scarlettina: (Airplane)
Haven't mentioned it previously, but now that I'm here, I will: I'm on Long Island for the holidays. After the year I've had, despite the stupid amount of money it costs, I decided that I really wanted to see my family. So as I type, I'm sitting in bed at my brother and sister-in-law's house on Long Island, and am very glad to be here.

Both flights--red-eyes--were . . . challenging for different reasons. The first (Seattle to Minneapolis departing at 12:30 AM) featured a child no more than a year old crying and screaming for most of the trip. No matter what her mother did, she as inconsolable. Very little sleep was had. The second (Minneapolis to LGA) featured a beautifully dressed older woman as my seatmate who it became clear about a half hour into the flight was suffering from some sort of memory loss. She'd have the same conversation and ask the same questions over and over again. Her husband was sitting four rows behind us. She was very sweet, obviously of good and kind heart, but clearly unaware that she wasn't fully with it--and obviously wanted to be social. After I realized that I wouldn't get any sleep on this leg of the trip either, I decided to try to help out as much as I could and gamely participated in the conversation she obviously wanted to have. At the end of the flight, she pointed out her husband to me, who gave me a look that meant he understood and appreciated my help. I don't know whether they had failed to choose their seats when they purchased their plane tickets and thus gotten separated, or if he had deliberately taken the opportunity for a little respite from what must be a tough caretaker role, but his expression suggested he knew it had probably not been the flight I'd hoped to have. I helped her get her coat and the right bag and made sure they connected before I took off. So sleep wasn't something I got much of on my red-eye flights.

My brother S picked me up from the airport, took me to lunch at a classic Long Island diner (which I loved), and then got me back to the house. My sister-in-law M, niece V and I caught up, we eventually had dinner, and then V and I made Christmas cookies. Doing this without a rolling pin and with dough that wasn't as cold as it should have been was entertaining. When we were done, I helped her study for her science test, introducing her to the idea of mnemonics and suggesting that rather than just memorizing words she look up pictures and definitions. It helped. This morning, M and I are going out for breakfast and then a little last minute holiday shopping.

The weather is incredibly mild; I may have brought clothes too warm for the trip. It's in the 40s here, with a promise of no precipitation until Saturday, I believe.

M and S recently bought a new house in the same development they've been living in for several years now. They wanted a larger unit, given that V is now a teenager. The new house is still a work in progress--but the progress they have made has been impressive, with some new appliances and a new tiled backsplash in the kitchen that my brother installed himself; it's gorgeous. It looks like a contractor did it. V's room is complete in beachy blues and whites. They had new lights installed in the living room, and opened up the kitchen a bit so that they've now got a breakfast bar and the space feels very open and social. So the place is at least ready enough for the 14 family members coming over on Christmas day.

I'm generally feeling good and have laughed a LOT, which is something I've really been needing. Also, everyone is very huggy and loving, and that's been healing. It's especially been satisfying to be around my brother, whom I know so well and who knows me so well that the jokes and the glances come fast and furious and communication is at once very verbal and almost completely nonverbal at the same time. I have that with very few people in my life and it's a gift. It's also been satisfying and validating to be with my niece, for whom I'm apparently the cool aunt.

I'm staying in what they call the play room, which is a third bedroom that V uses for hanging out and socializing with friends. The futon has a memory-foam mattress and soft covers and is tolerably comfortable. V has her own Christmas tree in here with a little nativity scene at the base, situated right next to an exercise machine. In the dark, the thing looks like an antlered demon looming over the bed. It freaked me out when I woke up halfway through the night.

It's time for me to get up now, and get the day started. I'm trying not to be self conscious about the weight I've gained and the hair I've lost; it's hard. These things will be resolved in time, one way or another. I've got to be here now and not let them get in the way. I love my family. They love me. And I'm going to bask in every moment of that for as long as I can.

FAQs:
Will you be coming into the city while you're here?

Sadly, no. Much as I'd like to, I don't have the time or the transportation required.
Doesn't that make you crazy? You have friends there, and there's theater and museums and and and . . .
Yes. Please don't rub it in. :: sigh ::
What about the friends in Nassau?
Again no time or transportation. You're killing me here.
Do you sound like you're from Long Island again?
Yep. That didn't take very long at all. It's my sister-in-law's fault. We'll have cawfee and tawk.
scarlettina: (Airplane)
The apartment, our beautiful oasis in the city, has signs near every water faucet reminding us that California is experiencing a severe drought and to please conserve water. Despite these reminders, which my family has verbally acknowledged, I can’t get any of them to actually act like we’re living in a water-deprived area. Michele insists on running the laundry every other day; on the days we don’t do laundry, we’re running the dish washer. By the end of our second day here, I stopped dropping reminders; they will do what they do.

Golden Gate Park: a learning excursion
We started our second day in a leisurely fashion, with breakfast in the apartment. Michele and Valerie kept talking about wanting to go to Golden Gate Park, which is a little like saying one wants to go to Central Park. If you don’t know where in the park you want to go, you’re basically throwing a dart at a dartboard while wearing a blindfold. You could land anywhere, which is what we did. We actually disembarked from our first ride on public transport in a residential neighborhood adjacent to the park. When I asked them what they wanted to do in the park, they kind of looked at me blankly. By the time we’d walked a while—still in the neighborhoods, not in the park yet—we were all hungry and decided to stop for lunch before venturing further. We found a pleasantly commercial area that had strong Asian influence and had lunch at a Thai place. Lunch was delish—we ordered and ate too much food. Then we headed over to the park.

As it turned out, Michele wanted to go to the Botanical Garden. It took us 20 minutes to walk from where we were to the garden gate, where we discovered there was a fee. Michele was ready to abandon the idea when I stepped in to treat the family. I was damned if I was going to waste the afternoon because of an entrance fee. As it turned out, it was money well spent. The garden is large and lush and beautiful, with sections marked out by region. I saw kinds of plants I’ve never seen before. Many flowers were in full bloom and I took some marvelous pictures. I could have spent a lot more time in the garden, but for two facts: 1) We were traveling by a transit system with which we were not yet familiar, and 2) we had a date for the evening.

Beach Blanket Babylon
My cousin Susan is my late cousin Paul’s widow. We are still getting to know her, this as a result of the fact that she and Paul were only married a little more than a year before he died. The whole thing was wonderful and awful all at once. But I knew the moment that I met Susan that I wanted to keep her in my life. She’s a lovely woman, she clearly adored my cousin Paul, and we share many interests, including theater.

And theater is what brought us together for our Sunday evening entertainment. Susan had gotten us tickets for Beach Blanket Babylon, a long-running revue that’s a sort of staple of San Francisco tourist entertainment. The story is thin as tissue paper: Snow White is seeking love around the world and needs advice and help. Along the way, she encounters a variety of celebrities and personalities drawn from pop culture, music and politics who variously showboat and offer counsel. The content of the play evolves each year as news changes and people get their 15 minutes of fame. The costumes are hilarious, the send-ups clever and funny. But what’s most distinctive about the show, besides the absolutely stellar vocal pyrotechnics—these people have chops--is the headgear. The wigs and hats are not to be believed. Some of them tower above the performers, twice as high as they are tall. The wigs are oversized and exaggerated. Some of them have moving parts. It’s all very silly and highly entertaining. We had a perfectly marvelous time.

I did want to note that for all the show’s irreverence, there was one thing that I thought was handled very well. When we arrived, the pre-show music being played as Prince. Throughout the show, Snow White kept talking about finding her prince. Eventually she decides that she’s worthy of a king and she ends up with Elvis. My suspicion is that, at some point during the show, Prince was going to show up. I heard later, as we exited the theater, someone who had seen the show before say that Prince was, in fact, one of the celebrities usually skewered. It’s obvious that the director altered the script as a result of Prince’s (insanely untimely) death to keep things fun and tasteful. They played Prince music as we left the theater as well. Good on them for handling his passing with taste.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant just a couple of blocks away called DeLucchi’s. The food was absolutely delicious and we just rather reveled in each other’s company. I couldn’t get enough of Susan, and as it happened, we already had plans for me to see more of her the next day. We retired happy, well fed, and delightfully entertained.
scarlettina: (Airplane)
Arrived in San Francisco on Saturday around lunchtime. The plan was for me to meet my brother Steve and his family at the airport, so I got in about an hour after they did. We all tromped to the rental car that Steve insisted on getting, and then drove into town to the apartment we rented for the week. I had argued against his getting a car—we’ll be in an urban area, my argument went, there’s plenty of mass transit, and parking will be a pain in the butt. But Steve was adamant. As things have turned out, getting the car was the right thing to do, which will become obvious as my chronicle progresses (though it is the pain in the butt I predicted it would be).

Our apartment and neighborhood
The apartment we’re renting (found via VRBO) is in Noe Valley, just a few blocks from the Mission District. It’s a two-bedroom place, obviously pre-war (but not obviously Victorian) that’s been remodeled inside to maintain the best of its pre-war features while updating things like the bathroom and the kitchen. So the kitchen has a wonderful gas stove, stone counters and a deep, undermounted sink, all the lighting fixtures in the ceiling are accented with medallions, the wainscoting is beautiful white bead board, and the ceilings are coved. The kitchen has this awesome framed poster: a photograph of a boy reading to a kneeling elephant. The title on it says “Ashes and Snow”. The photographer is Gregory Colbert from an exhibit at the Nomadic Museum at Santa Monica in 2006. I want to see if I can find the poster for myself.

Steve and his wife Michele are using the master bedroom; I’m in what is obviously meant to be the kids’ room—two single beds and two lava lamps, of all things--and my niece Valerie is sleeping on the fold-out couch in the living room. The kitchen is spacious. At the back of the kitchen is a door out onto a small wood deck with stairs that go up to the unit above ours, and down into a tightly packed and verdant garden with a wonderful water feature full of koi.

Our first order of business was getting settled and doing some grocery shopping. We found a Safeway and a Walgreens within two or three blocks of where we’re staying, and stocked up. As it turned out, in an effort to pack economically, I forgot to pack socks! I also, as it turns out, did not really choose my clothes well and I feel like I don’t really have what I want to have in terms of variety and practicality. I don’t know why I packed like I did, honestly. I can only chalk it up to pre-trip anxiety and distraction.

After we unpacked, our next priority was finding lunch. We ended up at a place called El Grande Loco Taco. I had a beef burrito—OK, nothing special. We spent the rest of the afternoon just kind of getting settled in.

Dinner with Organic John
Around 5:30ish, we left for our dinner engagement at Michele’s cousin John’s place. We couldn’t have gotten there without a car. John lives in Kentfield, a suburb just north of San Francisco. Michele had arranged the visit before the trip and kindly included me in the invitation. When we arrived, it looked pretty unremarkable: a multi-car garage off a paved road in a wooded area. But once we got out and climbed the stairs up to the house (probably about 50 steps), we emerged to be faced with a small, fenced-in wading pool and a porch area with many plants and ceramic art on the walls. John came out to greet us—a lean, older man with a shock of white hair like Andy Warhol and a wide grin. Then we went into his home.

My first impression was of dark reddish wood everywhere, curved bows over doorways, stained glass accents in all the windows, wood floors with Asian carpets, obviously expensive art pieces scattered tastefully around. His set of vibes sat in the center of a Zen room off the kitchen; he’s a musician. My second thought was “It’s a hobbit hole!” and after I thought it, John actually said “It’s a hobbit house.” Of course, I asked if he was a Tolkein fan; he said no, and it was clear from the way he said it that he had no interest in pop culture whatsoever. That being said, the music for the evening was Pink Martini. He’s a chef, therapist, real estate guy, musician, author, and apparently a cable TV host. Dinner was a vegan feast, very umami in flavor across the board. Over dinner, he held forth about the benefits of eating vegan and organic, staying in shape and so on. He was very . . . emphatic about his positions with regard to these things. He was an engaging and congenial host if, I thought, a bit self-impressed. His house was astonishing; really, we none of us could get over it. I shall post pictures at some point, but I’ve never seen anything like it. It has a small tower reachable only by a floating set of wooden stairs up to a small private dining area lined with his DVD collection and lit by a skylight. The bathroom was fully tiled and included a soaking tub and shower, in a sort of sculptural style that was very organic. The place resists description. He also had two pretty congenial Siamese cats, from whom I took a little solace.

All in all, it was a terrific first day. We all dropped into bed, exhausted and happy.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Star)
Note: This is an expansion of a Facebook post. In an effort to get myself back on the LJ wagon, I'm taking a shortcut of sorts.

I'm a regular watcher of Finding Your Roots on PBS. After tonight's extraordinary episode (Season 3: Family Reunions), I went to the site and found a fascinating article on Jewish genetic genealogy that explains some of the baffling results from my Ancestry DNA test: namely, that thousands of potential family matches showed up. Some of this may be due to the fact that my maternal great grandfather was the father of 23 children (between two wives; yes, really). But that can't account for all those results.

It turns out that the reason for those thousands of results isn't the fact that Great Grandpa Pinchus was prolific. It's that "working with Ashkenazi Jewish autosomal DNA (atDNA) for the purpose of cousin matching has unique challenges due to the fact that the ancestors of Jews today have historically been an isolated population, typically marrying within their own group. The resulting lower degree of genetic variation means that any two people of predominantly Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry are likely to share stretches of matching autosomal DNA that would usually imply recent common ancestry between them, but the genealogical relationship is most often untraceable. This is because rather than a single recent common ancestor contributing this matching atDNA, it was inherited from multiple, more distant ancestors. The contributions from these multiple shared ancestors can add up to enough shared atDNA to mimic a relatively close cousinship."

Technically speaking, this means that Jewish genetic cousin matching is very difficult indeed. Those thousands of matches I received may not actually be relatives at all. Though the Ancestry DNA test results include a lot of information about the results and the test methods, they don't explain this particular issue. Disappointing. Intuitively, the information in the quote above does make sense. And, in fact, after investigating 20 or 30, I have found almost no one who shares surnames with me, or has trees that even might touch mine. I just uncovered one surname that might be a match, but it's a fairly common name (Schwartz) in the wrong part of the European map. I'll still write them; anything is possible. It's on a branch of the family that I have very little information about that's not anecdotal. But it's one out of thousands.

The above-linked blog post explains my voluminous results. It's a little disheartening, I admit. I had hoped for some contact with other descendants of Great Grandpa Pinchus. I may yet have one more route for investigation and when I have time (that copious "spare time" of myth and legend) I want to pursue it.

It's interesting stuff, though. The article is fascinating, even if you're not Jewish, and well worth the reading.
scarlettina: (Trouble get behind me)
My cousin Paul passed away yesterday. The cause was pancreatic cancer. He was 71.

Paul was my father's sister's son. He was 17 years older than me, so we didn't really know each other growing up. He became a doctor, served in Vietnam as a doctor. He became a specialist in what the profession calls electrophysiology, but what we think of as pacemakers. He had 104 pacemaking patents to his credit, published more than 20 peer-reviewed papers, and became not just an educator on the subject but actually wrote the test for others to qualify. He was known all over the world. As a member of the Heart Rhythm Society, he initiated the Honor Your Mentor program to honor those who have made a difference in the electrophysiology profession. His work helps keep my friend [livejournal.com profile] varina8 alive and healthy, along with so many others. He was married twice. His first wife, Lucille, kept him focused on her family, so we didn't see much of him over the years at all. He was devoted to his god daughters. After Lucille passed away, he began to reconnect with our family. It was a joy to see him remarried last year to a lovely woman named Susan, whom I hope to keep in my life. She brought him back to us, and I hate that she had him for so short a time.

Paul's great passion, besides his wives and his work, was butterflies. As a boy, he caught, pinned and framed them. As a man, he traveled the world to photograph them and share his pictures and his knowledge with others. He became a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center and he loved the work.

He was a gentle man with a big heart. It's only within the last couple of years that we got to know each other at all. And now he's gone. There wasn't enough time.
scarlettina: (Airplane)
I just got off the phone with my sister-in-law and my niece. I haven't seen them in nearly two years, and I understand that my niece, who is 12, has changed some since the last time I saw her. It's that time of her life, of course. We'll be seeing each other in the spring and I'm very much looking forward to it. It's funny, though--talking on the phone, her conversational patterns are the same. I have to ask all the questions and I work hard to not ask yes/no questions because that's pretty much all I'll get. But her mom tells me she's reading a lot (which I'm completely delighted about). And when I look at her wishlist on Amazon.com, I see that her tastes are changing, becoming more teenaged girl than they have been before. On the one hand, I hate being so far away and not being able to see her more (not to mention, of course, my brother and sister-in-law). On the other hand, I get to see her grow and change in leaps rather than in tiny increments, and there's something very cool about that.

This weekend, my brother is visiting my cousin P, whom I saw a couple of weeks back. I haven't spoken to him while he's been traveling, but my sister-in-law has. She says she expects him to come home a mess. I don't doubt it. I had such a hard time myself. I know that my last visit is probably the last time I'll see Cousin P; that's true for my bro as well. He heads back to Long Island (from southern CA) today; in fact, he's flying as I type. I don't envy him the flight. I wish I could be there to give him a hug when he lands.
scarlettina: (Trouble get behind me)
Sunday morning, it was clear that what I thought were allergies to the dog were combined with a cold I'd picked up on the plane. I was not happy about having a cold around my immuno-compromised cousin. Paul was feeling a little better--not great, but in less pain and better rested. I had hoped, this trip, to go with him to Placerita Canyon Nature Center, where he's a docent and amateur naturalist. He wasn't up for a hike; he was saving his energy for our plans later in the day. So that morning, I went by myself and texted him my impressions. It's a sere and beautiful place, wildlife abundant if you keep your eyes open. It's also home to several injured birds who act as ambassadors for visitors, including a raven, a turkey vulture, and a red-tailed hawk. (Man, those guys are big--I always forget! I loved its tan, feathery bloomers.) I was there about an hour, wandering the trails, watching the bird life, keeping an eye out for butterflies (Paul's particular passion). In the end, despite having water with me, the heat took more out of me than I expected, so I headed back to the house.

Well, I tried to, anyway. Paul and Susan had allowed me to use Paul's Lexus Hybrid. What I didn't understand about driving this magnificent piece of machinery is that if the key fob isn't within a certain proximity of the steering wheel, the car just shuts off. I didn't know this and, without thinking about it, opened the door, got into the car, and put the key fob into my pocketbook on the passenger seat. Turns out, the passenger seat is too far away for the car to recognize. So I pulled out, and then the car just . . . stopped. It took a kind stranger to help me figure out what was wrong. It was a combination of user error, security protocols and, perhaps, a little bit of design sexism acting together. At any rate, problem solved, I headed back to the house.

For that afternoon, Paul and Susan had secured tickets to an L.A. Theater Works production of "American Buffalo" by David Mamet. I'm a big fan of LATW; I listen to it on my local NPR affiliate regularly. I'm also a fan of Mamet, the rhythm of his language and his astonishing character work. I was very excited about going when Paul and Susan told me of the plan shortly after I arrived on Friday. From this remove, I think that perhaps Paul was determined to attend this performance as a result of my enthusiasm more than anything else. We met some of Susan's friends at the theater, generally lovely people, alert and interesting, and watched the play. It was a good production--radio theater is always fun. About halfway through, it was clear that Paul was having a hard time. I offered to him that, having seen a production in Seattle, I would be fine with our leaving if he needed to go. He wouldn't hear of it. We stayed until the end. They retired immediately upon our return home.

Monday morning, Susan had an early appointment. She had arranged for friends of hers--Wendy and Hugh--to take me to the airport. Paul and I had about 20 minutes to talk, just us, and we talked about sort of inconsequential things: my work on Ancestry.com tracing our family, my showing Susan how it worked, that sort of thing. He gave me a piece of petrified wood that had belonged to his father, gathered on one of his innumerable travels. But there wasn't enough time, real time, to say whatever we might have said of any substance. I think we both had it beneath our skin.

Paul's got my Aunt Shirley's eyes, this sort of placid, striated blue. These days, they're understandably sad and, as a result of his chemo, lashless. The chemo has also left him beardless and mostly bald, except for a stubble of white around the sides. I can't remember my Uncle Larry, his father, ever having white hair, but Paul's got his other features. I could see both of his parents in his face; it was disconcerting, like three people looking at me all at once. It was almost painful to see, and I understood that all four of us wanted more connection somehow, and there just wasn't that much time left to have that in any substantial way.

When the doorbell rang, we both paused, and then I went to get it, because there was really nothing else to do. Wendy and Hugh came in; Paul got up to greet them. He always been taller than me, but with a slight, comfortable slouch. These days, it's a tired slouch, and he's walking like an old man for the first time that I can remember. I hated to see it. We gathered my things. I wanted so much to hug and kiss him goodbye, but with him being so vulnerable and me with my cold, it wasn't the smart thing to do. I told him point-blank that I love him and that I'd be in touch. And then I left.

And without expecting it at all, once we got to the car, I just disintegrated. I totally hadn't expected it, but I guess I'd sort of been pushing it down all weekend. I cried almost all the way to the airport. Wendy and Hugh were remarkably kind. Wendy's a lay minister and was really good with me, just talking through what I was feeling and helping me pull myself together for the flight.

People leave. People just . . . end. I've known it, really understood it, since I was 11 when my father died. It's never easy and it will never stop. I hate it.

But I'm glad I took this trip, as hard as it was. I'm the only family on the west coast interested enough to visit Paul now and was glad to do it. I just wish that there could be more visits with him healthy enough to be present and active. I don't want my next trip to southern California to be for a funeral. I may not have a choice.
scarlettina: (Blue)
Arrived in the Los Angeles area yesterday to visit my cousin Paul and his wife Susan. Paul's got pancreatic cancer, and I wanted to see him before he was completely incapacitated. Our first evening together was good. They picked me up at the airport, we went out for dinner, then came back to the house and watched the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. And then, at 7:30 PM, they announced they were going to bed. Paul was more tired than they expected. I stayed up, had a phone call with [livejournal.com profile] varina8, watched some tube, and then went to bed.

Today, we were supposed to go see a production of "42nd Street," but Paul was so weak, so tired, and feeling so bad that Susan donated the tickets. I walked the dog, she cared for Paul, and then she and I went to the movies ("Carol" starring Cate Blanchett--terrific). When we got home, Paul was feeling better. Dinner was pizza and salad, and then they retired.

So here I sit, alone in the living room, watching TV, journaling and completely unsure what's going to happen tomorrow. I've been in touch with a local friend whom I may see if things don't work out here. Susan's predictably in pieces, angry that they've had so little time together (they got married a year ago August) and scared for the future. Paul is managing things gracefully but he's clearly ill and trying to prepare himself, reflecting on his life and accomplishments, his family and his general good fortune.

Susan said they talked about telling me to cancel the trip, but he wanted me to come. She said that last week he was feeling much better than he is now, and it would have been a completely different visit. She also said it was likely that this was probably the last time I'd see him. I'm having a hard time thinking that way. After years of not being in touch, we're finally back in touch. Now that I've got him again, I don't want to lose him either. The truth is, she's probably right. The way he looks, he reminds me of how his father--my beloved Uncle Larry--looked when he was dying of cancer (in his case, prostate cancer). If anything good is coming out this trip at all, it's that I am getting to see him and that Susan and I are bonding and getting to know each other better.

At this point, I'm at something of a loss. We looked at each other over dinner tonight, me and Paul, and I could see there wasn't much to say. So . . . I'm just being here. I don't know what else to do.

DNA ABC

Mon, Aug. 3rd, 2015 10:11 pm
scarlettina: (Autumn)
As a gift to myself for my birthday, I ordered up a DNA ethnicity profile from Ancestry.com. While I was reasonably sure what the results would be, I thought it might be fun to see if anything unexpected popped up. The results are that I'm 94% Eastern European Jew (shock! SHOCK!), and then trace amounts of other ethnicities. The report says that my genetic profile shows a slightly lower-than-average amount of Jewish genetic heritage, but at 94%, no one's going to argue that I'm not an Ashkenazi Jew.

The detail that surprised me was 2% Scandanavian. Now, the website says the following about trace amounts of ethnicity (by which they seem to be referring to amounts that are 5% or less): "These are regions where you seem to have just a trace amount of genetic ethnicity — there is only a small amount of evidence supporting the regions as part of your genetic ethnicity. Because both the estimated amount and the range of the estimate are small, it is possible that these regions appear by chance and are not actually part of your genetic ethnicity." That's probably true, but I get a kick out of thinking that somewhere in my genetic heritage there's a Viking pining for the fjords. :-)

I found it mildly disappointing that the profile didn't show any Italian or Greek, given that I've been mistaken for both of those at one point or another. Another trace was 1% Caucasus, a whole percentage point less than the Scandanavian, but far less interesting to me, I admit.

Another interesting part of the report was a list of other Ancestry members who had done the test who were almost certainly second, third and fourth cousins, most of whom I've never heard of, and many of whom aren't or don't appear to be Jewish. I looked at some of their trees and found no surnames in common--although given how families fled Europe and names got changed, I suppose anything is possible. I need to investigate those lists a little more, and I need to find a way to continue building my tree. You know, in my copious spare time.

Anyway, fun.
scarlettina: (Writing)
I recently rediscovered a looseleaf book full of acid-free pages that I put together to store a treasure trove of pictures and correspondence from my father's side of the family. Last night and tonight, I've taken some time to scan and transcribe some of the correspondence therein. It's fascinating to read my paternal grandfather's letters to my grandmother before they were married. He is a devoted suitor, an entirely different man than the one I knew as a child. Most of the letters date from 1915, the year they became engaged to be married--100 years ago! I can't seem to load an image of the letter that I wanted to share (I'm getting a file size error, though it's no more specific than that), but here's the transcript. It mainly concerns the acquisition of invitations for their engagement party. (ETA: Actually, the letter isn't dated. It was in an envelope that, as it turned out, belonged to a different letter, matched by dates. This letter may concern invitations to either their engagement party or their wedding. It's unclear.)

Dear Little Girl.

I just received a telephone message from Mr. Bernstein that he will not be able to entertain me to-night on account of feeling very ill; therefore you will not have to hurry in coming over to the house to-night.

About the invitations. The kind that we ordered was not made up on account of the price. He wanted $6.00 for 100 and I couldn’t see into it. Therefore a prettier and plainer card was ordered. That is the arrangement my father made.

Sadie, I’d rather give you the other couple of dollars and have you buy a better hat or a better shirt or anything else that would be necessary for you to wear. Now I hope this will be satisfactory for you as I think it is a very good idea. They will be thrown away, the good invitations as well as the other.

My best regards to your folks and Sophie.
I remain as ever
Morris
Lots of love to my dear little girl


Now, there are any number of things about this letter that I love, but the thing I love about it the most is that this is my grandfather, a man whom I knew to be cranky and bitter and generally pretty unhappy. To see him write such a letter with obvious care and thought, and to sign it the way he did, is just amazing to me. At the same time, that second paragraph contains an interesting contradiction. My grandfather says that he couldn't see the price, but that his father made a different arrangement--so who made the decision to get less expensive cards, my grandfather or my great grandfather? (I should note that I have one of the invitations--the card is plain as can be, no adornment, but of a good, thick stock.) My great grandfather had a far worse reputation than my grandfather did, so I wonder if a choice presented as a pound-wise decision was actually someone pinching pennies. I can't be sure, but the generosity of the offer from my grandfather to my soon-to-be grandmother is very sweet.

And here's the invitation (click to embiggen):
scarlettina: (Happy Sun)
I'm nearly a week behind recording my trip notes, but I don't want to stint on my trip reporting mainly because there's so much I want to remember.

Breakfast
Sunday I got up early. My friend AC picked me up at the hotel for breakfast at the Egg Plantation, home of 101 omelets. The place is hugely popular locally, and though they don't take reservations, A managed our arrival so that we were seated minutes after we arrived. As it happens, I didn't choose one of those many omelettes; I had the quiche with fruit, which was absolutely delicious. Visiting with A was a delight. She's a friend that I met through penny-smashing, and I haven't seen her in more than a decade. She's the reason, in fact, that I got into Disney pin collecting. I had forgotten how much we have in common, between our collecting and our crafting, and we chattered like girls through the whole meal.

Museum
When we concluded our meal, we realized that I had time before I needed to be back at the hotel to prepare to attend my cousin's wedding, so we headed over to the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum to poke around. Neither of us realized how much silent film history and Western film history the place would cover. Our timing was such that while we could walk the grounds and do the self-guided tour of the bunk house (which featured some interesting architectural detail, some cool memorabilia, and beautiful tack) we couldn't take the mansion tour. We did see some of the resident bison herd, but they were pretty far off from the overlook point. Had we been within easy reach of A's truck, we might have gone back and driven down to the corral to see them up close. As it is, I've made a mental note to return on a future trip when there's more time.

Wedding
I was back at the hotel by 1 PM, napped, showered, did my hair and make-up, and got into my party duds. My brother, sister-in-law and I drove over the venue--the clubhouse at the development where my cousins will be living moving forward. It's a beautiful facility, with a spacious foyer, a courtyard, a vaulted-ceiling great room, and a sprawling porch overlooking a lake in the heart of the development.

The evening started with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Soon enough, we were herded into the great room for the ceremony. The place was festooned with flowers in jewel tones, and the bouquets all featured silk butterflies (a lifelong interest of my cousin P's). Every chair was wrapped with a burgundy swag tied with a bow and a rose. A string quartet played while we waited for the wedding party to line up. The processional included my cousin P's god daughters, his fiance's grandchildren, and then P and then his fiance accompanied by her sons. The bride wore a form-fitting, dark gray gown with a neckline that was somewhere between a boatneck and an off-the-shoulder affair, with a paler gray ruffle that trailed down her back. It was quite elegant, very lovely. Given everything that each of them has been through, there wasn't a dry eye in the house by the end of the ceremony. I was delighted to see P so happy, and S so clearly devoted to him.

After the ceremony, we vacated the room so that the caterers could switch it over for dinner and dancing. The switch happened quickly while we were all offering hugs and congratulations. Once the tables were set up and the band stand was erected, we were invited back in for a kiddush with an epic-sized challah (seriously, the thing must have been 10 feet long). Dinner was a choice of beef or salmon, with some vegetarian option in there that I completely missed. And then we danced until the party broke up at about 9ish (we started at 4 PM).

My bro, sis-in-law, and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out in my room and talking about all sorts of things. We had a long, deep conversation of a kind we haven't really had in a long while. When we all finally did get sleepy, we brkoe up the party. I was probably asleep within 20 minutes--a fine, satisfying day.
scarlettina: (Angel)
This weekend is an emotional journey and a day-to-day journey. I'm going to talk about the day-to-day journey in this entry. While I'll talk a little about the emotional journey, well, I won't write about it too deeply right now; I still have a lot to assimilate and consider. I may write about it at some point, but probably in a locked post and probably not this morning. Some things I don't need to share with the Entire World of the Internets.

Mani-pedis and family bonding
Friday morning, my cousin PL's fiance SS picked up my sister-in-law and myself at the hotel, and we all headed off to get mani/pedis. This was a plan that I had proposed because I wanted an opportunity to get to know SS a little better, and because I know that sis-in-law would have done this before she left Long Island anyway. Seemed like a nice way to bond with the girls a bit. I was pleased when SS jumped at the chance; I knew that sis-in-law would be into it. I still feel like I have new skin, two days later. My original thought was to get a French manicure on my fingers and some color on my toes. I ended up getting a sort of pale yellow/gold on both because it was close to my skin tone. As I've spent time in the unrelenting sun here in southern CA, the contrast between my nails and my skin has intensified. So much for a neutral color treatment! Having never gotten a pedicure before, I felt completely pampered and almost embarrassed by all the attention. My sister-in-law was entertained by my reactions to the whole thing.

We followed that up with having lunch at the restaurant that's catering the wedding on Sunday. The food was fresh and light and delicious. We got to know my sister-in-law much better over lunch. She was admirably frank about her personal history, a harrowing and in some respects horrifying odyssey (not mine to share). The fact that she's so together and so remarkably level-headed and, in fact, so vivacious and charming in the wake of all that left a profound impression on me. She clearly adores my cousin (I am biased in the opinion that he deserves such adoration), and I think they are very good for each other.

Tchaikovsky!
Friday evening, my cousin treated 19 of us who had come in from out of town to a dinner and concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The program was Tchaikovsky featuring violin soloist Alexandra Soumm (a positively pyrotechnic performance!), and the evening closed out with the 1812 Overture featuring the USC Marching Band (apparently a big deal around here) and fireworks. The evening was nearly perfect, with the exception of an unsettling encounter with another cousin with whom, well, things were tense, to put it mildly. Two sleeps later, the encounter has dwindled in my perception, but it cast a pall.

Hiking and personal history
Saturday morning, my brother, sister-in-law and I were up early. My cousin PL picked us up and we headed over to Vasquez Rocks for a hike. My brother didn't know where we were going--PL and I deliberately kept it a secret--so when we got there, I was treated to his delight at hiking around the rock formations that featured so prominently in several episodes of Star Trek. My cousin is a docent at another nature center locally, so as we hiked, we were treated to his insights about the local flora and fauna. We are all so clearly related, snapping pictures, examining the littlest things, just sort of soaking up the experience. It was such a great excursion. Unfortunately, the heat took its toll on my sister-in-law, who suffered quite a bit from nausea as a result. By the time we got to a restaurant for lunch afterwards, she was wilting pretty badly. The food helped revive her a little.

After lunch, PL took us over to his house. The place--a 4,000 square-foot mansion which he shared with his first wife--is up for sale. He's staying there until the wedding. This was the first time I'd ever visited the place, and it's beautiful, with skylights and stretches of windows that overlook the entire valley. I've been to large homes before, and the thing that impressed me about this place was that though it's very large, the rooms were of a scale so as not to make it feel overwhelming. Furnished in the pastels that his late wife preferred (the shade dusty rose was a big thing for her; not to my taste but she made it work), it was tranquil even in the lavishness of its furnishings.

As a result of his impending move, PL is downsizing his possessions pretty significantly. At one point, PL said to me, "I have something for you." What he had was a needlepoint that his mother, my much-beloved Aunt Shirley, had made, of a girl reading a book. I've always loved that piece and it will find an honored place on the walls of my home. He also gifted me with one of his late wife's several cameos. I'll be wearing it to the wedding. He gifted my brother with his grandfather's pocketwatch, and my sister-in-law with a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings, again, that belonged to his late wife. I have spent the whole weekend overwhelmed by his love and generosity.

In the wake of all this, I found myself crashing both physically and emotionally. G-d bless [livejournal.com profile] varina8 for her love and support when I called her to talk. She is smart and wise and knows me very, very well. I was grateful for the time we spent on the phone together.

Barbecue and chillin' out
Saturday evening, a small group of us went over to SS's home for a little barbecue. It was a fairly small crowd and, as I think about it now, a pretty intimate one in that it was mainly immediate family and very close friends. I was honored to be part of this gathering. I spent a little time talking to PL's goddaughters--lovely girls--whom I've never met before, and chatting with SS's closest friends. The day remained warm but breezes cooled things off to a comfortable temperature. The food was basic barbecue fare: burgers, salad, fruit, topped off with a raspberry lemon bundt cake. A nice relaxing way to close the day.

My bro, sis-in-law, and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out together in my room at the hotel, planning for our Monday excursion and catching up a bit.

Notes
I have spent most of my life pretty estranged from what little family I have. As I experienced last year with my cousin M's funeral, the reconnection with the family has been a pretty emotional journey for me. While I won't get into specifics, it has provoked a lot of reflection. I received an email from my cousin PL this morning expressing his gratitude for my presence this weekend and promising regular visits to Seattle. I . . . don't know how to express my reaction to such a confession and promise. It feels remarkable to me. I have a lot to process.
scarlettina: (Angel)
It's been a really interesting 36 hours.

In the space of that time I have done the following things:

I finished editing and delivered the latest Kobold Guide. Oh, did I mention? Yes, there's another Kobold Guide coming, specifically the Kobold Guide to Combat, scheduled for a Christmas release. Delighted with the line-up. Despite some challenges in the production (about which I plan to post another time; I have a lot of thinking and processing to do about that), I think we've got a great book, a terrific cover (which you can see at the link--perfect for the market and the subject), and am generally really pleased.

I nailed down the details for a panel discussion/reading/book signing at University Bookstore for said book for Wednesday, November 5 at 7 PM. Nervous and excited about that. My first real book signing. As the book's editor, mostly I'll be there to moderate whatever discussion we have. More details on that as we get closer to the event.

I packed my bags and got on a plane. I'm in Valencia, CA at this moment, here to attend my cousin's wedding and what has turned out to be something of a family reunion. Got in midday yesterday. Cousin and his fiance picked me up at Bob Hope Airport (Burbank) and was surprised by the size (tiny!) and intimacy of the place. It was actually far more pleasant than flying into LAX--and much closer to my ultimate destination.

I met my cousin's fiance. Here's what you need to know about why this is kind of remarkable. My cousin is 66 and this is his second go-round on the nuptial carousel. They were actually kind of adorable together and she seems completely lovely. She and my sister-in-law and I are going out this morning to get mani-pedis together. I wanted a little more private time to get to know her, and she jumped at the chance, which pleased me. It bodes well for the future, I think.

I dealt with a migraine. About halfway through my flight from San Francisco to Burbank, I began to get a headache that escalated into a full-blown migraine by the time I was done with lunch. My cousin got me back to the hotel in reasonable time, and I spent the afternoon medicating and resting/sleeping. By dinner time, I was in much better shape, and ready for my dinner engagement.

For dinner, I met a group of friends--Amy, Dan, David and Jeremy--for a late dinner at Lucille's Smokehouse Barbeque. I haven't seen Amy in 16 years, but it was like picking up a conversation we had left off just yesterday. Turned out--and I didn't know this--that David and Jeremy knew each other; was delighted and pleased by that. Dan looked terrific and had book covers to show off. Mostly, we laughed a lot. The ebb and flow of the conversation was just wonderful, and I came away wanting to come back soon to spend more time with these people.

Jeremy and I took some time after dinner to have drinks and catch up a bit. We ended up at a place called The Tilted Kilt which was loud. We sat on the patio in the hopes of avoiding the live music (which really needed avoiding) and ended up instead being treated to the loud and occasionally profane chatter of a bunch of college boys who insisted on standing just the other side of the barrier between the restaurant patio and the street. We mostly ignored them when it was possible to do so (though it was an exercise in self-restraint for me not to ask them to move along; it had the potential, though, to escalate into something that would have ruined the evening), and had a really fine conversation later into the evening.

So with the exception of the unfortunate headache--intense but, thankfully, brief--the trip has started off really well. I've been a little nervous about it; all this goodness has taken the edge off of that anxiety. My brother and sister-in-law arrive today; can't wait to see them. I'm looking forward to another really good day.

Mother's Day

Sun, May. 11th, 2014 11:49 am
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
So . . . it's Mother's Day in the US. For those of us who lost their mothers young, it's always a tough day. I miss my mom. I was angry at her for years -- when she got sick, when she died. I was angry at her for how she dealt with my father's death, but that's mainly because at 11 years old, I didn't truly understand what she was mourning, and I was busy mourning, too. When I lived back east, Mothers' Day was the day I went to the cemetery. Fathers' Day, too. I had a lot of residual anger at my mom that I've worked my whole adult life to process and, somewhere around 10 years ago or so, it seems to have just evaporated. I'm sure that this was the result of a lot of years of therapy but, more importantly, I'm sure it was also the result of just getting older, accumulating more experience, thinking and processing everything that happened, and then letting go of the things I had no control over back then and things I'll never be able to change. This is part of the process of growing up, maturing -- in one fashion or another. I can love her for who she was and all that she brought with her. I can love her for what she tried to do and for what she succeeded in doing. I can love her for making me and my brother. I can love her.

I always wanted to be a mother. I very much wanted to have children. I think I've written about this here before: that I wanted to have a family, but I didn't want to do it alone. I considered single motherhood. I wrote up a list of the friends I thought I'd ask about donating sperm, though I never floated the suggestion with any of them. (My list today would be significantly different than it was back then, with one key exception.) But in the end, doing it with a partner was key, and I never quite managed to find that partner. (Not saying it won't happen, but the childbearing aspect is pretty much a non-starter at this point.) And so there are no children. It still makes me sad. And I still find myself thinking things like, "When I have a daughter . . ." I can't seem to break the habit.

On Facebook today, I've seen people saying things like:
  • "And for all women who chose not to be moms: you made a valid choice that was right for you."

  • "My deepest love and respect to any who have accepted that extraordinary challenge; to all who seek to do so; and to all who made the equally righteous choice to leave motherhood to others for one reason or another."

  • "So, happy Mothers' Day to all you women out there; chances are that, even if you haven't mothered a human child, you've mothered a cat or a puppy or a friend in need. Cheers, all of you, all of us."

I find these posts enormously comforting. I made my choice for the right reasons, even though they were hard reasons. But they were the right ones; of this I am certain. It's a balm to me to see acknowledgment of those choices as valid and worthy.

And you know, if that last quote has any bearing at all, then for Flatbush, Merlin, Spanky, Sophie and Ezekiel, I've been a mother -- mother enough at any rate. And if it's not too self-aggrandizing to say so, I think maybe I've been a mother to a friend every now and then.

I'll take that, for what it's worth.
scarlettina: (Candle)
It's been that kind of week-and-a-half. I posted briefly about the death of my brilliantly gifted cousin St. Martins VP Matt Shear while I was in New York. While I was traveling, we all received the wonderful news that [livejournal.com profile] mrdorbin and [livejournal.com profile] southplains became the fathers of a beautiful baby girl. And then this week, in rapid succession, we lost both the brilliant and gentlemanly author Frederik Pohl and the brilliant, ebullient, and fierce author and author's advocate Ann Crispin. When mortality hits, it hits hard.

I'm grateful to have known, even at a warm-acquaintance distance, Ann Crispin. My introduction to her work was inauspicious. I received her book, Yesterday's Son, as a gift from my cousin Eric, who wasn't fond of her as a person (they were coworkers) but who knew I was a Star Trek fan. She autographed the book to me for him, nevertheless, but he colored my initial perception of her with his presentation. When I finally met her, she was a large, enthusiastic, energetic presence, and I liked her despite my conditioning. That conditioning rapidly dissipated. We were ever close? No. But because her energy was infectious and her smile immediate, every meeting was like meeting an old friend all over again. The last time I saw her, I ran into her completely unexpectedly at the Museum of Natural History in NYC a couple of Christmases ago. We chatted quickly and with great energy in that massively confused crowd, and I regretted that the visit was so brief. I'm glad to have had it at all.

I met Fred Pohl at the very first Foolscap. He was there as one of the two guests of honor. (The other was Ginjer Buchanan, creating an automatic theme for the weekend.) He was gracious to everyone, generous with his time, and he dazzled this fan, who had read his novel Gateway (and the other Heechee books) very early on in her history as an SF reader.

I haven't said much about Matthew's death because it's a complicated thing for me. Matt was my first cousin and, like all my cousins but one, older than me--some by a decade and more. As adults, the age difference shouldn't have made a difference, but as children, 6 years was an uncrossable chasm. And so, growing up, I suspect he always thought of me as a kid, and I always thought of him as part of the older-cousin cohort. It meant that our relationship was well-intentioned but not close. The peculiar thing is that it might have been and never was. He was already an officer at Bantam when I started in publishing. I never talked about our relationship with coworkers because I wanted my career to be my own, and I didn't spend any time with him for the same reason. But given that we both loved books and the business, we might have been closer. It just . . . never happened. My family had started to disintegrate after my mother's death. With the death of Matt's father (my mother's brother) it shattered completely. Once I left for Seattle, my only ties were my brother and my cousin E--and that's pretty much how it stayed. So when I got the news of Matthew's death from a publishing friend--and I happened to be in New York--I knew I had to go to the funeral to pay my respects and try to reconnect with that side of the family.

I did not anticipate the welcome I received. My aunt dissolved into tears when she saw my brother and me. My cousin S, Matt's sister, did as well, saying that I looked about 16. I was moved in ways I hadn't expected. After the service, my aunt and my cousin and I spent hours talking. In the end, though Matt and I weren't close, he brought me back to family.

I have a lot more I want to say about all this, but I have more processing to do. I don't know how things are going to play out with that side of the family from here. I hope we can continue to be in touch. My aunt is in her early 80s and at this point I suspect her time is limited though she looks good and seems to get around well. My cousin S and I have lived very different lives, but I want to try to find some commonality with her.

Like I said, I have more thinking to do. Mortality will do that to you.
scarlettina: (Angel)
Matt's death kinda threw all of our thinking about my visit to my brother's place into disarray, hence the lack of blogging for the rest of the trip. Here's a summary of the week in bullet points, because at 6 AM, that seems to be all I'm capable of.

Shopping: Once a funeral became part of our plans, I had to find something to wear. My sister-in-law took me shopping, and I found a top, slacks and shoes for the event. I wasn't planning to come home from the trip with new, work-appropriate clothes, but there you are.

Fire: That evening, my brother built a fire in the firepit in the backyard. We sat around the fire, toasted marshamllows, made 'smores, and tried to relax--which I think we did. My niece brought her hermit crabs down from her bedroom in a large cardboard box and we had crab races. I ate one too many 'smores. We did a little stargazing. It was a pleasant, quiet evening, and just what was needed.

Memorial: It's a two hour trip from my brother's place on the Island to the uptown Manhattan location of the funeral home where the memorial service was held. We traveled into town with a friend of the family and her daughter. They took my niece for the day while we headed to the service. I'd already been in touch with my aunt, whom I haven't spoken to in longer than I'd prefer to admit, so going into the side room where she, my cousin, and their family members waited before the ceremony was a little stressful, but ultimately to the good. It was a good reunion under terrible circumstances. We promised we'd see each other after the service. The chapel where the service was held was enormous, and filled to the rafters. I saw several publishing associates I hadn't seen since I left New York. The tributes to my cousin were eloquent and evocative--but that's what happens when your social circle is full of actors and publishing types. Everyone speaks well and writes beautifully. I don't think we could have given Matt a better send-off if we'd tried.

Post-memorial: After the service, we went to my cousin's widow's home. It's an apartment in a circa-1920s building with Tiffany stained glass illuminated in the building foyer. The apartment itself was large and beautifully appointed, with gorgeous architectural detail--crown moldings and arched entries and large windows--where we spent most of our time catching up with family we haven't seen in a very long time. We spent a couple of hours there, confirmed contact information and then, when the crowd got to be a little too much for me, finally departed. We had an excellent lunch at a restaurant recommended by Yelp! called Henry's, and then headed back to Penn Station for the long ride home. As planned we eventually rendezvoused with the family friend and my niece; I don't remember all the details. I was terrifically tired. We finally got to bed close to midnight.

Out east: Part of my hopes for the trip included going to the beach, as one does on Long Island. Island beaches are great--fine sand, crashing waves, good sun--unlike much of what's available in the Puget Sound region. My brother indulged me on Saturday, and we drove south and east to the Hamptons to Cupsogue Beach, one of the few public beaches on the east end of the Island. To get there, you drive through the colony of mansions and beach homes that have proliferated. Some of these houses--and they are mansions--are beautiful; some of architectural monstrosities, probably partly designed by owners. It was fun and interesting to peek past the tall shrubs lining the roads to get glimpses of these spectacular homes and their fantasy cars--Maseratis were common--and then to see the places even closer to the water, large enough to house 20 people, much less a family of four.

Beach: Cupsogue is a family-friendly beach, uncrowded even at the height of the beach day. It offers a snack-and-drink hut with picnic benches and table service if you want it, and live bands on summer weekends (but not so loud as to be intrusive on the beach itself). It's not a "scene;" it's a hang-out-and-have-fun beach, which is exactly what we did. I built a lumpy-but-nevertheless-awesome sand castle with my niece. We walked along the strand; I dipped myself thigh-deep in the water. We sunned ourselves. It was a lovely day. We ended it by driving out to Southampton for dinner and to stroll the astonishing shopping strip, filled with places I could never afford, the streets lined with BMWs, Lexuses, Cadillacs, Audis, and the occasional Maserati. We had a tasty dinner at The Driver's Seat, strolled a little more, and then headed west. We did stop for a little ice cream on the way, at the New York Stuffed Cone Co., which my niece really wanted me to experience, and then we headed home.

Pre-flight brekkies: We had pre-flight brekkies at a place called Toast in Port Jefferson, where the food was hearty, tasty, and well-served. And then we hit the road for the airport. My niece begged me, in her quiet way, not to leave. When I asked her who would take care of my kitties, she said, "Magic robot Janna." Can't fault a kid for trying.

Regrets: I think my biggest regret of the trip is that I didn't get to see two of my niece's cousins. There's some family stuff going on that interfered with our hopes of getting together. We tried to negotiate some kind of compromise, but finally--with the news of Matt's death--I just gave up trying. I'd traveled across the country to see everyone, and got tired of trying to accommodate the family drama. I respect my brother and sister-in-law's position in the affair, but I dislike that the conflict got in the way of my seeing the cousins, who had nothing to do with the business and wanted to see me when I came out. I hate having disappointed them, and I myself am disappointed as well.

In the end, it was a good trip and I'm enormously glad that I went. I'm not really ready to go back to day-to-day living, but the calendar ticks on. And, it being September, it appears that the rains have returned.
scarlettina: (Trouble get behind me)
In my last post, I mentioned that this past weekend I'd received news of a death. The death in question was that of my brother's best friend's wife. While this may seem like a distant connection, it's closer than you may think for reasons that will become clear.Cut for flist mercy and for cancer and triggery stuff )

I've been thinking about changing my reading habits in the morning. I read LJ at the start of each day, but I'm beginning to think that the things I'm reading in the morning are opening up wounds that never really heal for me and it's beginning to feel like I'm slicing myself to pieces bit by bit. I once had a therapist tell me that I have all the symptoms of PTSD when I talk about my mother's death; I never took it seriously until I was treated for PTSD, a treatment that I have had to acknowledge hasn't stuck mainly due to repeated exposure to new trauma. About the Boston marathon bombing news, [livejournal.com profile] suricattus posted on Twitter, "Reminder: if you're feeling echoes of past Bad Stuff, reading the news out of Boston, it's ok to look away. You're not letting anyone down." I'm feeling echoes of Bad Stuff. I may look away for a while. It's not a lack of love or strength. It's a matter of self-preservation.

PS--I don't want condolences upon Nancy's death; I'm serious about this. While her loss is painful, I didn't know her well. I'm mourning more for what her husband and family, and my brother are experiencing because I'm empathetic to their experience. And I'm dealing with the cascade of stuff that's been triggered by her death, especially in the context I've described above. I wrote about all this mainly because it's a way to start addressing it. We deal with things one day, and one word, at a time.
scarlettina: (Default)
Happy Father's Day to all the fathers I'm proud to call friends (too many to name). And happiest of happy Father's Days to my brother who's an awesome step-dad to my niece. And lastly, a tip of the hat to my own dad (seen here with little me), gone too soon, but loved no less for it and always in my heart.
Daddy and me poolside
scarlettina: (Airplane)
Tuesday, Bro and I went to EMP. He enjoyed the Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and the horror movie exhibits. I enjoyed the "Avatar" and the "Sound and Vision" exhibits. We met up with Sister-in-Law (SIL) and Niece, took the monorail into downtown, strolled Pike Place Market and had lunch.

We parted company in the late afternoon, and then reunited for dinner at Blue C Sushi. While they all enjoy sushi, they'd never been to a conveyor-belt sushi place, and it proved delightful for all of them. I was pleased to see how entertained they were by the moving banquet before us. Niece tried foods she'd never had before, which impressed her parents. Bro, a sushi stickler, pronounced the sushi generally pretty good, which pleased me because I'd set low expectations. Mainly, they were all so tickled by the experience and the generally decent quality of the food that the meal was a great success. We strolled Fremont a bit and visited the Center of the Universe and the Lenin statue. We then retired to my place for a bit to look at old family pictures. I gave SIL and Niece a little precis in our family history--what I know of it. And then I took them back to the hotel.

And yesterday I was back to work. We had an excellent dinner at the hotel. Locals: if you've never eaten at the Edgwater, I strongly recommend it. I was impressed by every thing I tasted. The dining room is upscale, atmospheric, and has a wonderful view of Elliot Bay. We talked and talked, and then we parted company.

It's been lovely having them here, and I regret their departure. But there will be more visits, I'm sure. Niece was ready to stay and move in. :-) It's nice having family. I haven't had much of this sort of thing in a long, long while.
scarlettina: (Default)
Sunday Summary:
--Brunch at my place (the cheese and veggie fritata was a smash)
--Archie McPhee for silliness
--UW Campus for cherry blossom viewing
--Sleep-over with niece

Monday Summary:
--Picked up the family and headed east to Snoqualmie for waterfall viewing, lunch at the candy factory, and a visit to the Northwest Railroad Museum
--Split up for the afternoon. They did the Underground Tour. I came home, finished reading The Sleeping Partner by our own [livejournal.com profile] madrobins about which more anon, and took a nap.
--Dinner at the 5 Spot
--Board game (specifically Mancala) at the hotel

Exhausting days, but good quality time.

My food program is completely blown. I want so badly to get back on the program but there's been so much eating out, and I find that I'm having a terrible time with discipline. I think that stress has just been getting to me. My bad old habits seem to be asserting themselves something fierce. I keep telling myself that after the family departs I can get back on the program--which is true. I also want to investigate some sort of fitness program, but my left knee worries me, and there won't be medical coverage until May to get that sorted out. ::sigh::

One thing at a time. Get through this week.

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