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Showing posts from 2017

Fresh Grief: How to Help When People are Grieving

The other night I got a text at 2:30 am.
"Jeff just passed away."
I couldn't believe it. I still can't. My friend Bridget -- the one who carried me through the worst work of dismantling our lives in Kauai, who has been there for me for nearly a decade of raising babies, nursing, potty training, parenting, homeschooling, working-- her husband Jeff died suddenly of the flu. He was a beautiful man. A hard and lean Portuguese Hawaiian Paniolo-- soft spoken, bright eyes, long white ponytail. Thick pidgin, soft voice, gentle with all the babies, gathering the children into his lap. How can he be gone? He wouldn't show up to a party, but he'd show up to build you a fence or move your house or brand your cattle. He'd work harder and longer than anybody. Life is a little surreal-- the last time I saw him was when he and Bridget had packed up my container with our whole battered dusty lives inside after my own crusty Hawaiian cowboy died, leaving his stunned and br…

My Aging Grandma

I've stumbled into the life of being my grandmother's caretaker.

I got here, to Orem Utah, in April of 2016, with the intention to stay for about a month, maybe a summer, as she recovered from treatment for leukemia, and some of the weird ailments that were caught up in that knot of disease-symtom-treatment-side-effect. Weeping legs, wounds, swelling, rattly boxes of medications to be halved, powdered, gagged down, remembered. And then admonitions to get enough fiber, to get enough vitamin D; to make sure the sleep apnea wasn't becoming a problem, to have distilled water on hand-- don't forget the probiotics!

I've always loved this grandma, so much. She's so positive and kind. This is where I'd come as a teenager in tumultuous Washington DC, wrestling with being a round peg in a square religion, to detox and feel loved. She was a sacred place, a living sacrament.

So when the specter of her mortality reared up, I felt urgently that I wanted to come and help …

Settling in: Utah Edition

For ten years, my project was to understand Hawaii, my life in Hawaii. I lived in small communities where one person has a big impact. You know everybody-- or they know you. Or their auntie does. You can't step on too many toes. It keeps people polite.

As a white American, I had a lot of learning to do. I thought I was pretty cosmopolitan, anti-racist, and politically correct. But lots of Nice White Americans (tm) think that about themselves for only as long as they live in all-white liberal enclaves. I had to confront the fact that things I thought were universal values actually weren't. When I taught sex-ed, I received training from the Planned Parenthood-co-created Pono Choices program. It was designed to be culturally sensitive-- to be inclusive of all kinds of families, and use metaphors about hoewa'a (paddling canoe) navigation to explain the importance of healthy community. But the script used the words, "unwanted pregnancy" over and over. And my teenage s…

My birthday plus sad hard things plus good wonderful things

Today is my 37th birthday. It is also the one year anniversary of the last day we spent with Matt. It was a beautiful day-- he made me breakfast in bed with the girls, with my favorite strawberry short cake, and he spoiled me with a beautiful leather journal and a tiny gold triangle necklace. We had a wonderful talk about the future, lying next to each other while the baby nurse and napped between us. I was going to be in Utah for the summer, taking care of grandma, while he took the space at home to finish his PhD and start a cattle herd to join his flock of goats. We talked about replacing our wedding rings-- his had been lost on a fishing trip, and all the stones had fallen out of mine. That night he had me braid his hair and cut off the long braid. "It's time for a change," he said.

He had to leave early the next morning to catch his plane-- he tried to leave without saying goodbye but I stopped him, told him I loved him; he said he loved me too.

Months later, I foun…

The First Year of Suicide Grief: Some Advice for Pain

The year is kareening around, we're hurtling through space on our tiny blue rocket ship called earth, and the one year mark to Matt's suicide is coming at my face.

We're doing amazing. I love my kids, they love me, I take care of grandma, she takes care of me, I've started a garden, we've got new little chicks, I've written half a novel, made new friends, the girls have learned to read and write English, and I'm learning to crochet.

And it's been bloody brutal. Since the middle of the night when I got the call from the police, my heart has had an ice-metal stake through it. It was a nuclear detonation and although we survived there are hugely echoing after-affects, radiation poisoning that will poison us for years and generations.

But there have been things that have helped. And I think they would help anyone, in any kind of trauma or pain. And I'm going to make a note of them in case I'm floudering, for me to come back to, and add to. And if th…

Our First Trip to Disneyland: Some Naval Gazing!

Well hello world!

I did something ridiculous last week. On my middle child's 7th birthday, I surprised the kids with a last-second trip to Disneyland. I took a video of their faces as they opened the trunk of the car and saw the packed suitcases-- their confusion turned to deeper confusion. The new 7 year old began bouncing around and the 9 year old munched on her doritos in profound shock. Hours later at the airport she asked, "Why are we going to Disneyland?" I said, "Just for fun!" She looked blank. "Oh."

So I may have failed in instilling a rabid lust for all things Disney and Princess in my children. Up till now I always thought of that as a sort of cultural triumph-- that and they've never been to McDonalds. After this week though I feel a little differently about my kids' cultural upbringing. I've missed some opportunities to create a shared experience with them-- to plant the seeds of nostalgia. The first few years of my oldest'…

Showing Up In the Body At The Rally

The rally last weekend was under clear blue skies. A middle aged white man in a fleece jacket and khaki pants addressed the crowd from the pulpit. Pulpit? Yes. "Every world religion castigates its followers to be wise stewards. We are charged with the care and keeping of ourselves, our families and our earth. Without the clean air and pure water of our planetary home, we could not survive to glorify god."

I was bemused, standing next to my new friend Cinnamon, hip length red dreadlocks, big husky dog on a leash, and well-used bicycle.

We had not stumbled across a church meeting. We were at a Provo, Utah clean air rally.

The previous week the air quality had gotten to "red." When I dropped the girls off at school, a placard outside announced "Inside Day." When the air is this bad-- grey-yellow and soupy-- the children can't play outside.

Kids with asthma and allergies are encouraged to stay home; to stay inside.

As if walls and 60 year old insulation a…

BBC SHERLOCK IS GAAAAAAAY: Or At Least I Really Really Hope So

Anybody who has spoken to me in the last five years or so knows that I have a bit of a Sherlock Holmes obsession. I want to try and explain why these fictional characters are so important to me, especially in their incarnation by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on BBC Sherlock. 
I first watched the show in about 2012, when the first two seasons are on Netflix. Matt had already watched it, and I had slept through it. He was in the habit of staying up all night with Netflix going while I slept. He watched it and he thought I should watch it. I was Luke warm. My only experience with Sherlock Holmes was Laurie King's wonderful feminist reimagining about Mary Russell. The rest of it seemed sort of, I dunno. Stodgy. Ridiculously masculine. But I agreed, and watched it all in one sitting more or less. As we often do now in this age of Netflix binge-watching, over two or three days I got to the end of the Reichenbach fall, the sixth episode and final episode. It ends with Sherlock …