Page Three

I was a sentence into a post about my wedding anniversary when his mom's name appeared on my phone.

"There's no helment law, a U-Haul, on his way to work. Did anyone call you about her? She went to look for him."

He's gone.

The phone app lives on page 2 of my iPhone for a reason.

Numbers like twenty-two years ago on a Saturday.

Would have been.

Six years ago.

He's gone.

One year ago, a wedding. Hers. His. 

One truck, one morning.

He's gone.

My phone app now lives on page 3 of my iPhone.

What I want to tell her when she says it doesn't feel real is that it's not. 

It becomes real in pieces—in the leftovers you made for the two of you that you can't bring yourself to eat; in the mountains of firsts yet to come, every Band-aid ripping one of them; in the years and the minutes. Tonight, when you inhale his smell on the pillow as you lie awake; six years from now as you mark time in missed anniversaries.

Real isn't the moment of your loss, it's in the experience of losing, and missing, and questioning all of the pieces staring at you. 

There will forever be the You Before and the You After. And though you'll be okay, you will not be You Before. The hole stays, its raw edges heal, and you remain pierced by the loss.

 

A Summer Spent Out There Doing Life And Stuff

We staycationed this summer, probably my favorite kind of vacation (for many reasons). I like traveling, even with kids, but that's not my idea of a vacation. Anyhoo, here are some outtakes from summer around the Bay. Click through on the photos for more shots of our explorations along the coast and around the Bay Area. From a late-night stop at Bob's Doughnuts after the Dramarama concert, to ollalieberry pie at Duarte's Tavern, I think we did our fair share of eating.

Watch me fly, pull my strings, and catch me when I fall.

Kite Flying

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Camera Obscura

Last night's post-Dramarama doughnut run = today's brunch.

Bob's Donut & Pastry Shop

Summer in SF

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 Santa Cruz Surf Museum

Wassup Partner?

The Cliff House

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Steamer Lane

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Capitola 

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Venetian Court

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Crab Cove in Alameda

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Sailboat made with found objects and sea glass from Glass Beach in Benecia

You are a part of me all your own, two feet to carry you on a path that is not mine.

From the outside it looks like patience, but it's love.

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No matter where our adventures led us, I found hearts woven in the rocks. Some were hidden, and others blindingly obvious.

About Bikes And Babies And Love

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The Amgen Tour of California has come and gone for the 8th time. Once again, we made the trek to watch it start in Livermore. Thankfully we scored the perfect spot for watching the riders pass by and grabbing some lunch. 

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(also home to the Livermore Rodeo, now in its 95th year!)

Unlike past years where the stages have progressed from Northern California to Southern California, this year they reversed it. It made for grueling climbs on hot days through Palm Dessert at the start, but gorgeous weather toward the end. Amgen Tour of California, Stage 7 start in Livermore

After the tour, it was time to SHOWER BABY. Peanut and I made our way to San Jose ('cuz we know the way, duh), and attended the baby shower for my teeny tiny even whilst preggo niece. How teeny tiny? Put it this way, the girl is smaller around than my hips and she's due next month, which was confirmed during that toilet paper game. I lost. That's what I get for using my own ass to measure things. Note to self.

My niece opening gifts at her baby shower while her mama and my girl assist.

Could she be cuter? No. No she could not.

(proud granny and Peanut in the background—also cute, for the record)

Proudest auntie-to-be! I might remember being a little excited about HER arrival WAY back when.

Niece's sister, also a niece, and PROUDEST AUNTIE TO BE

(also totes adorable, for the record)

The Ladies

My most favoritest picture from that day.

The Ladies.

Quite possibly the most loving, accepting group of women you will ever know. I am thankful for every moment I've had knowing them, and I've known three of them since before they became them (including the fourth one who was hiding on the other side of the camera). Bob's sister is amazing, in her own right—not only for how she has handled the loss of her baby brother—but for how she handles everything. Her compassion and love inspire me. Her brother loved like that, too. It's a rare thing to love people with abandon. It's a gift to be loved like that. It's a greater gift to love others that way.

 

 


Your Tree

You were born during El Niño, rodeo weekend and even though it was June, it was rainy and cold. The gladiolus in our front flower beds were taller than I'd ever seen—I swear some were four-feet high. To celebrate your birth, Grandma asked if she could buy us a tree to plant in our yard. We picked out the biggest fruitless plum the nursery had, mostly in hopes it would survive. As new homeowners, we weren't sure how green our thumbs would be yet. Every year, I would prune your tree and watch it grow. I would also watch you grow. Eventually, your tree and you reached a size where you could climb your tree. This became one of your favorite past times. When we moved, I think leaving your tree was difficult. Today, I went back to prune your tree. Just like you, it has continued to grow and change into an amazing part of the universe. And I sent you a picture, but I thought we should share it with the world because it's kind of impressive to see how much a tree can grow in fifteen years.

Thinking About Her: My Other Grandmother

I just had my forty-third birthday. By that time, my grandmother had given birth to her second child, now a year old. Her firstborn, my father, was three. The year was 1949. By the time my father was eleven, my grandmother would be burying her husband and raising her two children alone in California. 

I never thought of my grandmother as a young widow. I never thought of my grandmother as young. 

When I arrived on the scene, my grandmother was on old lady who would tell you to kiss her on the cheek because she'd been "eating onions." 

My aunt and my father stood over six feet tall, but my grandmother was lucky to hit five feet standing on a hill. 

Even in her 80s, she still had natural streaks of light brown through her graying hair. She lived on her own until the day she died—fiercely independent, using an electric ringer to do her laundry well into MY childhood, giving her series of overfed Pomeranians the same name (which, for the life of me, I cannot recall right now—something with an "L" I think), and placing little notes on the back of everything ever given to her so that when she died you got back the things you gave her (a great lesson in not giving shitty gifts). 

She loved to dance, and talk on the phone—a ship-to-shore operator for more years than I can remember—and would always make you hang up when you called her so she could call you back on her dime, because Ma Bell gave her a deal for all those years of service as a single working mother. 

She immigrated to this country without any of her siblings or her parents. I don't know why. She was the oldest. She never spoke a word of Norwegian in my presence. She never had an accent. I never knew her political beliefs, but she'd mail me unaccompanied, unexplained clippings from the National Enquirer throughout my life, and boxes of See's Candy at the holidays. 

My mother didn't care for her, or didn't like her, or didn't understand her, and I think that's why we didn't spend much time with her, but honestly, I don't really know why I didn't see my dad's mother much. I just know that I wish I had gotten to know her better. I think we have some parallels in our lives that I didn't see coming—nobody could have seen them coming—that would have been well-served by us spending some more time together.

As I raise my fatherless children, I wish I could sit with her and ask her things. As I encounter difficult times with family members who don't understand, I wish I could ask her things. I wish I could sit with her one more time for one of her manicures.

Instead, I sit in front of the cabinet I inherited when she passed away and remember how I sat in front of it as a little girl in her house. I remember asking her about the items it held, some of them it still holds. I remember her stories. I try to tell them to the little girls in my house when they ask. I try to hear her voice.

It has occurred to me, mid-packing, that I might possess more teacups than the average girl.

Visitors From Jersey

We've had the best time these past few weeks with our house guests. I don't think they were expecting to be thrown into a mad mix of moving and new house fun, but they've been great sports about it all, and I don't know how we would have done it without them.

In the middle of it all, we managed to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a trip to Sasa:

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Checking out the koi pond.

And even got Judy up on the Loubis for a quick spin to celebrate 45 years of marriage.

The Loubis, as worn by Judy on her 45th Wedding Anniversary

We figured out the mystery of the hedgehog on the cock fairy tale at Corners Tavern. (Thank you Interwebs; I don't think we or that poor waitress will ever be the same now that we know the story of Hans.)

Toad on cock? What Grimms' fairy tale is that from? Help me out, Interwebs!

Then it was onto a holiday and birthdays—the fourth of July, Judy's birthday and then mine. 

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Heart-shaped finale over Martinez.

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 Red, white, and blue cookies made with the grand kids.

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Wine tasting at Retzlaff.

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Cool cars spotted while wine tasting in Livermore, including a TR3 like Ed had back in the day.

Remembering when…

Country Sedan

1947 Mercury

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Tomorrow they head back to New Jersey, and we'll miss them bunches. Seems like we just picked them up at the airport. Certainly there are still more fairy gardens to build and cocktails and desserts to be had!

Birthday Shortcake

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We love you! Thank you for making this time so special for all of us. We are blessed to have you in our lives.

One Address

Two PODS in the driveway, which is, thankfully, enormous. But just one address. Amen.

We have moved out of the rental house and into the house with the mortgage, and the pool, and the well, and the work to be done, but it feels SO GOOD TO BE HOME.

It feels so good to be creating OUR home—a place for all of us to fit. 

Time to swim.

It feels good to have a pool to dip into on a hot day and at the end of a hard day of work.

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It feels good to have a place to entertain friends.

Kid created, tested, and approved. #4thjuly #independenceday

It feels good to have space to define in the way that makes sense for our family.

It feels good to get sweaty making something our own, to see our progress, to know we did it as a family.

It feels good to see the kids grow and learn new things, already—how to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Their pride in accomplishing new things is so cool to watch, for all of the ages and stages. Even the adult "kids."

And it feels good to have a place that is uniquely new to us as we are uniquely new to each other. All of our quirks become part of it—all of our beauty and flaws; all of our perfections and imperfections. It is us. It is ours.

It is an absolute joy to wake up every day and work with the person I love. All day. Every day. I wouldn't change a thing.

Celebrating 45 years with his mom and dad. #happyanniversary

Boxes Or Matches

It's finally time to move out of our rental house and into the home I purchased back in March, which means we've been packing. And packing. And packing.

The wine is huddled in fear.

I have wondered aloud about the number of teacups I possess.

And there are. So. Many. Games. I'm convinced they were breeding in that game closet.

My non-essential footwear is packed.

And we are ALL more than ready to go to bed and wake up to THIS beautiful space each day, even with the work we have left to do. THIS makes it all so much fun.

Don't Know Where To Start: Here's A Picture

So much weird stuff, good stuff, busy stuff, I don't even know where to begin. 

My monkeys.

Until the dust settles, and I can put it all into some sort of cohesive order for your reading pleasure, here's a picture of those two humans I created. This was an evening out to celebrate Peanut's academic achievements for the year and the boyfriend's birthday. Bug was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to frown. 

Do We Expect Or Allow Too Little?

The Wall Street Journal published a provocative piece this week on the state of middle-class children in the U.S. It was prompted by research done by UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families. I urge you to read the article. Shirley Wang does an excellent job of summarizing the research and bringing up some key concerns about what the research might indicate for our children.

For me personally, with kids who had an academic start in Montessori and then moved to unschooling, I have serious concerns about the dumbing-down of our children. As parents, we are have been conditioned to be so quick to do for our children that I wonder if we are raising them to become incapable of doing for themselves.

Is it unreasonable to teach a preschooler how to make toast? Or fold laundry? Maria Montessori didn't think so. Neither do I.

Is there any reason why a child can't use a proper glass or silverware when eating rather than cartoonish plastic dishes? Our children do, and they manage just fine. In fact, we've found glass drinkware is more stable than the plastic cups. They're also learning to clear their dishes, load the dishwasher, and put away their clean clothes. The older kids learned to do their own laundry around the second grade. They each got a laundry basket and instructions on how to do laundry. Why? It's a life skill. Just like learning to read, do math, and all of those other important subjects we focus on in school, why do we then assume our children are incapable of such basic life skills in the home?

As they've gotten older, I've involved them in other life skills as they've become physically and mentally capable. I want children who can make decisions and understand natural consequences long before they leave my home. If I helicopter overhead, that will never happen.

When my daughter decided to start public school for the first time in her life this year, I supported her decision. I do not ask her to do her homework. Ever. She does it because she choses to. She gets it done. She gets an A average in school. Why? Because she wants to get those grades. She earns them, not me. All of the pride associated with that achievement is hers to own. I can be proud because she is a responsible person who makes good choices, and I feel like I helped foster that within her.

There's not only a sense of pride when children are responsible for taking care of their family and their environment, but also a realization that things don't just magically happen. Clean clothes don't magically appear (so, you might not want to toss every little thing into the hamper). Food tastes better when you participate in cooking it. It takes a family—all of us, working together, to make a household run well. We are each important members who have something special to offer, each with unique strengths, complementary skills, and working together, we can be successful.

I Bought Something

Nope, not a DJ PaulyD Talking Pen. That was a gift. And it's awesome, although I'm convinced the child in China who made it for me messed up because it clearly says, "Crabs are here!"

And I didn't buy the Sephora gift card, technically. I earned it. Also, it might be a bribe for a friend who NEEDS TO BRANCH OUT AND TRY NEW THINGS.

I did buy keys. A bunch of keys. A whole purse-full of them. They came with my new house, along with my new swimming pool, and my new garage, and my new playhouse (totes have a fort!), and and and I'm a little excited. It was a bit of work to make it all happen, but we did it. Pictures of the awesome will be forthcoming.

All Of The Sick: NyQuil Jackson Moonwalks

For Christmas, I had the stomach flu. For the new year, I decided I'd kick it off with a cold. WTF, kids? I haven't had this many illnesses in a row since my children were in preschool. Oh, wait. We now have a houseful o' peeps and that means a revolving door of germs. My body, it liketh the germs. Blech.

Thank the almighty for that pretty green fluid and its accompanying shot glass. I judge the length of a cold by the NyQuil bottle. By the time it's empty, I should be all better. So far, it's only failed me like once.

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The bummer is timing.

Being sick is never appropriately timed.

I wanted to do more things with the boyfriend's parents during their last few days with us. We've been having so much fun exploring and hanging out.

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I wanted to not be stuck in my room in quarantine feeling like ass on toast.

I wanted to be 100% for my photography class.

I wanted, I wanted, I wanted . . .

You'd think I would learn by now that life rarely works out the way we want, but more often works out the way it is supposed to go if we're just willing to ride the tide.

Instead, I've been getting paperwork in order for important life goals. I've been figuring out some long-term things that need to be done in order to make sure my family has what we need where we need it—big stuff, but it feels less fun that what I'd like to be doing.

I can work on my class when I'm ready–it will wait, and I'm excited to dive in when I'm feeling better.

I have wonderful people in my life who make sure the world doesn't stop when I am feeling broken, people who remind me that it's okay for me to get better, and for that I am incredibly thankful and blessed.

 

First Ornaments: Holidays Are Really Fucking Hard

Sometimes, the best you can do is put a few ornaments on the tree, your first ornaments.

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Santa was a crazy looking, pink waxy dude in the late 60s. He wore tinsel and fur. Don't judge. He tried his best to bring the cheer as I pulled the next few ornaments out of the giant storage box filled with memories.

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This was made for me for my very first Christmas. It is my favorite ornament.  It is metal with rivets. The man who made it for me died a long time ago. I still remember driving by their house in Los Angeles, the steep hills, and the bricks.

I have ornaments from every Christmas of my life. Some years I got more than others, but it has made for a very full Christmas tree, and I have continued the tradition for my children. I also started the tradition with Bob when we started dating. That means the box of memories was filled with more than just my ornaments; it was filled with forty-two years of stories, love, babies, marriage, and the memory of the last time I opened that box. I didn't get too far into that box before I had to stop, give myself permission to take a time out, and ask for help.

Peanut and her boyfriend took over the ornament hanging for me on the big tree, the kids each decorated the trees in their bedrooms, and I took over putting up the other indoor decorations. Those don't hold the same sentimental meaning for me, I guess, or maybe it's the smaller volume. Either way, it worked.

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

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Snowman is ready to partay. Or perhaps join you for a cranberry margarita. (Sorry, I can't bring myself to call them margs; it makes me feel like I'm calling a friend by a nickname she can't stand but is too shy to tell me she hates.)

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Have I mentioned lately how much I love NOT camping?

We Go As 7: On Getting A Tree

Last year our trees were black and blue. Literally. They came from Target. (Say it with a fake French accent or I will kick you out of this play date.) I had no intention of going anywhere near tradition nor our attic filled with decorations and memories.

In years past, I have had up to eleven themed trees in my tiny house (no, shut YOUR whore mouth. I have a lot of ornaments!), decorated with ornaments collected throughout my and my children's lives. This year those ornaments will see the light again. I think.

I went up into the new attic and retrieved about two-thirds of our decorations today. No tears. No meltdowns. I have even been playing Christmas carols, albeit some funky ones, but that's not abnormal.

Don't think I'm naive enough to believe it will be smooth sailing through the entire holiday. I know better. I've been on the hunt for snowman-themed tissues already, and I have my grandmother's egg-nog recipe at my fingertips.

This year we went as a family, all seven of us, to pick out our tree. We are an easy-to-please bunch. We liked the first tree we saw, bagged it, tossed it onto the van, and off we drove in our Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and Mark Twain wig. (It's a long story.)

Day 22: Operation Eleanor - Pie Time

It would be so much easier to buy a pie. It would be so much easier to buy a pre-made crust. It would be so much easier to use canned pumpkin.

Fear would be NOT making a pie, probably. See, my fond memories with my maternal grandmother were learning to make pies. However, I stepped up the pie making a notch in college when I decided to start cooking my pumpkins from scratch.

pumpkin

 

I have it down to a bit a science now, and today was step 1. It would also be easier to do all of this by myself, but what's the fun in that? My grandmother didn't do this alone. She taught me. She made sure I knew my ingredients needed to be cold. She is the reason I use ice water in my pie crust.

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So, I made my pie crusts last night with my daughter by my side. I taught her how to cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, making sure she kept the butter cold so the crusts will be flaky.

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We talked about why we add vinegar to the egg mixture before adding it to the flour. (In case you're wondering, the vinegar, is used in your pie crust recipe because the acid, along with the shortening, keeps the gluten strands from getting too long—making a more tender, flaky product.)

Today, we'll make the pies.

Holidays are hard when you're grieving, but forcing ourselves to do some of the things that we remember fondly can help us work through that pain. Trying to get back on that horse a little bit this year. At least step into the saddle. I have a houseful of little people anxious to help with the pie making, so I'm on the hook to get to it. Sometimes I think the next generation was created to make sure we don't stop living when we suffer a loss. They are so very, very good at making sure we stay in motion.

 

Day 13: Operation Eleanor - Old And New

This will come as a resounding shock to some people, but not to others. I can be shy. Extremely shy. I know. Hard to believe is you've seen me dance on stage, convert a quiet bar into a night club scene, or speak in front of a large audience (strangers or peers). But I am, at heart, shy. Meeting new people or even climbing outside my box of comfort to say hello to old friends or even family when I'm happily ensconced in my world isn't always high on my list.

Today, I did a little of both, and it was wonderful.

In between, I stuck my head out the window of the car and took some pictures. I think that's my way of settling my nerves. I like framing the world with the lens.

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This is our fearless copilot, Dashboard Monk. He gets a little jittery, at times, but never loses that collected look.

 

 

Day 10 & Day 11 Operation Eleanor

I did a thing. I did not write about it in a timely fashion. Oops.

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Rock Band was our family game. Bob played drums. Bug played guitar. I sang. Peanut hovered, sometimes she sang, sometimes she'd play guitar, too. It was really our way to connect with Bug. I haven't played much since Bob died. Last night, I played. We played with Bug.

Today, new fears, new challenges. First, some coffee.