Thursday, November 1, 2007

El Dia de Los Muertos and World Vegan Day

Happy World Vegan Day!

If you do nothing else, find a vegan and kiss them. Wait, no, that isn't the point. Find a vegan and don't eat them...then ask them for a recipe or have dinner with them or steal one of their cookbooks.

Seriously, check out veganism and see what all the hubbub is about. It is know you want to...come on just try it for one day, it is free. It is so cool...everyone else is doing it. (That is my lame attempt at a vegan drug dealer.)

Happy Day of the Dead!

Sounds funny to talk about happiness and dead at the same time, but from my understanding it really should be "happy celebration of lives of people who have come before us and are now not with us (at least in the traditional living sense depending on your individual beliefs)", but you would need a very large greeting card for that.

This year we just spent time reminiscing about our relative who have passed. It was very nice and I hope to do more with this holiday in the future. It makes so much sense here in the Midwest to celebrate life and death at this time of year. The bounty of the harvest, the beauty of the trees, but at the same time everything is "dying" (in reality and figuratively).

Here are some of the random thoughts and memories about our loved ones on this beautiful day to celebrate their lives...

*Deloris (my mother):

Wonderful hands, large (for a woman), soft and beautiful. I especially loved her thumbs. I don't know why, but for as long as I can remember I've loved them. I wonder if my children will have a favorite body part of mine and what it might be.

She loved to eat and cook. She was a very good cook and she introduced us to Thai food. Pad Thai was one of her favorite foods and she would eat at The Y Eatery quite often. The owner liked and respected mom very much and always asks about the family when we go there to eat. The owner is great about making at least one dish vegan every day (partly due to her relationship with my mom). When we visited mom's grave, we took some Tofu Pad Thai from "Y Thai" and roses from our yard.

Mom often said babies loved her because she was so soft. It was true for Parker, she could just put him on her shoulder and rock a little back and forth to put him to sleep (he usually wouldn't go to sleep without nursing or being walked to sleep in a carrier).

She went to a lot of meetings and when I not in school, I went with her. Some of my best memories are riding in the car (front seat back then before you had to stay in a car seat until you are 20) going to some other town and having long talks about life or just joking around.

Mom listened to talk radio or old songs on our little portable radio while she cleaned the house.

Mom loved Connie Francis, musicals (Porgy and Bess, West Side Story and The Sound of Music come to mind), The Uppity Blues Women, Amasong, Christmas music...she really loved music. She would always be the one people asked to get a song going. She was never afraid (or if she was she didn't let it get in her way) to sing in public.

Mom enjoyed helping people. The Center for Women in Transition, Girl Scouts, Project Goodstart, Homestead Corp., Children's Home and Aid Society of Illinois, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, she gave blood often (she would get pins and awards for giving blood), all sorts of church related activities, and so many other organizations I can't think or list them all.

She always had time to play a game with me and I have many memories of playing cards with her for hours when no doubt she had a lot of other things she "should" have been doing. I'm thankful she took that time to play.

I remember her having a lot of stress and being very busy, but always taking time to talk with people or listen to them and smile even when she was in a lot of pain. Josie's face reminds me of my mother so much. Josie is a very serious baby and does smile, but most of the time looks deep in thought.

Mom would include Parker when she washed dishes (ending up with them both being pretty soaked), she would built endless block towers for him to knock down, she would sing to him, and she made all his favorite foods. Even with only 2 years with Parker she loved being a grandmother.

She was very shy, but overcame her shyness to become a very active person in her community.

She was my best friend and I will miss her for the rest of my life.

*Opal (my maternal grandmother):

I don't remember her since I was less than 1 years old when she died. I was told the story that she loved to hold me and called me "bubble trouble"...we won't go into why. I would ask my mother what she was like. Mom would always get happy and cry when we talked about her mother. I would apologize for making her sad, but she would quickly tell me "no" that she loved to talk about her mother. I would lament about not having memories of her and knowing what she was like. Mom would say, "You know her because I am just like her."

*Sylvia (my paternal grandmother):

Grandma's eyes (those amazing eyes that told you so much...from the twinkle of happiness to the glint or anger, all emotions came through), her Amway motivational tapes which I loved to listen to as a kid, learning the word "gorgeous" from her, her singing around the house, playing hymns on the piano, muttering about Grandpa under her breath as she looked out the window and washed the dishes (bless his heart), the excitement and giddiness every time we visited, watering the pants, drawing her pictures, making cookies, listening to her gossip (bless their hearts too), watching her work so hard (and she didn't live on the farm most of my life), wishing the men in her life (her husband, her children, and grandchildren) wouldn't get so upset with her and would treat her better.

Lastly, I will always remember how fragile she looked and seemed (she probably weighed less than 100 lbs most of her life), but in reality she was one of the strongest women I have ever met.

*John (paternal grandfather)

He was a very hard worker. Most of the time I knew him, he worked two or three jobs. He was generous...would literally give someone the shirt off his back. He liked to drink sweetened tea from canning jars. He slept in the basement (it was possibly a passive aggressive dig to my grandmother for moving him into "town" from the farm). He gave the three of us rabbits on Easter one year (I think I was 4 or 5) without asking our parents. He was a volunteer fireman and I loved the visits to the fire station. He had an interesting relationship with animals and seemed to really love his dog. He didn't take care of himself (which is sadly a theme in the family).

I look forward to learning more bout this holiday and making it part of our own family tradition.

PS. It is interesting that World Vegan Day and the Day of the Dead on the same day. We did take some time to think about the dead non-human animals we have known and about how we try not to add to that count by our lifestyle choice. I think I'll do more with that idea next year as well.

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