somebody’s getting married

I haven’t posted much lately, and that’s because I’m very busy getting ready to get married! There’s so much to do leading up to a wedding. Lots of things I didn’t realize until now. I’ve never planned a giant party before! There are stressful moments, but there are also really beautiful, loving moments. My sister is here, visiting from southern Chile, and getting to spend time with her each day is such a gift. She keeps me in the moment, enjoying every drop of summer with swimming and biking and everyday adventures. My dad, who I’m lucky enough to live only 20 minutes from, is an active part of the planning process, and is so supportive and hilarious in all of his jokes (haha). Greg’s parents are here too and they could not be sweeter or more helpful. We have the best families.

And there are the moments between me and Greg: breaking in our new shoes around the apartment, finalizing the seating chart, making playlists for the reception, feeling overwhelmed one minute and then breaking into huge smiles and exclaiming how excited we are to marry each other. Seeing the chuppah for the first time, the one Greg has been working on for months, and it’s so beautiful I want to cry.

Today I went to a movie by myself. It was A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, and I loved it. I also loved the time sitting in a dark theater, eating popcorn, watching a story unfold on a screen. Taking the time to do something for myself is important. Self-care. In 2011 I took myself on a four day trip to Montreal, and while there I made a promise: that I would always do things like that, even once I got married and started a family. I’m still me inside this marriage, inside the family I plan to create.

20150719_163311I cannot wait to marry Greg in less than two weeks. This is a crazy, fast-moving, emotional, beautiful, fun, fantastic summer.

good grief

Every day is a new day living in the world after my mom died. I am 795 days into this life. My grief is just as big as the first moment, but it changes shape. Time doesn’t make it better, but it makes it different.

Some days I float and roll through my new life, feeling okay, feeling happy, and then it will hit me that the central human in my life is not here. She’s not part of this, she’s not here to tell me her thoughts, or to laugh, or to just exist. I still don’t know how to reconcile that. I almost don’t believe it. How can the world exist if she is not noticing it, painting it, coloring it with her opinions and cooking smells? I dream that she comes back, that it was all a trick, or that she is a zombie. I get really upset about dumb little things, because while I may be actually upset about those things, behind it is my sadness and anger about my mom being dead. UGH I’m so hungry and my clothes don’t fit right and my mom is dead. That person is chewing so loudly it’s driving me nuts and my mom is dead. I got on the wrong bus and my mom is dead. 

I hate when people tell me that my mom is “with me.” She’s not with me. She’s dead, and her spirit is off doing other things. She exists in my genetic code, for sure, and I wear her clothes. I’m trying so hard to let her be dead, to let her be Ghost Viola or whatever and fly around painting the sky and exploring other dimensions and to not wish her here so hard. I don’t know how to feel her with me in this new form. I want her in an Earthly way, nothing else will do. I’m stubborn, a quality I inherited from her (and my dad, too, we’re a stubborn bunch).

I wish people said I looked like her. My sister really is the one who resembles our mom as a young woman, it’s striking and everyone notices. Sometimes people say I have her laugh. Mostly they say I look like my dad. But I’ve always felt a similarity in our expressions, me and my mom, smiling, or talking with our hands, our style, the way we listen to people by looking right in their eyes. I’ll catch myself teasing Greg (my fiance) in the same way my mom would tease my dad– a fake angry comment, a smirk, an open-mouthed laugh accompanied by a little dance.

She won’t be at my wedding. This fact gets bigger as the date gets closer. I wonder what my wedding would be like if she was here to plan it with me, how it would differ from the real thing. Would I have picked the same dress? Would her ideas have been better? What would we have argued about?

What would I be like if my mom hadn’t died? This grief is my defining feature, her death the defining moment of my life so far– the line dividing everything into Before and After.

This is where I’m at today.

my 30th birthday

And so ends the tumultuous twenties.

One of my favorite birthday stories is from when I turned one. My mom made me a special Big Bird cake, and cupcakes for all the other kids at my party. But I wanted a cupcake too, and so when my cousin Craig wasn’t looking, I grabbed his and shoved it in my mouth. my first birthday

watercolor nudes, rivers & roads

I’ve been working more with the tiny watercolor set of my mom’s, and one of my favorite things to use watercolors for so far is life drawing. I’ve been drawing with pens forever, I know how they work for the most part, and making those lines of a human body has become familiar and it’s easy to settle into a particular style that I already know how to do. Painting a watercolor nude is a whole new ballgame for me, using lines, yes, but with a brush, with these fast-drying watery lines, and also swaths of color. Sometimes there is more paint on the brush than i realize, or less. I can play with heavier color, lighter color, shading, mixing. Even just the physical act of dipping the brush in water, then in paint, then sliding it against the rough paper is captivating for me. It takes longer, which fills up the minutes of each pose more quickly. I am more engaged in each moment.

may 13 watercolor nudes

alex's last pose

And now for a little music: my cover of Rivers and Roads by The Head and the Heart on ukulele:

comics workshop at The Collegiate School

I went to the city (New York– I still call it The City, as if it’s the only one) last Wednesday to teach a comics workshop to the fourth grade boys at The Collegiate School. This is the second comics workshop I’ve done with kids this year, and I feel so inspired to do more. Seeing kids excited about reading and making comics I see myself at their age, reading Archie every chance I got (as well as Calvin and Hobbes and Sylvia), tracing the characters, drawing my own. Everything I do now as an adult (comics, stories, movies, dancing) is something I loved as a nine-year-old. To me, that is success.

It’s awesome that schools are finally treating comics as literature and teaching them as a storytelling technique. I got to see my friend Chris and watch him teach (so good!), and my dad came with me so we also got to spend a really nice spring day in Manhattan. Breakfast at French Roast, a movie at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (Felix et Meira – soooooooo beautiful, I loved it, I’m still thinking about it), tried a new pizza place (it was okay– still not as good as our old favorite, Ray’s on 6th ave. and 11th st. which is now gone), and some nice walking around. It was a good day.

pops at french roast20150506_095354 IMG_20150506_190627 20150506_170810 20150506_171315                          20150506_17300020150506_172705

Thank you so much to Chris Stevenson, The Collegiate School, and of course my awesome dad.