Monday, August 15, 2016


(we had friends over last Friday. I bought dough and toppings and each couple made their own pizza to share with the group)

When I start writing I always get really thirsty. I wonder why that is... 
Maybe it’s because all the words inside of me are trying to live, so they gather up all they can.

I like to imagine this life where I have all these deep thoughts all day long, but usually it’s just random bits like how I love that old donut shop down the street even though I never visit it and that I need to buy Scott a sturdier pillow so he stops snoring.

I've been thinking about how much maintenance everything requires lately. Relationships, appliances, gardens, photo collections, houses, babies, babies, babies.

I did manage to grow two worm-free tomatoes this year and brought my strawberry plant back to life. Last week I cleaned out the entire hall closet. It took me two days and two trips to Target to get it just how I want, but there are a lot less vases and party napkins and charging cords now and the photo albums are all in order.

I went to a therapist earlier this week. The head kind, even though I should see the physical kind because I’m pretty sure I sprained my ankle skating last week.

I almost cancelled the appointment because I’ve been feeling like everything has been fine lately. But then, I thought I might as well go since it would have been rude to cancel so last minute and at the very moment I’d be sitting in the therapist’s office (she doesn’t have a couch you lay on), Maddie would be getting another colonoscopy since she had blood in her stool again and had to go back “stat”, they said.

I told the therapist that we’ve been doing great and how we’ve been seeing a bunch of friends and family over the summer and every time we do I laugh a bunch and cook a little and feel really proud of Avalon. I told her about the river and how it reminded me how to believe in God. I could tell she was trying to wrap things up so I started eyeing how many vegetable-dyed Annie’s Animal Crackers I was going to have to pick out of her carpet before Avalon and I left, and then all of a sudden, I felt compelled to bring up that I’d been having a few more glasses of wine after dinner than usual, that I yelled at three strangers last week, and that I am having a harder time accepting my body than usual.

I went home with a link to some guided meditations and a clear conscience, although it took until I actually did something about any of it to feel better. I'm not holding onto anything that isn't helping me anymore, I decided, so I cleaned out my mind just like I cleaned out that hall closet.

Maddie’s colonoscopy came back totally normal an hour after that. I got on my knees and thanked God. That night and Thursday I had no glasses of wine and went surfing instead. I will not call another old lady a "cutter!" while waiting in line at Goodwill.

The next day we went to lunch with a friend whose baby is due any day now. Another mom who was there with her baby kept inching closer to us and randomly contributing to our conversation so we made an extra effort to include her and talk about her daughter’s pretty eyes. Once you’ve been lonely, you never forget what it looks like.

I took Avalon to the store today and put her in the shopping cart. I’m not a germaphobe. When I tell people this, I usually follow it with the example that I barely ever used to wash my hands after I went #1 in the bathroom until after I graduated college. But despite my best deliveries, this fact is never as well received as I expect. I haven’t worried about putting Avalon in the shopping cart because of germs (you can wipe the carts off), I just love carrying her. When I told a chiropractor I was still carrying around a 13 month old in a front-pack she could not believe it. She had a way of asking me questions about it so as not to sound too controlling: But what about a stroller? And shopping carts? Which I appreciated, but mostly didn’t listen to. Last night I wore Avalon in the carrier the whole time I was making dinner because my carpal tunnel is worse than my back and she was just in a hold me! kind of mood that I can't help but love. But I let the shopping cart help me out today. I guess the chiropractor is a kind of therapist too.

And then I think, maintenance is another form of love and we all need it.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Gathering Place

I love the buzz of summer and I also love the tranquility that comes from being away from it; like sitting by the fire during the holidays.

I lost track of time up there in a cabin on the last mountain before California becomes Oregon. After a slam at the Arcata Skatepark, I even broke my watch. I know that sounds cliché, at least the losing track of time on vacation part, but I feel since becoming a parent, I've never been more aware of time. For a year I'd watch my nursing timer just to make sure things were staying as predictable as possible; seven minutes was ideal. I'm aware of nap time and lunch time and music time and how long the newborn days seemed and how quickly her hair grew long and her socks became too small over night. 

But up there, in the middle of that forest where it felt almost like we were hiding in a grown-up fort, time stopped weighing me down. If Avalon was up early, one or both of us took her down to the river while everyone slept. We played with silty grey sand and threw dry sticks and collected cold rocks. One morning there was fog sleep-walking on the water. Another morning the wind blew east and you could kinda smell that bear carcus that was across the river. One afternoon we swam to the other side and touched its teeth. It was like I was aware of everything except for time while we were up there.

Aunt Liz and uncle Thomas seemed ageless too. At the very least, their spirits did. This is comforting to me in a transcending kind of way since I think one of the things I fear most in life is forgetting how to be a kid. 

Uncle Thomas listened to rock and roll at midnight louder than most people would at their wedding receptions. And he danced too; playing air guitar and shaking his shoulder-length hair, slamming the kitchen table with two open, rough palms. I watched him the way you watch a new world go by from a window seat, then awkwardly tiptoed away to make sure the baby was still sleeping. 

Aunt Liz played with Avalon like I imagined she played with her own daughter, Victoria, when she was small. She ran after her and assembled puzzles on the floor. She got out supplies for building blanket forts and made homemade ice cream on our fifth wedding anniversary, tasting it with her finger. She loves games. They both do. We stayed up playing Parcheesi and this European dice game called Chicago until 2 a.m every night. One night we went into the Indian Casino after dinner and Basia won $76 for picking number 17 (Aunt Liz's birthday) in roulette. A wolf came by other evenings. Her name was Bravo and she liked Basia and Phil's bed. You could tell she loved Aunt Liz and Uncle Thomas by the way her ears perked up when they were talking and how calm she was in their home.

I asked Uncle Thomas if we needed to worry about mosquitos and he told me, in his assertive German accent, "No! We have the bats!" because two bats had flown into their house and never left. And swift birds lived in the fireplace when the fire was out and the air was hot outside, to start families and displace soot. 

Their cabin is a gathering place. 

I feel like we went up to their mountain and river and hand-built home for a lot of reasons (not convenience). As I was packing, one thought that wandered my mind was that maybe seeing Aunt Liz wouldn't make me believe in things again, but would help me remember how to. When I was unpacking, I was thinking about how it was never God's fault, or anything I did, that made Maddie get cancer. It was just life. 

One morning walking the river with Avalon, I said prayers out loud. It was the first time I talked to God without feeling some resentment or obligation in months. It felt both right and silly that it had taken me so long. 

I could recognize then how God found other ways to reach me; Scott, mothers, fathers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, baggers from Trader Joe's.

The ways that Basia has been there for me in this last, most challenging, year of my life are hard to describe. Especially because when we aren't together we communicate semi-infrequently. But she is like the ocean to me; when I'm around her I just feel better and I know she understands and accepts everything that I am without having to say it. 

Sometimes I feel nervous seeing Basia again because I love her so much and I want us to always have what we started with--the purest love and the most fun. But we always have what we started with; it comes back like the color to our skin when we're in the sun (in her case-red). 

And Aunt Liz. You know when you can tell that someone really loves you because just being around them heals you? Your dirty feet might be on their beloved crocheted blanket from their mother, but they just look into your eyes and ask all the right questions. She and Basia are alike and unique that way. 

I cried saying goodbye to them in the kind of way that's hard to understand and hard to stop.

When we got home, I found another watch in the recesses of my jewelry nest and strapped it tightly to my wrist.  But I watched Avalon more-- really observed her for all she is. I put things to dry in the sun. One night I even welcomed the neighborhood cat, for a minute, and listened to some rock and roll before I said a few prayers in bed. 

{+Picture of Fritz, the dog, and of our family by Phil
+Best advice I have for traveling with a kid: lower your expectations, enjoy the new experiences you are having with them, let them be on vacation too and pack a ton of snacks!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Everyday Adventures Through Colon Tunnels and Life

{dad and kevin}

Dear Self 20 Years From Now (and anyone else listening),

You had a colonoscopy last week. Everyone in the family was requested to after Maddie's diagnosis. It was like apple pie on the fourth of July, or it was like your insides becoming a tunnel for something that wasn't meant to fit. You tried to be awake during it because they said you'd have to "pump and dump" if you didn't and you didn't have any milk stored. You lasted about seven minutes before you took the drugs. You laid there breathing slowly and wondering if taking the drugs was actually quitting just like you did before you took the epidural with Avalon. You watched a TV screen playing a show that could have been called "The Terrible Tour Of My Colon". It was a lot like when you see footage of a deep sea rover looking for life or ship wrecks at the bottom of the ocean. It was black and bleak and there were haunted-looking, unrecognizable things passing by. It was more disgusting than fascinating. Thank goodness for the drugs and for not harping on yourself for making the choices you know are best. 

You don't have cancer. Praise every last bit of everything. You still felt sick afterwards knowing that your Maddie-girl-sister-friend, buddy for life, who gets all of your jokes and lives too far away even when she's just two hours north, got the opposite news only months before. Let's just keep believing that love conquers all. It must

Everyone that runs into you lately says how much you seem to be enjoying motherhood. That is 1,000% true. You are obsessed. It feels right like marrying Scott and paddling out with your dad and Danielle and Kevin in the sun in the summer. Sometimes when people say this though you almost feel guilty because in the beginning of your motherhood journey you were miserable and breathing weird and crying a lot and sometimes you still really fear that time in your life and that person you were then. You feel guilty it happened and for not telling everyone who sees you as this mother with a big smile and a happy baby you obsess over dressing and kissing and holding that it wasn't always this way. But maybe they can see that this happiness came from something hard and maybe that's why it's nice to appreciate and mention it. You read this quote the other day in Tiny Beautiful Things that you wanted to write down and tell all your friends and sisters...

"Nobody will protect you from suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal." ~Cheryl Strayed

You know this quote is true now and you also know you'll need to hear it again.

You're going on a family road trip soon. You and the kid and the husband and Basia and Phil. You're not even that anxious about it and you're pretty sure that has nothing to do with the medicine you're taking. Your stronger now because you took a small baby to San Francisco right after Maddie's diagnosis. You accidentally stayed in a hotel in the projects or the tenderloin or somewhere you'd recreate in a painting using almost no color.... and you figured it out. You still laughed with friends. You took her to Texas where she got the stomach flu and threw up on white carpet and had a bleeding rash that made her hysterical in the airplane bathroom. You are ready for this next adventure up to Humboldt and the Mad River and whatever it gives you. Summer is the season for adventure, after all, and summer is your favorite season of all. 

Love and love and love (to everyone),

{current summer playlist}
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