Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Books



A few weeks ago my mom gave me some book store gift cards; cards my dad had been given that he didn't spend. So I took myself off to the book store for some free books, courtesy of Dad.

I love book shopping. It's one of the few things I truly enjoy shopping for. It was something Dad and I did together every year at Christmas - except last year, he was too sick to go shopping. I've been to the book store without him, of course, but it was sort of our thing. He would get a coffee and I'd get hot chocolate and we would browse together, talking about our favourite authors or books we really hated. He would always buy me a book - a secret pre-Christmas gift. Not that we had anyone to keep it secret from.

I had a little cry and I missed him terribly but I got some cool books. And in the category building weird memories that don't entirely make sense, whenever I make soap I'll think of Bill and the book he bought me.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Book review: The Glass Castle


Book: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Genre: Memoir
Dates read: April 3-7, 2018


It’s not often that a book will have me crying and laughing, from one sentence to the next. Jeannette Walls takes us through a life sketch that is beautifully horrifying, written in the way that people who live with dysfunction normalize those experiences.

From catching herself on fire during unsupervised cooking at age three to facing hunger, poverty, and abuse as a young woman, we are taken through her lifetime of being dragged from one place to the next by parents who refuse to put down roots.

The Walls family is nomadic at best. They suffer a father who drinks what he earns and has grandiose plans that are never realized; their mother sees herself as an artist and writer but remains direction-less and seemingly out of touch with reality. It is easy to despise the parents; while reading this I was at times enraged by their irresponsibility, their lack of planning, their disregard for social norms and basic necessities.

Rex Walls is an alcoholic; he gambles and lies, and he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. Mary seems sweet at times, but expects her children to be grateful for what they have, when in reality they have nothing. Often living in ramshackle conditions in homes that are falling down around them, Mary refuses to work for much of the time, claiming that she can be a successful artist if she just had the time to devote to her paintings. They rarely have money for food or shoes without holes, but Dad always has cigarettes and booze and Mom always has art supplies.

As we read more about the family and Jeanette’s experiences, I am struck by her perseverance. And despite the deep flaws in her parents, I am reminded again and again that people aren’t just one thing.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Broken things

My dad loved gadgets. Computers, cell phones, game systems, VCRs... anything with a hard drive and a power supply. He liked them when they were new; he liked them when they died and he could take their brains out and bang around on their insides. Whenever a gadget quit working, it would go into dad's pile of dead electronics. He claimed he could get anything working if he could figure out what made it tick- all you had to do was tighten up some screws or replace a something-or-other on the inside, and it would be all fixed. He never fixed anything, but he enjoyed tinkering with old electronics.

He also liked it whenever anyone got something new. I have an affinity for accessories, and would routinely change out my phone case. Every time I had a new case, he'd ask me if I got a new phone. He never seemed to be able to tell that it was just a new case. Every couple of months for 4 years this would come up. I would roll my eyes and laugh and explain it was the same old phone in a new case.

But if I did get something new, I would always want to show him because he would oooh and aaah in just the right way. Over the last few months I've had a few new things; I got a new cell phone and I felt sort of sad that I finally had a new phone and couldn't tell him. I think he would have had very strong opinions about facial recognition, and that would have been fun to debate with him.

I also got a new laptop recently and while he would have liked to play with it, I think he really would have just wanted my old, broken one. The touch screen and mouse were both broken and I think he would have enjoyed pretending that he could take it apart and fix it, and I would have enjoyed pretending I believed him.

It's sort of funny how when someone dies and suddenly everything in your life reminds you of them, of their mannerisms and attitudes and their sense of humour. My dad's way of being just a little silly might be one of the things I miss the most: how he'd set his jaw and insist that he could fix something that was broken when we all knew that he couldn't really.

It's been 105 days since my dad died, and the conversations I need to have with him are piling up. We are going to have so much to talk about when we're together again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Thorns



He who wants a rose must respect the thorn. —Persian Proverb
 
 


I’ve been drinking this tea lately- roasted dandelion root tea. My dad called it “dirt tea” because it tastes a little ... earthy. It’s supposed to be good for cleansing the liver; my dad was drinking it daily after his cancer diagnosis and he lived a lot longer than his doctors thought he would. So, I drink it too. I’m not sick, and a recent blood panel shows my liver in great health but I’m really trying to be health-conscious. If Bill had thought about his health when he was my age, he might have lived longer so I’m learning from his example-of-what-not-to-do.
 
I’ve been reading the labels on the tea bags while waiting for my water to boil, and I’ll be honest- usually the sayings on tea bags are so corny. Clich├ęs I’ve heard my whole life, they lose meaning for me the more oft-repeated they are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about regrets and mistakes and mortality and these bits of tea bag wisdom are really resonating with me. I don’t have the sort of personality that is comfortable heeding the warnings of others. I’ve always wanted to experience life on my own terms, firsthand and bloody. 

My mom tells this story of me when I was a little girl- maybe two or three years old, playing around the stove, and I reach out to touch the oven door. Mom’s been baking and she tells me “it’s hot”. I reach out again, and she tells me not to touch it or I’ll burn myself. According to the story, I glared right in her face and leaned over and laid my cheek against the hot oven door until it burned bright red.
 
This pretty much characterizes how I like to live life. I’ve gotten a little smarter and I now understand that hot things will burn my face off and sharp things will cut me open; but I’ve still got that rebellious little girl inside me who will glare at you when you tell her what do with her life. 

Give me thorns, and I will happily slice my soul open to receive them.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Expectations

Not everyone gets to be what they want all the time


I’ve been thinking about this and wondering what it means to me. I think I have this vision of myself, of what sort of person I am: I think I’m smart, and funny, and spiritual, and open minded, and inclusive. 

Am I really all those things? Ask me and I’ll tell you that I am. It makes me wonder what other people think about themselves, and how accurate our vision of ourselves really is. I recently wrote a life sketch about my dad to read at his funeral service. I really struggled to find the best words to describe him, as this was the one opportunity I had to speak publicly about his nature and his legacy as a dad and a husband.

I know my dad thought of himself as a total badass. And most people who knew him when he was younger, or who only saw him at work, saw that too. But he was also loving and kind, and intensely loyal to his family. And I don’t know if he saw that about himself. I wonder if he knew that there was a big, soft, teddy-bear of a man inside his badass shell. 

That shell was created to protect him, to guard him from life and those who would hurt him. The shell was made up of a bad attitude, bad choices, and a pit bull of a personality. If you’ve ever owned a pit bull, you’ll know that underneath the hair-raising growl and terrifying demeanor is a sweet, loyal, protective creature. That’s how I think of my dad.

I don’t know if my dad got to be what he wanted. I know he wanted a family, and to be loved by them. I know he wanted to provide- to go to work and earn his way in life and be productive. Did he know he was accomplishing those things, every day that he was able? I don’t think he was tremendously self-aware, so I wonder if he knew what an amazing job he was doing at his life. 

When I think about what I want to be in life, I’m reminded of this saying: “Not everyone gets to be what they want all the time”. I don’t remember where I heard it, but it makes me think about the need to take a good, hard look at myself. Am I being the person I want to be? Am I living up to my own expectations? To God’s? To my family’s? I’ve never cared much about what other people think of me, so it’s hard to worry about whether I’m living up to everyone else’s expectations; but there are a few people who count and it’s a struggle for me to consider what they think of me. 

When my life sketch is being written out, what will be said about me? I hope no one talks about how messy I keep my house, or how my night stand is overflowing with candy wrappers and soda cans.

If I don’t get to be what I want all the time, how will I handle that? What will I do when my expectations out of life are not met? When I am disappointed by people or circumstances? My hope is that people will be able to say that I handled that with some sense of grace. 


I guess I’d better start working on that, so people will want to say it.

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