Monday, March 28, 2011

Embracing Monday




This weekend was the hardest funeral of my life and the nicest Sunday in a while. Although I spoke on a podium shaking, sharing a final public goodbye to my grandmother that was mostly based on my blog post, I walked off the stage into the arms of an amazing support system named L and a crowd of exciting, delighted progressive individuals. Completely exhausted, I managed to sleep in until noon the next day. Noon! I did not know I was capable of such laziness. This will remain a rarity for a while, because Sunday reminded me how much I like to get stuff done. Counters were scrubbed and fridges were emptied, but fortunately I had flowers all over the house to cheer me up while doing it. L made a fantastic steak as I managed not to burn the mashed potatoes. I worked out to cheerful, up beat summer pop instead of angry rap. I realized that I need to raise my expectations for myself. Then, ...damnit. No sleep until 6 am this morning. No reason, no stress, just confronted with the brevity of life; even important ones.

And here I am.
And here are you. 
Let's stroll into this week with smiles on our faces, shall we?
Just in case you cared about what I dream about at all, Claire asked! Warning: I have weird dreams. But what makes the click worth it anyways is Claire's unique look into dreams and interesting tidbits about what actually happens when we're asleep.
I don't think I would ever frown with these bright, stripey shades. I think I might make a black and white pair, in fact! 
...Fortunately, there's also a 99.5% you're not. Also, Andrew Jackson was bad ass. 
Capology: coming soon to a sociology class at a liberal arts college near you.
"With his ZZ Top beard, battered cowboy hat and worn boots, Mr. Wells, 51, looks like a native. But like many of his neighbors, he’s a recent transplant, a former fashion and catalog photographer, late of Manhattan and Columbia County." 
Did I post these yet? Om nom nom.... even if I have, just make them!
You know it's a good day when someone posts this on your Facebook wall.
You guuyyyyys there's an election! And it's totally hip and young! But... oh wait... No one cares.  
Fun fact: Apparently this was Barack & Michelle Obama's first date. 
Maybe it's completely wrong to post these right after that statement, but, uh, I find politically incorrect comics preeeeeettty funny! But glad that there is no way any child of mine would ever see stuff like that.
My new best friend, if she promises to lend me the dress.
If she doesn't, I have the ladies at the Hairpin! They have been on fire this week with Kanyeisms and rose jello. But, they have to lend me their hat...
Making it Lovely is consistently one of the nicest things about my day, all day every day. I am going back through the archives and screencapping almost everything. Lady is such a genius!
Every day you don't like this on Facebook is a day wasted; they have the best DIY projects ever.
Every day you don't listen to this song is a day wasted; just because.
(except maybe I shouldn't use the word snort.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mary

She might be gone by now, I do not know.
I do not know when you will read this, or if my parents will actually fulfill their promise and text me after they have shed their tears no matter what hour of night it is. I am typing this out slowly, carefully, so that I am not mistaken for Meursault, whose existential crisis was mistaken for apathy. 
"Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure. The telegram from the Home says: Your mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Deep sympathy. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday."
I have never sympathized with Meursault. I have never favoured a blasé approach to death, and especially not to life. But suddenly, at least I understand a little bit. I am filled with love and wonder and waiting for the sense of loss, which feels almost worse than the actual sense of loss, but in the meantime I have press releases to write and e-mails to reply to and meals to eat and exercise to keep me strong so I must  not cry too hard. She could be in an intense amount of pain and questioning what will happen to her. Of course, we do not know, for we have given her all the relief science can give and that has made her mute. Or, of course, her mind could have mused its last thought a minute ago and now there is only silence where such a treasure was once found.
She might be gone by now, I do not know.

***

I would like to assign a numeric value created by some equation that is too complicated for me to figure out on my own but might multiply the number of minutes spent with someone by the number of surges in thought of someone's brain so I could tell you how much of my life Gramma has effected. Although she will never know it, it is surely at least 70%, which is remarkable for someone who has never lived with me. I was not a good grandchild. I did not see her every weekend, and since I turned 14 I have not even seen her every month. When she lost her memory, there was a great divide. She was a shell in my eyes, and it did not seem worth the pain to read to her when I was no different than someone who worked in her unit, and did not scare her with their offensive unfamiliarity. Still, sometimes when she was calm and having better days, I read to her, as she read to me when I was much smaller. For hours and hours she would turn her tongue as I listened attentively and did headstands, the energetic child that I was. From The Velveteen Rabbit to everything written by Mordecai Richler ever, she also appeared one day, fresh from Heathrow Airport, with one of the first copies of Harry Potter tucked into her arm.
My mother had given her specific instructions for something else I wanted for my birthday. Another book that I do not even remember now. My pre-teen self accepted the novel gingerly, but never letting on a mild disappointment. And hour later, I was begging Gramma to keep reading, to finish the fifth chapter, then the sixth.
Gramma always knew.

The university I went to is small, liberal, and feminist, as well as the place where Gramma earned her doctorate. The Marimekko poppy pattern that I am now obsessed with was strewn all over her upstairs guest room. Mary, the name that many of you originally knew me by, is... was... her name.* There are rumours about her and Christopher Plummer... all I know for sure is that they chatted for a while at a dinner party. A very long while. She was always good at catching peoples' attention. She danced in the front row of a jazz bands' concert, and it did not surprise anyone when she went on to marry the trumpeter. Once she had her sights set on him and her laid eyes on her... well, you know. She was political long after the age that it was 'acceptable' for women to be political at, whatever that is. With white hair she ran for the NDP and forever instilled the bias that work should be rewarded fairly, and the system of government we have does not guarantee that. Now, I will criticize the NDP when they are not the party my grandmother would have ran for. She knew what was worth fighting for.

The prints and art on her walls exposed me to Andy Warhol at age five. The journals she bought me every year are the reason this blog is on the internet. I am an activist because she brought new refugees to the country to dinner, and let a couple and their family from Kosovo stay at her house when they first came to Canada, until they figured out a place to stay. She also did this with Japanese dancers while they performed, and Brazilian writers as they were passing through Halifax. There was always someone new in the bedroom that had been my grandfather's drawing room until his death. Although countless souls stayed in there after, it was not until she packed up her house that she took the architectural sketches of boats to build down from the walls.

Although she lost her memory and most of her ability to communicate when I was coming of age, it was then that she truly impacted me the most. No matter where I went, I would mention my last name and people would ask... "Oh my. You must be related to Mary!" Artists, politicians, restaurant owners, musicians, gallery attendants, park managers; they all knew her. And once they knew who I was, it was as if they knew me. Instead of writing me letters telling me how to live my life, my grandmother gave me a unique last name that introduced me to all the right people who helped me flourish after she could no longer speak with any clarity. 

One of the last times I went to see her, I brought the Roald Dalh Anthology, one of my favourite presents she ever gave me, and read to her the lesser known epic works of magic that Mr. Dalh had penned. The Minpins, The Twits, old favourites came out of my mouth until my throat went dry; the same way she had read to me. She was not strewn across the couch doing acrobatics, but the familiarity of the scene and the reversal of the roles shook me for a long time. What kept me from bursting into a sad, cold sweat was the way she kept looking up at L as she grabbed onto his hand while I read. As he was not in my life until after the Alzheimers' set in, we were not sure how she would react to him. The woman who once threw entire dinner parties for near complete strangers now could hardly handle an unfamiliar face... and so many of them were unfamiliar. So even though she called me Catharine three times that night (her mother's name), it was okay, because she clasped onto L's hand repeatedly and blinked and smiled, the only way she could say, "He is good!"

Never underestimate the power of a life. Never underestimate the power of a death.
At almost twenty one, I have been granted the luxury of never having someone I was truly close to die. I have been to funerals of distant relatives and estranged cousins, a million times removed. I have known a tragic number of teenagers who had ended their life. My grandfather passed before I was even born. I did not think death was a new concept to me. But when my mother sent me a text message, "Can you come have dinner tonight?" I almost said no. This sudden, startling request was unusual for an evening where she knew I was busy with work and papers and things that do not matter to me now. 
By the time I understood the request, I was in the car to go see her. I was completely unprepared, even though I had expected her death since I was fourteen. I was wearing one of her old scarves, and was carrying a huge bag proudly displaying the Marimekko print once scattered across her old house, purchased with a little money she had set aside for me, that Dad let me have when I flew to Toronto for a few days. I remember standing there with Lesley in a trendy little shop and telling her, "Isn't this funny! I have to snatch this up. It's perfect. She'll definitely recognize the pattern when she sees it." 
She did not recognize the pattern. Or, maybe she did, and she just could not react at the time.
I did not even think of these items as sentimental. They were things I wore every day. When my aunt touched the rich red and gold scarf and sighed, "This is so lovely, this was hers, wasn't it?" I went wide eyed and croaked out a quiet yes. I had almost forgotten its origins. What my aunt thought was a tribute to the perfect grandmother I was there to say goodbye to was actually a testament to just how much she had impacted my life.

I cannot describe the sinking, slipping sensation when I touched her arm, because I could not hug her in her position. I had no epic final words. What I write now is everything I wish I could have said at the time, and might try to whisper again if there is a moment that I am allowed to see her before she leaves. If she has not left already.

She might be gone by now, I do not know.

I am not supposed to tell you any of this. This is supposed to be kept quiet; my solemn father does not want to deal with countless phone calls from all the horrified well wishers that she would get during his last minutes with her. I do not think you know me, and I know you do not know her, but I wish you had. 

Mary loved raspberry chocolate chip ice cream (purchased from the Greek convenience store down the road), living in an impeccably well kept old house that was too big for her on a gorgeous street (the neighbours said it was too 'different' when she painted it purple), countless shades of lipstick, the handmade jewelry she received when she send a micro loan to a womens' organization in Uganda, art everywhere, books anywhere, things that were local, and things that were from very far away.

When she stopped being able to create new memories, I was going through a rebellious faze where I had black hair and too much eyeliner on my face. I hope she does not remember me this way, if she does remember me. It is unlikely at this point. But my instance to believe in something tells me that she sees me now, and will see me later, and now how she improved me, and know how she shaped me.**

I know that she will always be with me one way...

... or another.

... or another.
... or another.
Forever.
Update: Mary went peacefully this morning. RIP. Thank you so much everyone.


***

To donate to women in third world countries and help develop their small business like Mary did, click here.
To see one of Mary's favourite paintings, click here.
To read about the party that Mary gave years of her life to supporting, click here.
To donate to help find a cure for one of the most tragic diseases to see someone suffer through, click here.
To donate to Japan (and every other part of the world) as Mary would, click here. She once housed three Japanese dancers when they came to Halifax to perform. She always wanted to go back and visit them. Yoko, Ora, and Sana, wherever you are, I hope you are safe. 

***

*Worth noting: My other grandmother is named the same. No wonder I was named Mary. It is now my middle name to avoid confusion.
**HAHAHA. Yes, when I was 14 I really did think I was cool.
***Posting will return to normal as of today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Embracing Monday


Cleaning, the best thing about gallery openings, and why people hate taking their picture with me.
Yesterday night, after a day of walking though impossibly charming neighborhoods to look at less than charming flats (I am increasingly picky) and cleaning out all the nooks of our current abode (it sparkles!), L threw a plate of salmon and lightly cooked vegetables in front of me and we ate and ate and ate. Today I feel like I could drop kick Chuck Norris from here to Talamazoo.* An overflowing "to reply to" email folder at work, two (much nicer looking) house viewings, and my taunting exercise bike better watch their backs! Normally I speak of the weekend with glee and whimsy, starting Monday off with a cup of tea. Not today. Won't you kick Monday's ass with me?  

***

In case you were wondering what I'm doing this summer, Real Simple has provided a handy guide for you. I AM PAINTING EVERYTHING I OWN. AND IT WILL LOOK GREAT.
Just in case I run out of stuff to paint and start to put brush strokes on inappropriate things unconsciously (the boyfriend? a cat?) there's still 102 other things for me to do... except for maybe that tutu. Weird.

Obama's in. McCain is merely an utterance. This is still funny.

Your next few profiles pictures, courtesy of me.

I never really needed another excuse to want to go to Japan, but The Huffington Post has pretty much convinced me that every minute I'm not there is a minute of my life I've wasted. AHHH. I'VE WASTED MY LIFE. WHY AM I NOT IN JAPAN.
...I really like trains a lot, okay?

Maybe when I'm there (oh God I'm wasting my life right now) I can help contribute to the splendifferousness that is ceci.  

Jane Feltes from This American Life who is like some kind of lady-god (not a goddess because lady-god is sooo much trendier and she's the pinnacle of trendy awesome hip. Lady is a cool word nowadays, right? Am I my mom yet? Don't answer that.) has helped me demand a raise in allowance. Every Friday.

"While it's true exaggerated characters can provide entertainment, it seems like if you're going to give a pass to this sort of thing, you have to make sure you're completely objective and open about all of the media you consume, not just the things that happen to not offend you. Conversely, if you're going to criticize Tyler, make sure you're holding your other entertainment figures to the same standard. (And if you're going to criticize Tyler, make sure there's never been an occasion when you've been cool with Eminem and his music, because, well, as I said above, Eminem's probably been more detrimental to women — if not directly, then at least by way of influence — than some random some kid who's sort of popular on the internet.)"
-Another Hairpin gem (just read the whole website already please?) Although I don't really know about the specific phenomenom in which they talk about, the whole thing smells of tru dat material.  

Katie is all over the early spring in Europe shebang, and so am I. Kind of. I hate chambray and button up shirts don't fit me. Oh well. STRIPES STRIPES STRIPES. NOT WINTER COATS. Thank gosh.
Also, the fonts in the video slay me ever so much. I wish I could use them to turn in essays.
"Bernais and Propaganda: NBD?" made much more fun.

"The smugness isn’t limited to the Bay Street whiz kids, though. Resource-rich Alberta is smug in believing America has no choice but to buy its oil. And while it’s difficult to see what options U.S. motorists have at the moment, any time a seller believes the customer “has no choice,” it’s bound to end badly.
Globalization is no longer just about factory jobs moving to Asia. It’s affecting everything – resources, banking, high-tech services, the whole shebang. Everything is getting bigger, faster and cruelly cost efficient. Fibre-optic cables spanning the continents have made geography irrelevant."
-Stuff to think about, and hopefully a bit of advice for picking your major in university

Amazing.

I'm too short and too awkward to count, but if you are supa glamz and hip and live in France or even Argentina or somewhere cooler Garance can show you how its done.

I need learn speekee guude. Please please please.

You've probably already seen this, because Emily is ubiquitous in the blogging community, but just in case, she totally had me at breakfast. And pizza. 

This is being posted because it is the perfect combination of Nicole and I. I like to think of a world where we can sit on a couch somewhere and watch this and high five with glee. Until then: kitty videos.

Ahhh, but at least they reassembled it. And then blew it again.

Wish me the same luck that I wish you! Remember; there are a million asses out there. You only need to kick one to feel accomplished. 
Even metaphorical ones count.
Happy Monday! 

PS: Any budding graphic designers out there? Send me an email. Let's talk.

*Talamazoo is a fictitious country my grandmother made up for me to race to when I was a hurried little five year old. I do not know the origins, but I could probably dropkick Chuck Norris there.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wikipedia Search: Shoulder


It's hard to feel pretty at art gallery parties.

The sleekest and sexiest (in the weirdest way, of course) show up and even if champagne is not present everyone acts like there is. You might break dress code without meaning to; creative dress really means how creatively can you wear black? 

I felt so fat surrounded by all these glorious bird like creatures last night that I wanted to cry. Lipstick can only go so far, and does not make my chin feel any less awkwardly misshapen on my face. Wrap dresses do not give me Michelle Obama's arms. High heels do not make my stomach less round. Coming to terms with things about me changing, regardless of whether I gain or lose weight, is impossibly hard. Hours on the exercise bike will not change the way my face is developing. I was in loathing with the body I once had. Now I want every aspect of the old me back. Getting older feels so awkward at twenty. My feet are growing. My neck is elongating. Will I maybe reach 5' some day?

I am not going to tell you that you just have to accept yourself as perfect just the way you are, although you probably should. This also is not the place where you are going to find print outs with nice font that you fill out and write all the things you like about your body. I do not have answers, I do not have confidence stored in a delightful box that I can throw off in your direction, I do not have a head that I can hold high and pretend it is all okay right now.

I know a lot of you have felt the same way sometime lately, and I know it feels like you have been ignored.

I wish you all the strength in the world if you are battling an eating disorder; I truly understand how spirit sucking it can be to try to even contemplating correcting something that weighs so hard on your soul. But today I write to the silent majority of women who hate what they see when they look in the mirror and never do anything about it.

You have to do something.

No, keep eating and do not think that a growl in your stomach is any kind of self improvement. No, keep going to gallery parties even if you feel alienated by beautiful creatures that you do not even feel part of the same species. The art is on the walls, not striding around from piece to piece.

No matter who you are, there is something inside you that warms your heart and makes you feel indomitable. Hold on to it with every thing you have inside you. Use it to focus on what is happening around you, not who. Look at the beauty in life instead of the beauty of other people. Never let go of it. Never let go.

Tonight I am going to ride my exercise bike for a few hours while watching a movie. In the long run, this will solve nothing but to assure me that I am doing everything I can from feeling awful. Even so, I will not feel assured.

There is no solution but you are not alone.
I am here for you. I feel your pain. I know we both know what each other is going through.
You are not alone.