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LJ Idol Open Topic Tiebreaker

On Losing My Mother

I can’t believe it has been almost a year. I’ve had to relearn everything I have ever thought or been taught about grief. There is no timetable, no easily defined linear stages – I cycle through them daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes by the minute.

People are starting to tell me they are worried about me, why am I not getting back to my life, picking up and moving on.  I know they are trying to be supportive, sending me stupid poems about death, and grief, and moving on. If you want to give me a poem, let it be a good one. Tennyson, Auden or Dickinson, or maybe Frost.  Not some sentimental, poorly written claptrap. They give me well-intentioned advice, suggestions that sometimes make me think, “do you know me at all?” No, I’m not going to move, start over somewhere else, despite the fact that you think that it would be easier for me away from all the places and things and reminders. Did it ever occur to you that these things, the familiarity, may be a comfort to me?

Wrapping myself in the afghan she made, sipping cocoa from her favorite mug, the one with the music notes and the chip in the lip I have to watch out for. Using her kitchen utensils, sitting in her favorite chair reading from the light of her hideously ugly country frilly lamp, and eating off her blue and white stoneware dishes are like she is here, just for a minute.

Sometimes it feels like last week, and other times, it feels like forever since I heard her voice. I feel ashamed that I can’t remember clearly what it sounded like. I can’t believe I can’t find a single piece of video with her on it. The only ones I have found of myself are the very early childhood ones made on Dad’s old camera that has the old fashioned reels with the tape that you have to watch with a projector. A few assorted tapes with various choir concerts and musicals from high school, a few embarrassing comments on family wedding videos. Nothing of us together that I know about, at least not which has sound. What I would give to have that.

Grief is funny. I think I am finally starting to heal, and then something happens or I unexpectedly come across a trigger that sends me spiraling back into the depths of the dark, choppy ocean of grief. Coming across her favorite candy in the candy aisle, a woman walking by wearing her favored perfume, or a puzzle by her favorite artist she didn’t have. I had it into my cart and was 3 aisles down at Michael’s before it hit me that you aren’t here, that I don’t need to buy her a birthday present this year, and never will again. She’ll never see seventy, will miss every future family milestone. None of that matters as it crashes into me again that you are gone, here, now, as I return the puzzle to the shelf with tears running down my face.

How long will it be before I get news, either good or bad, and pick up the phone before I realize that she won’t answer? I have good days and bad days. I never know when I wake up what kind of day it is going to be. Sometimes I have to remind myself she’s gone, she isn’t going to walk through the door or call to me from her bed, that was the center of her existence for most of that last horrible year? I mean, her ashes are right there on the mantel. My brain just conveniently forgets.

I want to heal. But I am terrified that I will forget the little things. I’ve started keeping lists of the things that remind me of her, and why. I can’t bring myself to watch her favorite shows, the ones we always watched together, but as I think of them I write down her favorite episodes, to watch later, when things aren’t so raw. Pictures have become a comfort. I thought we would have more time. I didn’t say nearly everything I needed to. Things at the end happened so fast. They told us a month after she came home on hospice. Two days later, she left us. All I have now are mementos and memories. 

LJ Idol Season 10, Week 8

LJ Idol Week 8 - What it is?

Something stinks. I’m not sure what. But seriously, it smells like something died in the fridge. I rummage around in there, gingerly peeling back plastic wrap on bowls, cracking Tupperware seals, and pulling long deceased vegetables from the crisper drawer, which is where good intentions, and apparently celery, go to die.

Ah. That’s it. There is some seriously putrid stuff in the back of this fridge. But I think I have just found the motherlode.
But WHAT it is, I have no clue.

It might be more accurate to say what WAS it? What were they? I don’t know. These containers have been stuck at the back of the fridge so long that I am unsure what the original food might have been. Now, it is an obvious choice for a friends’ child’s science fair project. I didn’t even know mold came in that color. I’m not quite sure it isn’t alive. Maybe I should add some more leftovers and put it back. Next year’s project could be a one of a kind creature, bred in a Tupperware container.

I grab a fork and poke one of the piles of sludge with trepidation. It jiggles a little, sort of like Jello but not quite. I still can’t figure out exactly what it is. Was. Whatever.

Seriously. This is Monster of the Week material. IT CAME FROM THE FRIDGE…. If this were a fantasy story or an anime, the thing would have 3 eyes and tentacles by now, and leave a trail of ooze on the floor.  Every form of storytelling, from art to TV/Film to comics to literature has made use of this trope at one time or another.

Garfield immediately springs to mind – the item at the back of the fridge is always a danger to the cat that will eat anything that won’t try to eat him first, which made it a frequent gag in the strip – sometimes, emphasis on GAG. The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, even The Wizard of Id has a tuna sandwich that tries to sell someone insurance…and that’s just the comic strips off the top of my head.
TV and film – The Naked Gun, Ghostbusters, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 all have a fridge with a complex. Fraggle Rock has an advice-giving compost heap. And the original Muppet show has Gonzo freaking out and telling John Denver that “his mold garden is plotting against him. He claims the talking, mobile fungus appeared because he forgot to clean his refrigerator before going on vacation, and the moldy food that resulted was "too cute to throw away". (Then the fungus appears, telling him they need the refrigerator light replaced, again, because "we were playing puffball and Reggie hit a long one.")” This is finally addressed in the movie The Muppets when the Swedish Chef gets tired of dealing with the chatty moldy food and takes a flamethrower to the fridge.  The Brady Bunch, Malcolm in the Middle, The Simpsons, and other shows all have references in various episodes to a horror in the back of the fridge.

Books – heck, you don’t even have to have a fridge, just have a house that has sat empty awhile and you get creatures like the boggart at Grimmaud Place in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or a Bundimun which is useful in potions – according to Pottermore "The Bundimun at rest resembles a patch of greenish fungus with eyes. Useful in some potions, including Doxycide." If wizards had refrigerators, I’m sure you’d find some there – it is a frequent fanfiction visitor for sure.  But the fridge is alive and well in Discworld, molesworth, etc. Douglas Adams brings the idea to the main plot in “The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul .” And in a sequel to Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Arthur Dent eats the least hairy things in his fridge after returning to Earth after a long expedition in space, unknowingly curing himself of a disease which would have otherwise wiped out half a hemisphere.” So it can be useful at times. Even Penicillin came from Alexander Fleming having left his petri dishes to their own devices while he was on vacation.

Even Weird Al has a song about the stuff in the back of the fridge. And he can’t tell what it is, either.
"There's something gross in the fridge today, It's green and growing hair.
It's been there since July!
If you can name the object in that baggie over there,
Then mister, you're a better man than I..."
                “Livin’ In the Fridge, Weird Al Yankovich”

(Note: If you want to listen to the whole, thing, you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L295Gpt6r8U)

And sometimes, you can think you have a totally normal refrigerator, as you clean things out regularly.  Doesn’t stop your fridge from getting possessed- just ask Dana Barrett. There are no cold cuts, only ZUUL!!

LJ Idol Season 10, Week 7 - Where I'm From

Where am I from?

Ok. A loaded question. Genetically? Physically? Culturally? Ethnically? Depending on who I am talking to, how well I know them, and what the situation is, my answer might be quite different.

I grew up in a suburb of St. Louis in a middle class neighborhood, in the stereotypical family home with two kids, a dog and a cat – and other than going away to college and for a semester abroad, I still live there. St. Louis is a funny town. The first question you are likely to hear if you tell another St. Louisan that you are also from the Lou is – “Where’d you go to high school?” Some people judge one another by where they attended high school – public vs, private, and how exclusive and hard to get into that schoo might be. The Missouri History museum even did a full exhibit on the topic last year. I was a public school girl all the way through, your average Midwest suburban childhood.

Genetically and ethnicity wise, I am a Heinz 57 variety mutt. I had my DNA done a few years ago. Mom did hers first, and on the maternal side I am 79% Western European and 13% Scandinavian. I couldn’t convince Dad to do it (yet) and my profile came up with a mishmash - 95% European (48% Eastern, 15% Scandinavia, 9% Western Europe, 6% Great Britain), and less than 1 percent northern Africa, Native American, Middle East and South/Central Asian. I know from Dad’s side of the family I am half Hungarian, but that is all I knew for sure on either side of the family – Mom’s family had a mishmash of German, French, Polish, etc but no one main ancestry.

Culturally? I’m an American, from St. Louis. I am not a sports fan by any means, but I keep tabs on how my home team is doing, love toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake and other “St. Louis” things – hot dogs, ice cream cones, cotton candy and other foods are other things with St. Louis roots. Like a Midwesterner, I like my food! I’ve kind of made myself some new traditions based on research of the cultures I am genetically from and those I just find meaningful that I have celebrated with friends. So you really can’t tell much about where I’m from from what holidays I celebrate and don’t. I’m culturally pluralistic.

History and culture have been subjects that have always fascinated me. Where someone comes from plays such a part of who they become, good or not. Things I had no idea were an influence for years. Until you go away from where you are from, you don’t think about a lot of it. This is why I firmly believe that if all possible, everyone should travel. Experiencing things out of your comfort zone and other cultures are the best way to help you figure out who you are and appreciate where you are from. No matter where you roam, there is no place like home.

LJ Idol Season 10, Week 6

LJ Idol week 6
Heel Turn –

I admit it, I had to look this one up. I discovered that is has several different names.
Urban Dictionary defines a heel turn as “When a person completely and suddenly, and often shockingly, goes from good to evil. The term came from professional wrestling to refer when a face (good guy) turned his back on the fans and became a bad guy (heel).”

Seems straightforward enough. Then I got to their example. Lightbulbs started popping on all over my brain. I have great use for this word in my vocabulary.

Their example was from the 2013 kids’ movie Frozen. Princess Anna has fallen completely in love with Prince Hans, and then he turns out to be a real jerk.

“Anna: Kiss me, only an act of true love can save me.


Hans: True love? I just wanted to marry into your family and steal the throne! Now I'll leave you to die.”

Most real-life uses for the word are thankfully not that dramatic.

Everyone has a reason for doing it. Something shattered their faith in good, love has become an obsession, too many good deeds have come back to bite them in the ass. Becoming drunk with power, falling prey to someone/something that is a corrupting influence, or being persuaded by a villain.

In TV and literature, this maneuver is called a Face-Heel turn.

It goes all the way back to one of the oldest pieces of literature, the Bible. Cain turned on his twin brother and killed him. Satan himself did a heel-turn. So did Judas.

Literature, Film and TV are filled with genuinely good characters who have suddenly turned evil. Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter. And, of course, Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars – turning his back on everyone to become Darth Vader. About half the cast of the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D do a heel turn in the middle of the first season, as did much of the cast of Alias, and 24 and Burn Notice frequently used this trope to further a storyline. Gul Dukat of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Shane in the Walking dead. Too many characters to count in Game of Thrones.

Both entertainment and real life are full of examples. Some are eventually redeemed, having the opposite Heel-face turn and becoming good again, while others remain evil to the end.

LJ Idol Season 10, Week 5

LJ Idol Entry, Week 5

Fear is the heart of love

It’s almost that time of year again.

You know, the weeks between Christmas and Easter when the world is covered in red and pink and cherubs and lacy paper doilies and tons of glitter, which you find in places you didn’t know you had, especially if you have kids - and people search for or do their best to make a valentine for the one they love to show them how they feel. Will they like it? Did I screw up and get the wrong present? Are they going to hate it? Hopeful partners head off to the jeweler, picking out a ring to ask the most important question of their lives. Will they say yes? What if they say no?

Love and fear are inexorably linked. Fear of losing love, of being rejected by someone you love, falling in love with the wrong person, falling out of love or the person you love falling out of love with you, or in love with someone else.

The connection between love and fear has been documented since the beginning of recorded history, including both religious and secular texts. In the Bible, 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” If the love is real, it will be stronger than the fear.
But love is the basis of everything – from our earliest relationships with parents, siblings and family, to later ones with boy/girl friends, best friends, and romantic relationships – which enable us to start the whole cycle again. Bertrand Russell said that “To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.” Someone who lets their fear of love rule them will miss out on the most important things in life, because love and life require courage.

For some of us more introverted types, dating is miserable. I would rather have a root canal with no anesthesia than go out on a date and make small talk with someone I barely know. Stuck between the fear of love and fear of loneliness is not a great place to be. The possibility of letting someone else into your heart, giving them the ability to break it, can strike fear in the bravest person.

Franklin Roosevelt said that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” Nobody knows what the future is going to bring. Sometimes you just have to push back the fear, hope for the best and jump in with both feet.

LJ Idol Season 10, Week 4

“I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be. "
Wayne Gretzy

There is only one word to describe the thrust of this quote - Anticipation.

Merriam-Webster defines anticipation as a prior action that takes into account or forestalls a later action, the act of looking forward; especially : pleasurable expectation, visualization of a future event or state , , or an object or form that anticipates a later type

I’m not a hockey player by any means. But I am a vocalist. And I heard this a lot. If you wait till you hear everyone else sing the note or rhythm, you are going to be too late and it will mess everyone else up. You have to anticipate the next note, visualize in your head where the next note is on the scale and be ready to go when everyone else is.

Same principle here. If you go for where the puck was when you started, you’ll never catch it, and you’ll screw up the whole game as everyone else has to work in concert with you. If you get to the puck on time by anticipating where it is going to go, you keep the opposing team from getting control of it and scoring against you.

This is true in most every multi-player sport, arts group, or game. If you are acting in a play, you have to anticipate their next move or line and be ready to cover if they screw up, so the production stays seamless. Musicians of all types have to do the same when playing together to produce a piece of music. Board games – chess was the first that comes to mind, but even games like Clue or Sorry! require trying to outhink other players and figure things out before they do. Card games – cribbage, bridge, etc. The secret to winning is to anticipate what your opponent is going to do.

This is also true of much of life – anticipate rain, take your umbrella, don’t get wet. Anticipate what your boss is going to ask and already have it ready, score brownie points. Like the scouts say, be prepared.

Anticipation may be the real secret to life.
LJ Idol Break week, challenge #4 – A Possum Ran Over My Grave

A WHAT ran over my grave?

Depending on where you live, your answer may be different. In England, a goose stepped on your grave. A cow, a possum, a rabbit, a goose, a ghost, a cat... Walked over, ran over, stepped over, trotted over .... every region of the US and each different country around the rest of the world seems to have a different saying.

Each one says essentially the same thing, but essentially it describes that unexplained cold, prickly feeling you get with no explanation. The explanation in the more superstitious past was that someone was walking over where your grave was eventually going to be.

According to phrases.com, the earliest known record of the phrase in print is in Simon Wagstaff's “A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation” which was published in 1738. (You might know him better as Johnathan Swift.) The phrase may have been in oral use long before that, but this is earliest date that we can prove that the phrase was in common use.
Nowadays, they blame the feeling on a sudden release of adrenaline. But just in case, keep it in mind when you are walking through the open area of the cemetery, won’t you?
LJ Idol Break week, Challenge #3 – Kummerspeck

Oh, I am familiar with Kummerspeck, especially in these last years when both of my parents have been ill and my stress levels have been through the roof. There really isn’t an English word or phrase that is comparable, so I have always just used the German (my family is of German descent on one side and I took 8 semesters of the language) It mashes the two words Kummer ‎(“grief, sorrow”) +‎ Speck ‎(“layer of fat”). The closest phrase we have in English would probably be emotional eating or stress eating.

Late night Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after a breakup? Hot cocoa with too many cookies when you are blue. Grilled cheese and tomato soup when you are down? Lots of heavy comfort food after your mother dies? And sometimes just an extra helping of French fries, donuts or other junk food when you are stressed out. That’s Kummerspeck. Here, have another cookie.
LJ Idol Break week, Challenge #2 – Sang-froid

sang-froid (Fr. sɑ̃ˈfrwa

n. coolness of mind; calmness; composure. [1740–50; < French: literally, cold blood]

Cool Down. Keep Cool. Calm Down. To keep one’s composure. Chill out. These everyday phrases are something pretty much all of us heard from adults growing up - some of us rather more frequently than others. Taken from the French, the word literally means “cold blood”.

We didn’t know it, simply because they didn’t use the word itself, but the trait they were trying to teach us was sang-froid. Teaching the art of composure, the ability to stay calm, cool and collected in a given situation, especially a stressful or potentially dangerous one, especially if one is not imbued with it in one’s character makeup, is difficult. Not an easy trait to master, but ultimately more useful than algebra.

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