Friday, November 28, 2008


When Noah was little he use to say "Chanks mom" and I would say your welcome he would also answer "Yesh" when I offered him a cookie. My favorite was "Oh I a nishey-boy" and he is still the nicest boy I know.

We went to Jeff and Sarah's for Chanksgiving. We were going to have a pic-nic but the weather was a little iffy so we decided to do an indoor casual dinner. We used paper plates, ate huge pots of homeade soup (Lizzies Butternut-apple rocks me upside down) pie, sandwiches, a huge Sarah salad and played board games. Later we went for a night hike along the water and enjoyed the view of the bridge. Noah thought the bridge lights were christmas decorations.

I thought is would be terribly sad but it wasn't.

Early Thanksgiving morning before everyone woke up I decided to head out to the cemetery to bring Stevie a terrible little Christmas tree decorated with glittery bulbs, pink bows, and silver snow flakes. I chose a tree she could see from heaven.

When I got there the gates were locked, that was unusual as it's a sunup to sundown park. I waited about an hour, watched the cars line up, watched people get mad and leave then decided to lock my car and head up the hill on foot.

I squeezed my sausage self and my silly tree through the side of the gate and huffed and puffed myself up the hill for about a mile. I had to sit and rest because I was panting so hard I thought I would faint. I then decided to take a short cut up the muddy hillside instead of continuing on the paved road. This is were it get's funny. Stevie I hope you enjoyed this.

I am out of shape and a little middle-age-over-weight. I was bundled in a down vest and big sweater, and carrying this dingle-dangly Christmas tree while trying to scale a pretty steep and muddy hillside. Half way up I looked down and decided I had made a big mistake. I started to panic and slid about ten feet down, I could have prevented it but I wouldn't let go of the shiny tree. Just as I am trying to right myself and grab at snowflakes that had flown off the tree during the slide several cars whiz by.

It seems that while I was struggling up hill someone opened the gate and the passers by got a good look at me, my muddy but, my red face, hanging on to a poor oleaner bush with rescued snowflakes between my teeth.

I made it up the hill only to find the short cut was not what I thought it was and I still had another hill to climb, this time I chose to walk the road.

I arrived at Stevie's grave a mess. I had lost my hair clip so my hair was a giant curly fright, the top of the tree was bent, I had glitter on my face from the snowflakes I had in my mouth, I was wet, muddy, sweaty, and all I could do was colapse on the grass and laugh.

I brought a pocket full of Stawberries for Stevie and the deer to my surprise they were not smushed at all, and I ate one. I then righted the tree, dumped the old flowers and had a good cry with my girl.

The sky was cloudy, moody, and grey. There were birds and big black crows and me all alone on a cemetery hill with a shiny tree and a view of nothing but a broken heart. I wished she would appear but she didn't. I wished God would sit next to me and explain it all to me but he didn't. I wished that someone would arrive with a warm blanket, a cup of tea and tell me it was all a bad dream but they didn't. So I sat there still and quiet, I prayed, I talked to Stevie then I began walking back to my car.

On the way back I took in the green of the trees, the gold grass that was going to sleep for the winter, the red berries that are suppose to make birds drunk and kids sick if you eat them. I watched little squirrels dart back and forth across the road, leaves fall, and cars drive slowly by. It was peaceful in a way I can not explain. Then there was a great noise, and from every direction big black crows came, they flew into a group of trees just up ahead and the noise increased. Soon I was under a tree full of black crows all talking madly at the same time. It was music only crows understand. It felt important so I stood there and listened for a few minutes, as soon as I walked away it stopped almost like a switch was turned off.


Monday, November 24, 2008

What is real?

I got up early this morning, it was still dark and the morning a little a colder than yesterday. I waited for the sun to come up somewhere...I live in a suburb so I know when the sun is coming up because I can see the horizon change from dark to grey to gold to sky blue. What I can't see is the sun rising from one place, like over a mountain or out of the ocean.

There is a creepy moment before the colors change, the same moment happen just before dark. Stevie hated the end of the day, I never understood why, I do now, even though I crave it sometimes.

I need to be up early like this, my mind is most clear and it's as quiet as the day will be. This morning I kept thinking about illusions and how quantum physics shows us that nothing is solid, that there is more empty space in between than there is anything else. I touched things like a stone Noah collected from our property in Oroville, the edge of Stevie's furry pink blanket, the one I took to the hospital with us. I touched the skin on the back of my hand to see if I could really touch and feel at the same time. It all felt very solid to me.

I closed my eyes and tried to release my need to believe that everything I could see with my eyes and touch with my fingers were "real" What if I let go and tried to see without my eyes and feel without my fingertips, what if I tried to "know" instead of "believe".

What I felt was the smooth sweep of memory where nothing is solid it is just the dancing of time, some of it exactly as it happened and some of it added to or subtracted from depending on how I wanted to remember it.

I tried to listen to music by remembering music and Jenny Lewis started singing "Handle me with Care". I tried to taste the seven cookies I ate yesterday and I easily remembered the butter and the crunchy sugar crystals. I remembered the way Noah's hair smelled yesterday while he was sleeping, the way the hot water felt in my bath last night and a hundred cold mornings that I sat on the porch crying as the last of Stevie's night candle burned.

What if this life we live moment by moment is a memory that plays in a loop? What if it has all happened before? What if we have long since left these bodies and this planet we created and we are accessing time? What if real isn't real at all? What if like memory we can shift and change parts so that they appear a little more pleasant or a lot more horrible than they actually were?

I thought about this for a moment and I decided to take a very hurtful moment and change it. I remembered a night in the hospital when I called Sarah and told her I was going to put Stevie in the car and leave, get us on a plane to someplace beautiful and run away from hospitals, cancer, tears and pain.

In the memory I had we stayed and she never got better. In the new memory I found a wheel chair and sat her in it. I told her what we were going to do and she gave me her most wicked smile. I disconnected her IV line but took the pole with us so the nurses wouldn't be suspicious. I put her slippers on her feet and covered her in a pink fuzzy blanket. I grabbed my purse and we headed down to the lobby. I used my cell phone to call a cab. I used my credit card at the airport to get us two tickets to Tahiti. At the gift shop I bought us sweatshirts, baseball caps and plenty of things to read.

The plane ride was long but we slept most of the time. We read the rest of the time and before we knew it we were landing in Popiette. The puddle jumper took us to the cluster of bungalow's that sit on the water.

I filled up the big claw foot with warm soapy water and let Stevie relax. We then climbed into the big bed under the thatched roof and ceiling fans and slept. No alarms, no machines, no lights and constantly opening doors, no bad news, just sleep.

The next morning we swam in the lagoon as the sun snuck up on us. The water was warm and turquoise blue. We laughed and laughed because we did it, we escaped. We needed to creep out of the water before everyone woke up because we were naked. We sat on the deck in fat towels wondering if it was too early to find breakfast.

We exchanged our sweatshirts for tourist clothing that we bought at the gift shops and we arrived at our breakfast destination wearing tank tops and sarongs. We flip-flopped to our table in new sandals that needed breaking in. Our hair was still wet but we pulled it back in pony tails.

Our days and nights were spent walking the beaches, swimming in the lagoons, eating, reading under the shade of big umbrella's while we drank fizzy water and blended fruit drinks. Soon time stopped, we forgot what day it was or long it had been since the time before.

It worked. The old memory was gone (well faded to another part of my brain) and this new memory had taken it's place. I could really see Stevie in a beach chair, a book on her lap, big sunglasses telling me that she was hungry and wanted to rent bikes and find someplace new for lunch. I was wearing a baseball cap and could feel the sunburn on my shoulders. I wanted to fall asleep for a little while but the idea of a bike ride sounded better, I got excited.

If you can see it in your mind, feel it in your heart isn't that real? Did I just change our life in some parallel universe. Did she die in a big bed over blue water instead of a stinky hospital connected to tubes and wires. I believe she did.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Relationships and grieving

Things have been going well. Tangerine is official, I have hours and customers, vendors and book keeping, events and marketing. I also have bills and stress but I expected that and so far both have been more than manageable.

I love working and keeping busy. I am not a lay-down-and-let-the-day-go-by kinda girl. I think we all have days when we don't feel good or we are just a little burnt out and our bodies and minds kinda take a little 24 our vacation or maybe just a 15 minute nap. I indulge in this practice but I find that if I am quiet and still for too long my emotions come to the surface and I slip into a sad dark place where missing my girl is more than I can bear.

I know someone who thinks that because I am able to stay busy, have goals, work hard means that I am healed up and ready to take on the work of repairing relationships and becoming a more giving person on an intimate level.


Working hard is not intimacy, it isn't personal, it's work, a distraction. I think it's healthy and necessary. This person went back to work a week after Stevie left because it was easier to look at a computer screen full of numbers than it was to be in a house where her shoes were still in the hallway and her books piled high waiting for her. I understand that.

I didn't have a job to go to, I didn't have an escape hatch, so I tore out the kitchen, moved my studio, cleaned the house, wrote a book, started a business.

I don't move through pain easily. I don't forgive easily. I can't seem to forget easily. What I can do is give myself a project a goal and put myself there in that working place, where I feel I have purpose.

I have a dear friend who I love who lost her child the same year I did. She was in a very healthy, wonderful marriage before her daughter left so her relationship comforted her. Not unlike me she poured herself into work, a major move, and tennis. This didn't keep the tears away, it didn't soften the blow, and it didn't fix everything but it helped her move through unbearable days.

My marriage was in deep trouble before Stevie left. I did not find comfort in it because for me it was something that needed fixing or leaving and I didn't have the energy to do either one.

Most marriages don't survive this kind of loss so I am trying not to beat myself up over this struggle. When I give it too much thought I get lost in it, there is no right thing to do. This family can not handle one more big upheaval but I am not in any shape to repair something that has broken for such a long time.

I can fix a sink, build a wall, lay a floor but only because it doesn't ask anything of my heart.

A therapist might have a whole other take on this and I can't say for sure because I am not one. For me grief is very personal. It has a flow like anything else but there are variations in personality, temperament, and mental stability. There are situations in families, relationships and finances. There are so many factors that will effect how the story unfolds.

The death of a child is unlike the death of a pet, a parent, even a spouse. Pain is pain but the death of a child is soul deep. It goes against the order of nature. Women are maternal by design, our hormones support our heightened instinct. When I gave birth to all three of my children I felt the flood of it. It isn't a subtle thing it's a tsunami. It is so over whelming that you actually react to it with tears.

I remember looking at my new baby thinking how fine my life was before this child, how ordinary. Then this little bundle of heat, milk breath and soft skin arrives and I just know that I will never be the same and I can't understand how I lived a whole life without this very vital part of myself.

Ask any mother of a new born and they will tell you that they are changed forever. You are suddenly not "You" anymore. Your instinct to protect your child over-rides your instinct to survive. This bond is formed and it's stronger than any kind of love you have ever experienced before.

You are in protection overdrive. There is no way to fight it, you are on a mission and it is one that never ends, that love never goes away or changes.

When you loose a child something inside you breaks. The worst fear you can imagine has been realized and you are undone.

If you have other children you go into auto pilot, at least I did. You may be broken but you still have a mission. It isn't easy because you are without one of your engines but you learn to navigate with the one you have. Mother nature has a way of helping you along, she gives you extra fuel, the right winds, and a soft place to land.


I don't know what it is like to be able to make it work after a loss like this. I only know one person who is doing well and that is because she started off doing well. Her and her husband were blindsided by their daughters illness but they were united and helped her together, they comforted each other from the beginning because they had a strong foundation of trust and respect. Her husband is not the biological father of her children but he takes his role as their father very seriously he loves them with his whole heart. For him these children are a gift and a part of the woman he loves most. I think his intense love and caring for her children bonded them and is helping them survive through loss.

It feels like he situation is the best possible scenario. I don't think mine is the worst because I know women who have had it much harder. I know one woman whose husband of 25 years left her for a younger woman. In the middle of her trying to come to terms with her husband leaving and her whole life changing she unexpectedly loses her 21 year old son.

Another woman I know lost her son in a car accident and a year later her husband leaves her. He had been having an affair for twelve years but blamed her because he felt she was not comforting him enough in his time of loss.

My husband is a good guy. He loved our daughter and he has always provided for us. I have been a good mom, and I have always been ground crew not as visible, not bringing in the big bucks, but necessary.

We have struggled for so many years to hold this family together. I am not sure we are going to make it. I am not strong enough, my heart is broken, I can't find the will to do what he wants, to help him, to make him happy, to make him feel loved or wanted enough.

My needs are basic, I need to eat, be able to pay the bills, sleep and work. I have found ways to survive, I comfort myself by giving to myself. I cry, I write, I surround myself with people who can give to me without asking anything back. People who understand that right now I need this and they are happy to help me in anyway. They call, send emails, invite me to lunch, listen to me cry. They never say "now it's my turn" They know me, they know that as I slowly heal I will slowly become more giving. They know that I would do the same for them.

Working, taking care of Noah and keeping the house running is about all I can do right now. I feel OK with that. I am actually very proud of myself. I know I stumble and fall but I am not laying in that bed waiting to die like I thought I would.

I can't speak for my husband but I know he needs something, has always needed something that I just don't know how to give him. We grieve differently and I can't change this, I can't race through it, and I can't be someone else. He expects me to farther along in this process, he expects me to fix our relationship. I can't.

I expect him to grieve like me, to feel what I feel, I can't imagine anything else.

He is making decisions and struggling. Part of me wants to tell him to sit tight and wait this out but I can't. I am in no shape to make promises or demands. He wants to be in a loving relationship, he wants to move past all this, he needs...he needs.

I am just me.

The First Edit...

This morning I did something I have never done and I edited a post. My agreement with myself was that this blog would be for me and I would write honestly, openly, and not be afraid of pushing "Publish" because of what someone else would think.

It was hard to start blogging because it is a public forum. The odds of anyone finding this blog and reading it are pretty small but it feels very public when you begin. I knew what kind of person I am and I knew that I would write, re-write and finally delete because it wasn't perfect. I decided instead to give myself permission for this not to be perfect for it to just be what it is.

This is where I go to write. I love doing it because it comforts me, it connects me with myself. For me writing is very healing, it's my therapy.

We live our lives editing all the time, there has to be one place you don't have to do that, for me it was here. I wanted this to be my journey.

Last night someone who I thought never read my posts did and found two sentences in a post I wrote hurtful. I didn't write them to be hurtful actually writing them helped me diffuse some anger so that I could get through the day. I didn't write an untruth but it upset this person enough to confront me about it. So the post has been edited, the sentences deleted.

I won't do it again. I have also asked that person to stop reading my blog.

I feel like this blog suddenly doesn't have the integrity it once did. In the future I will leave out names of people if the story is not positive but the story will still be honest. In real life we have names, here maybe not.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Redecorating my life...

My good friend Sawsan and I have decided to dedicate 100 days to improving our lives by living our lives with intent, focusing on what we want, and manifesting joy.

We will be doing this "thing" until February 17th 2009. It is an experiment, a promise, an adventure and a hopeful journey.

We had to choose three wishes for ourselves. As women we want to ask for the health and happiness of our children, feed the world, end wars, eliminate cellulite and hot flashes. The deal is we would give that to the universe to work on and for this moment focus on us. If we can manifest joy into our lives then we can offer it to others and be part of a never ending chain of joy-givers. If we are happy, healthy, and strong we can be better tools for the universe to use to create change.

It was not easy choosing the three things. I felt like I had let the genie out of the bottle and I didn't want to screw it up. I had to tell myself over and over, " first these three things, then three more, the universe is abundant and this genie never gets tired of helping you create an amazing life."

My three wishes are this:

My first wish is to have contact with Stevie, real contact, something that I can feel and keep inside me for the rest of my days here. I want the universe to help me find her and allow us lift the veil for a moment and tell each other we are OK.

I wish to know where she is and to know that one day I will be with her again. I want to ask her three questions and know that it is she that is giving me the answers.

My second wish is for my business to be successful. This one is a hard one to ask for, it goes against something inside me that tells me this is greed. I have taken a couple deep breaths and given myself permission to ask for this. I work hard and I deserve to be successful. I am asking for ten paying customers a day. I want to pay off the business debt in a year, have money to keep purchasing art, and have money to save.

I want to be able to support myself should I ever need to. I want to know that I can do something well. I would like to contribute to my family financially.

My last wish is for my health. I would rather be where Stevie is but I am here. If I have to be here and grow old I plan to do it in a healthy body. I would like to lose enough weight to be heart healthy (about 15 pounds) I wish to desire physical activity, to have that feeling athletes have in the morning. I want to take long walks, hike, ride my bike and dance. I am asking the universe to help me find the time and motivation. I see myself in a healthy, fit and strong body.

All this in 100 days? Yes. Why not?

I am only in the first week of this and I already feel a subtle shift. I feel good I know I can do this. The only work I have had to do so far is open myself up to this and allow it to happen. I know the universe has it's own time table and I can be patient while we tweak things and get me ready for this new adventure.

My sister and I love each other. We have been friends to each other, we have parented each other and we have been fight-like-dogs-pulling-hair sisters. It hurts that we can't get along for very long periods of time. I find myself irritated by her, inpatient, judgemental and sometimes just mean.

I have always been hard on her, but never harder on her than I am on myself.

We are at a point in our relationship were we have a hard time just having a telephone conversation. Last night we got into a big disagreement and she decided to tell me off and blame me for things she has no right blaming me for. I did my best to tell myself that she is angry and frustrated and needs someone to download all over. I can be that person but not quietly or easily.

I hung-up on her when the negativity and anger started hurting. I went to bed very upset and woke up with an idea.

I took out my journal and wrote about it all, the ugliest thoughts and all the frustration. I felt like I was taking out the garbage and getting rid of all those rotten yucky feelings. I then made a long list of things I felt responsible for and asked for forgiveness, and gave it to myself.

I then made a list of three wishes for her. I know that it is not for me to wish for other people, those wishes belong to them but I did it as a loving act, a desire to voice what I most wanted for her. My wishes were all about happiness and love.

Then I let it go. It was easier than I thought.

I wondered why this happened when I was so trying to attract positive energy into my life that I had this painful conflict. I didn't feel defeated just curious.

The answer came to me easily. I could see a messy house full of old worn out things piled high and cluttering every nook and cranny. Things I did not need, things that did not work, things that caused me pain and sadness.

I could see a big truck pulling up with new things, wonderful things but there was no room for them in this house full of cobwebs and history. I could then see the truck pulling away after leaving a little note on my door saying they would come back again when I was ready.

I had to find a way to let this thing go with my sister, and there are other things I have to learn to let go. I have to clear all this out so that I can start from scratch with well lit rooms that are clean and swept. I need to be able to see out of the windows and open the door. I need white walls and open spaces so that I can redecorate my life.

There will be more hard times in the next 100 days but I will try to see them as opportunities.

I am ready for a new me. That does not mean that I leave behind the old me but I will only pack up the best parts of her. I want to travel light, I want to be grow, learn and heal.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Some of you have heard this story but it is worth telling again.

Last week the dogs were scheduled to be spayed. As much as I think it would be sweet to have a house full of puppies and let Noah see the miracles mother nature has to offer I also knew it would be horribly irresponsible to let it happen. They should have had the surgery a long time ago but I haven't been able to make it happen.

I have actually given full responsibility of the dogs to Steve, Noah and Aly. This seems to be the one place I can delegate easily. I use to be such a dog-lover. I was raised with dogs, slept with them, slept with their fleas and took a dog with me where ever I went. When I had kids it changed and all that maternal energy went to them. After Stevie left her body I had a hard time giving any of myself, I was pretty empty and the thought of loving anyone or anything hurt.

I am now back to being the mommy because Noah makes it easy. Aly doesn't want a mom. Steve wants me to give to him what I gave to Stevie but he doesn't understand that what I gave to her she took with her when she left.

So there sit these horribly cute dogs and I feel nothing but pity for them because I know they need to be cuddled and loved and I just don't have it to give.

Steve is not much of a multi-tasker at home. He decided out of the blue that he would make the spaying arrangements. I wanted to step in for about a second then just let it go.

He had arranged for the surgery a month ahead of time but had obligations the morning of the surgery and sorta expected me to fix it, to step in and take over and I didn't. He made the plan and he would have to cancel or make it happen. This is not how we do things historically. What usually happens is I take over and bitch and complain the whole time.

This time Steve was stuck with two very skittish dogs on leashes connected to harnesses he put on them upside down. He got them in the car and tied one dogs leash to the front seat and the other in the back. If it were me I would have put the crates in the car, put them in the crates and taken them safely to the vet. Then I would have put something warm and soft in the crates for them so the trip home would be comfortable. He is not me and I let him do his thing.

About 20 minutes later Steve calls Aly's cell, not mine, hers. All I can hear is her saying "No Dad, no, she never does that she is always good in the car" then tears then running around the house frantically. I am trying to get her to tell me what is going on but she is hysterical and I can't understand her.

I call Steve and he tells me that when he got to the vet he untied Bicha and went around the other side of the car to get Cricket out but she wasn't there all that was there was a leash and empty collar hanging out of the window. He swears he has no idea how or when it happened.
I tell him that there is no way she is alive, and Noah walks in just as I say it, now he is hysterical.

Steve stays at the vet and admits Bicha, Aly calls work and gets in her truck to go look for Cricket. I grab a blanket thinking I will have to scrape a dead dog off the side of the road and wrap her in it. Noah and I get into the car and go looking for her. I tell Noah that the odds that we will find her alive don't look good but I need him to try and communicate with her. I tell him dogs can hear kids and he needs to tell her to stay were she is, not to be afraid that we are coming. He takes this task very seriously and begins chanting which is irritating but better than crying.

I follow Steve's path. It is morning and there are a lot of cars on the road. I check my speed and I am going about 40mph. and thinking how the hell could a dog survive hanging from a car window until she falls out of her leash, drop onto the road at this speed then miss being hit by a car if she survives the fall. I was praying Noah would not see her, my plan was to pull over gently at least a hundred feet from her and wrap her in the blanket.

Twenty minutes go by and still no dog.

Aly calls my cell and yells "Mom some guy said he thinks there was a white dog running toward the bart station and I think I could see Cricket running really fast through the field there" I tell her I am on my way and I make a U-turn and head to the bart station. Part of me is excited and another part of me thinks Aly is just seeing what she wants to and it was most likely a bird or a rabbit.

Noah and I drive around and around the station, the parking lot, and the fields, nothing. We meet up with Aly for a minute and keep looking. I hit a dead end literally and think to myself we need to just go home. I turn to Noah who is still chanting for Cricket to stay put and not be afraid, and tell him we have to go home. I tell him that if she is alive someone will find her and bring her to the animal shelter and they will call us.

As I round turn the car around and head out I see a fence leading from the field to bart and a small white dog sitting patiently waiting.

Noah jumps out and picks her up, and brings her into the car. I check her out top to bottom looking in her ears for blood and fluid, her ribs for tender spots, her limbs for broken bones, her eyes and her abdomen. Aside from a scrape under her doggy-lip she is untouched by any harm, perfect, fine and worn out. She curls up on the blanket I brought and enjoys the ride home.

If she can survive, I can survive. It is shitty she went through all of that to teach me something when I can' even manage to give her a few tender moments a day.

I still delegate the dog stuff because I know it is best for the dogs and for me, for right now but I have a new tenderness I didn't have before, a respect for all beings and how we share this planet with them. Cricket is not here by accident.