A Wish For Each Year.

1989 (christmas) mom & me
1989. 25 years ago

Today is Mom’s birthday.
This is the sixth time this particular notification has popped up on my laptop since she died.
I can’t bring myself to delete the entry on my calendar.
It’s been
5 years,
1 month, and
4 days
since she died.
That’s 1,860 days.

I’m fairly certain not a single one of those days has passed that I haven’t thought of her since she passed, even if it was just for a fleeting moment. More often than not I have something I want to tell her, or ask her, or share with her. Today she would have been 60. It’s weird to think that she’s been gone for five years. It might be even stranger to think that this year would have been a huge milestone. I wonder how we would have gotten on as adults, now that I’m settling into myself and figuring out what is really important to me.

So much has happened in the last 1,860 days. And since I can’t directly share this with her, I want to share five wishes, five things I wish I could have shared with her, one for each year she’s been gone.

1) I wanted to share France with her. Then Belgium, The Netherlands, England, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, and Australia. I originally decided to keep this blog going so I could show her all the wonderful things around the world, things I knew that she would never be able to travel and see, but maybe if I saw them for her she could experience them too. Somewhere along the line I decided to just keep writing anyway.

2) Social media. Just before she had her first heart attack we were talking about getting her on Facebook. I think she would have loved it. I think she might have gotten Twitter, too. I know she would have loved the chance to talk with old friends more often and keep in touch with people who had moved away.

3) Music. These past few years I have grown increasingly engaged with music. I have so many bands and songs that have had an incredible impact on me. I feel like she would have enjoyed the music and the people behind it. And what I wouldn’t give to have been able to introduce her to Amanda Palmer, both her music and as a person/thinker/friend.

4) My writing. I’ll finish this novel one day. I’ll write more stories. I think the last creative piece she read of mine was a poem I wrote when I was 15.

5) Dance. I started dancing four years before she passed away but she never saw me dance outside our living room. She never saw me on stage. Since I’ve danced as a guest with Eugene Ballet Company three times. It’s the one thing I truly wish I could change.

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My top albums of 2013

Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre is Evil

Over the last year I’ve come to realize how big a role music plays for me. I’m almost always listening to it, connecting with it and letting it influence my own artistic outlets. Recently I’ve been really big on discovering new music and bands that I really like, not necessarily just listening to whatever I come across. I wanted to share them with you because this has been an outstanding year for music. And part of me is really happy about the resurgence of vinyl. I think one of my favorite pressings was from The Head & the Heart, though Amanda Palmer killed it with packaging & extras.

From the beginning to the end, here’s my year in music, so plug in some headphones and enjoy.

Heartthrob – Tegan & Sara (release: January 29, 2013)

The Sky Is Calling – The Impossible Girl (release: June 21, 2013)

A Brief Case of Madness – Tom Dickins and the Punintentionals (release: August 1, 2013)

Days Are Gone – HAIM (release: September 27, 2013)

Pure Heroine – Lorde (release: September 27, 2013)

Let’s Be Still – The Head and the Heart (release: October 15, 2013)

An Evening With – Amanda Palmer & Neil Gaiman (release: November 19, 2013)

Chasing Twisters EP – Delta Rae (release: November 19, 2013)

 

Also, in putting together this list I realized quite a bit of the music I listened to a lot (or even discovered) isn’t from this year at all. Here’s a few albums I had on repeat or discovered for the first time this year but were not released in 2013:

in lethe EP – Jaggery (release: October 01, 2004)
Yes, Virginia – The Dresden Dolls (release: April 18, 2006)
My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters and Men (release: September 20, 2011)
Ceremonials – Florence & the Machine (release: October 28, 2011)
Electra Heart – Marina & the Diamonds (release: April 27, 2012)
Carry the Fire – Delta Rae (release: June 19, 2012)
Theatre is Evil – Amanda Palmer (release: September 5 2012)
Halcyon – Ellie Goulding (release: October 5, 2012)

as an added P.S. Willow out of Melbourne, Australia. They don’t have an album out yet, but I love their sound. Got to see them open for Tom Dickins in Melbourne in August and fell in love with what they’ve got going on.

In Melbourne by chance : Tom Dickins and the Punintentionals

IMG_9195
Tom and Jen, The Jane Austen Argument in London 2011

Back in London in 2011 I met a musician from Australia on a hill. The next night I got to see him open for Amanda Palmer at Heaven. A bit after that we were supposed to meet again in Portland, but he got stuck in Canada. Now I’m on holiday and he has his album launch party the week I happened to be in Melbourne.

The show was brilliant. I loved the opening bands… and Tom’s new album was killer live. Very raw and intense.

After the show I walked up, just wanted to say thank you and that hey, that crazy girl from Oregon that’s been posting on the facebook wall for the show made it. Halfway through this, it dawns on him that the crazy girl from Oregon is the one he met in London. He was really excited to see me. I received a hug and a handful of merch. After he made it through the signing line (I had stuck around… okay, I’d left, it was raining, I realized I should stay for a bit, there is one more tram back, headed back in) we chatted for a bit and he proceeded to introduce me to everyone that came up. His wife, his mom, his friends. And each time the story came out.

It’s nice to be remembered. Especially by someone in the spotlight, someone we (society) forgets is a normal human. We like to be remembered and appreciated. and hugged.

And maybe one day we’ll run into each other again, who knows where, but it’ll probably happen, because honestly, what are the odds?

 


p.s. Check out Tom’s music, either under Tom Dickins & the Punintentionals, Tom Dickins or The Jane Austen Argument. He’s a wonderful musician as well as a wonderful person.

My mother’s things

Four years ago I started putting you in boxes. The things that were left. I tried to preserve the memories I had and held onto each image in my mind as if they were fragile leaves pressed dry between the pages of a book. Somedays I flip through that book, a series of images and feelings and smell. I can call up any number of voices to read the litany of thoughts rushing through my mind, but I can’t remember your voice.

But sometimes when I look in a mirror I see my eyes peering out of your face. The one from the picture when you were maybe 28. The one where I realized I have your hands, where I can see how alive you once were, your spark and spirit, the woman who followed her heart. High cheekbones and faint laugh lines, a crooked & wry smile. The way our eyes narrow when we laugh because there is room for nothing else but laughter.

I try to laugh as much as I can, but every day a happy moment of sadness catches up with me when I start to reach out to tell you something. Four years of things big and small, silly and serious. I left not long after you died; I needed to travel and get away from the places where I saw you everyday. You followed me, a trail of single roses out of season. Now that I’m back and it seems I’m staying, I see you in myself.

There are so many things I want to ask you. Mainly, how did you do it? With everything that happened how did you keep moving forward. From where did you draw your strength? I think we had only just reached the point where maybe we could have these conversations, that I was even cognizant enough to ask. I want you to tell me all the stories I don’t remember. I want to know about your mom and how you figured out life after she died, but if you were here I wouldn’t be thinking about that.

I’m trying to figure out life without you here. Most of the time it doesn’t make sense. So I’m clinging to the things that do, all the little things that make me smile and laugh. My friends, some of whom were once your friends, now my family. Family, in whatever way I can, but mostly letting go (we know why). Dance. Travel. Little things like a clean house or a cuppa tea on a grey morning, book in hand (or maybe both!). My cats. The things that make me feel that I’m flying; I’m clinging to them all while the world rushes around me, the media telling me I’m doing it all wrong. I’ve stopped listening.

That is, I’ve stopped listening as much as I can. I can still hear the voice of society booming in the background that there is one way we need to be. I’m just trying to be someone you would have liked, that you would be proud of. And yet, still trying to make my decisions for me, being a little selfish when I need to be. Learning that compromise isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Maybe one day I’ll unpack those boxes and see if I remember why I kept the things I did. The thing about things is that the can start meaning things nobody actually said. And the things that matter most, they’re all inside my head. Like the way we danced with abandon in the living room to a new cover of an old song or the way you’d wrap us up in blankets and sit on the back porch in the cold when I had a bad cough and the cold night air was the only thing that felt good on my throat. But four years on, those boxes are staying packed. I might peek in from time to time, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.

lost, but not forgotten

An old roll of 110 film, developed after 15 years & some conclusions about expectations and reality.

For the last 15 or so years there has been a roll of 110 film in the refrigerator at my parents’ house. It survived 3 moves and never quite got developed even though ever other roll of film from the last 20 years did. The 110 film came from an old toy camera I had as a child. It looked like a panda… well, mostly it was black and white and plastic-y. Since I got back to the states I’ve been playing with my mom’s old Minolta, a film camera from 1983 (I think). So, I’d amassed a few rolls that needed to be developed.

I knew I needed to find a place that still developed 110. We didn’t know what was there, and any memory of what might have been on it was lost at least 10 years ago. I was nervous about what was on that roll.

elephant ride
me & my cousins circa ’93?

I knew I had taken it, as the film was from my camera.

I knew it had been taken when my mom was still alive.

I didn’t know what to expect.

I kept putting off developing the film because I didn’t want to know that there weren’t pictures of my mom on there, forgotten and almost lost.

Last week I sent in the film. There were a bunch of blurry pictures of wild animals (from Wild Life Safari) taken from a moving car.
and then one lone photo of me and my cousins on the back of an elephant. It’s just as blurry, but I remember that moment when it was taken – I’m the only one looking at the camera (in case you can’t tell, I’m the blond one). I was looking for my mom, who took the photo.

So, I didn’t find what I had been secretly hoping for, but I did find this: a memory. We don’t always find what we expect to find or hope to find. But that’s okay, sometimes what we find is just as good or better than what we imagined.

trying to see the patterns in the shifting sands of time

Almost a year ago when I moved to London I did NaBloPoMo for the first time. NaBloPoMo started off as a riff on NaNoWriMo and now goes on every month.* I didn’t quite succeed last time, school and a bout of crippling depression caught me off guard. It wasn’t a complete wash though, I only really missed posting those last few days. This month, I’m going to try again, and I know I’m putting myself up against quite a few challenges, but I believe it’ll be worth it in the end if I do manage. Especially because the topic this month seems so apt to everything I have going on. While participants aren’t required to write on the topic, this month I believe that most of my writing will be circling the idea anyway as the topic is return.

September has always been a big month. There’s my birthday, the end of summer and the start of school. I’ve also got a few more family birthdays in there too. This year though, through some unplanned plans all falling together at the same time it’s so much more. Here’s a forecast of what I’m expecting, who knows what will really happen…

  • Amanda Palmer in concert
  • CB arrives from Oregon
  • Seeing As You Like It at The Globe
  • my 25th birthday
  • returning to Ireland
  • visiting Northern Ireland
  • Moving back to Eugene

That’s right. It’s official. I’m moving back to Oregon. Pretty sure at some point I swore I wouldn’t, but that’s the funny thing. Time passes and you grow and things that seemed impossible to the person you once were are entirely possible and even welcomed. When I left Eugene for the second time I still wasn’t in a position to be there. I needed to spend time as my own person and really stand on my own some more before I came back. My time in France started that, but I knew coming back after only 8 months was too soon.

The first reason is that I had never lived anywhere but Eugene. I have a soul that doesn’t feel at ease unless I get to take in more places, find how they fit with me and how they don’t. I desperately need that place called home, a little patch of ground to do with what I will, but I need to be able to fly. Nearly 23 years in Eugene was eating away at me. And now, almost 2 years later I’ve been able to call 3 more cities “home” – Dunkerque, London, and for a brief time Copenhagen. I’ve done a lot of growing and suddenly the idea of being in Eugene doesn’t feel so confining.

Secondly, I left 3 months after my mom passed away. I needed space and time to mourn in my own way. For some reason I needed people around me that hadn’t known me my entire life – it’s not that I wanted them out of the picture, but I needed to live without constant reminders of her life. That said, I know I haven’t let a single day pass since she died that I haven’t at least had a passing thought about her. In France I started to heal and figure out who I was now. I didn’t have my mom to help me figure it out anymore, and I realised how important a mother is to any child. Coming home was wonderful and very hard. And I let my dreams led me away again to London, I kept moving forward as only I could. This time, I’ll be going back after 12 months away. I’ve done a lot of work these past 12 months and I’m a lot closer to some of the people who I left behind. I’m at ease with, and even looking forward to returning home.

So there’s a lot of cyclical events occurring this month. I’ll find a way to publish something that captures it each day. Life is crazy, there are all these patterns and themes running through it that you can’t quite see when you’re in the midst of it and some even take years to materialise, but they’re wonderful things. This month will be a turning point, this summer I was on the edge of a big change, that I don’t think I ever properly wrote about, maybe in the days to come. This month though, I can feel it as a turning point, a gentle shift in directions; for once I don’t know which one and that excites me more than I can say.

 

 

*NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month
NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writing Month

Notre Dame, 2005

In eight days I take off for France. In an attempt to alleviate part of the“I need to pack!”/”I can’t pack yet!” war. I’m looking back at the last time I was in France. And avoiding cleaning my room, though that has to be done this morning as that is what happens when you have company over. Another assistant started posting her favorite places in France from last time she was there to help alleviate the crazy that is overtaking all of us about ready to take off. And while I don’t have a lot of photos from last time I was in France, I do have some, even if they aren’t my favorite spots there are some of my favorite memories.

Notre Dame

After our 18 hour flight to Paris out of Portland, OR almost everyone wanted to nap, despite that it was only 9 o’clock in the morning. After checking in and rounding everyone up, we wandered out for lunch. After an hour or so we met up with our guide and walked from the Bastille to Notre Dame (for those of you not familiar with Paris, click here). That isn’t the exact path we took, as we wandered for more than twenty minutes. But, I can say that by the time we got to Notre Dame we were all exhausted. It actually took me about five minutes of bleary ‘that cathedral looks really familiar’ to realize I was standing in front of Notre Dame.