shed no tears at the first funeral.  I cried at the other three.  My tears at the second and third funeral were mostly out of sadness for those left behind, not so much for me (although I, of course, did cry because I was missing my father-in-law).  Strangely, the fourth funeral was the one where I probably cried the most.

Looking at the memory DVD the funeral home created, I could not help but think that I will one day face burying my own mother, and that will be hard for many reasons.  Part of me will be glad she is released from the challenges that have come with age, but I will miss my mom, and lately she has been so talkative and happy that it almost seems like old times even if her memories are scrambled and short-term. 

I was struck, too, by not wanting to deal with the stress that Jonah has experienced burying his own father.  I also mourned for Jonah and his mom and family and for the loss that has occurred because of the void left by his dad's passing.  And I miss Jonah's dad.  When I see the empty chair on the front porch or see his poor dogs who don't know where their master has gone to or when I look at his beautiful garden, empty without him, or when I look at Jonah's mom, I miss my father-in-law.

And then I was crying because I realize that one day, who knows when, one of us, Jonah or I, will have to face burying the other one, and that is a sad thought.  I've always thought I would go first, but in this life nothing is certain.  The fact is, whoever goes first, it will be a hard, sad road for the other.

Jonah's singing today was so lovely; I was bawling.  I'm glad he didn't notice.  He's so good at keeping it together, although he admitted he almost lost it himself.  I couldn't tell.

In any case, I'm a little "deathed out."  Here's hoping I won't have to attend another funeral for a bit.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Maybe Me

I recently wrote about my audition for "Wheel of Fortune."  Well, it just so happens I had a chance to audition for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" this week as well. 

They had three sessions, two for general trivia and one for Movie Week, which focused just on movie trivia.  Had I known I could do both the general trivia and the Movie Week sessions, I would have because it could have increased my chances, although I'm not sure I would have done as well on the general trivia test.  I'm pretty smart, but the last time I tried out for "Millionaire," I did not pass the test.

It's funny, I have a friend who's been trying to get on "Millionaire" for some time now.  He finally made it into the pool of possible contestants, who are eligible to be picked for two seasons of the show.  He still hasn't been picked, and only has one more season to go.  He's kind of fanatical about it, and I think it's amusing.

I tried out for Movie Week on a whim.  I'm really good at movie trivia, I like games, and if by chance I made it on to the show, I could certainly use any money I might win.  I've got student loans to finish paying off; I could use another car; and Jonah's mom could use some financial help right now.  My own mom could, too, but since we sold the house, that doesn't seem as pressing anymore.

The original "Millionaire" notice told people to come to one of the general trivia sessions and that those who passed the test would be allowed to take the Movie Week test.  But when I got there, they let anyone interested in taking the movie trivia test line up for that session.  They told us we could take the general trivia test as well, but that if we did, we would lose our place in line for the movie trivia test, and that they were only seeing a certain number of people for that test.

I decided to stay in the movie trivia line because I felt I would do better on the test.  As it turns out, there were not as many people as one might have thought, so I could have taken both.  Oh, well.

I was actually really amazed at the sorts of people who attended this audition.  Whereas "Wheel of Fortune" seemed like a lighter, happier crowd, I was shocked at the air of desperation emanating from many in the "Millionaire" crowd.  I met a number of people who weren't there to have fun; they just wanted that money.  Producers can smell that, I think, so I don't think that attitude is doing anybody any favors.

I met one lady who was super defensive and kind of grumpy, and I thought to myself, "Even if she passes the test, that isn't the kind of energy I would imagine producers are looking for."  Another lady came late, missing the general trivia session, and there was only movie trivia left.  I don't think I saw her smile once.  Why bother coming?  Another man was really rude.  When the facilitator of the audition asked if people had any questions, he brusquely snarled, "Yeah, can we get started?!"  "You're not making a good first impression, sir," I thought to myself.

I was also amazed at the lack of preparation of many of the people who attended.  Lots of latecomers who missed the audition altogether.  One man lamented, "Are you doing this tomorrow?" 

No sir, they're not.

One guy came in right as we were about to start the test, and yelled across the room, "I'm here to win a million dollars!!  I just won $40.00, and now I just need $999,960."  He strolled across the room at a leisurely pace until the facilitator said, "Sir, we're waiting on you."

I had the pleasure of sitting next to a very nice lady.  This was her fifth time auditioning for "Millionaire."  (It was my third time.)  Both of us knew the ropes and came prepared.  We spent our two hours waiting getting to know each other (turns out she has a gay son), joking, commenting on our fellow auditioners, and making small talk.

What I realize about game show auditions is they really aren't all that different from theatre auditions.  You can't just be good at the game; you also have to project enthusiasm, energy, and a positive attitude without trying too hard or coming across as desperate.  And the fact is, if you aren't what the producers happen to be looking for, no matter how good you are at the game, you might not make the cut.

I don't think a lot of these people even realized they're being watched even before they take the test or meet with the producers.  And if you come in with a bad attitude, why bother coming?

I was just there to have fun.  Winning any amount of money would just be icing on the cake.  But the fact is, it's very competitive and it's hard to get on.  Why not just have a good time?

As for the test, I did really well.  There were 30 questions, and I was quite certain I got the right answer on at least 24 of them, and I felt like I made good educated guesses on the other six.  They're not allowed to tell us what the passing score is, but I was feeling confident that I would pass.  I also took my test number [27] as a good sign because that number has special significance for me.

There were probably 150 of us there.  About 20 of us passed the test.  I was one of them.

I had to fill out an application and I met with a producer in what almost felt like a job interview.  I felt I did well.  I thought I was funny, interesting, and engaging.  The producer said they would let me know in two weeks whether I've made the two season pool of possible contestants.  Who knows what will happen?  I know it's competitive.  They have many sessions in many cities, and Movie Week is just five episodes in one season.  It's a long shot, and I know that. 

The important thing is that I had fun.  Oh, and my friend who is the "Millionaire" fanatic.  He was at the same session and didn't pass the test.  He told me if I get on before he does, he will scream like a banshee.  I told him, "And I will laugh, laugh, laugh."  We carpool to work together, so his response was "and you will drive us every day in your brand new car."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reflections Of Me In 1980

In October of 1980, Mom wrote about each of her children for a Family Home Evening project.  She recorded her reflections in her journal.  I was nine when she wrote the following, complete with her original grammar and spelling.  It's still amazingly accurate:

We waited, waited seven years for you to join our family chain and then when you decided to come you rushed in two months early on Sat March...1971 early and had health problems when you arrived with hylan membrane in which your lungs were not fully developed.  You survived those first few days but as I went in Sunday to see your small body concave in each time you took a breath of life my heart ached and I whispered "I’m your Mama.  Please live – Please be alright.”

You did live and you were a happy child.

You are an intense child.  You will sit and intently watch Sesame Street.  You loved to learn, to read, and you would pull out the “Let’s Travel books and look at the pictures for hours.  You loved to hear stories.  You learned fast.  You could read before you went to school.  As a toddler you read the high chair letters at Arctic Circle and people were amazed.

You also talked and soon got the handle of “motor mouth” as you questioned everyone about everything.

You are very spiritual and you know the power of prayer and get disgusted when I don’t use it immediately as you fall on your knees in the middle of Yellowstone to find part of our missing family or pray in the car that we will make it home and when things work out you say, “I told you we should do it.”  and you are a peacemaker, always sticking up for your siblings so they don’t get in trouble.  “[Kayla] didn’t mean to pee her pants”  [Patrick] drove the car but it was a long -------------------------------- time ago.

You don’t like fighting.

You are optimistic, always seeing the good side and whistling around the house.

And always asking questions say “I just wanted to wonder”

You to are a good example to your sister & friends.

You have musical talent, singing often for church and learning to play the piano and composing your own introductions but you don’t want to complete things & you try to get out of doing work.

You are lazy.

You love to help your mom make visual aids for primary.  You love to draw and would get a pen & paper with money you earned and go through it in one week and you go through stacks of computer paper drawing whatever you are intensely interested in, Bugs Bunny, Sesame Street, Star Wars ect making cartoons.

You also have a great love for old people, probably developed when we used to visit Grandma...at the rest home when everyone was your Grandma.  You have a real love for older people and really like to show affection.

You are also a con-artist and nag even once nagging [our bishop] out of a BoM.

You need to set goals and follow through and continue to be happy and pass your spirit to others.  You are an important link in our family chain."

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Finding Out Things

It's funny the things you're not really aware of as a kid but which you learn about later on in life.

My Grandpa Ralph was the only grandpa I ever knew.  He was my mom's stepfather.  My dad's dad died four years before I was born, so I never met him at all (unless it was in heaven).  Mom's dad died the year after I was born, so even if I met him, I certainly don't remember him.  As far as I was concerned, Ralph was Grandpa.

Although Grandpa Ralph died when I was 6, I do have memories of him.  I remember loving him a lot - probably because he spoiled me rotten.  He and my Grandma lived in San Francisco, so I didn't see them too, too often, but they came and visited occasionally, and I remember once visiting them

Grandpa had nicknames for all of us.  Mine was "Tiger," and that's what he always called me.  I remember him giving me a stuffed tiger as a toy, and I had it for a few years.

Grandpa was very loving, affectionate, and kind.  He bought me toys (including a train set when I was a baby or toddler and which my mom thought was completely impractical.  I have several pictures of me with Grandpa Ralph.

I also remember being devastated when I learned he had died, which if I remember correctly, was a month or two after the fact, and I also remember being upset that no one had told me sooner (although I get the impression they did, but that I just didn't understand the magnitude of what it meant).

That's what I remember.  All memories I have of Grandpa Ralph are good ones.  I remember nothing bad about him.

But as I've read Mom's journals and talked with family members and friends and read letters and as I think of things Mom has told me during my life, her experience was different as was that of her brothers.  Apparently Ralph was domineering and could be very childish if he didn't get his way.  He was overly sensitive.  He was a control freak, and although I don't think he would ever have hurt anybody purposefully, I understand he had a bit of a temper and could say hurtful things when under duress.  I get the feeling he was manipulative.  I think he thought he could buy people's love and trust with material things.  He had to have his fingers in everybody's business.

As Mom has told it, Ralph married her mother when Mom was 16, and that was tough.  Ralph insinuated himself into Mom's life, trying to replace her father (that's how she saw it), and Mom was of an age when she resented that.  She resented Ralph's intrusion into her personal life and trying to tell her what to do.  She resented his unsolicited advice and nagging.  Mom also thought he was a bit ethically-challenged (little acts of dishonesty that didn't seem a big deal to Ralph, but which upset her).  From all Mom has ever told me, it was a very difficult time.

When she was nineteen, Mom got so fed up and found the situation so unbearable that she moved out and into an apartment of her own.  I think this hurt both Grandma and Grandpa, but Mom couldn't take it.

I have been reading my Dad's love letters to Mom, written during this period.  I only have Dad's side, though (he, unfortunately, didn't keep Mom's letters to him), and it doesn't reveal much about the situation...yet (I'm still reading them), but I did find a letter to my mom from her grandfather saying some not so nice things about Ralph and pleading with Mom to stay with her mother even though things were rough.  Mom apparently ignored that advice.

I also learned that Ralph alienated the whole family for some time.  Both of Mom's brothers left home when they got older, and neither had anything to do with Ralph even up until he died.  Mom's younger brother didn't speak to either Ralph or his mom for three years, as I understand it.

While I knew life with Ralph was not happy for Mom or her brothers, I did not really understand the extent until I started reading journals and letters and listening to old tapes.  And the Grandpa Ralph I knew does not fit the image presented to me now.

I do get the impression that Ralph was a man with good intentions who did some good things, but who was also deeply flawed.

I have some old tapes of Grandpa talking.  He sounds so kindly and loving to me, just as I remember him.  The fact that I know more details about his life doesn't change that.  But it's true that the idyllic picture you have of someone as a kid can be altered drastically by a reality you never recognized.

I also have a tape of my Grandma a week after Ralph died.  One can tell there is still tension between her and her sons (by that time, Mom had basically reconciled her differences with him and had remained close), and she sounds so alone.  It makes me sad to hear her pain.

I also discovered that Ralph's wishes were to be cremated and that no one was to know about it until after the fact (another manipulation?), but that didn't end up happening.  Grandma called Mom the day after he died and told her, and Mom informed her older brother, who informed the younger one.  Much to Grandma's surprise, both boys showed up to the service, whatever it entailed.  Mom wanted to come, too, but Grandma told her "no."

Anyway, it's just weird to find out all sorts of things I never really knew.  It's kind of like when I found out Dad's mom was a bit of a racist.

Reading Dad's letters has also made me really how witty and romantic he was.  I can see why Mom fell in love with him.  But the young 22 year-old in the letters bears little resemblance to the man I knew as my father.  He probably expressed himself better through writing than speaking, which is ironic since we have so little of anything he may have written.  Dad was quiet, serious, and didn't express himself too much.  I kind of wonder what happened to the goofy, funny, smitten guy I see in these letters.

Anyway, it's been educational.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Dementia Epiphany

I was in the shower the other day and I had an epiphany about dementia.  I thought about it in a way I'd never considered.

We always think of dementia in terms of being a terrible disease that robs a person of their mind.  I look at someone like Mom and think because her memories are mixed up that there is something wrong with her.

But I have this theory that the eternal spirit sees things all at once.  Linear time is how things appear to us in mortality, but I believe God sees things all at once.  Past, present, and future are all one.  For example, when my dad wrote love letters to my mom in 1958, God knew I would read them in 2013 because time does not exist.  I don't know how to explain it, but I know when I had a very revelatory experience, that's what I sensed and felt.  I could see things all at once.  Time didn't exist.

And as I've thought about this, I think, "What if what appears to us as a scrambling of memories and experiences is simply the inability of a mortal body to see things as the eternal spirit naturally sees them?"  Maybe as a person ages and gets closer to the end of his or her mortal life, the spirit's natural way of seeing things becomes more pronounced, but the mortal body can't process it, and so to the outside observer, it appears that there is something wrong. 

But what if what we view as disease in mortality is actually how an enlightened mind thinks normally?  What if the weakness we deem in my mother is actually a strength?

I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well, but it just gave me a different perspective on what we view as a disease.

Speaking of Mom, here's today's nugget:

I called Mom up, and I said, "How's it going?"

"I'm in a very bad mood," she grumbled.

"Uh-oh, what's wrong?" I asked.

"I'm sick of people butting into things that are none of their damn business," she responded.  [Mom is not a swearer, by the way.]

"Oh, what happened?"

"Well, I have this friend, and he's really old, and he's in my room, and we're just talking. I don't know what they think we're doing, but they want me to leave my door open, and I don't want to leave my door open. It's none of their damn business!

"I don't know if they think we're making out or what. We're just talking! I've kissed him before, but it's like he's my father. He's really old. We're just friends. And if the door is open, anybody can hear our conversation, and it's none of their damn business. I'm in a really bad mood...but I love you."

"Well, that's good."

"When I hang up with you, I'm going to close my door, and if they open it again, I'm just going to close it. It's my room, and it's none of their damn business what we're doing in there."

And yes, folks, she did say "none of their damn business" several times. I didn't try to fight it; I don't think it would have done any good.

Friday, July 05, 2013


If you read this post, you know that I did not do very well on my audition for "Wheel of Fortune."  Traffic Ham, anyone?

So you can imagine my surprise when I actually received a callback email to attend another audition to be on the show.

Jonah's dad on Friday the 21st and I had arranged to get work off for the audition on the 25th.  I thought about cancelling.  It didn't seem right to attend a "Wheel of Fortune" audition while my husband was dealing with funeral stuff; but both Jonah and his mom insisted I go.  They said Jonah's dad would have wanted me to go.  They're probably right.

All I wanted to do was to redeem myself from my crappy first audition.  In fact, I wondered how I got this far at all.  There were only about 50 or 60 people at this second audition.  There were about 300 to 400 people at the first audition, maybe more.  Somehow they whittled it down to 50, and I was one of them.  I wanted to say, "Did you see my first audition?"

We played several rounds of the actual game.  They had the sound effects and board and everything.  And I did really quite well.  One of the clues even seemed tailor made for me: "May the Force Be With You."  I guessed well.  I got a lot of "money" with five "L"s, but I didn't manage to get the answer, which was "Playing Beach Volleyball."

I could tell the people in whom they were more interested.  There was a set of identical twin sisters next to me who I knew they would pick (they did).  Ultimately, I was not chosen, and I have to wait a year before I can re-audition; but what I am proud of was that I redeemed myself.  I played well and I really enjoyed myself and had a lot of fun; I just wasn't what they were looking for.

I'm glad to have put my Traffic Ham days behind me.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Supreme Court Decision

I know I'm late to the party, but I just wanted to take a moment to talk about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding DOMA and Prop 8.  I've been a bit preoccupied this past week, but when Jonah woke me up on June 26 and played the news on his smart phone. 

I couldn't believe it.  Especially after their decision on the Voting Rights Act, I wasn't sure they would make the right decision regarding DOMA and Prop 8.  I was overjoyed by the decision, not that it immediately affects me now.  I live in a state where gay marriage is not yet legal.  But it will be...one day. 

I've talked about this before; this rolling stone can't be stopped.  It's only a matter of time.  And I am excited.  What a great time to be living.  25 years ago when I was buried deep in the closet, I never could have imagined the gay marriage would be legal or accepted anywhere.  I never could have imagined that a person could live freely and proudly as a gay person, let alone that that person could be me.

I was also pleased to see very few negative remarks about the decision from friends on Facebook.

Jonah and I will be legally married and will get those rights that have thus far been limited to just heterosexually married couples.  I do not know when, but I believe it is within reach, and I am thrilled.

Long live equality!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Burying Jonah's Dad...and The Intrusive Lamanite

Last week was a very, very long and stressful week.  I'm glad things have calmed down a bit, although there is still much to do.

Jonah's dad died on Friday, June 21, and Jonah and his sister, who are the "take charge" members of the family, took charge of the funeral proceedings.  And of course, being Jonah's spouse, I took on many responsibilities as well relating to the funeral and burial.

Unlike my mom, who has purchased her burial plot, vault, headstone, and burial rights in advance, Jonah's parents never did.  And unlike my mom and dad, Jonah's parents did not have any money invested.  All we have been able to get for his mom is a $7,000 insurance policy and we're working on getting $4,000 out of his pension (which, unfortunately, is all there is). 

Jonah's parents are deep in debt due to money mismanagement and back taxes.  The funeral and burial cost almost $20,000.  Honestly, I don't know how people can afford to pay for it when a loved one dies.

Jonah's parents lived on their Social Security benefits, but with him having passed, she will get less now.  We're trying to find out what survivor's benefit she will receive, if any (Jonah's dad retired early).

Jonah and I set up at fundraising web page through indiegogo.com and managed to raise $1,783.00, but that still isn't enough.  We are worried about whether his mom could lose her home.

Jonah has a lot of siblings, and of course, everyone had an opinion about how the funeral services and burial should go.  It got a little tense at times.  I hope my siblings won't be that way when Mom passes.

Jonah and I took care of getting the programs printed and compiling photos and music for a slide show and for a memorial video.  I wrote the obituary and a reading for the funeral as they were dictated to me.  I helped fill out the information for the death certificate and drew up a pallbearer list and diagram.  I helped fill out and print insurance documents for Jonah's mom.  We collected cards and donations and kept track of anyone who donated time, money, food, flowers, etc. so that we can thank them later.  We helped figure out which out of town relatives would be staying where.  Jonah's sister, Angie and her daughter, stayed with us.

All I had heard about Angie from various family members was that she was overbearing, tactless, and abrasive.  Upon first meeting her, I didn't feel she was that bad, but four days later I could see what everyone was talking about.  Let's just say she has a good heart, but is EXTREMELY high-maintenance, needy, and draining.  I feel like she creates drama and misreads things.  We handled her well, but she was exhausting.

We did a lot of work this past week, made even more difficult by the fact that getting Jonah's family is stay on task is like herding cats.  And we spent lots of time at Jonah's mom's house with his extremely large and extended family.  It was just a very exhausting week and it was especially hard to see my man so stressed by it all.

Jonah's sister took out a $15,000 loan to help cover funeral costs.  It's going to be a tough time financially.

I ended up taking two bereavement days off (and fortunately, the company I work for allows that) for the days of the viewing and the funeral.  Both the viewing and funeral were lovely.  The mortuary had put together a video using the pictures we compiled.  It had a garden theme, as requested (because Jonah's father loved working in the garden), but by coincidence (and again, I don't believe in coincidences), almost all of the flowers in the video were purple, which was Jonah's dad's favorite color.  It really was beautifully done.

Jonah's dad didn't look as much like himself as I would have hoped.  He face was bloated and the makeup was a bit too heavy.  But mostly, his spirit was missing, and that's what made him him.

People deal with grief differently.  Jonah channels his into keeping busy, making sure everyone else is taken care of.  Jonah's sister allowed her emotions to overtake her, sometimes to the point of being irrational.  Jonah's mom didn't want to be alone whereas I do during times of grief.  It's just interesting.

The viewing service was very nice (also quite different from your typical Mormon service).  Jonah's mom wanted the services short and the mood light.  Jonah's brother wanted the services to be a celebration of his father's life, but also centered on the Lord.  Jonah and his sister were careful to involve all the siblings and make sure no one felt left out, but they also made sure that his mom's wishes were the where the buck stopped.

I found it very touching that I was discussed at great length.  One of Jonah's sisters brought me up and said I should be allowed to sit with the family because of my importance in Jonah's life.  Jonah's brother backed her up, and even Jonah's pastor brother, who once told Jonah he was going to hell for being gay, agreed that I was part of the family and should be recognized as such.

I was also included in the obituary as Jonah's spouse (with Jonah's mom's blessing, and she said if anyone had a problem with it, they could talk to her) and had been asked to stand with the siblings and their spouses when the siblings talked about their dad (apparently that had been suggested by Jonah's pastor brother as well).  Neither Jonah nor I could have imagined this a year or two ago.

But the fact is Jonah's dad liked me a lot.  And Jonah's mom likes me a lot.  And I know certain siblings like me a lot and appreciate all I have done for the family.  They've gone out of their way to tell me so.

Apparently, Jonah's dad had a fairly typical Hispanic Pentecostal service.  Lots of gospel music and songs and remarks in Spanish.  Lots of praising of the Lord and remembering what a great man Jonah's dad was. 

I was honored to be asked to be a pallbearer for the funeral.  Jonah didn't want to do it (too overwhelming, he said), so I walked in his stead with his four brothers and several other male family members.  There were actually so many pallbearers that I barely had a grip on the casket at all.

Jonah's nieces and nephews read the obituary as well as as story demonstrating Jonah's dad's philosophy to never turn away anyone in need.  I was also impressed by Jonah's family members' ability to keep it together when they had to, singing songs and speaking and barely breaking.  Jonah sang a rocking gospel song called "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power" and brought down the house.


His dad would have been proud.

My only regret is that I didn't know Jonah's dad longer.  He seemed like a great, great man.  Very selfless, charitable, and hard-working.

The slide show is what got me.  They included every picture we submitted (over 160).  It was beautifully done.  It started off with "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe and ended with Mahalia Jackson's "Walk in Jerusalem" and Andrae Crouch's "Soon and Very Soon" and was such a touching tribute to a great man's life.  There was also a video at the end showing Jonah's dad giving his mom a rose and kissing her.  It was so lovely.

Somehow this picture I drew

ended up attaching itself to the pictures we submitted.  This is very strange because Jonah and I checked and double-checked the folder three times to make sure there were no doubles and that we had included photos of everyone.  We never saw this picture in the folder, but somehow it accidentally ended up in the slideshow.

Let me tell you about the photo.  This was a rough draft of a drawing I did for a friend for her Sunday School lesson in April of 2012.  Here's what the final drawing looked like:


The lesson was about the Lamanites and how stiff-necked and hard-hearted they had become.  They had become deaf and blind to the teachings of God.  Anyway, my friend wanted me to draw a fun caricature that displayed deafness (the ear trumpet), blindness (sunglasses and blind stick), stiff-neckedness (neck brace), and hard-heartedness (stone heart).  The drawing that ended up in my father-in-law's slide show was the rough draft version of that drawing. 

Of course, at first I was deeply embarrassed that such a mistake had occurred (and a mistake that was likely my fault).  When I watched the slide show and the drawing came up, I didn't even know what it was at first or what it had to do with my father-in-law.  The more I dwelled on it, the more I realized what it was.  Jonah knew almost immediately that it was my drawing.  He thought it was funny and wanted to tell his family.  I pleaded with him not to as I was embarrassed about it.  Jonah insisted they would find it funny...and he was right.  

Not one family member cared...and everyone laughed about it, even more so because he was a Lamanite (a Mormon belief).  I'm sure it will become a family joke.  We like to think Jonah's dad, who was hard of hearing and couldn't see too well, inserted it as a joke.

When the service was over, family members got one last look at the body.  I chose not to; I just wanted to remember Jonah's dad as he was, not as the vehicle that once held his spirit.

Jonah's aunt did something almost stereotypical.  She wailed and threw herself on the casket and then fell to the ground clutching it.  

It was a hot, hot, hot, hot day at the cemetery.  117 degrees.  Insane.  We wanted the burial service to go quickly to protect the elderly from heat stroke.

Never in any funeral I have attended (most of which have been Mormon services) have I ever actually seen the casket get buried, let alone actually participated in burying the body.  I guess it's common in Hispanic culture to actually physically bury the body, so I was a bit taken aback when the mortuary workers drove the bulldozer up and family members started shoveling dirt on to the casket.

Originally I wasn't going to participate, but Jonah's brother called me over, and I couldn't exactly refuse.  Here I am burying my father-in-law:

I sure was glad the pallbearers were all asked to wear short-sleeved white button-down shirts.  Most funerals I've been to I've dressed in a suit.  It was so hot.  I even wore a sun hat.

It was an honor to know Jonah's dad, who treated me like a son with unconditional love and acceptance.  And it was an honor to help lay him to rest.