E.’s First Funeral

I wish I had known my grandmother better.

For as long as I could remember, she lived in California near the rest of my dad’s siblings, while our family lived in the midwest and later the northwest. She came to visit sometimes while I was growing up, but listening to my cousins speak at the funeral about her delicious home cooking, attendance at their sporting events, and even the sting of her famous left hand, I was left with a feeling of having missed out getting to know this great woman better. The service was really nice; when family and friends spoke about their favorite memories of her there was a strong spirit of love and peace in the room.

After the funeral, we got into our cars and formed a procession to drive to the cemetery. The experience of being escorted by police through L.A. traffic and speeding through red lights and stop signs was surreal. Is it just me, or do you hardly see funeral processions any more? It seemed like a lot of other drivers didn’t understand what was going on – at one point a car cut in front of us on the freeway and stayed there for at least a couple of miles.

My grandmother was infamous among the family for her lead foot and the gleeful way in which she would weave in and out among the L.A. traffic, and at the graveside service several people remarked how much she would have enjoyed the police escort.

She’s buried at Rose Hill cemetery, which people said was one of the largest in the country. It’s a lovely place, with rolling tree-covered hills rising about the city.

The graveside service was sweet and short. We said our last goodbyes to the woman who had left us with memories of her sense of humor, kindness, and southern drawl and spunk. E. sleep in his car seat through the whole thing.

After the service, we headed back to my Aunt V.’s house for a reception and to catch up with the rest of my family. Then after a couple of hours, it was time for my sister, E., and me to leave for the airport.

The flight home was a minor disaster. It was a late flight, leaving the airport at 9:30pm and was only half full, so the attendants let me bring E. on board in his car seat. I had hoped that he would sleep in his car seat during the flight, but no such luck. After I feed him during takeoff, he spit up almost everything all over my shirt. After that he calmed down a bit and my sister (who is SO my hero after this trip) held him so I could take a nap. Then, he pooped and it exploded out of his diaper, soaking through his clothes. I checked out the airplane bathroom, but there was no place to change him. Since the plane was only half full, there were a lot of empty rows. So I place his changing mat on one of them and started to change him.

Now, the plane was pretty cold and when I took off his clothes E. started screaming. I knew why he was crying and so I was hurrying to put his new clothes on so he would stop. I felt really badly that he was crying so loudly, and so I was really trying to get him dressed as fast as possible. During all of this, I hear from behind me, “I have NEVER heard a child scream so loudly!” and then a man leans over the seat backs and thrusts his paperback novel in E.’s face and starts waving it around. E. is so startled that for a second he stops but then he continues on. “See, you have to visually stimulate them to get them to be quiet.” the guy condescends to inform me. I am quietly seething with rage but and too tired and to angry to say anything.

After that, E. quickly falls asleep and stays that way through descent and landing. My sister and I stay in our seats to let the other passengers get off the place first. I apologize to the people sitting around us and they are all very lovely and gracious about it and say they understand what it’s like. Except for Visual Stimulation guy, who purposefully hangs back and waits so he can inform us again that he has NEVER heard a child cry so loudly and that don’t you know, you have to visually stimulate them to calm them down.

WHO DOES THAT? I could not believe his gall. At that point I was so exhausted I just wanted to get home and I was too shocked to say anything in return. I am always too shocked when people are really rude to be collected enough to say something in return. *Sigh.*

Anyway, except for the plane ride home and our rental car being run into by a car full of teenagers in a bad part of town (too long of a story to tell), the trip was really good. I’m glad I went. It was a chance to appreciate my grandmother’s life and to become closer to other members of my family that I don’t get to see very often. And I think that’s all you can ask for from a funeral.

Back Home

Well, we’re back! Poor E. He was a trooper and is still pretty wiped out from the trip…and so am I. And on top of everything else, I’m really under the gun today working on a big quarterly report for work. I have some thoughts about my grandmother and the trip rattling around in my head, but I’ll have to save them for another time.

E. with my sister and mom going to the graveside service.

Favorite Photos

I know that these photos were in the slide show last week, but I thought I would post my favorites separately because the slide show goes by pretty quickly and you can’t pause it. E. is a lot of fun to photograph and is a real sweetie to humor me so often.

Since my grandmother’s funeral is this Wednesday, I probably won’t post again until later this week. But when I do, I’ll have some new photos and a report on how E.’s first flight went. Wish us luck!

Reading: Neverwhere

I have to confess: I have a tiny little crush on Neil Gaiman. I know, I know–it’s almost trite for girls to become fans of Gaiman’s as soon as they read his Sandman comic book series, but that’s what happened to me. In my defense, I’m not one of those creepy goth fangirls. I just…you know…think he’s pretty talented and dreamy!

Neverwhere was originally a TV series that Gaiman wrote for the BBC and later adapted into a novel in the 90s. I’ve read most of Gaiman’s other works but only got around to reading Neverwhere after receiving it for Christmas.(Thanks K. and M!) I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Here’s a plot summary from Wikipedia:
The plot of Neverwhere centres around Richard Mayhew, an average Londoner who encounters an injured girl named Door on the street one night. Despite his girlfriend’s protests he decides to help her, but that unfortunately also means that he suddenly ceases to exist for regular people and becomes real only to the denizens of ‘London Below’, whose inhabitants are generally invisible and nonexistent to the people of ‘London Above’. He loses his house, his job and nearly his mind as he travels London Below in an attempt to make sense out of it all, find a way back, and helps Door survive as she is hunted down by hired assassins.

Gaiman’s writing usually incorporates mythological and fantastical elements, but does so in an organic way. These elements add a timelessness to the story that contrasts with, and compliments, the setting of contemporary London. I know that some people are turned off by the idea of reading fantasy, but this book isn’t really Fantasy with a capital-F. It’s pretty accessible and I think that most people would enjoy it. It’s funny, creepy, sad, romantic, and well-written.

And besides, the author’s dreamy!

Recommended Treats

I almost forgot to post today. Yikes. Only a couple of days and I’m already starting to slip. Anyway, here are some treats that I’ve tried recently that I liked.

Costco’s Chocolate Banana Cream Pie – $9.99

Last night some friends from my office came over to see the baby and treat N. and me to home-cooked okonomiyaki. The okonomiyaki had bacon, eggs, cabbage, green onion, and a little bit of cheese in it and was delicious topped with benito flakes, dried seaweed, tonkatsu sauce, and Kewpie mayonnaise.

Anyway, my friends really outdid themselves and took care of all of the okonomiyaki ingredients (and even did the dishes!) and so I wanted to contribute something to the evening. I bought this Chocolate Banana Cream Pie that had caught my eye at my local Costco.

It was SO good. It has a graham cracker crust and layers of chocolate and banana mousse topped with chocolate sauce. It seems like some cream pies have texture issues with their fillings; they can be too soft and it’s like eating plain whipped cream. But this one was just dense enough and wonderfully creamy. And the flavors were delicious. Anyway, if you see one of these at your Costco, I would recommend getting it. Although, you might want to have company over to share it because it is HUGE.

See’s Awesome Walnut Square Bars – about $8 for a box of 8

N. received a box of these from one of his coworkers for Christmas. They are SO good. They’re basically a grown-up version of a Snickers bar. I’m a sucker for anything with caramel in it; and the caramel in these is rich and buttery. Walnuts aren’t even my favorite type of nuts, but they are super good in these with the caramel and the dark chocolate. Anyway, I feel bad for N: since mid-December these have sitting on the kitchen counter calling my name. Now there are only two left! I’ve generously decided to let N. have them (they were his present, after all). But if he doesn’t eat them soon then the deal’s off!

Sad News

Yesterday my grandmother passed away.

The funeral’s in California next Wednesday, so E. and I are going to fly there with my sister on Tuesday night and come back late Wednesday night. It wasn’t totally unexpected, but it’s still sad. I feel badly for my dad; it was his mom. I am now officially without any grandparents. Fortunately, N.’s Grandpa is still around!

Now, does anyone have any tips for flying with a 11-week old? I want to go to the funeral but am incredibly nervous about flying with E. being so young. My sister will there to help, but I am freaked out at the idea of him screaming during the entire flight and not being able to help him. But I guess the only things you can really do are give him a little Tylenol and feed him during take-off and landing, right?

Reading: Scott Pilgrim Volumes 1-4

I received a lot of fun books, CDs, and DVDs for Christmas this year. I’ll try and post about things as I finish them. N. gave me volumes 1-4 of Brian Lee O’Malley’s comic series Scott Pilgrim. I just finished reading them and enjoyed them a lot. They’re a really fun read. Basically, it’s an action/romance: Scott meets his dream girl and has to fight her evil exes to win the privilege of dating her. It’s drawn in the style of Japanese manga. The narration incorporates some post-modern touches such as characters’ awareness that they’re in a comic and video game conventions (during fights characters level up and gain extra lives), etc… that work well with the story. Over all, the books are fun and sweet without being too precious.

One person who did NOT like Scott Pilgrim was N.’s grandpa. Grandpa was in town last week and stayed with us for a couple of days. I had left volume 2 on the kitchen table and one morning Grandpa started reading it over his breakfast of FiberOne.

Grandpa didn’t think that the story made a lot of sense (perhaps due to his beginning with volume 2), and he was scandalized by the book’s only love scene. I believe his exact words were “she was in her panties and he was patting her nudie bottom!”

I think it was this page he stopped at.

So, Grandpa=not a Scott Pilgrim fan. Stay tuned next week for his take on Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut!

Gainfully Unemployed

So on Thursday I quit my job.

I’ve worked at the same company (a software vendor from Microsoft) for about 5 years. It was my first and only serious job after college. I started as a temp and kind of bounced around a bit and when I quit I was an assistant program manager, which I really enjoyed. I got to work with a lot of neat people.

It felt pretty weird to actually type up my resignation letter and send it to them. I’ve been there for so long! I’m going to miss seeing my friends at work everyday and going to lunch with them. There are lots of good things about staying home, though, and E. and I manage to make it to lunch with the guys from work once in a while. And I also realize that I’m lucky to be in a position where I can stay home with E. while he’s so little and watch him grow up (Thanks N!), which he seems to be doing at an alarming rate.

Also, my company asked if I’d like to work part time from home, either as a part time employee (no benefits) or as a contractor. I said yes, and so I can can still keep my hand in the pot. I’ve decided to be a contractor because it’s more flexible (hello, deductible business expenses!), but I’m trying to decide if I should be self-employed under my own name or if I should set up an LLC or something. I know that you get killed with taxes when you’re self-employed and I’ve heard that there can be a slight advantage to setting up an entity, which I’m trying to verify.

Any advice?