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Archive for December, 2007


Friday, December 28
9:22 p.m.

I don’t know how I’ve become such a sap.  I cried the other day when my mom and I went to see P.S. I Love You.  I cried watching the Kennedy Center Honors on Wednesday night, especially when piano virtuoso and famed teacher Leon Fleisher received his tribute.  And I have been tearing up over the news stories of soldiers returning home from Iraq to see their families for the holidays.  Then, there’s the mourning of the sad and senseless assassination of Bhutto.  Then, my brother, my mom and I went to see the film The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, about a boy who finds an egg that brings to life the water horse creature that becomes the Loch Ness monster.  I teared up several times during that viewing.  And then I bought the book The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and immediately teared up after reading through the first few pages.

I’m exhausted from my emotions!

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and my parents, my brother and I left for breakfast at the Silver Diner while a cleaning service came by to clean the house.  We went to Costo afterward for clams, a few books and a few other items my parents needed.  After, my dad headed out to Isaac Walton to go trap shooting while my brother, mom and I went to see The Water Horse – an adorable Scottish tale.

I find myself tired by late afternoon.  Part is from getting so relaxed and cozy over the holidays.  While we’ve had a houseful of friends and family in and out over the holidays, both wonderful and exhausting, I’m in shut down mode.  I am enjoying the moments of laziness, a refresher before returning back to my life in Oregon.  I’m looking forward to getting together with friends to ring in the New Year.  And I’m looking forward to picking up my Hyundai Tucson, Goldie Hawn.  Mostly, I am happy to see my kitties.  I really miss them, especially at night.  

My big disappointment about flying out on Sunday is missing the Redskins-Cowboys game.  The return flight is so much longer than the flight out here.  I dread that and only hope I can get a few hours of sleep.  Hopefully there will be a good movie.

Meantime, I am trying to enjoy being with my parents, my brother and our dog.  It makes me sad to think I’ll be leaving them in just two days.  I don’t know how the holidays come and go so quickly.  Nothing lasts for long.  So, you have to enjoy the moments as best as you can.  And appreciate every single moment that we get to spend together.  Precious moments can be stolen from us so fast, not to be cynical.  But, it’s true.  Life is short and our happy moments are often few and far between.  Which makes them so much more sacred.  I cling to those moments. I long for them long after they are gone.

 

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Thursday, December 27
11:11 p.m.

I woke up at around 11:00 a.m. this morning – which seems so late!  In any case, when I made my way downstairs, I was horrified to learn of the assassination of Behazir Bhutto, the female former Prime Minister of Pakistan, after being shot in her neck and chest.  She had served twice, being the first female leader in the Middle East, and had the ambition to return as Prime Minister.  What a sad day for Pakistan and the world, what a sad day for democracy.

When my brother got home from work, we went out for sushi.  It was nice to hang out with him and to enjoy some decent east coast sushi.  I kept telling him it wasn’t the same as what you get out in the west coast – you can’t get the fish nearly as fresh as pulled from the Pacific!  The sushi out west literally melts in your mouth.  Still, I enjoyed the hand rolls and sashimi we shared.

After, my dad and I took the dog for a forty minute walk through our neighborhood.  It was a nice bonding experience and I enjoyed the exercise.

We played a couple of rounds of Scrabble, which was nice.  I won one game.  I love Scrabble and missed my mom for this – we played every night when she and my dad visited me in Redmond, Washington this summer.

I have been breathing so easily, so well.  No allergies here.  No congestion, no sneezing.  It’s been wonderful, really.  As much as I miss and love Oregon,  I am not looking forward to the return of my allergy symptoms.

A part of me doesn’t want to return to Oregon.  I am happy to be around my parents, happy to cuddle on the sofa with my mom at night while we play Scrabble and watch television, happy to wake up and have breakfast together.  I miss my parents.  I really miss having them near.  As we all get older, I worry that I’m losing precious time with them.  Each time I see them, I notice the different aspects of their aging and it terrifies me.  I wonder if it’s possible to be really happy living in a great city so far, far away from your family.

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Day 102: P.S. I Love You


Wednesday, December 26
11:25 p.m.

My mom woke me up just before nine to say good-bye to my sister, who was up to get an early start back to Chattanooga.  I literally dragged myself out of bed, put on a sweater, and met her at the bottom of the stairs with a hug that soon brought on tears.  It’s weird, it seemed like my sister had just arrived and she was now no sooner leaving.  There’s never enough time, all the things we set out to do, we never did – going to see the National and state Christmas trees downtown; driving around neighborhoods to check out holiday lights; and going to a movie with our brother (our tradition included the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter movies that came out over Christmases past).

In any case, I watched her drive off and felt sad.  I went back upstairs and put on my warmer fleece pajamas and then headed to the kitchen to make myself breakfast.  After watching the Today Show, my mom and I decided to go to an afternoon matinee.  We went to see the movie P.S., I Love You .  I hate that movies that involve feeling are regarded as chick flicks, but there you go.  This film was adapted from the novel with the same name by Cecilia Ahern .

It was a bit melodramatic and long, but had some very touching moments.  The theme that resonated with me was the idea of allowing yourself to move on after a lover (or, in this case a young spouse) is gone.  While this story focused on the death of a loved one, and I related to a sad break-up, I still connected with this character on many levels.  I feel obligated to be honest about my feelings in this blog – it is about love, after all, in all its forms.  But, my main objective has been to conduct a kind of experiment to see if I can, in fact, love again.  It has been more than two years, now, since that very disappointing and painful break-up.  And I haven’t fully recovered.  I don’t love easily and I have only romantically loved two men my entire life – a high school sweet heart and then the man who broke my heart – not once, but twice.  He broke my heart in the DC area in our twenties and he broke it again in the northwest in our thirties.  I really liked this ex as a person, as a friend, as a love.  I accepted all the good with the bad and still wanted to be with him.  And I felt great pain when it all came to a very sudden and abrupt end.  I wasn’t ready for the break-up, I didn’t even see it coming.  In my own foolish love-blind euphoria, I thought we were in good shape, I was even convinced that he was “the one” for me.  And I couldn’t wait for the relationship to evolve.  So, how could I have been so off, so wrong about this one?

It’s funny.  If I were to be fully honest with myself, and I really want to be, I think it’s sufficient to say that I have since prevented my own recovery.  I mean, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over this guy.  It’s a sad story, for sure.  But, irrespective of that factor, I also haven’t exactly been open to falling in love again.  And, certainly, I am terrified.  For one, I had lost my confidence in really knowing whether or not I was being loved back.  I knew how I felt about my ex, but I assumed and believed he felt the same way about me.  I still feel insecure about trusting someone with my heart.  When you really love someone, and then lose that person, I wonder how you ever recover?  Is it possible – I’m still waiting to find out.

Part of me doesn’t even really believe I could ever love someone like that again.  I really haven’t met anyone who I could remotely fall for. Again, if I’m being totally honest with myself, I have to admit this.  I tend to be attracted to the ones who I don’t really invest a whole lot of heart and soul into – hence my Salmon and Eel parable.  I suppose it’s fair to say I’m avoiding love and that I’m fearful of it and of getting hurt again.   So, this movie, P.S. I Love You provided me with many opportunities to expressively experience multiple cathartic moments.  And, in many ways, I recognized myself in the main character, Holly, portrayed by Hilary Swank.  It’s fair to say that my desire to write would parallel her desire to design and create things –  in her case, artful shoes.  But, more, I shared the intensity of loss, of disappointment, of hurt and anger.  Of asking myself over and over again…why?

Two years later, the challenge for me, the work I must now do, is to get to a place where I am totally content with my life, a life that is not defined by giving or receiving romantic love by a man.  And, I am truly on a steady path toward achieving that.  I think.  Then, and only when I recognize my life as happy and full, will I be able to consider allowing my heart to open up again.  I need to be in a safe, secure, happy place that is totally indifferent about romantic love.  I’m not looking for it nor do I believe I need it.  The experiment will be interesting to evaluate after the 365 days of considering love in all its forms and whether or not I am open and able to find true love for myself again.

One last thought.  Just as the movie started, I whispered to my mom, “I can’t wait to watch my first novel adapted for the silver screen”.  She nodded in agreement.  Hell yeah it’s gonna happen!

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Tuesday, December 25
11:48 p.m.

There’s always something nostalgic, exciting and even sad (yes, sad!) for me over the holidays.  Mostly, it’s the past that makes Christmas sometimes melancholic.  Part of my problem is I’m a traditionalist.  I miss the way things were.  I know that families are supposed to grow, and that is fine, but I miss having my sister to myself and sitting up at the top of our steps waiting to come downstairs to see all the glory under mom’s gloriously sparkling tree.  I miss the intimacy of just us.  Husbands and girlfriends come along, changing the dynamic, and, well, it’s just not the same.  That is not to say that I am not welcoming of these people and our different traditions, I just miss the old stuff.

This year, I woke up at 7:00 a.m., which felt like 4:00 a.m. to me!  I was still adjusting to the time difference.  I got dressed up and my mom, my brother and I went to Christmas Mass.  It was a nice service, but I missed my church – which is a cathedral with a gorgeous choir.  This church reminds me of a JCC.  It’s a community center with an out-of-tune singing group.  Not very warm, not very holy, but it gets the job done.

After Mass we all had breakfast.  Dad made us scrambled eggs with cheese, maple bacon, and I had half a gluten-free bagel with cinnamon apple jelly.  I then made a cup of Yogi Tahiti Hazelnut Vanilla tea.  After breakfast, we gathered around the tree and I was given the job of Santa, I passed out gifts to my family.  We’ve pretty much tamed down over the years, now that we’re adults.  My favorite gifts were Whole Foods gift cards, one each from my siblings, and a standing pig sommelier holding a bottle of Seresin “Leah” Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand.  A wise find from my mom, found at Whole Foods in Fairfax.

My favorite gifts that I gave were the University of Oregon golf stuff and polo shirt for me dad and Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glasses for my mom. 

I took a nap after we opened gifts, snuggling on the sofa with a teddy bear that my dad had given to my mom.  The teddy bear had a pouch, that was emptied earlier, containing a beautiful diamond ring.  Our dog, Cricket, napped right below me. 

Later in the afternoon, my brother’s fiancé came over, who I met for the first time.  And then our family friends, Quin and Searcy came over with their adorable daughter, Anabel.  They have joined us for Christmas for the past three years – a warm and welcome addition!  They seem like cousins, more than friends, and we always have a good time chatting with them, catching up.

We started dinner with lasagna. Dad and I enjoyed the gluten free brown rice pasta version I made the night before.  It was very good!  We enjoyed a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir with it, poured in mom’s new glasses.  The next course included Tuscan pork with rosemary pesto on the grill, brussel sprouts sautéed in white wine, garlic, olive oil and butter, green beans steamed and topped with garlic and olive oil.  It was delicious!  We poured the coffee and had spumoni ice cream with mom’s home made Christmas cookies.  She had made a gluten-free batch for me and dad.

We sat for hours around the table laughing and even having some seriously dark conversations about serial killers, stemming from a conversation about gun safety.  There were great highlights of funny stories, especially when my sister and I decided to embarrass my brother with stories about some of the goofy things he did as a kid, initiating his fiancé into our sibling relations, following the precedence my brother set any time my sister or I would bring a date home.

When it was all over, when all the plates and glasses had been washed, dried and set on the dining room table, we sat around for a little, winding down.  My brother was the first to go to bed, as he had to work the next day, my sister and her husband soon followed, as they were getting an early start to drive back to Chattanooga, and then my dad.  My mom and I scratched backs for thirty more minutes, watching a repeat episode of Jay Leno.  

Before I went to sleep, I texted my cousin, Cindy, in Seattle to let her know we were thinking of the Jorgensens in Seattle, and that I would call her later.  She texted me back with the same sentiments. 

After that, I settled into my warm bed and said my prayers.  It was crazy that another Christmas came and went.  You wait all year for this end-of-year tradition, of the homecomings and the time spent just hanging out around the table, around the tree.  And before you know it, the moment is gone, it passes you by and you are approaching another New Year.  If you are lucky, you are able to count your blessings and feel good about all of the good things that have happened in the past year.  You can smile just for getting the chance to see your family together, around the table, around the tree.  Especially when your family has been dismantled, with members in different cities, even across the country or globe.  The gifts become insignificant, the kinds you have to unwrap.  And you realized that the real gifts are the blessings and the opportunity to be together.  I thought of all of this as I was falling asleep.  And I thought of the families separated this season, especially the families of soldiers serving in Iraq and all around the globe.  Peace on earth is the best holiday wish and I consider all of the things I would like to do in 2008 to truly make a difference.

 

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Monday, December 24
11:33 p.m.

I had been aching for exercise.  It seems like it’s been weeks since I’ve had any kind of workout, even if it’s only been days.  I woke up late again, just after ten, a sure sign that I wasn’t adjusted to the time change yet, and I ate a plain bagel.  

Dad and I went for a good, brisk walk around Burke Lake.  It was nice to have time alone with my dad, well, including our standard poodle, Cricket.  There were a lot of people out running, walking and playing Frisbee golf.  There was even a man with an easel set up painting a scene of the lake, and another out along the banks across the way in his floaters, practicing with his fly rod.  It was a beautiful, sunny December day.

After the fifty minute workout, we got back to the car and drove to the cult du sac in our neighborhood that served as the sand pick-up for the Christmas Eve luminaries.  Dad filled a bucket and we drove back to the house.  I helped him prepare brown paper bags, sand and tea lights for the holiday tradition.

We had lunch afterward and I kept dipping salami rolled in provolone in mom’s pasta sauce.  Later, she made lasagna for the family and I prepared a gluten-free rice pasta version for dad and me.  We put the cold lasagna in the fridge to bake for Christmas dinner.  By seven o’clock dad had the luminaries lit outside.  The street glowed like a pathway to the baby Jesus, as intended.  Some children, who weren’t raised with religion, believed the luminaries lit the way for Santa Clause.

For dinner, dad grilled filet mignon steaks wrapped in bacon.  We had small artichokes dipped in garlic-olive oil, baked potatoes with fresh sour cream and chives, and a salad with candied walnuts, cranberries, radish and a lovely sweet-sour raspberry vinaigrette.  I had another piece of gluten-free chocolate cake for dinner.  I don’t have the patience to bake one at home, certainly not just for myself – I would balloon up again!  So, I was enjoyed small pieces of this treat while it still lasted.

After we cleaned up the kitchen, we nestled into the family room and watched the holiday comedy classic A Christmas Story.  I don’t know, I never tire from that silly movie.  It actually has a heart-warming end when Ralphie’s curmudgeon of a dad surprises him with a wrapped Red Ryder BB gun.  It’s a cute tale.

We went to bed just before midnight and I was comforted under my warm comforter, content to be back home, even though I still bicker with my siblings and get annoyed, every now and again, by my sometimes nagging mom.  In many ways we regress and it’s like nothing’s changed.  We somehow stop acting like the adults we are in our other lives, and fall back to the traditional roles of eldest, middle child and me, the youngest.  But, this is the best family I could ask for and I counted my blessings for being with each one of them this Christmas.

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Sunday, December 23
11:45 p.m.

Today was a pretty lazy day.  I woke up at 10:05 a.m.  Dad had made gluten-free Belgian waffles and sausage.  I watched old holiday movies with my mom, including White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.  We had pizza for dinner.  Dad made a delicious gluten-free pie, the best pizza I’ve had since my diagnosis.  My brother went to a local Greek-Italian restaurant called Angie’s to pick up two large pies.  

After dinner we watched the Redskins game.  It was very excited – they significantly beat the Minnesota Vikings, 32-21.  I did miss Redskins games, watching them dutifully and faithfully with my dad.  It’s pretty tricky to watch Skins games in Portland without cable.  So, this was a nice tradition to enjoy, one that brought joy with a victory.

I finished a chapter of one of my writing books before going to bed.  I was happy to make the time to read and do exercises, as it is one of my goals in 2008 to write more short stories and enter them in contests and submit them for publication in local literary journals and magazines.  I identified a writer’s retreat in northeastern Oregon, near Enterprise.  I’d like to spend a week there this summer planning for my next book.  It feels great to have plans and goals set for my literary endeavors.  It makes me feel like a writer.

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Saturday, December 22
11:45 p.m.

This morning I ate my first bagel since being diagnosed with Celiac disease.  Of course, it was a gluten-free bagel, but it wasn’t bad.  After breakfast, I showered and got dressed and my sister and her husband finally arrived.  But, I was on my way out the door.

My college friends were meeting, and for me this was the first time I’d be seeing them in years.  I borrowed my sister’s Hyundai Santa Fe and drove over to my friend C’s husband’s parents’ house.  I was the first to arrive.  C was upstairs getting dressed and I held her five week old baby boy, amazed at how alert and mellow he was.  He just stared at me, smiled, gurgled, then looked up at the lights on the ceiling.  Eventually, my college roommate M arrived with her husband, CA, and their seventeen-month-old son, along with our other college friend visiting from Philly, E and her boyfriend, D.  It was a nice reunion.  It was a joy to meet my friends’ sons, and then C opened up a card from E, to which she had a shocked look on her face.  She got up and screamed out a sound of joy, then hugged E, who was laughing with joy.  My first thought was that she got engaged.  But, rather, she announced that she was three months pregnant!  I was very excited for her and amazed at how brave she was, considering, like me, she was raised by a staunch Catholic mother.  She seemed very easy breezy about the pregnancy and she and D would marry after the baby is born.  How very modern!  I am happy for her.

When I got home, I was a little sad that my friends didn’t ask me about my book and my writing.  I know it’s not the same as having a child, but, in my own way, this is my child.  I’ve been waiting for the day to finish my novel like an expectant mother.  I didn’t really talk about myself or my life, other than to explain my Celiac disease.  And I was okay with that.  I quietly listened to them share stories about pregnancy, delivery, ice pack panties post delivery, sore nipples, breast feeding woes, pumping and so on.  I realize that I am in such a different place in life than my friends.  I am not ready to be a mom yet.  I wouldn’t want to find out I’m pregnant today.  I have so many things I want to do before I give my full attention to motherhood.  I have a few more places to visit and I want to focus on my next book.  I don’t even know, for sure, if I really want to get married.  And if I never birth a child, well, I’m actually more interested in adopting a child, anyway – which is, in my opinion, so much more selfless than planning a pregnancy.  It’s less about a personal desire to create something with a spouse in order to prolong a lineage, or to create an extension of the self, and much more about giving a lost child a chance, a hope, a home, a family.  It’s just different.    

In any case, when it was time to say our good-byes, I was very happy to reconnect with my friends.  Even if they would only focus on parenthood.  The thing is, I understand.  I am patient and didn’t expect them to want to talk about anything else.  Especially when it is still so very new to all of them.I was happy to get back home to spend time with my family.  We had a turkey and stuffing dinner and celebrated my sister and her husband’s birthdays.  My dad had baked an amazing gluten-free chocolate cake.

Before I went to bed, I worked on some writing exercises.  And I thought about my friends and my life in Portland.  I missed Oregon, rain and all.  Even though it was raining in Virginia.  I missed the open-mindedness, the patience and mellow lifestyle.  I missed my single friends who know what’s going on in my life, who relate to me, and who care about what’s going on in my life.  I can’t wait to celebrate New Year’s Eve with these friends.  The thought of my champagne toasting among good, interesting people made me smile.  I am happy for where I am in my life.  I am happy and grateful.

Note:  I abbreviated the names of my college friends because I did not ask for permission to write about them in this blog 

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