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Showing posts from 2016

Admit it: Not all Suicides are Preventable

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"How do people keep themselves safe?"asks a reporter to Inspector Lestrade in BBC Sherlock's first episode, "A Study in Pink." "Well, don't commit suicide," he quips. Then he takes a softer tack: "Obviously, this is a frightening time for people, but all anyone has to do is exercise reasonable precautions. We are all as safe as we want to be."

Sherlock Holmes then texts everyone in the press conference with the single, emphatic word, "WRONG!"

What can we do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe? Parents are terrified of the specter of teen suicide. In Utah, my new and old homestate, the teen suicide rate has tripled since 2007. It has the 15th highest suicide rate in the country.

The response to alarming statistics about suicide is to bulk up prevention programs and access to mental health. The school where I did my initial student teaching 13 years ago, Lone Peak High School in Alpine UT, responded to a contagion of suicid…
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Today is six months since Matt​'s death. I am relieved to feel time passing, getting us further and further from that moment of horror and pain. But it also means that the finality of it is starting to sink in-- all his chances and options were suddenly closed off and there will never be any explanations or answers or happy endings for him. I've found unfinished screenplays in his work notebooks. I've found journals with just one or two entries. And that's it.

When someone dies by suicide, they don't get rid of their unbearable, impossible pain. They give it to their families-- to their children.

Right now we are still struggling to breathe under the weight of that sudden horrifying tsunami of pain, and trying to find ways to understand it, forgive it, be gentle with it, move through it and with it, transform it from jagged spikes into rolling waves. It's already been six months. It's only been six months. Time expands and contracts weirdly with death-- it …

Who Would Jesus Shun?

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Last night my aunt and uncle brought over their 9 kids and a vat of spaghetti and meatballs. My girls and a few cousins disappeared downstairs to craft American Girl doll sandals out of ribbon and foam. I was tired-- my focus to a pinprick, and wanted to be flat on the ground. That is what grief feels like to me sometimes. Dull, flat, tiny, mute-- my grieving body.

After dinner my aunt and uncle, really generous and loving people, called the kids into the living room around grandma's recliner and asked for a prayer and a spiritual thought for family home evening. Their oldest daughter volunteered. She's a beautiful girl-- with a sort of timeless prettiness. She seems poured from a Jane Austen novel or L. M. Montgomery-- no makeup, no hair product, a ponytail, rosy cheeks, clear eyes. My grandma has an old picture of her with a tea set on her fridge-- that is where she belongs. Under an apple tree, pouring tea into floral china.

She shared Matthew 7:1-3. "Judge not, that …

Settling in....Elsewhere.

When I made this blog about 8 years ago, I was living in a one-room ohana apartment attached to a farmhouse on Hawaiian Homelands in Waimea, Big Island. I was thinking hard-- learning hard-- trying to understand the things I saw-- the dusty thorny beaches studded with hidden black petroglyphs in the shadow of a walled resort where you could pet pink dolphins. I was trying to figure out my place in a culture that defined me differently than I had ever been defined. Later I learned the word for that-- as a white girl in American, my whiteness had never been a marker. I was marked by other things, but never race or culture. In Hawaii, I was able to perceive for the first time the existence of my whiteness, and my fluency in white American culture. This is an ungainly process-- and the reason so many white Americans kind of freak out when they move to Hawaii-- something they didn't even know about themselves is in fact a thing that defines them-- every thing they do, and how they perc…

Slow Motion Nuclear Disaster

I don't even know how to say it,
or what to say.

My husband died by suicide. He was at home on Kaua'i. I was visiting family on the mainland with the kids.

Thank god we weren't there when he did it.

Thank god we didn't see it. We didn't find him.

I called the police when I hadn't heard from him for 24 hours. He had seemed stressed, but okay. He sent me cute pictures of our cat, peeking out of a cloth grocery bag.

The police called me back at 1:30 am. I spent the night calling family and throwing up.

Two days later we were on the airplane, with my sisters, going back to.... what? Clean out the house, retrieve his (young, perfectly healthy, 37 year old) body from the hospital morgue, hold a memorial, say goodbye to the place where we lived for ten years, where my kids were born.

We had to leave our house-- it was on the UH ag station farm-- 150 acres of pasture, fruit trees, and a reservoir-- and we had a weekend to throw it all into a container-- mostly into a d…

Matt's Eulogy

After I wrote Matt's eulogy (that last post), I realized that Matt was my intended audience. That's the eulogy he would have loved to hear-- to be seen and understood in that way.
But then I realized-- he's not here. The eulogy needs to be for us left behind. And I was (still am) too shocked and angry to have it be for me-- a string of furious invective would probably not be appropriate for a memorial-- so I wrote this one instead. It's for the girls.
My dear girls, I want to tell you a little bit about your daddy.

Matt believed in Fun.
From the time he was a little kid, he loved to play and joke. As a kid he had fun playing baseball and football, boogie boarding and playing at the beach. As a grownup he loved to have fun with you guys, splashing like a spinner dolphin out of the water and buildings amazing Lego worlds with you. He would even listen to Katy Perry and dance in the livingroom with you. He liked grownup fun too, like museums and restaurants and travel, bu…

My Eulogy for Matt

Matt Eulogy
Draft #1

I was in labor with Rosie and I was beginning to panic. First baby, we had been assured that it would take days and days, and we had been out running errands in our little Honda Accord. But no-- She was coming into the world fast and hard, and I was sitting in the front seat of the car, totally unable to face going inside or going to the hospital. Matt coaxed me inside, helped me sit down at our kitchen table. The curtains had prints of vegetables on them, the light was orange and warm. He put his hands on my head and gave me a blessing. I felt calmed and fortified-- his steadiness and readiness carried me calmly through the rest of that labor-- he walked the labyrinth of birth with me and kept me grounded in the moment. He had a warm soul, and at his best when he was healing and guiding me.

A year or so later Matt and I went to Obon. The priest, in katakana English, gave a sermon. He said, “One day, the buddha was approached and asked, Teacher, is there life afte…

My Young Husband's Obituary

Matthew Henry Stevenson, of Wailua, Kauai, died unexpectedly at home on May 22, 2016. He was 37 years old. He was a cherished and admired father, friend, brother and son.

Matt was born in Washington, D.C. to William (Bill) Stevenson of Greenville, South Carolina, and Mildred Teruya of Waikapu, Maui. The family moved to the Bay Area when Matt was five. As a boy he loved the birds, lizards, grasses, oaks and cattle that populated the watersheds and hills around his home. He also loved the time he spent in Maui with his grandparents, Walter and Joyce Teruya, where he loved grandma’s lei garden, grandpa’s plantation days stories, and the family history that connected him to Japan and Okinawa. He spent several summers in England visiting his dad, and loved the castles, the moors and the Neolithic standing stones. These early experiences in nature put him on a path to the career he loved as a range scientist, and a life he loved in Hawaii, but as a citizen of the world.

Matt graduated from …

My First Day of Hula-- an unfinished blog post

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Aloha!
My feet are tired-- they're propped up in the baby papasan chair; my back is sore (my physical therapist is going to scold me) and I should go to bed but I want to record my impressions of my first hula class while they are fresh-- while they are from today. If I wait till tomorrow they will flatten, truncate, abbreviate.

So today was my first day of hula! I've been wanting to start for ages--over a year. But signups are only once a year and I missed it in 2015 so this time I jumped on it. Or rather, I had my husband jump on it. I was in Colorado with my kids-- 8, 5 and 1 month old-- and even from afar I cajoled him into signing the girls and me up.

The girls were not impressed. They moaned and whined.

I do not care. I told them, "This is a non-negotiable."

They have very advanced vocabularies.

Today I overheard this conversation between my 8 year old  and a naughty 7 year old.
Naughty 7 year old: I saw a rooster and a hen HAVING SEX.
Circle of children: EEEEW…