Faux Jamaica Welcomes Me “HOME”

I’m no stranger to questioning my choices, as is par for the course when you struggle with impulsivity. I sometimes have ideas that seem brilliant in my mind, but when spoken out loud, sound simply crazy. Every now and then I forget that the world does not revolve around just me and my needs or wants, but that stakes could be high for other involved parties as well. And of course, there are times when I have to remind myself that even if I have the best of intentions and mean no harm, I have to fully examine how others perceive me and my motives.

My decision to reach out to my father’s side of the family that I did not know existed was heavily debated in my mind, as well as with trusted loved ones. What was my motivation for meeting people that I have lived without knowing for 43 years? What did I expect to gain from them? What void in my life/heart was I expecting them to fill? What were my intentions, and did they include what was best for everyone?

Answers: I wanted a connection, to know what my relatives are like, what they look like, and how they interact as a family. I honestly had no expectations, because I didn’t want to get hurt. My hope was to establish trust and new relationships with my bloodline. I’m not sure that there is an answer for my 3rd question, as when my dad died, the void that was already present got bigger, however, I was seeking information to calm my heart and quiet my mind. My intentions were to meet my relatives, establish connections, and share stories about our lives, particularly about those that have passed and I think that was okay for some, but not all, and that was a bit difficult to swallow.

I have gained permission from Tosha, my gracious host, to share her name and picture on my blog. Let me put a face with the name…

Yes, she is gorgeous…inside AND out!

Let me back up a minute. Tosha is my second cousin’s ex-wife, but like Dylan (my ex-husband) and myself, they have remained close after getting divorced. Tosha is the woman that responded to my original “out of the blue” FB message, and she was instrumental in getting this ball rolling. Throughout the last 2 1/2 years, she and I have been communicating via phone, text, and email, and we have been sharing family information and pictures. I figured that staying at the home of a woman that I have never actually met, a woman that owes me nothing, would be the appropriate thing to do to honor the 1st anniversary of my father’s death. So that’s what we planned.

A couple things to know…

1. Tosha made it clear to me that she lives alone and is used to living alone (this can mean a bunch of different things). *Her children are grown and out of the house.

2. Things that the above could have meant (and by “a bunch”, I meant only four possibilities): 1. Tosha does not really enjoy people invading her space, 2. Tosha was happy to host me, but maybe would still want time to herself, 3. Tosha is completely insane and impulsive, much like myself, or 4. Tosha is possibly a serial killer (you can obviously cross this off the list now since I am blogging, but it was a valid concern at one point).

3. Tosha and I talked at depth about our personalities, and spending time together sounded something like dumping the kitchen junk drawer out onto a trampoline… pure ADHD chaos!

4. Prior to leaving, I was prepped by a friend that is obsessed with crime shows. She reminded me that if I felt scared, or felt like I was in danger at any time, I should leave. These were my friends’ exact words: “Put a spare pair of car keys in a different bag. If you have to leave, grab the bag and go. Don’t worry about your stuff. White people always worry about their stuff and that’s what causes them to be murdered. So just grab the bag with the keys and go and you can get your stuff after the police arrest her.” I mean, come on, if that’s not the love (and a shit ton of anxiety poured on) of a true friend, then I’m not sure what is.

After a bottle of Xanax and 93,633 deep breaths later, I head to Maryland, only to get to Tosha’s house and see this sign posted as I walk in the door:

*I need to remind myself to hire her decorator as part of my welcoming committee.

Oh, and this:

FUCK….

Totally welcoming, eh? I mean, talk about putting me at ease. And it was right at this point that I realized I never packed the spare bag with the extra keys. *This is an important point that will be pertinent later in the blog post.

Tosha welcomed me into her beautiful home and showed me around. Keep in mind, I was staying for 2 nights, and I warned her ahead of time that I do not pack lightly. Despite the warning, Tosha’s face indicated she did not expect me to arrive for such a short stay with my diaper bag size purse, a small suitcase, an overnight bag, a Bogz bag, my work bag with my laptop, a bag filled with journals, books, and pictures, a bag full of food, a cooler bag full of drinks, my pillow, an Armenian Apple Chunk cake, Gata bread, pecan bars, and a bottle of wine. Oh, and some plants, because who doesn’t take plants to someone’s home upon an initial meeting? Overkill? I didn’t think so either, but maybe I could have condensed a bag or two? I mean, the girl was probably scared to death that I was confused and planned on staying for 2 months instead of 2 days. Luckily, I read the dread on her face and assured her that this was my standard amount of luggage for very short trips. I am a rockstar at making good first impressions!

Always take plants when meeting new people. It symbolizes… I don’t really know, just listen to me and take along a fucking plant – and a bottle of wine!

Allow me to admit that I am in awe of Tosha’s home. Her decorating skills are nearly impossible to describe, as she has incorporated so much history and nostalgia into her decor, and was able to do so in an uncluttered manner. I was completely consumed with taking in the wall hangings, and I spent a good hour walking through her home looking at her things. I am not going to post pictures of Tosha’s home as a courtesy to her privacy, but there are 2 pictures in particular that I would like to share:

This picture immediately grabbed me and sucked me in. I was touched looking at these beautiful young men and their impeccable dress code.
This picture is a piece from my family history. My great-grandparents owned a hotel in DC called the Keystone. It is on the right in the picture. In this particular picture, many of the immigrants would gather and the wealthy politicians would go and shake hands with them. Remember, my great-grandparents had arrived after fleeing Armenia where my great-grandmother, Titi, lost most of her family members during the Armenian Genocide.

So there we were. A Jamaican Black/Chinese woman that grew up in the Military that had moved from continent to continent, country to country, city to city, and a German White/Armenian woman that grew up living in pretty much one area her entire life. One woman all too familiar with the effects of oppression and racism and throughout her life was constantly told that she was not good enough or pretty enough. The other woman living the life of white privilege, ignorant (for much of her life, anyway) to the way that people that didn’t look like her were treated while she was constantly told she was smart and beautiful. One woman searching for her place in the world and trying to find somewhere where she belonged. The other woman grounded in a family with strong values and surrounded by love and acceptance. What in the hell were we going to talk about? How in the hell were we going to find common ground?

Answers:

Armenian Apple Chunk cake. It’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s the “go to” answer for every inkling of hunger. It is heaven on a plate. It’s “Better Than Sex”!
Tosha’s favorite coffee! If you aren’t aware, a cup of coffee can undoubtedly make any situation better.

Truth. The answers to my aforementioned questions are cake, coffee, and HUMANITY. Mix those things with compassion, empathy, experience, education, a willingness to listen, a willingness to learn, curiosity, and a pinch of understanding. This, my readers, is the guaranteed solution to any unsure or uncomfortable situation in which you will ever find yourself. *Well, situations that do not involve guns, anyway. But as my post already noted, there was a gun present and this solution still seemed to be effective, so just roll with it.

Meeting Tosha and invading her home felt like I was visiting a college friend that I have known my entire life. There was not one moment of feeling uncomfortable. Our conversation was effortless, and we dove in talking about our lives, our personal experiences, our past hurts, our family trauma, our passions, our resilience, our hopes and goals. We listened to one another, we provided feedback to one another, we questioned one another, we challenged one another, and we complimented one another. Two very different people with two extremely different lives that did not know each other, coming together for the first time and finding common ground while living in foreign territories. Two humans being exactly that… HUMAN.

The universe is weird. I would have never believed if in the past someone told me that on March 24, 2022 I would be traveling to the house of a woman I didn’t know to spend 2 nights and 3 days meeting my Soghomonian family. I would have reminded that someone that the Soghomonian family, as I understood it, ended the day my father passed away.

*This is an important part of my journey. I am a control freak, as you are already aware. I tend to feel most comfortable when I plan my future and think that I am in control of everything. I pretend to be a fortune teller, even though my success rate is not getting very high Yelp reviews. This experience alone is helping me to realize that we never know what our futures hold. We might feel that the things that have hurt us in life will never be settled or resolved, but due to some cosmic thing that occurs in the universe, we might be pleasantly surprised as to how things work out. This helps me to remember that just because things do not happen in the timeline that I think they should occur, doesn’t mean that something won’t happen. God damn that thing called patience. I’m so bad at patience. *Insert here the Guns N Roses song called “Patience”. It’s playing in my head right this very second.

So back to the two humans drawn together by my personal trauma related to my father and his secrets, or dare I say, his trauma. Tosha and I spent the day connecting and sharing. Our conversations would bounce from talking about family, to me interrupting to ask a question about something I spotted on one of Tosha’s walls, to Tosha switching the conversation to talk about a possible joint blog, to me talking about my love for Toby Keith, to us examining Tosha’s playlist, to us eating some Armenian Apple Chunk cake, to Tosha telling me her plans to redo her patio, to me asking if we could eat Costco hotdogs for lunch, and on and on and on. We were on the same page and understanding of each other’s inability to remain on task, jumping from topic to topic, interrupting conversations to switch topics, and simply bringing up subjects that were completely out of the blue. Neither of us were ever offended by the other, and neither of us felt unheard, as everything came full circle in time. I am strongly inclined to believe she is my soul sister, as I felt no judgement from her and never once felt anxious during our time together.

I would be remiss in not sharing that Tosha took me to Costco and we enjoyed two of my favorite things: Costco $1.50 hotdogs and a strawberry sundae. If you have not tried these two things, I feel bad for you. Get yourself to Costco and experience this goodness. Go now! Stop waiting!

On Friday night, Tosha and I spent time going through information and photos related to my past. I don’t often get “signs” from the universe, but on that evening, I felt that my father was speaking to me and blessing the journey on which I was embarking. When I was younger, I once asked my father if there were any other cool Armenian names associated with my family (you have to admit that Soghomonian is a pretty cool name). I remember him telling me about the name Megraditchian. I have tried to find the connection through Ancestry.com, but to no avail. While Tosha and I were looking through a box that contained the Soghomonian history, we found a card written to my great grandparents, and it was signed by “The Megraditchian’s”. I couldn’t believe this. I, once again, was floored. I inquired about who these people were and Tosha told me to ask my great aunt when I met her, as she would most likely be able to tell me about this connection. *Thanks, dad. I am glad that you reminded me that I’m not alone on this journey. I felt your presence, loud and clear.

While it is easy to talk about how great it was to meet Tosha and gorge on crappy food, I went to Maryland with another purpose as well. I went to meet and connect with my father’s family. I am going to be very brief and selective in talking about my time with the Soghomonian’s, and I will not name them, as like my father, they are very private people and I have not obtained their permission to share details about them or their lives.

On Saturday, I was privileged to meet my great aunt and 2 of her children. My paternal grandfather’s brother, my great uncle, is still living, and this is his family. My heart was set on meeting my great uncle, as I never got to meet my grandfather and he is the only person alive that would resemble the closest experience I could have to actually meeting my grandfather. They were raised by the same parents, and they lived in an Armenian household where the language was spoken and the customs were alive. He is the one man that knows things about my grandfather, his personality, his life stories. *Remember, my grandfather died when my father was 11 years old. I just wanted to lay eyes on this man and hug him. I wanted to soak in his features and speech. Unfortunately, my great uncle was not open to meeting me for reasons that are his own. While I cannot speak to them, and I struggle to understand, I respect his decision and I have come to accept that this is not a choice in which I get to have a say or an opinion.

Tosha and I arrived home from Costco and I was aware that some of the Soghomonian’s were coming over to spend the day meeting me and talking. Upon arriving at Tosha’s, I was putting things that I had purchased at Costco into my trunk when I locked my keys in my trunk. Seriously? Go back up to the paragraph where my friend tell me to pack extra keys and my failing to listen to this advice. Yep, if Tosha was a serial killer, I would inevitably be dead. I immediately go into an anxious state and am trying to think about what to do when Tosha comes out of the house and informs me that the family is there. Awesome. I have been relaxed thus far and the minute it is time to meet my family, I’m having a mini panic attack about my keys being locked in my trunk. Thanks universe.

I am so fortunate. I am so grateful. Without skipping a beat, my male cousin (second cousin, but I’m not going to keep writing that out) introduces himself to me and tells me that he will call AAA (Triple A? I’m not sure how they advertise their business…) and get my car unlocked. I breathe a sigh of relief and then go and meet my great aunt and my female cousin (second cousin, but refer to the above). The warmth and acceptance that this family radiated from their initial hugs is something that will remain in my mind and on my heart forever. We sat down and spent the entire afternoon and evening getting to know one another, talking, sharing stories, trading information, laughing, and quite simply, healing. They shared with me information and stories about my great grandparents and their lives, specifically the details surrounding their immigration from Armenia. They spoke about my grandfather’s 2 sisters, my great aunts that have both passed away. They told me that the Megraditchian’s were my great grandfather’s relatives, ones that my grandfather’s sister was able to make connections with later in life. They shared their hurt and confusion, and they openly understood mine. They did not cast judgement or anger, they did not place blame or act defensive. They spoke openly and factually. They shared things related to their attempts to be a part of my father’s life after he lost his own father, and together, we all began to understand that miscommunication can cause unnecessary pain. They listened intently. They made me feel welcome, like I belonged, like I was a part of the Soghomonian family.

I think it will take me a bit of time to digest all that occurred on this day. I find myself lost in thought thinking about the things they shared with me and wondering about how my life would be had they been a apart of it all along, wondering if my father would have healed if he had connections with them and had them in his life. Initially, I felt resentment when thinking about this, but after much thought, I relish in knowing that going forward, this could be the impetus to creating new memories and forming new relationships. It is so hard to let go of the past, and for me, I hate that I have no control over past and no power to change it. It is part of my struggle and healing journey to learn to sit in what was, but it is also powerful and exciting to know that I can be a part of shaping the future. I keep smiling when thinking about how my great aunt reminds me of my maternal grandmother, she is a woman that loves her family whole heartedly and does everything in her power to keep them together. I love that my female cousin is someone who I want to continue to get to know, as she has so much to offer due to her amazing insight and innate capacity to ask questions and listen to my answers. I am awed by my male cousin’s affection, his willingness to jump in when I had a problem and take care of it by making calls and helping me. I see my father in the Soghomonian’s. His work ethic, his propensity for privacy, his delight in building things and fixing things on his own, his eyebrows and facial features, his struggles related to being born into an immigrant family, his trauma, his pain.

While this is my healing journey, I hope that all involved have been able to also find some sort of healing and peace. I want my stories and the information that I have gained to help my sister and my children to better understand my father and his life experiences, leading all of us to better understand why he was who he was. I want to open doors and encourage all of the Soghomonian’s to feel like they have family in addition to the family that they have known throughout their entire lives. I want to continue to have meetings with the Soghomonian’s, and I want to continue to get to know them and their amazing stories.

I do not have the words to properly thank Tosha and the Soghomonian’s for their openness and willingness to meet me. Words seem inadequate to describe what I have gained from this experience. A more appropriate description would be the feelings that I am now feeling. Feelings of hope and encouragement, feelings of understanding that my father’s actions and inactions were in no way my fault. I now have compassion and love for a man that caused so much hurt in my life.

Tosha will forever be a part of me. Upon leaving her home on Saturday, she pointed out, “We are like Salt N Pepa.” It was cemented that she is my soul sister when I asked if I was Pepa and her reply, without skipping a beat, was: “Yes, I’m Salt!”

On Friday, my female cousin stayed well into the late night and prior to her leaving, I told her this: “I would live it all over again. I would experience the hurt and pain that my father caused all over again, every single day and minute of it, if only he could be alive today so I could call him and tell him about this experience.” We hugged and I didn’t want to let her go, but I have to hold on to the hope that it was not a goodbye, but rather, a see you soon.

Cheers, hayrik (that means father in the Armenian language). I hope that wherever you are right now, that you are sitting with your parents and smiling and laughing. I hope your heart is as full as mine.

You “Gata” Try This…

Gata bread. The name alone is the perfect set up for extremely annoying puns: “I gata have some more of that bread.”, “You gata make that bread again!”, “I gata get that bread recipe from you.”, “I gata stop now or I’ll lose readers!!!!”

From Google:

Gata (Armenian: Գաթա) is an Armenian pastry or sweet bread. There are many variations of gata in Armenia. Typically, specific towns or regions will have their own version. It can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes and may be decorated or left unadorned.

I wanted to take something to my Armenian family that was symbolic, so I took my first ever attempt at making Armenian Gata bread. I am pretty good at making Armenian Apple Chunk cake, but that is simply throwing 8 ingredients into a pan and baking it for a few minutes. I have mastered making Kurabia, an Armenian butter cookie that I make at Christmas each year. But I gata be honest, I have never in my entire life made a bread with yeast. So… in typical Abby fashion, why not try it for the first time when it is for a group of Armenians that are used to traditional Armenian cooking from a women from Armenia (my great-grandmother). I gata get it together and stop being so daring!

The dough was supposed to double in 30 minutes. Well, 1 1/2 hours later, my big dough ball looks the same as it did after kneading it. By the way, I don’t even know what it means to “knead” bread. I just kept pinching it and punching it for the longest 15 minutes of my life. Active arthritis and carpal tunnel flare up later, I was aching and thought it should be good, however…

If nothing else, I should get an award for my artistic ability to form a human brain out of most-likely failed dough…

Then I had to get the ole rolling pin and go to town. I’m serious, this is like an intense arm workout. I gata get in better shape of I’m going to add this to my routine baking menu. The sand pile that you see on top of the dough is actually the delectable filling inside the bread.

This filling is literally heaven with a pinch of unicorn in it. It’s. That. Good!

Now, I don’t need a pat on the back, but I make beautiful cakes. I have learned the art of icing a cake to perfection. Apparently, however, I failed Play-Dough class in elementary school. I had to make “pinch pots”, if you will, out of the now filled dough and then use “decorative strips” on top. Those “decorative strips” were not cooperating at first and they kept breaking into small pieces. Attempt 1 and 2 were failures. However, with a bit of determination, and a lot of swearing, I think I had something worked out by attempt 3.

Attempt 1 and 2. I know… what the f$*k??
Look at that beautifully twisted dough. I mean, it’s not yet perfection, but it is a good old Kindergarten attempt.

After my decorating disaster, the bread had to sit another 30 minutes and it was supposed to double in size again. I am telling myself that this is doubled in size, but reality slaps me in the face once again.

It may have risen a bit, but it certainly was not a dough resurrection.

Here is the part that I got correct. Mixing an egg topping. I mean, I cracked the egg and beat it. It was easy and I think I nailed it.

Eggcellent! I know, terrible.

After 30 minutes of torture, the Gata was finished. And… it was a bit of a flop. I say a bit because it tasted great, but it is more like a pancake. Plus, the weird “decorative pieces” burnt, so I pulled them off and threw them away. I like the taste, but the presentation is embarrassing. I don’t know, I gata decide if I’m taking any bread to the family. I gata improve my Gata skills. I gata go pack!

Finished product. Ugh.

This. One. Is. Personal. (And yes, I really am Armenian…)

Did you know that I am Armenian? I mean, to look at me, you would probably never guess that I have Mediterranean blood in me, but I do. My fair skin (pasty white), freckles, and auburn hair suggest otherwise, but I even have a Mediterranean blood disease to prove my heritage.

All kidding aside, my maiden name, now middle name, is Soghomonian. That is the only give away that I am Armenian. I got this name from my father, and that is where this post gets personal. My father was a mysterious man, and my relationship with him was very complicated. I will spare you all the details, because sharing them would cause you all to need therapy. What I will share is that my father did not show up on my wedding day in May 2007 to walk me down the aisle, and after many other periods of not speaking, we became officially estranged. I will also share that March 24, 2022 will be the one year anniversary of my father’s unexpected death.

My father’s Senior yearbook picture.

**Remember, my blog is therapeutic for me!

Here is where I jump off topic and insert a sidebar (sorry, ADHD). Remember 2 years ago in March when we entered a life altering pandemic? Remember how we were stuck in our homes for months on end? Remember how I spent about $600 on Amazon buying books to read? Yea, neither do I, but I’m pretty sure all of that really happened. Well, a girl can only read so many books before she goes blind. After reading about 533 books, I got bored (and felt blind) and started trying to Google some things about my father’s family. I’m sure you’re thinking, why not just ask your father or a family member, eh? Well, when my father did not show up to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, thus started a 14 year period of being totally estranged, so asking him questions was not a viable option.

In the last letter I received from my father in March 2022, he apologizes for not walking me down the aisle.

Let me add a little perspective. My father was raised at the Milton Hershey School. Yes, this is the same school that I now work at and the same school that helped me launch this post by trusting me to take a bunch of kids to Panama. (Go back a few blogposts to read about that!) My paternal grandfather had committed suicide, and my paternal grandmother was scared that my father would fall into some bad situations if he remained in the DC area, as that is where they lived. Sparing a bunch of family history that is extremely personal, I’ll just say that my grandfather’s, and my father’s lives were more than complicated. So, at the age of 11, my dad was shipped off to an all boys residential school where he remained until he graduated high school.

As I stated, very complicated.

Insert my adorable, kind, sweet, naive mom. My mom comes from a “salt of the earth” family. My maternal grandparents are the best people I have ever met and were nearly married 60 years when my grandmother passed away in January 2021. I could speak of the depths of my grandparents’ love for others and generosity for days on end, but that would need to be an entirely separate post. They raised their children in the best way. And while these amazing people were overly accepting of everyone, they had their doubts when their oldest daughter said “yes” to marrying a boy with a shady past that was raised in a residential school. But my parents married and my mom whole heartedly accepted that my father did not talk about his family or his past life experiences.

So, back to the pandemic. I’m Googling things about my paternal grandfather because I sometimes get a thought in my head and spiral down an unpaved, turbulent road leading to God knows where. My father rarely spoke of his father, and I had questions about the people from which I came, particularly questions about my paternal great-grandparents traveling from Armenia to the US. Here is everything I knew about my Armenian family – my grandfather committed suicide, the end. I never saw a picture of him or of my great-grandparents, and as previously mentioned, I was forbidden to ask questions. During this time of boredom while COVID swept the globe, Jeff’s (my dude) brother, Mike, had been doing a lot of research about his family on Ancestry.com, and I asked for his help in looking up my paternal grandfather. One evening, Mike sent me a picture of my grandfather that he found from my grandfather’s high school yearbook, and so began my obsession.

Imagine, you see a picture of your handsome, 100% Armenian grandfather for the first time when you are 41 years old. Imagine thinking that your father is the last person alive with your last name. Imagine wanting to know the story behind your grandfather’s death. Imagine piecing together that your grandfather was actually 1 of 4 children, despite never hearing your father talk about any aunts, uncles, or cousins. Imagine learning that your grandfather’s brother is still alive…

My father’s explanation for remaining silent about his past.

This is where I started to struggle (well, I struggle a lot, but this was a newly added struggle to my repertoire). I have no relationship with my father and haven’t for almost 15 years, and I suddenly learn that he has living family that he has hidden from me throughout my entire life. I learned that there is an entire Soghomonian tribe living in Maryland, and they are MY BLOOD. I was floored. I was excited. I was scared to death. So what do I do?

Well, I did what every tech-savvy person did in March 2020… I Facebook messaged every Soghomonian associated with my family line. This took me awhile to form an appropriate message, as reaching out to people out of the blue is a scary thing. You don’t know HOW they will respond. WHEN they will respond. IF they will respond.

So I hit “send” and I got lucky. The day after sending about 8 random FB messages, I got a response. The response came from a woman that was married to one of my dad’s cousins. (*I will abstain from naming her until I ask her permission to put her in my blog.). This woman sent me a message and asked if we could speak on the phone. I never imagined how one phone call with a complete stranger could change my entire life…

We set up a call and this woman was literally a serendipitous gift sent to me. She was candid, understanding, and willing to help me in any way she could. She immediately told me that yes, I have Soghomonian family living in the Maryland area. In fact, a lot of family. I shared some details that I knew to ensure that we were definitely from the same family, and together, with the information we both had, we knew that we were talking about the same people.

I’m not sure I can accurately describe the feelings that I experienced during this phone call. I remember listening to her with my mouth hanging open and finding myself in complete shock. I remember feeling so grounded, yet so lost at the same time. How did these people exist without me knowing anything about them? Did they know that I existed? Would they be willing to meet me? How could I have living family members that I did not see, much less know, when I come from a large family (my mom’s side) that gets together constantly. Remember, my maternal grandparents instilled in me that family is EVERYTHING!

After corresponding several times, I was put in touch with my father’s cousin. I began to learn so much about my family history, and these two women that did not know me at all were gracious enough to send me pictures of my family members and pieces of my family history. I remember sitting and staring at the pictures of my paternal great grandparents, people that came from Armenia after surviving the Armenian genocide. I was enamored with the beauty of their features. I was in awe of their story, my family history. I spent the next few months putting all of this information together in a book so that my children will not have to wonder about their family history the way that I have always wondered. And then, after much thought and resistance, I reached out to my father.

I set up a phone call with my father, and I’ll never forget shaking uncontrollably as I dialed his number. When I first heard his voice, I was not sure it was him, as almost 15 years gone by changes one. I shared with him that I held a huge piece of his family history, and asked him if I could mail him copies of the things I had been sent. My father was always a stern and unforgiving man, but absence must really make the heart grow fonder. Upon calling my father, I set up some strict ground rules that I did not want anything from him, I just wanted to share what belonged to him as much as it belonged to me, and if he was willing, I wanted to ask him some questions. His response if one of the best gifts in life that I think I will ever receive (other than my amazing mom and my children)… he said he was willing to speak with me and answer anything that he could. He warned me however, that it would be difficult for him to relive the past and it could be difficult for me to hear the truth.

My father working through his past as best as he was able and finally telling me the story of his life.

This occurred in early December 2020. I sent my father the information I had and waited for his reply. We started communicating via written mail, and I would ask questions about his past, and he would send me letters with his answers. Sometimes, it was difficult to follow my father’s story, as he will spilling a lot of information. Every now and then, we would talk on the phone, but these moments were few and brief, as I had my guard up. During this time, my father would call me weekly and leave me voicemails, as he knew I would only answer when I felt that I was in a space to actually speak with him. I was processing a lot of information, and I was going through a lot of feelings, so I couldn’t always speak to him due to the complicated answers I was receiving.

My father showing understanding for the times I did not answer the phone. If I could, I would go back in time and answer every time he called during those last months.

One day in February 2021 I was scheduled to drop something off for my father in his mailbox, but upon arriving at his house, we ran into each other. At the time, I was pissed because it felt like an ambush, but little did I know, this moment would change my life. You see, my father was a man that did not admit his wrongs. He would rather terminate a relationship than say, “I’m sorry”. That day, he asked if he could hug me, and when I allowed this, he whispered in my ear that he was sorry for being such a horrible father. This moment rocked me, and I thanked him and quickly left.

In February 2022 my father sent me the first birthday card that I received from him in 15 years. It was also the last card that I will ever receive from him. In this card, he says that he loves me, and he refers to himself as “Dad”. This was a big step for him, as I referred to him as “Tom”.

On March 24, 2021, I was working when I received repeated phone calls from my father’s maternal aunt. It was one of those moments when you know something is not right. I resisted calling her back, as I didn’t want to hear that my father had passed away. I knew that these were the words she was going to speak, and I was correct. My father passed away in his sleep, and once again, I felt robbed and let down.

I was so furious. I had just reconnected with this man after almost 15 years of silence. He was finally answering the questions I had, and he was working to rebuild our relationship. He was finally being open and honest, and he was, for the first time ever, admitting his mistakes. How dare he fucking die? How dare he fucking leave me in the middle of this difficult journey? How fucking dare he, once again, abandon me and let me down?

I now realize that my father didn’t choose to die on that day. I can now acknowledge that my father probably would have given anything to keep building our relationship. I realize that by asking questions, my father was finally healing from his own hellish life because he was facing truths that he had suppressed for so many years. I realize, that if I had known way back when, the things I know now, I would have better understood the man my father had become based on his circumstances. This breaks my heart. This is something I cannot fix. This is something that I still struggle to swallow. So many wasted years, so many misunderstandings.

But, I’m growing from all of this. I’m trying to feel thankful for the reconnection, no matter how short, and not be spited by his abrupt death. I am so thankful that I got to hug my father one more time, and despite all the trauma resulting from our relationship, I am so thankful for the man he was during those last few months of his life.

One of the few times I looked like an Armenian. I looked like my dad…

So as his death date anniversary approaches, I am excited and nervous that I will be going to Maryland to meet some of my Soghomonian family. I wear my father’s ashes around my neck, so I know he will be with me in some capacity as I open the door to new relationships. I am hopeful for continued healing and understanding, to learning, and hopefully, to gaining family.

I will be posting during my visit to Maryland, as it helps me to process and it is a documented record for me to revisit. My one wish in life is that I would have had a better father, a father that was present and showed me love, a father that set an example. I think it is important to realize that sometimes people cannot fulfill the expectations of their roles due to their own trauma. My heart will always break when I think about the the things that he endured in his life, but I can smile knowing that he did, despite his actions and silence, actually love me.

Please wish me luck, as this is a big, scary step, but I already know that I am about to meet the people that hold the key to my past.

Diabetes… Please Say It Correctly

F$#k (rhymes with duck) diabetes. I didn’t add it in my blog title, but along with OCD, ADHD, and anxiety, I could have written diabetes. Diabetes sucks. The only funny thing about diabetes is the Wilford Brimley commercial where he is on a horse and says, “If you’ve got “diabeetus” you check your blood sugar, and check it often, there’s no reason not to! And call Liberty!” I’m not sure why, but that commercial provided hours of entertainment for my college roommate and I. Is it because he is sitting on a horse and pretending to be in my beloved Yellowstone? Or could it be the mispronunciation of diabetes? Dia-beet-us. I think every person under the age of 80 that has diabetes abhors that pronunciation. It’s dia-beet-ees. Back to Brimley, I don’t know for sure why it’s so funny, but watch it:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=

Honestly though, it’s no joke. Diabetes is scary, and it is hard, and it is unreasonable, and it is unpredictable. And while I sort of want to dress in flannel and mount a horse like Wilfred Brimley did so I could tell you my life story related to diabetes, I am simply going to tell you that November is diabetes awareness month. That means… PLEASE DONATE TO THE AMERICAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION! I even included this link for your convenience:

https://diabetes.org/bigstepup?ada_source=WWP211101LM001M001CC&ada_sub_source=google&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=adm-bigstepup-11012021&utm_term=one-time&utm_content=ad&s_src=AAP181101LXXXXM001CC”&gclid=Cj0KCQiAhMOMBhDhARIsAPVml-G3fEPCB-OI9F5I8pBwf_ICCzHRXIyhN-GomJK6Q2Vx48fdheZqqsgaAoqOEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

The advancements made regarding diabetes has been amazing. Never, when I was in fifth grade pricking my finger to test my blood sugar 8-10 times a day, including waking up throughout the night to do so, did I believe that one day I wouldn’t have to do this forever. But research has led to the invention of the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and now I can see my blood sugar 24 hours a day with no finger stick. I also do not take injections! I wear an insulin pump. It’s not all that sexy, ya know, but spruce that thing up by wearing some heels and good mascara, and you’re good to go!

My Tandem insulin pump that I clip onto my bra. Sometimes if my shirt is the wrong material, you can see a box on my chest. One day, this will be a fad!
Where my pump is inserted into my body. I have to change this site every 4-5 days.
My CGM attached to my body. This site gets changed every 7 days.
The screen I look at on my iPhone about 200 times per day to see what my sugar is doing.

Actually, I’m joking (shocking, I know). Wearing an insulin pump takes a tremendous amount of courage, especially when you are young, or when it is summertime, or when you’re on a first date, or when you’re alive on this earth. You feel different and you feel like everyone is staring at you. You are constantly hooked up to a monitor with a tube that is inserted into your abdomen, and it is visible for all to see (mainly when you are in a bathing suit). When I was younger, I did everything I could to hide my pump and the fact that I had diabetes. I have learned, however, that diabetes is my normal. I no longer get embarrassed when my pump alerts me that my sugar is too high or too low in the middle of a meeting, or a concert, or a funeral, or a wedding. Actually, it is quite embarrassing during a wedding, but if the couple knows me, then they know that I have diabetes and my pump is saving my life. Point being, I now rock my diabetes because it is a part of me and I generally tell people I meet that I have diabetes because they eventually are going to want to know why I am constantly looking down or reaching into my shirt (I wear my pump attached to the front of my bra).

Don’t get me wrong, diabetes is not cool, so don’t wish for it. Wish for a unicorn or something that is cool. Diabetes is, however, manageable. I have managed. I got diagnosed with diabetes at age 10 and am now 42. I cannot lie though, it takes work. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you all the things I have to do each day to keep myself alive, because that would be boring. I tend to prefer the thrilling and will tell you instead how diabetes feels when it is about to possibly kill me.

Quick lesson – diabetes (Type 1) = my pancreas does not work at all and does not produce insulin, hence the pump I wear on my body to perform that task. It’s like an external pancreas. Another quick lesson – diabetes (Type 2) generally happens later in life and it means that the pancreas slowed down and doesn’t produce enough insulin, hence many people take pills or control it by regulating their diet. I did not get diabetes because I was a fat kid that loved Snickers bars and orange Gatorade! I was a fat kid that loved Snickers bars and orange Gatorade, by the way, but if you think that is the reason, please go punch yourself in the head. I got diabetes because of genetics. Plain and simple. Also, if you ever see me eating sugar and say to me, “Should you be eating that?”, I will probably punch you in the head because your are being stupid. Sugar SAVES MY LIFE!!! I only hope all diabetic children have kick ass moms like mine and that they quickly put people in their place when they say something like that. It’s kind of like, “Hey dickstick, I’m trying to live, not die. I think I know what the f%#k (rhymes with duck) I’m allowed to eat.”

So back to that thriller I mentioned earlier. The problem with diabetes is that it is it’s own monster. Anything can make my blood sugar rise. Stress, anxiety, my period, crying. I have no control over how my body will react. A high blood sugar causes you to get thirsty and tired and possibly pass out. You get a horrible taste in your mouth, and will most likely vomit. It sucks. I, fortunately, do not experience high blood sugars very often. The important point about them is that they can be fatal.

While a high blood sugar is scary, a low blood sugar could easily be fatal and words cannot describe what a low blood sugar is like. When I say this, I mean exactly this. Most people are taught that people with low blood sugar get loopy and act like they are drunk. They get dizzy and weak. They can be confused and disoriented, or even combative. They often become sweaty and tired. At this point, sugar is needed immediately to bring up the sugar. Weird, eh? I recommend something gummy, juice, or pixie stix. *My kids love that my purse is always filled with gummy worms and Skittles!

While those are the outward signs of a low blood sugar, you cannot understand the way a low blood sugar feels unless you have experienced it. Every time it happens, it feels different. Sometimes my blood sugar can drop to the 40s and I am still cognizant. In those lucky moments, I’m usually in my kitchen eating everything I can get my hands on to make it stop. I’m shaking and sweating profusely and have been known to shove Starburst in my mouth with the wrappers on. At that point, I don’t care, I just want my sugar to raise. During those moments where I’m not cognizant, things go bad quickly.

Imagine for a moment that you wake up from a nap and are in a foreign world. You have no idea where you are or how you got there. The language being spoken makes no sense. Everything that is happening around you is like nothing you have ever experienced before and it is scary. You try to speak, but can only do so nonsensically or incoherently. Your brain cannot form thoughts and your mouth cannot communicate effectively. You are sweaty and scared. You begin to wonder where your loved ones are, and if they are not present for you to physically see, you cannot understand that they are probably alive and okay. You literally feel like you are in a living hell. People that you have never seen before in your entire life are standing over you, shouting your name, and trying to wake you up. You’re in an out of body experience watching what is happening from afar because your brain cannot yet process what is going on. You think that you are at a circus because the things happening seem so ridiculous and foreign. You realize that you are soaking wet and freezing cold (this happens as your sugar is rising). And all this is if you happen to be awake when it happens. If you are asleep, I hope you have a CGM to alert you, and if you don’t and you “bottom out” (diabetic lingo) then you will be stuck in a dream or nightmare that is on a continuous loop in your head and you cannot make it stop. Imagine your worst nightmare intensified by 79 trillion and snakes added on top.

Pretty scary stuff, eh? Even scarier for your parents, loved ones, roommates, university peers, coworkers, or your kids. All of the aforementioned have helped me in my times of need. All of the aforementioned have been scarred by the experience.

Prior to getting my CGM, I can’t even count the number of times I woke to paramedics standing over me due to my blood sugar dropping while I slept. Nighttime is a scary time for diabetics. There are nights I do not sleep, or nights I set my alarm every hour. To a diabetic, sleeping could equal death.

Now, because I love humor (or use it as an avoidance strategy), I will share some of the things that have happened during a low blood sugar. Please, you are allowed to laugh (at the funny ones).

I once woke up in an ambulance when attending PSU. It was my Junior year, and I kept saying that I didn’t want them to take me to the football game. I kept thinking that the ambulance was going to drive me into the field and make me perform. I repeatedly told the paramedic in the back that he was a “fucking asshole” for driving me to the stadium when I didn’t feel right. Unbelievably, I ended up in the hospital, not at the game, and I never even got to apologize to that poor man.

Another episode my junior year at PSU I woke up to a cop standing over me and kept telling him to back up because he was a rapist. The poor guy, he kept saying he was trying to help me and I started screaming to my roommate to get the rapist away from me. When my roommate walked into the room, I immediately felt relief, but my brain then told me to tell her she looked like Mr. Hankey (yes, the piece of actual shit from South Park). I’m a gem.

Senior year at PSU and my roommate and I were waiting for sushi. I must have fallen asleep, but really it was from low blood sugar. My roommate thought it would be funny to put clothing on my head, and then to overturn a chair on my head (can you believe this girl is, to this day, my best friend). When I didn’t stir, she realized I was in trouble and called 911. Let me back up… I was taking an African American course at the time and was reading “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. We had discussed this book often during the evening. When I was “coming to”, the paramedics asked me my name. I said, “Abby.” Then they pointed at my roommate and asked what her name was. I looked at her and in the most confident way I said, “Chinua Achebe.” Now, I think my roommate felt horrible at this point for what she had done, as she should have, and she looked at the at the paramedics and said, “She is correct. Sometimes I call myself that. She’s fine.”

Oh, and the time my entire family was sitting down to dinner and enjoying time together. That is, until I looked at my sister and started screaming, “Where is my bread? You stole my bread and ate it. Where if my fucking bread you bitch?.” Everyone was staring in awe and confusion, and understandably so, at which point my mother gently redirected me from the table and helped me.

And I certainly cannot forget the time that I was riding the Loop (bus at PSU) and after two entire rotations around the town the driver pulled over and came to me and said, “Honey, I’m not sure where you’re trying to get to, but you haven’t gotten off in 2 entire rotations.” Thank you sir, for realizing I was looking through you instead of at you and for getting me help.

And the time my children went to their father’s house the day after Christmas and I had an episode and I cried because I couldn’t find them. How about when my daughter was 4 and waiting to go to dance class but I was sleeping on the ground. By some miracle, one of my uncle’s workers came over to fix something at our house and called my aunt because I wouldn’t let him in. His call prompted my mom to get to my house quickly and save my life. *Thanks mom, for all the times you did that! Or the many times I called my mom telling her I couldn’t find my kids. Or the time I could not comprehend that my daughter did not die this year, but in fact, it was my grandmother who passed away. Or the time I fell down on my face while walking home from class at PSU and some nice graduate student helped me and realized I needed sugar. (I hope you’re not laughing at these times.)

The point I’m trying to make is that diabetes is hard. Hard for the person living with it. Hard for those that love that person. Hard for those that live with that person. It affects how I feel, my mood, my energy levels. I get so frustrated when I constantly get alerts and no matter what I do, my blood sugar won’t stabilize. I get pissed off at moments when my pump stops working or malfunctions. I’m fuming when I’m in a hurry but need to change my pump site. I fucking hate having to pack an entire suitcase full of diabetic supplies and special notes every time I fly or leave the country. But, I am alive. I have few limitations in my life. I am able to utilize the technology and advancements being made until a cure is found. For all this, I am thankful.

If you know a diabetic, talk to them and make a plan for if they have a low blood sugar. Understand the disease the best you can and be forgiving, because we might just tell you at some point that you are a piece of shit, bread stealing, mother fucking rapist! Just know we probably do not mean it.

Farewell, HP…

I have to admit, every time I write HP my initial thought is HersheyPark. This, of course, is because I have grown up and continue to live in the “Sweetest Place on Earth”. HersheyPark is the cornerstone of all things Hershey. Every 14 year old in the town of Hershey gets a job at HP (HersheyPark) and becomes a nightmare for their boss, as said boss has the responsibility of ensuring that child labor laws aren being broken. I will never forget that I got my start at Boardwalk Fries. This greasy little hole in the wall was a half of a circle building with 6 fryers that took up most of the space. All day long hot grease would scald my skin as a coworker shook the fries in the metal basket. The intense heat made it unbearable in the non-air conditioned hellhole. The smell of french fries couldn’t be washed out of my clothing and every time I left work I was covered in a greasy film. But damn, those fries were delicious. And yes, it’s true, when it rains in Hershey, the town smells like chocolate. Or chicken poop, it just depends on the day of the week!

But alas, I am not bidding HersheyPark farewell because it still stands and makes millions of dollars while also making many people, ahem – tourists, very happy each season. Long lines, cranky kids, $14 hot dogs, horrendous traffic, paying to park, and walking 22 miles to enter the Mecca that is known as HersheyPark, only to be told that you have to leave your cooler in the car. Grab the kids, back to the car, another 22 mile trek back to the entrance… Yes, my worst nightmare.

Harry Potter, sir, I bid thee farewell. You have consumed my every waking moment for the past month and on Saturday evening, I delighted in your magic as we held the birthday party that enchanted 24 young children, rather, made them batshit crazy!

I mean really. What did we expect? Did we really think that bringing 24 kids (six of them male, 18 female, one 6 year old, two eight year olds, four 12 year olds, and seventeen 10 or 11 year old girls) together would result in an enchanted evening full of magic and awe? Well, yea. Why else would we do this?

Let me back up. The place looked amazing. I’m not saying this just because I worked hard to being the party to life. I’m saying this because this is the kind feedback that was given. I was extremely flattered by the kind comments of the partygoers’ parents and the family of the birthday girl. We apparently nailed all the important aspects of HP, and that was no easy feat considering I have no clue what all is involved in those beloved books that were bestsellers and never made it into my reading list (I do not regret this, by the way). Here are a few pics of the ambience.

Entryway – that green light was actually a flashing strobe light. We wanted a smoke machine, but it was broken:(
Entryway shot. I also made that HP face for a “Pin the Scar on Harry” game.
The candles were lit and the place was dim. I brightened the picture so you could see things.
Floating candles and winged keys.
If you are wondering about the balloons on the back of the chairs, I know it is hard to see, but they were made into owls. I don’t know it’s name…Olaf or something.
The candy trolley. Some of the items are missing because I was so busy with children that I barely took any pics at the actual party. We added a huge tray of chocolate frogs and a bin of acid pops, as evidenced below.
Golden Snitch cakepops

Let me back up to where I originally backed up. Stay with me here. The children were batshit crazy. Seriously, and I am not even going to try to pin this on the sugar, although, I’m sure it didn’t help. The evening was most certainly enchanted if your definition of enchanted includes non-harmonious high pitched shrills, complete chaos, endless refills of Butterbeer, trying to keep kids that were running in every direction from exiting the building, and putting out little fires (not literally) that erupted between peers. That was within the first 20 minutes… Oh, and not having time to eat the salad that was ordered special for you. Enchanting, indeed!

So now that I described what it is like getting ready for school in my house each morning… I kid. I think the aforementioned are to be expected at children’s birthday parties, and I will say with confidence that we were able to handle everything that came out way with poise and a lot of wine. There were minimal injuries, only one allergic reaction, a couple tears shed (by kids and adults alike), and a small fire. But there was also laughter and dancing and games and partying and cupcakes! This birthday party was epic.

But I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that this was a sleepover. Oh, and let me remind you that this sleepover was occurring on the night that we turned back the clocks. I know, I’m laughing too. I mean, who in their right mind…???

ME! And DANIELLE, that’s who. Oh, Danielle is my friend that put her trust in me and allowed me to run wild with ideas. The sleepover idea, however, was all hers. I even flinched at it the moment she brought it up. I tried to subtly suggest that maybe 6 kids could sleepover, but this woman is “all or nothing”. And who am I to step in when a friend had a bad idea… I’m the jerk that goes along for the ride and laughs.

Here we are. The two crazy minds behind the whole HP enchanted, batshit crazy party.

A sleepover with 24 kids. Hmm. I think I just vomited in my mouth a little bit. My therapist is going to be doing trauma work with me for years to come. It’s all fun and games until you try to get the children to settle down. Let me be crystal clear here – children at sleepover DO NOT settle down. And just when it hit 2 am, one of those smart older children decided to announce that it was really only 1 am. And just like that, every single child got their energy back like they just snorted a kilo of Adderall. I’m still doing my best to block out the rest, so just trust me when I say it was an exhausting and sleepless night. Fun, nonetheless, but I think my current 42 year old self likes turning the clock back so I get extra sleep, not for an extra hour of staying awake when I’m apparently staying awake all night.

And now that I survived, I am somewhat sad and feel that I have no purpose. I come home from work and have nothing to make that causes me to have severe glue gun burns, my arthritis isn’t acting up from cutting out thousands of images to make boxes or decorations, and I’m not ordering things off Amazon every hour of the day. I am simply living a normal, boring life.

I sum this experience up with one word – INSANITY! Oops, I meant to say SUCCESS. Seriously, I think it went well and the kids enjoyed the party. I also forgot how funny things are when it is 330 in the morning and you are rocking outside staring at a grocery store with your friend all while pretending the view is one of the beach. Delirium? Perhaps. I prefer friendship. If you can’t laugh and cry with your friends, what’s the point?

Sunday morning came and we happily anticipated a quick morning of breakfast and clean up. Much to our dismay, the partygoers woke up at 6:30 am and the party only ended at 10 am. Yep, long morning. Yep, lots of coffee. Yep, slept the entire day after the party. But the gift bags were a huge success!

HP spellbooks
Golden Snitch cakepop
A special Slytherin wand for the birthday girl

A pencil wand, fidget toys, a HP bookmark, and about 9 pounds of candy per kid. EPIC!

.

‘Twas the Night Before…

‘Twas the night before the HP party and all through the clubhouse, keys and candles were flying , and there was even a mouse.

The “House” pictures were hung by the tables with care, in hopes that 24 young children soon would be there.

The photo backgrounds were hung on the walls soon to be used, and 3 ladies worked their butts off while the children all snoozed.

And Jeff hung things, while I gave orders, and Danielle walked around in awe, while Melissa hung candy trolley borders.

When all of a sudden I started to curse, mostly because I realized there was no more tape in my purse.

And away ran Wendy for tape to the office in a flash, while Danielle ordered us a Greek dinner off of Door Dash.

We ate and we laughed, and we decorated like pros, and tomorrow we just hope that each candle glows.

We put spiders all around, and made tags for food, and we just hope that the holes in the clubhouse walls don’t get us sued.

It all came together and it looks nice, and we even got a HP chess set there at a price.

We hope that tomorrow, the birthday girl will smile, because that alone with make it all worthwhile.

Something Sweet

Oh yea! I’m back in the kitchen. Well, technically I’m always in the kitchen because I sit at the island to do crafting with the glue gun. That’s a whole other story…

Back to my original thought, which has me in the kitchen actually making food. If you know me, then you know I love to bake. I bake just to bake and then usually give the food away (insert reality here = my kids do not eat anything I make and I would eat all of everything if I kept it). Did you just hear something? Me either. Anyway, unless it is some sort of chocolate and peanut butter concoction, it is being shipped out to someone. I want to give a shout out to my grandpa. He not only accepts, but he eats my food and usually enjoys it. I do love, however, that he also tells me what he does not care for and why. My grandma, who I miss terribly, always loved everything. I genuinely believe that she actually did love everything I made and she was not just boosting my ego. My family doesn’t roll like that. We call you out in your shit, especially when your food tastes like shit.

Tonight, on the menu is chocolate frogs and dusty glitter balls that have wings. I know, I too think I’m on acid, but this is the food that is called for when one throws a HP party. By the way, only 3 days until party time!!! Today my friend that I am helping asked me when I am blogging again. I think she does this to see the surprises I am creating that I haven’t discussed with her. Actually, I know that is what she is doing so I am going to stop blogging right now and she will have to wait to see everything just like the birthday girl is waiting. Bye!

Totally kidding. I’m not that cruel. The surprise is going to be when I don’t show up to chaperone a co-ed sleepover with twenty four 10 year olds on a night where we gain an hour. Yea, you heard that correctly. And yea, I’m definitely crazy. Also, that part about not showing up is a joke… I’m sure her heart will skip a beat when she reads this and I don’t want a call at 1:00 in the morning with a panicked women on the other end.

Allow me to recap. A friend of mine, who is just as obsessive and controlling as I am, is allowing me to take control and do things for her daughter’s 11th birthday without her approval. That makes me anxious just thinking about it. I could never trust someone to throw a party for me, much less make decisions that would suit me. I’m so proud of my friend.

Frogs people. Frogs with chocolate, frogs with coconut, frogs with Heath Bar, frogs with marshmallow. Take a look at these little fellas would ya.

Apparently that one frog is pooping out cake. And he lost his eye in the cake eating battle.

Frogs are easy. I melt chocolate, pour it in the mold, and then after it hardens I dump it on a plate. I love frogs. These other glitter balls with wings (I have no idea what the correct HP terminology is for them) are not easy and I certainly do not love them. I have never made cake pops before and Google provided a lot of dos and don’ts for cake pop making. I’m not even going to tell you where all I screwed up because being the experienced baker that I am not, I fixed all my mistakes. I eventually got the balls in sticks and was ready to dip. Dipping is fairly easy. Glitter dust is the devil’s creation. This stuff is maddening. It sticks to everything and does not go far. I made 6 cake pops and I have already run out. My whole body is covered in gold and I look like I should cost a million dollars. Will the kids love them? I hope so. Will they taste like shit? I hope not.

All is good so far.
Mother fu*%#er (rhymes with sucker)!!
Perfection.

Who loves ya, Danielle? Yep, I do!

Please Do This Now!

Please, I’m begging you… go through your child’s Halloween candy or run out to the Dollar Store and buy yourself some PopRocks. I promise you will not regret it. Put them on your tongue and thank me later. If you did this, wow, I have more mind control than I thought, and also, are you smiling?

I was using PopRocks today and haven’t had this candy in many years. I don’t know what came over me, but I had to try some. I also don’t know what it is about this crazy, insane, acid-like candy, but I couldn’t help but smile when the candy started fizzing and cracking. So about 13 envelopes of PopRocks later, I’m one happy fool on a sugar high!

Remember how I was working on that HP party? Me either, but tonight I learned that it is taking place in exactly one week. That’s means I have one week, exactly 7 days, (I can’t calculate the hours in my head so we will skip this one), to make everything come together. Did you know that it is suggested that HP fans, on average, have a higher IQ? How many of you knew that? Well, if you’re smiling right now and thinking to yourself that you in fact did know that, you’re a very highly suggestible person. I say that because I just made that up. And no, I wasn’t trying to fool you. I was, however, trying to make myself feel like all the time I’ve invested in learning about HP that has taken over my reading time has helped me to become smarter in some capacity.

I showed you a naked, paper mache hat a few days ago. Well, I painted that weird looking sculpture and this is the finished product:

The finished “Sorting Hat”. Also, you can check out all the amazing books that I have read. This is my read shelf along with others hanging above – my “to read” shelf is downstairs!
Check out the gold tones I incorporated to give the hat a worn look.

I haven’t done much HP crafting over the last few days because I was busy doing “life”. Did I ever mention that life is sometimes hard? Like, people die hard? And people get cancer hard? Like people have to fight for what they love hard? Like the store ran out of my favorite creamer hard? Well, it’s true. Life is hard. I’m so glad my grandma taught me to be stronger than life – it’s a skill that I use often. If you’re life is hard, do what I do, keep being stronger! I know you’ve got it in you.

Back to PopRocks! I actually used these candies for a purpose. Apparently, along with all the other peculiar things HP ate, he ate Acid Pops. Yea, I’m starting to understand this entire story better too! Well, I obviously would not give children acid, so I replaced the acid with PopRocks. I am kind of digging the look of these so called Acid Pops:

Sadly, I might eat them all before next week because again, acid apparently makes me smile.

My other craft for today was fairly simple. And I say that meaning you are the kind of person that thinks cutting out 30 boxes and folding and gluing them is simple. I’m not that kind of person! Have I mentioned I am really good at sarcasm? No? Well, I’m really good at sarcasm. We will be having a popcorn maker at the party and I came across these little gems from Ruffles and Rain Boots (rufflesandrainboots.com). I again want to thank all of the amazing and talented people that share their ideas on the internet and provide free access to said ideas.

Seriously, how cute are these? I’m just hoping the hot popcorn doesn’t melt the tape and then all the kids have laps full of popcorn. Just kidding… I totally hope that happens!

That’s it. Maybe tomorrow I’ll create some magic wands, or maybe I’ll just continue on my Halloween candy eating marathon…

Wands and Brooms and Witch Hats and Candy Boxes (?) -Oh My…

I am almost depressed that I’m not a HP fan because the crafts associated with this dude are off the hook. Yes, Harry Potter and I are now on an initial only basis, so I will now be referring to said wizard as HP.

This weekend was literally consumed by making things for the party – and by things, I mean I’m now just searching for more to do because I’m obsessed with all the amazing things you can create.

Like wands for instance. And witch hats. And candy boxes. I want to issue a disclaimer that none of these projects are finished just yet, so I will post finished pics when said items are done being painted and have dried. In my crafting world, that feels like it will be 8 months from now. I know, it’s weird, I hate not being able to finish my projects when I feel like it, and glue and paper mache are not on my timeframe.

I have to thank my friend Brianne for giving me this wand idea. It is a fascinating craft and hours pass while I’m doing this because it is so much fun. I don’t think I have any fingerprints left from burning myself on the glue gun, but it is totally worth it. I mean, look at these gems:

Only 21 more to go. I can’t wait to paint these babies and make them look old and magical.

As I was looking over my party decorations it dawned on me that I should make sure I have the key HP items. Well thank God I thought to do this because I was missing something that seems popular called the “Sorting Hat”. I have no idea if this thing is good or bad, but I was determined to have it at the party. I consulted with my best friend Google and he walked me through some fairly easy steps (meaning minimal swearing was involved), including using paper mache. If you’re like me, which I hope for your sake you are not, you haven’t used paper mache since you were in 4th grade. Paper mache = one of my worst nightmares. This stuff literally flies everywhere when you try to lift it out of the flour and water mixture. I am very neat when I cook and craft, but this event was like a world war for me. There were paper mache drops all over the counter, the floor, my shirt and pants, the front of the cupboard that I was standing near, and even as far as across the entire kitchen on the other counter. It literally took all I had not to wash my hands and clean up each mess in between applying each strip. But alas, I prevailed and finished the entire hat before deep cleaning my entire kitchen!

It doesn’t look like much now, but wait until I’m finished!

And the craft that was almost the death of me was cutting out and folding these candy boxes that hold jellybeans. Apparently Berti Bott’s Beans are a big part of this whole ordeal, so these boxes are essential. Jeff saw me fervently working and actually saved my sanity by cutting out all the windows. Now, said boxes get filled with jellybeans, as was mentioned. That being said, obviously, I need to cover the windows so the jellybeans don’t fall out because it would be seemingly counterproductive if that happened. I cut cellophane out and taped it to all the windows only to realize I then could not fold the boxes correctly (insert many expletives that rhyme with duck). Crafting is a learning experience, and believe me, I’m learning. Anyway, my brain turned on at some point and as I was ripping all the cellophane off the (ducking) windows, I realized I just need to fill little cellophane bags and insert them into the boxes. Rocket science. Mind blown. I’m an ass. And Bertie Bott and her beans blow.

The “ducking” candy boxes that currently remain empty.

Overall, things are coming together. I made another backdrop for photos and I caged the owl. Inevitably, someone will probably call the ASPCA because this little creature is pretty much stuffed in this cage with no wiggle room. I said it before and I’ll say it again… I’m working with what I’ve got!

Neck Deep in Hogwarts

Hogwarts? I’ll just let that there for you to digest.

I’m learning. I’m learning that this Harry Potter stuff is quite involved. For instance, while Harry Potter is the overall theme, their are also 4 “houses” included. This alone makes it seem like we are planning 5 birthday parties because each “house” has specific colors and a name and an animal associated. There are scarves and ties and owls and wands and potions and some special platform and muggles (WTH?) and I am never going to understand all that makes up this magical world. Of course, the one thing that I did pick up on is that this Harry Potter dude dined on “spotted dick”. I know what you’re thinking, but no, that is not a typo. For once, my phone did not autocorrect and write “dick” instead of “duck”. And yes, my phone is constantly autocorrecting to the word “duck”, and I’ll let you figure out why. As far as “spotted dick”, perhaps I do need to read this series to better understand the hidden meaning – if there is a hidden meaning. If you know what this is all about, please educate me in the comments.

Proof that I did not make this up. Maybe Google had an autocorrect problem?? Spotted duck?

Hogwarts and spotted dick. Could I even ask for better content? Self, stop talking out loud… this is a child’s party.

In all seriousness, planning a Harry Potter party is actually quite fun. There are so many ideas and I’m certainly not at a loss for content. My biggest problem is deciding what exactly I want to use because at this point, we have stopped allowing the birthday girl to be a part of planning so that she is somewhat surprised.

Birthday girl’s last requests were to have a “Pin the Scar on Harry” game, a Platform 9 3/4 sign, and the candy trolley. So now I’m working with Hogwarts, spotted dick, scars, a platform, and a rolling candy factory. Sounds like a college night out if you ask me… Please don’t ask me!

The children will be pinning scars all over this eyeless, noiseless, mouthless boy that I have created.

And yes, I know the colors of the scarf are gold and maroon, but you work with what you’ve got hence DIY, hence FREE, hence spotty craftsmanship.

A sign for the candy cart. PS…the candy cart might be my favorite thing to work on. I cannot wait to eat all the candy. Ahem, I mean, see the finished product.

I finished the Platform 9 3/4 backdrop tonight. I know, it looks like it is real life. I’m still surprised as well. I mean, these printers actually print pictures that look authentic. Who knew!

Honestly, I’m quite happy with how this turned out. I think it will make for some great photo ops:)

And because I’m a book girl, a little finishing touch.

I was inadvertently photobombed.

I’ll be spending my weekend doing all things “Harry”. More pics to follow.