Sunday, December 23, 2012


How does one begin a post like this? What words do you choose? Sometimes there are no words.

I vaguely remember Oklahoma City and my shock. But I was a college student and self absorbed. I was not a mother.

I remember Colombine - I was living there when it happened. I remember that shock, panic, the grief-filled aftermath. But I was not a mother.

I remember 911. I lit candles, I attended services and I mourned with the nation. I felt the anger and lived the questions. But I was not a mother.

I remember the savage losses since. Those graphically reported by our efficient media. I remember the nausea and the gut-punch that came with each. The anger. For some of those, I was already a parent. For some, I had not yet crossed that threshold.

Six years ago, I became a mother. The game changed. And this latest Taking....this Taking of our children and those who have pledged to love and lead them...this one has hit me. As it has millions of others.

Last Friday, I pulled myself together enough for Ally and I to pick Ari up from school. I walked down the sidewalk with a fellow class parent, "that would've been our kids," he said. Standing outside Ari's room, waiting for the bell to ring, I bent down and held Ally. Looking across the sidewalk, I saw a mom I knew from soccer, holding her three year old daughter while she waited for her six year old son. We didn't speak, but we looked at each other over the downy top of our daughters' heads. When the bell rang, her son bounced out of the room. "There's our guy," I heard her say. And she grabbed him tight.

I slept with my own six year old that night.

That's about all you can do. You pull them close, hold them tight. You indulge the questions about puddles and cats and let them have a candy cane. You sit down and really listen to their theories on the physics of Beyblades and about how their day went, without parenting or looking for the lesson. Because what else can you do?

Maybe that's all you should do. Leave the protests and the policy-making to those whose children have grown. Give your own small ones love and time while they're still growing. Watch them. Don't waste the time only to have regrets later. Easier said than done, I know...though I've found myself landing on the "easier" side of this equation a lot more over the past week. Perspective.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I TuTu. Do You?

I'm not a sewer...wait...that didn't come out right. Sew-er. I don't sew. In fact, if the health and well-being of my family depended upon my paltry sewing skills, we would all be sickly and starving.


My kid likes tutus. Her friends like tutus. We were invited to a birthday party for two little girls. I got to thinkin', "hey, I wonder if I could make some tutus...". 

So, three days and three "no sew" (ha! I sewed, trust me, I sewed) tutus later, we've got this:

...and I am ridiculously proud of myself.

Actually, it was quite a crafty weekend all around. The kids and Sascha painted chairs for the helluvit and I made tutus. Aren't we bitchin'?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Ally once had a snarl in the back of her head. A big one. This one was so dense and uncombable that we dubbed it The Rats Nest. I wasn't paying attention when it first started...busy with moving details and tired of chasing her around with a hairbrush, I got lazy. The next week, it was bigger and more painful to manage. Afraid of the pain, Ally shrieked and ran whenever I mentioned the snarl. Exhausted and tired of confrontation, I let her. After about three weeks, it was permanent. There was no detangler (ethnic or otherwise) on the market that could penetrate this massive entity. Trust me, I tried. So, one fateful morning, I got out the scissors. After that, we were all happy...though Ally's head looked strange for about four months.

As I wrote the first sentence above, it struck me hard and fast that this little anecdote is highly metaphoric. Either you work on that snarl in the early stages or it ends up with a personality of its own and the only way to deal with it is through amputation.

Amputation sucks.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

swirl: verb \ˈswər(-ə)l\ to pass in whirling confusion

You know glitter balls? Those bouncy, water and glitter-filled things that swirl around mesmerisingly when you shake them? Well, that's kind of what the past seven months have been like. Only it'd've been nice if the stuff swirling around us was really glittery and pink-colored. Instead, it's sort of been like a low velocity tornado of situations, happenings, choices, research, uprootings, etc. whirling around us. Want to work on something? Cool. Grab an item from the vortex whirling around you...when you believe you're done with it, just stick it right back in the vortex because it'll still be there later...whirling and waiting.

It began in November last year when our cat took a turn for the worse. After almost a year of cleaning cat vomit off the floors each morning, a round of vet visits, dental work, drugs for IBS, etc. etc., I woke up one morning to find her walking downstairs while leaning against the wall. At the vet later that day I found that she kept falling when she tried to jump off a chair. Shit. Diagnosed blind in one eye with limited vision in the other due to a possible stroke or brain tumor, Bella was a trouper. She managed. Two weeks later I walked upstairs and found her unable to walk. Still a trouper, she was rolling to where she wanted to go. Heartbroken, I spent the night with her on the floor, helped the kids say a beautiful goodbye to her the next morning and took her to her final vet appointment. If you've ever had to make the choice to end an animal's life, you know it is not easy...even if it's the obvious choice.

Thus began our swirling and whirling. 

A few weeks later Sascha was notified that the rest of his department would be laid off in December. After four years of survived lay-offs, this shouldn't have been much of a surprise. However, Sascha (being Sascha) had started to seem as if he was untouchable in the workplace...there were times I considered sending him to work with a cape and mask. So, it was a bit of a surprise. 

The inevitable list of discussions ensued: Do we try to stay in San Diego? Do we try to move home? Do we try a new state? How much effort and difficulty do we want to put into this? If we leave, where do we start with relocating with two kids, a house we own and one remaining cat? 

Of course, Sascha (being Sascha) stumbled across an open position in our old hometown at his company of choice, interviewed, was hired and started work in February. Bam, decision made. I stayed behind with the kids for two months, interviewing moving companies and realtors, selling the house, packing, saying goodbyes, shedding tears and shunting back and forth between two toddler beds all night, when the lack of Daddy became too much.

My blessed, amazing mother came to help but then had to leave because her own mother needed to Go. Mom sat with Grandma through her dying, shook hands and talked with visitors through her funeral and packed up her room at the home. If you've ever had to "close a life", you know it is not easy. Two weeks later she then returned to San Diego, exhausted and heart-worn, to help me. Words cannot describe my gratitude or my knowing of how much this took out of her. And yet, she did it. I'm not surprised because I know I'd do the same for Ally...but still.

Our townhouse in San Diego sold in one day. We found our house of choice in Michigan. But it wasn't on the market anymore. Made an offer anyway. The owners said okay. Sascha visited kindergartens here, entered the lottery for the public charter we wanted for Ari (which is two blocks from our house), Ari was chosen in the lottery. Everything slipped into place as if it were supposed to be. And yet, moving cross-country and transitioning to a new town with two kids and a cat was quite difficult. I can't imagine how hard it would have been if all of the above had been loaded with problems.

So now we're Michiganders again. Shucking corn on our front porch. Going "up north" on the weekends through grizzled traffic. Mosquitoes. Humidity. Old friends. Old house. Trees and green everywhere. Home. We're still working out some growing pains (our kids are still California kids, after all) and there's still sadness and missing our friends, the beach, the dolphins and pelicans, San Diego's unique beauty...but I'd say we're happy here. Our quality of life is definitely better in a smaller town with a slower pace, living in a house with a yard and windows all the way around. It's the right choice for us to be near grandparents again. And there's so much to do in Ann Arbor that it's tough to miss things like the zoo or Sea World. 

But still, there is missing and feeling homesick for people and places. Funny how you can detest living somewhere and regret ever moving and then, less than five years later, can miss it and shed tears over your farewell. 


It hands you lessons. You learn. You grow. You move ahead with your heart open. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
“Gone where?”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” And that is dying.

Henry Van Dyke

The call came.

The vigil has ended.

She has gone on ahead to what most of us can only imagine.

And she is happy.

There are not many words that I can squeeze out around the lump in my I will need to borrow from the words of others until I can find my own.

July 8, 1916 - March 8, 2012

...I write these words to name myself - to name each of us -
worthy of going home, worthy of having our longing met,
worthy of awakening in the arms of the Beloved.
~Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Dance

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Letting Go

"Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you."
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

There is a lot going on right now.

It is all swirling and whirling around inside and outside of me.

Sometimes the physical sensation of this weighty presence produces the need for me to hang on to something solid.

Caffeine compounds this sensation.

I need to drink less caffeine.

For the purposes of brevity, I will temporarily set aside all that has happened since November (although that is part of the swirling and whirling) and focus on the very large weight of what is now happening in my extended family.

My Grandma, our family's beautiful matriarch, is completing her journey here on earth.

This has been a long time coming for her. She has been "ready" for a while...Grandpa went on ahead over 13 years ago...and regular living is hard when you're in your 90's. Though I know this is her body's natural progression and her soul's ultimate desire, it's hard to let go. And it's hard to be eloquent when half of my own soul is hunkering down in rural Iowa with my mom while she arranges hospice care with her brothers and tries to tell Grandma that it's okay to let go...that we'll all be okay.

However, I smiled through my tears last night as I bathed my children. They are a physical part of her. And they are part of the legacy that she and the rest of my grandparents have passed down. A legacy for which I am eternally grateful. Family. Faith. Integrity. Strength. Honor. Humor. Love. Acceptance. And not taking yourself too seriously. Rather than write an early eulogy, I'll simply thank her and the rest of my ancestors for producing a family that respects and deeply cares for each other and all the others who share this journey. I will strive with all my power to pass this legacy on to my own children as well.

I love you, Grandma. Because of you, we'll all be okay.