Deaths, Resurrections, Births, and Gratitude

Venice, Italy 1986 - Mom and Me

Mom and Me in Venice – 1986


It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, as I’ve been busy figuring out what my life/schedule looks like around the new Mary Sue gig. That’s been going well, and I’ve finally figured out what my actual days can look like. However, there’s been a lot of travelling, too. Went to Emerald City Comic Con  to do an Incredible Girl panel with Aurora, Lady Anastasia of Pangaea fame, and Cunning Minx – it went really well. And I’m writing this post from the MD/VA area where I’m with My Boo visiting Boo’s family for Passover. It’s been a really nice trip.

But the reason for the writing today is, of course, because it’s the anniversary of my mom’s passing. Mariana Hernandez Jusino died on April 5th, 2006. It’s also Easter. It’s also my writing partner, Adam’s, birthday. Deaths, resurrections, and births. It’s weird to think of all of those things on the same day.

It’s been 9 years – NINE YEARS – since my mom passed away. That’s insane to me. On the one hand, it feels like just yesterday, but on the other, it feels like a million years ago. Time definitely heals all wounds, but the wounds sometimes re-open at unexpected times. Being in MD/VA with My Boo’s parents just drives home the fact that I don’t have parents to go home to anymore (we’ll be celebrating the 1st anniversary of my dad’s passing in 2 weeks). I think about things they aren’t around to experience, like my career milestones, or a wedding, or kids. It’s sad. But at the same time, I still have my brother and sister and their beautiful families. I have My Boo and that whole family. I have amazing friends who are like family. I’m not alone, and my future looks bright, and I’m happy about those things. What’s more, I’m equipped with the things my parents taught me, so they’re never that far away. I find myself folding plastic bags and putting them away the way my mom did, or putting silverware tine/blade side up in the dish rack the way my dad did. Just the other day, my sister, brother and I were chatting on Facebook about how we all cut our pancakes “like pizza”, the way our mom did. 🙂 I have my mom’s ability to choose battles, and my dad’s ability to start them when necessary. I’ve learned from their successes and mistakes, and I’m so grateful that they were in my life for as long as they were to give me the gifts of their experience and love.

So, today isn’t a sad day. It’s an introspective day. I get to remember the good times, express gratitude for what I’ve been given, and life my life as fully as possible with the knowledge that that’s exactly what my mom and dad would’ve wanted for me. I hope I make them proud, and I hope I can be the kind of parents they were one day.

I love you, Mommy.

Grief is Weird

I wrote the following on 4/30/14 in my journal, but wanted to share it with all of you. Because grief is weird, and I wanted to reach out to those of you who’ve ever lost someone you loved and know exactly how contradictory, crazy, tumultuous, lonely, and weird grief can be. 


Me and my ever-growing tribe when I needed them most. New York, 2014.

Me and my ever-growing tribe when I needed them most. Croton on Hudson, 2014.

Never is the question “How are you?” more loaded than when you’re mourning the loss of someone you love. And it seems impossible to answer it the way you’re supposed to – gracefully, with just the right amount of solemnity and just the right amount of good humor to allow the person asking to join you in your grief without drowning them in it.

It goes something like this:

They come at you, face full of pity, telling you how sorry they are, then asking the dreaded question. How are you? The thing is, you were fine before they asked that. You’d gotten all your crying out earlier, and you’d managed to pull yourself together, and you were looking forward to seeing your friends precisely because you didn’t want to think about things like aging parents, or grieving, or nursing homes. You wanted to be normal. And then they ask you how you are, and it makes you feel guilty – because if it isn’t apparent, if they have to ask, then clearly you aren’t grieving hard enough. And what does that mean? Why aren’t you More Sad? And so you feel the need to explain yourself, like “Oh, I’m OK now, but I was devastated before,” or “It’s all still really surreal right now.” And those aren’t lies exactly, but they aren’t the whole truth either. Because sometimes you actually are OK, and you want to reserve the right to be OK, and you start to resent people who bring their sadness to you, because they want their turn to share in your grief, and you get a little pissed off and think “It’s not my fault you weren’t there with me when I was crying to myself at three A.M. Stop trying to out-sad me!”

But, of course, anger is a part of the grieving process – and you remember all the times when your friends have lost loved ones, and you didn’t know what to say, and you become immensely grateful that they’re even putting up with you and your emotional ping-pong, because they get you, and they trust in your love, and they know that this is what you need to do to process the fact that your parents are dead. They follow your lead, because they’re you’re friends – they’re your family – and every death you share reminds both you and them how important you are to each other.

Then there are the people who don’t know. The people who missed the announcement on Facebook, or who aren’t close enough to you to have been told. The employers or acquaintances who never knew your dead loved one. They ask the question innocuously. How are you? And they’re expecting the usual “Fine,” or news of your writing career, or your love life, and it’s then when you want to scream, HOW AM I? ARE YOU KIDDING? THE ONLY FATHER I’LL EVER HAVE IS DEAD, AND I’VE ALREADY LOST MY MOTHER, AND ASIDE FROM TECHNICALLY BEING AN ORPHAN NOW, BOTH MY SIBLINGS HAVE FAMILIES OF THEIR OWN AND I DON’T, SO I FEEL LIKE MY BRANCH OF THE FAMILY TREE IS COMPLETELY SEVERED AND FLOATING ADRIFT IN SPACE! AND DESPITE HAVING GREAT SIBLINGS, WONDERFUL FRIENDS, AND A PARTNER WHO LOVES ME, I STILL FEEL FUCKING LONELY BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A “HOME” TO GO TO AT CHRISTMAS! THAT’S HOW I AM!

But you don’t say that, because that would be hugely unfair to someone who had no idea what was going on with you. So you tell them – my father died – and brace yourself for having to relive the sorrow all over again with a new person as they express their condolences days, weeks, months after the fact.

Someone who hasn’t seen me in a while asked me “How’s your mother?” when I was in New York last week. And I gulped – how could she not know? – and said “She died in 2006.” And I got to relive my grief again, on top of the new grief for my dad. Awkward.

Anyway, what I try to remember is that there’s no correct way to grieve, and no one knows what to say. There’s nothing to say. You both want to be cheered up and want to wallow in sadness. You want to remember, and you want to forget. You remember smiles, the feeling of hands on your face, laughs, fights perfectly, even as you struggle to remember exactly what your dead loved one looks like. And photographs start to feel like a lie, because they capture faces, they may even capture moments, but they don’t capture feelings, or what the people in them meant to you, and the longer you look at photos, the more your dead loved ones start to feel like characters in a story you heard once, and it seems insane to you that the story is yours, and that it’s allowed to go on without them.

At 34 years old, no human experience feels more contradictory to me than grief. But amid all the conflicting feelings there has been one constant. Love. My family pulling together and being there for each other. My friends being there for me. The Boy silently standing beside me with hugs at the ready. The sharing of happy (and hilarious) memories of my dad. Cuddles with my friends’ new babies that give me hope. So much love that it breaks my heart and mends it all at once.

JEZEBEL POST: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Getting Older

I just realized that I never talked on here about the fact that I HAD AN ARTICLE UP ON JEZEBEL! 🙂 I did. It was pretty cool. And if you missed it, I thought I’d let you know about it here. It’s a piece called How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Getting Older, and in it, I talk not only about how and why I’m not afraid of getting older, but why I’m looking forward to it!


I’m 34. I’m fat. I’m not married. I’m childless. And for those of you whose first instinct was to go “Awww” — are you kidding me? Save your deep concern for the homeless and the terminally ill, will you? Geez.

Believe it or not, this isn’t a tale of woe.

My mother gave birth to me in 1979, when she was 44 years old, and I think this has shaped my entire outlook on what a woman’s timeline is “supposed” to be. My parents were the same age, a good ten years older than any of my friends’ parents, but it was never something that affected me when I was growing up. You often hear people say that they don’t want to have children when they’re “too old” because they want to be able to “keep up” with their kids…but my parents managed just fine. To be fair, I was a writer and a nerd, so there was less running around and more writing Star Trek: The Next Generation fan fiction for me anyway, but still. We traveled as a family. They each entertained and played with me in their own ways. They loved me and cared for me. Plus, I had the added benefit of a brother and sister who are fifteen and sixteen years my senior, which was like having another set of younger, hipper parents who took me to to Debbie Gibson and Paula Abdul concerts.

For the entire article, and to leave comments at it, CLICK HERE!

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Eff You, Space Mountain!

I mock Space Mountain. 2004.

I mock Space Mountain. 2004.

First of all, yes. There was a brief point in my life where I both dyed my hair blonde (and it turned orange three days later) and dyed my hair “Run Lola, Run Red” (that took about two weeks to turn orange). This photo was taken during one of those red-to-orange transitions.

But more important than my hair is the location of this photo. Space Mountain at Disneyworld. But before I tell you why this photo matters so much, we have to go back in time…

I first visited Disneyworld when I was eight years old, and most of it was a phenomenal time.

Except for Space Mountain. Space Mountain was The Devil.

My mom, in addition to being diabetic, also had heart issues, and so as we stood on line for Space Mountain we got increasingly worried by the signs we kept passing saying things like If you have heart problems, you shouldn’t ride this ride! My mom insisted it would be fine, and my dad was totally gung-ho. I was never a roller-coaster person, so eight-year-old me was a little nervous, but even I wanted to ride the ride and find out what it was like.

So we got in the car…keep in mind that this was 1988, and Disneyworld still had the cars with seatbelts, not lap bars (which were installed in 1989). Also, two people could fit across in the seatbelt cars, so my dad and I sat in the back seat with a big seatbelt across both our laps, and my poor mom sat up front. Since I was a little scared, my dad sat me on his lap, which you CAN DO ON A RIDE WHERE TWO PEOPLE CAN SIT IN ONE SEAT WITH ONLY ONE BIG SEATBELT! WHAT THE HECK WERE ALL THE ADULTS IN MY LIFE AND THE ADULTS RUNNING DISNEYWORLD THINKING?!


The ride started.

Whizzing and jostling, whizzing and jostling. I saw my mother’s white knuckles on either side of her as she clutched the sides of the car for dear life. That was while I could see, before I started slipping off my father’s lap and out from under the seatbelt to the point that he was holding onto me in a chokehold, keeping me in the speeding roller coaster by my head. I remember my left leg hanging out the side of the car and thumping on the outside of it as we turned this way and that. It was the most miserable experience of my little life. When the ride was over, I was in tears, my mother was green, and my father had this sheepish look on his face like he knew the whole thing had been a bad fucking idea. In that moment, I hated Disneyworld, and I hated roller coasters, and all the money in the world wouldn’t have gotten me to go on Space Mountain ever again.

Until 2004.

A group of friends and I went to Orlando when I was 25 (wow – almost 10 years ago. Yowza.) and my friend Katie’s parents allowed us the use of their time share. As it turns out, Katie had a similar Space Mountain experience when she was a kid, so in the interest of avenging our childhood selves, we decided that we would indeed ride our old nemesis, Space Mountain. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad!

Don’t get me wrong, I screamed my head off. But it was more psychological than because I faced any actual danger. The lap bars really squish you in there nice and tight – and let’s face it, my ass had gotten so big by 25 that there was no way I would come dislodged from that intergalactic luge.

So, this photo was taken after I faced down my old foe, secure in the knowledge that I could beat it, and mocking its ridiculous power over me for so long. Eff you, Space Mountain. You are not the boss of me.


Mom and Me in Guaynabo. 1987

Mom and Me in Guaynabo. 1987

I was seven going on eight years old when I first realized just how badass my mom was.

It was my first trip to Puerto Rico – or as I lovingly refer to it, The Place Where Everyone Looks Like My Parents – and we spent a lot of time in Guaynabo, which is where my mom grew up. One day, my parents and I took a long walk, which felt even longer and hotter because I was seven, and ended up at a random church.

But…it’s not Sunday, I thought.

But there was another reason why we were there. Apparently, when my mom was around 17 or 18, she led an effort to petition for a church to be built in her hometown, because there wasn’t one close enough for people to attend easily.

So, that church in the photo is “my mom’s church.” 🙂 That was the day I started to learn that my mom Made Things Happen. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I got a lot of my activist-y ways from her.

Also…check out that one-piece shorts jumpsuit I’m wearing! I fucking LOVED that thing.


I totally still have that bonnet somewhere...

I totally still have that bonnet somewhere…that container of ricotta cheese, however, is nowhere to be found.

One of my earliest memories is of the railing of the crib in this photo. I have a vague memory of being in my aunt’s furnished basement, which was across the street from the house where this picture was taken, and sticking my hands up onto that railing. I remember the orange and yellow colors and the feeling of bouncing on the crib bottom.

There was even a memory that I had in that crib that I didn’t trust until my mom confirmed it without me asking. I had a vague memory of singing really high notes while standing in the crib when I was in high school, but I figured I was making it up in my brain. Then one day, out of the blue, my mom says something to the effect of: I remember this one time when I heard this really loud, but really gorgeous note coming from the room you were in. It scared me, because it was all of a sudden and really loud and really clear. I figured I left the TV on too loud, so I came in to turn it down, and I saw that what was making the noise was you! You were singing your own little aria all by yourself in your crib! You must have been about two.

So apparently, the little girl in the above photo was a power belter. Yeah, that makes sense. 🙂

What doesn’t make sense? Why was I playing with the top of a ricotta cheese container? Seriously, why? 🙂

Celebrating Mother’s Day (and My Mom)!

On days like this, I miss my own mother, who passed away seven years ago.

My mom in the mid-90s. Wasn't she purdy? :)

My mom in the mid-90s. Wasn’t she purdy? 🙂

In honor of my mother, Mariana Jusino, and all our mothers (both with us and not), please consider pledging to the Pound By Pound Pledge Drive. Or if not that, choose a charity/cause that means something to you and your mom. Celebrate the woman who raised you and taught you values by showing her what a great job she did in turning you into the kind of person who cares about the world around them!

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!