The Elephant in the Blog

Every time I’ve sat down and tried to blog about anything lately, it somehow turns into a post about my mom. Not wanting to be reduced to “the girl with the dead mom who can’t stop talking about it”, I just end up letting the posts languish on The Island of Misfit Drafts ™. No more.
Guys, I miss my mom a lot. Everyone warns you that the first round of holidays after you lose someone is difficult, but since Judy wasn’t into Christmas, I didn’t think it would hit me quite so hard. I thought wrong.
I think that the disconnect is that I was picturing it like The Family Stone (spoilers ahead). Christmas is this Very Important family tradition and Diane Keaton’s character loves Christmas and then she dies and they all gather to hang ornaments without her and reflect on how different Christmastime is without their mom, their rock. Judy, in contrast, was a complete humbug. She did not honour Christmas in her heart and try to keep it all the year. So, it’s decidedly not nostalgia that’s driving this latest wave of grief that I’m riding out, but I can’t imagine that the fact that it’s hitting me so hard right as the holiday season begins (as foreseen by my therapist and basically every resource I found about grief processing) is purely coincidental.
I fell this week. The kids had a snow day and I was in a mood and it was just an awful, overwhelming day. I felt like such a miserable heap of wasted space. I was determined to stop being scream-y mom and start being fun and enriching mom, so I decided that I was going to bring some snow inside for the kids to play with (since Jamey isn’t terribly keen on playing outside in the snow). And so I rolled up the rug so it wouldn’t get wet, dug all the sand toys out of the playroom closet, and cleaned a tray to fill with snow, a process that should have taken about two minutes, but was made ten times longer by my grumpy, bored, impatient children. By the time I was ready to go outside and collect the snow, I was still not feeling like fun mom; I was feeling like end of my rope mom.
I had gotten one foot safely into its boot, and had then resorted to a slapstick-esque hopping around trying to yank my other boot on, when I lost my balance. With my right hand entangled in the boot of my airborne foot, my only choice to keep from face-planting was to catch myself using the heel of my left hand. The impact was…intense.
I spent a significant amount of time lying completely still, not wanting to move, in case something was broken. Then slowly, I began to bend and rotate each joint, one-by-one. Luckily, the damage was negligible, not even half as bad as I had been preparing myself for. All in all, it was a complete nonevent.
I got up and got myself an ice pack for my wrist and then I sat down on the couch and began to sob. Not because of the pain or humiliation that comes with being a professional klutz, but because I so desperately miss having someone to talk to about all of the mundane nonevents. I cried about the nine months worth of boring minutiae of my life that I had been keeping to myself and about the yet-to-be-determined amount that would continue to pile up because I no longer had anyone who cared, really cared, to hear them.
I know that I am not the only person who has been left with a gaping, Judy-shaped hole in my life. I know I’m not the only person who misses her or is still,on some level, struggling to come to terms with the fact that she’s gone. More broadly, I know I’m most definitely not the only one who has to navigate a world without their “person” in it. I wish that knowing all these things did anything to ease the feelings of loneliness and isolation that have swallowed me up as of late.
I don’t have an eloquent way to wrap this post up. There’s no neat little bow to put on top of such a disjointed wet blanket of an entry, but I have learned one thing while I typed this up. Writing about the thing that I don’t want to write about feels objectively better than not writing at all, for fear of mentioning said thing I don’t want to write about. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Harry Potter and the 30 Day Challenge: Day Three

I don’t know what on Earth I was thinking when I made this the third item on the list. Like, okay, sure. Let’s just start simple, ease ourselves in. Your background with HP and your ranking, both of which you probably know by heart, and then bam! pick only 5 characters of the several hundred and defend why they mean so much to you.

I’m starting this list (which is in no particular order) without knowing how it’s going to end. Come on this journey with me.

Remus John Lupin, werewolf, sometimes known as Moony, one of the four creators of the Marauder’s Map, married to Nymphadora, usually known as Tonks, and I taught you how to produce a Patronus, Harry, which takes the form of a stag. Okay, so yes. As an adult, I can see all the ways in which Lupin failed. He didn’t dare to tell Dumbledore about the map or that Sirius was an Animagus (hella irresponsible), he never had the nerve to tell James and Sirius off for bullying Snape, and his reaction to Tonks’s pregnancy was…less than chivalrous. All facts. You know what else is a fact, though? Humans can fuck up and love imperfectly and still be worthy of our adoration. When it really counted, he possessed all the traits that set Gryffindors apart.

Hermione Granger For years and years, I resisted naming Hermione as one of my favorite characters. It felt boring and predictable for me, a bossy know-it-all with frizzy hair and buck teeth, to idolize her. Plus, she was a main character. How cliché. In refusing to acknowledge the impact that she had on me, however, I think I sort of perceived her as this flawless, stale character (what’s the straitlaced, bookish version of that trope, I wonder…a Maryanne Susan?) and never wholly appreciated how intergral her contributions were to saving the Wizarding World. Know better, do better.

Molly Weasley My feelings about Mama Weasley have followed a pretty conventional trajectory. As a teenager, I was fond of her, but I found her to be overbearing, short-sighted and desperately unfair. As a mom, on the other hand, I loves me some Mollywobbles. From the minute Harry stumbles across her path, she takes up the mantle of protecting him in every way she knows how. She is occasionally blinded by her loving instincts, and she makes many attempts to put the trio off their adventuring, which, in hindsight could have led to the destruction of the Wizarding World, but let’s be real for a sec. Molly was the only adult in this whole mess that questioned the assertion that a group of unqualified teenagers was their best bet against the pressing threat of unknowable evil.

Luna Lovegood Luna is an absolute delight and screw everyone that picked on her. She spoke truth to power at every given opportunity and never let snide comments or derisive looks stand in the way of being exactly who she was and honestly, what is cooler than not caring if you’re cool? Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, Luna girl.

Minerva McGonagall I struggled with this last spot. And not just because I didn’t want to give it to yet another Gryffindor (though that does pain me a bit). I always struggle with rounding out lists because I feel like I’m excluding so many worthy candidates. For example, Ginny is really cool. Harry has finally grown on me. Snape definitely sucks but I still like him for some reason. It was tough to narrow it down, but in the end, I went with McG because she just kills it at everything she does. On the surface, she seems like this stuffy old schoolmarm, but once you get under that prim and proper façade, she is one tough cookie, who knows when rules are meant to be broken. Name a better ride or die. I’ll wait.

I know I left a few fan faves off my list that may appear on your personal list. Tell me who they are!

Harry Potter and the 30 Day Writing Challenge: Day Two

The second item of Harry Potter and the 30 Day Writing Challenge is ranking the books. As someone who has read this series more than 20 times over the course of 20 years, my ranking has morphed and grown along with me, but I think I’ve settled into a definitive order, which goes as follows:

7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Look, as I mentioned in my previous post, this book was my introduction to the world of Harry Potter and it pulled me in like no other book had done before. It’s a good book. It’s just hard to place it about any of the other good books in the series.

6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix This book is a tough hang. You are stuck inside the head of a traumatized teenager, and teenagers (even those of the un-traumatized variety) are pretty exhausting. On top of that, Harry and co are under the thumb of Dolores Umbridge, and subjected to her maddeningly unfair tactics. Meanwhile, everyone is grouchy and sniping at one another. There are some amazing character moments (haaaave you met Minerva?) and great story-telling, but this book is stressful af to read.

5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone This book is delightful and engaging and a letter perfect introduction to the Wizarding World. I don’t think I could find a thing to complain about if I tried. The only reason it doesn’t top the list is that it can’t hang with the complexity of the rest of the series.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows In all reality, this is tied for number 3 in my heart, but that’s not how rankings work. This book contains, in my opinion, the most perfect stretch of writing in the entire series (The Prince’s Tale → The Forest Again → King’s Cross). This one gets better every single time I read it.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire This one really reads like a mystery novel. The twists and turns flashbacks and ultimate reveal are absolutely delicious. With some tweaking, it could almost be a standalone story, which is wild, since it is also so fundamentally interwoven with the story, as a whole. “Would definitely recommend,” said Dumbledore, calmly.

2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince This used to rank much, much lower on my list. But with time, and deep diving, there is no way I could have it anywhere but here.
Moderately warm take: This is the best book in the series.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I was always a reader. Beverly Cleary, R L Stine, Ann M Martin, Sharon Creech, Judy Blume, Madeline L’Engle, Louis Sachar, I read and enjoyed nearly everything they put out. But when I first read Prisoner of Azkaban, I would have forsaken them all forever, just for a chance to read it again. This book really has it all. Marvelous and compelling storytelling, beautifully written prose, the establishment of so many key elements of the overarching plot, some of the most oft-quoted lines in the series, and of course, the introduction of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin😍.

That’s my ranking, but your mileage may vary, so if you beg to differ, tell me! I mean, you’d be wrong, but I want to hear nonetheless 😉😚.

Harry Potter and the 30 Day Writing Challenge: Day One

If you’re here, you likely know about Harry Potter and the 30 Day Writing Challenge and if you don’t, you can click right here and read the entire list in all its glory. Today, I’ll be sharing how I got into Harry Potter in the first place. start
‘Twas the summer before I began middle school and I was a fairly lonely kid. Despite having lived in the same place my entire life, I was about to enter a world where I was the “new kid”. For reasons that I never quite figured out, my parents had chosen to send me out of my assigned district for K-5. Students from the elementary school I attended  went to one middle school and students from the elementary school where I should have gone went to another. I was in the district for the latter. So as prepared to begin what would arguably be the most difficult stretch of my childhood, I felt very much like an outsider.
One night, I was sitting at the piano in my grandmother’s house, after a family dinner when my dad handed me a book he had picked up at the store. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I had heard of Harry Potter, but knew very little about it. I had always preferred novels with female protagonists and my snobby ass felt like I was a bit too sophisticated to be reading a kids series about magic.
But I appreciated the gesture and decided to give it a shot. I propped it up on the piano and began to read.
When I was eleven, I had probably never heard the word enraptured but boy, did I feel it. I pulled an all-nighter and finished the book in one fell swoop. About a third of the way into it, I’d realized that it was not the first book in the series, so once I had finished, I began bugging my parents to hook me up with a copy of Sorcerer’s Stone. And by the time I had finished that and re read Chamber (this time with more clarity), Prisoner of Azkaban was about to be released in the US.
Processed with VSCO with j5 presetHowever much I liked Harry Potter before I read Prisoner of Azkaban, it absolutely paled in comparison to how I felt about it after having read it. I’ll save my ravings for the next post, but just be forewarned. I have feelings about POA.
From then on, I consumed any and all Potter-related content that I happened across and 20 years later, I am still doing so, with a rigor that borders on obsession. Sometimes, I wonder how successful I could be if there were a way for me to channel all of the energy I pour into loving this series into something, y’know…productive and/or profitable. If only, right?
Anywho, that’s my Harry Potter origin story. What’s yours?

All Aboard the Scarlet Steam Engine!

Pack your trunk and get your ass to Platform 9¾ because it’s September 1st, y’all! For the month of September, I will be using my most treasured book series to force myself back into the habit of writing every day. Brace yourself for Harry Potter and the 30 Day Writing Challenge! Inspired by a repetitive and error-riddled graphic that was shared in a facebook group to which I belong, I have compiled a list of writing prompts based on the Harry Potter universe, ready to be tackled by any blogger/IGer/or person with a soapbox that knows how to tell a gnarl from a hedgehog. So, find a compartment and flag down that trolley witch (but maybe don’t piss her off…she is deadly with a pumpkin pasty) ; it’s time to go back to Hogwarts!

1567427696445-1Harry Potter and the 30 Day Writing Challenge:
1. How did you get into Harry Potter?
2. Rank the books in the series.
3. Who are your 5 favorite characters?
4. Which Hogwarts house would you belong to?
5. What would be your favorite subject?
6. What extracurricular activities would you join?
7. Favorite spells?
8. Favorite places in the magical world?
9.Coolest magical objects?
10. Favorite magical creature?
11. What would you do after Hogwarts?
12. What would your patronus be?
13. What would your boggart turn into?
14. What would amortentia smell like to you?
15. What would you see in The Mirror of Erised?
16. Which Hallow would you choose?
17. Top 3 HP quotes?
18. Favorite chapter in the series?
19. Hardest death to cope with?
20. Favorite ship (canon or made up)?
21. Thoughts on Snape?
22. Thoughts on the epilogue?
23.Favorite movie?
24. Best performances in the movies?
25. Best movie changes?
26. Most egregious movie changes?
27. Favorite Potter-related media?
28. What spin-off would you like to see?
29. Thoughts on your first reading of the books vs now?
30. How has Harry Potter affected your life?

Post-Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day. It’s a day of breakfasts in bed and handprint art projects, of last minute flower arrangements and sappy social media posts. It’s a day where Hallmark and the entire rest of the world remind you to appreciate your mom.
I require no such reminders. Not only due to the morbid fact that I don’t have a mom anymore, but because I appreciate her now more than ever before.
I knew Mother’s Day would be tough this year. I mean, d’uh. But knowing that something is going to suck doesn’t reeeeally make it suck less.
If my mom was still here, I probably would have re-posted one of the five or six pictures of us that I had in my possession with a caption about my favorite “crazy lady”. I would have ended it with “ti amo”. That’s how we ended most of our conversations.
It’s how I still end them. Because I talk to her a lot. After a lifetime of relying on her to listen to me wax poetic over every inconsequential inconvenience I suffered, I’m not sure how to stop. I miss her talking back though. I miss that a lot.
It’s been nearly eleven weeks since my mom died.
Eleven weeks is a long time. It’s long enough that the calendar has changed over three times. Long enough that the snows have all melted and my daffodils have come and gone. Long enough that the world has emphatically moved on and long enough that for the most part, it expects me to have done the same.
Eleven weeks is a short time. Short enough that we haven’t even ordered a headstone yet. Short enough that I still have the box full of pictures from the wake sitting on my dryer. Short enough that her name still pops up when I go to call a 781 number. Short enough that sometimes, even despite my best efforts, I forget that she’s gone.
That might be the hardest part in a sea of unspeakably hard parts. Every so often, I’ll read a headline or hear a song and make a mental note to bring it up the next time I talk to her. And then it hits me. It hits me so, so hard.
My mom and I were not the Gilmore Girls. We spent more of the thirty-one years we had together at odds than in harmony. Still, she was my best friend. And I miss my best friend.
Ti amo, mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Scream of Consciousness

My mom has been gone for twenty-four hours. And the crazy thing is, time is just going to keep on marching along. Soon, it will be forty-eight hours, and then a week, then months and years. The amount of time between her last breath and the current moment is just going to continue to expand. It will grow, infinitely.
There is no preparing for this kind of thing. Sure, most people are vaguely aware that, statistically, they’ll probably outlive their parents. When a parent is sick, that possibility feels more explicit, more tangible. When a parent is dying, that possibility is utterly suffocating. You live with it hanging over your head, pervasively winding its way into your every thought. And the worst part is that it doesn’t matter. Because, no matter how much you’ve thought about it and worried about it and cried about it, it still takes your breath away when it happens. It still leaves you feeling like a fucking astronaut, floating in space, realizing that someone has cut your tether and now you have no way back to comfort and safety.
My mom was my comfort and safety. No matter how sick or tired or stressed out she was, she would listen to me complain and try to help me put things into perspective. She had a way of being the most chaotic and most calming presence in my life, simultaneously. I don’t know how to do this without her. People talk about not knowing what you have until it’s gone, and it sounds trite. Cliche, even. But there is so much truth to it. My mom used to apologize for relying on me so much, and I always waved it off. Of course she could lean on me, don’t even worry about it. I never really stopped to consider how much I relied on her in return, until today, when I subconsciously thought about calling her to tell her about how hectic things have been, no less than five times.
And it wasn’t until today, as I dug through a box of old notes and photos, that I really gave very much thought to who my mom was a whole person, not just as the person she’s been for the last ten years. She was a baby, as evidenced by the immunization booklet from 1962 that I found bearing her name. She was a kid, who made her mom homemade cards with crayons and glue sticks and tissue paper. She was a teenager that hung out with her friends and went to concerts. She was a bride, smiling and radiant on her wedding day. She was a daughter, who went through the same agony of losing her own hero as I’m experiencing right this second.  She had history. She had wisdom. She had thousands of shades of gray.
She lived twenty-six years of her life without me. But, I had never lived a second of mine without her. Not until twenty-four hours ago.