Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Haiku: 2013

Haiku: 2013

These are things I have
Lost: a child, a husband, a
House – in that order.

What I have: at night
And quiet times not much, but
Sun in the morning.

Next up: joy. Seeking.
The light of the world on my
Skin. Bliss. Maybe love.

Blessed be,

Sunday, December 29, 2013


I think I have written a post with this title before; possibly not. At any rate, I have put writing this blog off for days but the concept of "home" has weighed heavily on my mind since February 17, 2013.

In my last blog about it, I think I said something sage about how the places don't change; we change. Everything is the same but our memory of it is distorted by distance, time and our own inevitable growing up.

Well, that's fancy.

Sometimes places change, too.

Seattle was nothing like I remember, except for the hour Sicily and I spent on the beach at Golden Gardens, or the walk down by Ivar's on the waterfront. Water is a constant for me; not a huge astrology buff, but if I were I would admit that I am every little scrap of everything about my sign. Pisces, if you're keeping track. March 14th, for those who don't know, and yes, I love presents and cards, so feel free.

But I digress.

So I have changed, and the place has changed.

And, like the Pisces I am, I feel all melodramatic about it.

When I was 17, I went on a sort of a moving spree, moving every six months or so for four years. I came to hate moving. Nothing felt right. I was antsy.

Then I started moving from state to state. More expensive and very inconvenient, but it was pretty nice to be able to pack up my whole life in whatever crappy little car I was driving and just leave. My parents had sold my childhood home by the time I was 25 and moved away, so I moved, too, to Colorado and then Seattle. Where I met Dane and had The Child.

And finally.

My home was Dane and Sicily.

I remember vividly one morning when Sicily was a week or two old, looking down the row of lavender pillows on our bed, watching Dane and Sicily sleeping, so full of joy and contentment that I cried (quiet as shit because GOD FORBID you wake a sleeping baby. Just. Don't.). I felt such gratitude for the feeling that I was, in that moment, completely at home and utterly at peace. The sun came in through the slats in the blinds, and I sat up in bed next to my little family and wept for the simple, unadulterated beauty of that feeling.

Home isn't a place. It's just not. It is the people in the place, which is rough because I am generally not too fond of people but when I am I totally am.

But it's not just the people in the place either. It's me in the place. And man, I still kind of suck right now. Which is fine, because that's how things go, and it is getting better but it is still rough being me some days.

So if what I am saying is true, then the planets need to be aligned, I need to be my best self, and I have to be surrounded by just the right people to ever feel like I am at home again.

Yikes. Tall order. I have high hopes for 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Important Gift

I am writing this sitting at Cousin Jennifer's kitchen table in Washington State; Sicily is wrapping a couple gifts that we bought when we got here, and Steve and Karlene are out delivering the food baskets that Karlene and Sicily put together on Friday. Yesterday we woke up to three inches of snow.

We are absolutely wrapped in the bosom of family right now; that's the best I can put it. I can feel how badly they want us to have a good time, to feel loved, to be comforted, and I am so grateful to have such amazing people to share the holidays with. It made me realize how much time we wasted over the years, not coming to visit for so long, always having an excuse not to come to Seattle or go to someone's wedding or baby shower or party or whatever it was that we chose not to do.

I am not beating myself up about it because it is done. But I keep writing about it and thinking about it so that I can continue to keep making the most important thing the most important thing. It is so easy to let everyday things take over (the small business of life, like running errands, appointments, keeping the house together, etc), but while those things are necessary, I really feel like they took over for too long. No more.

I have people in my life who will not understand the choices I am making (or will make) in the coming months/years. I hope that you have enough faith in me to support and respect them anyway, and if you don't I guess that's just the way it is. Just because it is not your path doesn't make it wrong (just like your path, though a disaster for me, fits you).

We are a big, fat walking cliché in Seattle because I really feel like just being here is present enough. After this crap pile of a year, I feel lucky. And that is a pretty amazing gift itself.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Choices suck (said the spoiled, first-world person).


The world is wide open. In my view, there is nothing we can't do, and now is the time to do it.

Well, we can't do the opposite of whatever we choose to do. So in choosing, we eliminate possibilities.

Example: if we move to Seattle, we won't live in Baltimore, and nothing is guaranteed, so for everyone who is thinking really loudly, "You can always do that later," yeah, right (see February 16, 2013 for evidence of how much say we have in that).

If I start the school again, we don't get to travel.

If we stay in Georgia...we are stuck in Georgia.

By choosing FOR, we are also choosing AGAINST.

It sucks and is nearly paralyzing. Those of you who really, really know me can understand how close I am to saying, 'Fuck it," and taking off with just a car full of whatever is important. Things will all work out in the end (and if it doesn't work out, it's not the end), so who really cares if we stick around?

(don't panic, softball people. I am also not in the habit of leaving people in the lurch. )

Life is uncertain and the longer we sit around waiting and planning and saving and otherwise delaying action, the better chance we have of doing NOTHING. We can't do it all, but I want to do more. Life is too short to settle down, and no place feels like home anymore anyway, so what the hell are we doing here?

Choices SUCK.

Monday, December 16, 2013


I have been an anxious person my entire life. Most people never realized that, including, I think my family. I come by it honestly; my grandmother is anxious and has serious sleep issues, along with vertigo and high blood pressure. I have everything but the high blood pressure. My first memory of anxiety was me crouching under a seat at a Washington Bullets game at a young age (five? seven?), crying as the crowd roared around me.

After Sicily was born, things got out of control. Anxiety attacks came without warning and resulted in fainting and puking, more often than not in public places. Best time ever was when I almost fainted driving on the freeway in DC, trying to get to an airport, with Sicily in the car. We managed to pull over somewhere, on a completely deserted and dark highway, where I proceeded to black out outside of the car while Sicily's anxious little face peered out at me through the backseat window. She was six.

After that incident, I went to the doc. He was a moron. To keep this short, I eventually diagnosed myself with anxiety and told him what to prescribe me.

The best part of my doc is that he will give me whatever I want. #Priceless

So now I deal with it as best I can. Dane produced a lot of anxiety for me (those who know him understand why), but the world in general just makes me anxious. I have to monitor my news consumption. I have to watch what I eat. I have to have some sort of routine.

And when I travel, especially in airports, I have to medicate myself. So I popped my first pill about an hour ago, as I can feel it rising already.


The medicine is pretty benign. I take it, and 30 minutes later I sort of forget I am anxious. It doesn't knock me out; it just allows the worrying part of my brain to shut off. So it's pretty perfect, fairly low dose, and very effective.


I hate having to rely on this medicine to do things people take for granted. Like go to a mall. Or a sporting event. Or a concert. It is this cloud that hangs over me, and everywhere I go I take this bottle of pills. It works, it's easy, and I manage it pretty well (a huge change from Sicily's fifth birthday where I spent three hours on the floor on the bathroom in the Georgia Aquarium. Not one single person asked if I was okay. Not one. And there was little Sicily, standing so patiently in the stall while I repeatedly passed out and threw up and passed out and threw up. #Awesome), but still. It doesn't leave me as sharp and interested as I would like to be, and I feel like I miss things.

This goes back to being able to just let go. Nearly impossible.

Working on it. Just letting go. Letting whatever happens, happen. Being unfazed.

Those of you that know me are chuckling. Not my MO. But I am trying.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


When I lived in Seattle, right after I met Dane and we started dating, my previous boyfriend tried to woo me back. On my birthday, he assembled everything that he knew I loved: art, Marco's Supper Club in Seattle, and a small pink satin purse covered in pink feathers.

Huh, you say? Pink feathers?

Seriously. I LOVED that purse. Loved it like a fat kid love cake. It was frothy and frivolous and LUSH.

I miss lush.

Irony du jour: I am drinking as I write this. Get it? Lush? Anyway.

In the movie 3:10 to Yuma, the outlaw  Ben Wade sidles up behind a barmaid and whispers into the nape of her neck, "You look skinny." And she says, "I feel skinny."

Well, I feel skinny, too. Deprived and sere. 

I am craving soft beds, fluffy sweaters, rich chocolate, sumptuous lotion and cashmere socks. A metaphorical feather purse - beautiful JUST BECAUSE.

Sometimes I get sick of being me, the conscious consumer. I can't buy lettuce without thinking about the workers, the chemicals, the dying bees. My eyes go automatically to the label and my mind flies to the small children busily sewing my clothes and dying in their 20s from poor health due to inhaling fibers for their entire short lives. I can't buy something new if I already have the same thing (and it still works), and every penny that comes out of my hand has been considered thoroughly before exiting my care. I have too much of my grandmother in me: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." It's exhausting.

Just once, for a little period of time, I would like to not be me. I would like to shuffle off the overly active imagination, the brain that won't shut off, the sensitivity to all of the pain in the world that needs to be carefully monitored or else it becomes debilitating. I'd like to not worry so often about everything.

I would like to fling money around without care, spoil myself, be irresponsible. I couldn't do it before Dane died, and I can't do it now. The other ironic part of this is that even with all of that, I still don't feel like an adult. So that's good, I guess?

The trick about LUSH is that I know that a pink feather purse won't cut the mustard; it will fill no void, and things won't be different. I won't be different. Still. Sometimes it's nice to have beautiful, sumptuous things surrounding you instead of worn out and tired things. They make me feel worn out and tired, and that is the very last thing I need at this point.

What do you do when you need lush?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Too Much Time

The Child is spending the night away from home.
This is a good thing, sort of. It's just that I can't quite figure out what to do with myself so I end up eating really badly, watching a movie, and then screwing around on the interwebs until my eyes bleed.
I have a stupid tumblr as a result of one of her sleepovers. What is that for, anyway? Pretty much only adolescent girls or people who want to say "fuck" and "dick" all the time. Even the good people I follow get a little overwrought at times. Easy on the gifs, people. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
And brainpickings?  Totally bleeding heart liberal. Like tumblr is also, apparently, which you might think I would like but sometimes that level of obvious bias gets a little old.

But I digress.

Tonight I ended up applying for eleventy million freelance writing gigs, making each cover letter more and more ridiculous as I went, not ridiculous as in, "Watch out for that lady," but as in, "We get so many boring cover letters and clips, and this chick sent us something about toasters and using sunshine to cure cancer. And incorporated hashtags in her cover letter. #NovelIdea."

This was after watching Life After Top Chef, taking the world's longest shower, and eating my weight in non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-cheese French bread pizza. Which I totally bought accidentally (the soy cheese part, I mean. #BARF).

Jesus. I have no idea what to do with myself. It's not the world's greatest feeling. Even reading, my refuge, is getting old (although I have been reading cookbooks lately, LA Son by Roy Choi and the Sussmans' two cookbooks, This is a Cookbook, and the other one whose name escapes me, and enjoying those). It's too cold to really do much outside, and I am full up of home improvement with building the tiny house with the kid. I'd just give in to the movie thing if I had a theme, but nothing interests me for long enough.

I need a hobby. Nothing stupid. What do you do?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dream Lessons

A couple nights ago I had a dream about Dane. Usually when I dream about him, there is a part of me that stays separate and is in the background saying, "It's a dream about Dane! Pay attention!" And the dream goes on and I wake up really happy and sad at the same time (or really confused, like in the first few months after he died when all he did was yell at me in my dreams).

This time, though, I didn't realize it was a dream about Dane until I woke up. Then, not only did I realize that it was a dream about Dane, but I also realized that it was a reminder.


Stop taking things for granted and falling into old patterns. The night of the dream I made dinner and then Sicily took hers and I took mine and we went our separate ways. We do spend a TON of time together, so it's not like I never see her, but I don't know the last time we sat down at our table and had dinner together.

 We watched a movie together afterwards, and I had my computer open nearly the whole time, screwing around online instead of putting all my attention on what we were doing.


Stop letting things go by. I had a moment of panic yesterday morning when I saw a pair of earrings Sicily was wearing when I woke her up and thought, "Oh my God, she got her ears pierced and I didn't notice." (not true. Just new earrings. But WTF.)

It's really not enough to just say you are going to do something and then not follow through. I don't want to be that person. "Do or do not; there is no try": Yoda had it right. If I say I am going to keep the most important thing the most important thing, then, hey, guess what? I need to shut my yap and do it.

In the dream, Dane and I were playing cards, a strategy game of some kind, where we both had one more turn. If I played my turn correctly, I would whoop his ass. He was sitting across from me, giving me suggestions on how to do it so I would win (this is another reason it was totally a dream...that never would have happened!!), and I was ignoring him, doing it my way, my way, my way.

Well, over the past year, I have seen the flaws in my way.

Let's not get overeager: doesn't mean your way is right for me either.

It does mean that I need to be more mindful about the changes I want to make and keep putting them into practice.

So I have been trying for the past couple days, starting small, to re-connect with whatever I am doing and to stay very present. It requires re-training not to multitask but to give one thing undivided attention (try it. You'll see, naysayers.), but it is work worth doing.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: Or, How Much Crap Do I Have To Wade Through To Get A Good Book About Grief?

As part of this whole awful horrible, terrible, no-good year, I have been casting about for ways to help myself; thankfully, I don't know any other widows my age, and losing a husband, especially unexpectedly and under the circumstances in which he died (me out of town, Sicily opening the door at 4 a.m. to the police...good times), makes for an even rarer breed of widow. This is definitely a good thing, my lack of contacts in the widowed world.

However. Makes it hard to know what's normal. Makes it hard to gauge my progress or lack thereof. I know that's weird, but sometimes having even one person who has been there and understands what you need (or don't need) helps.

So I looked at some self-help books (lots of stuff about God: not for me. Lots of schmaltzy schlocky crap: not for me). I went to therapy (not a ton of help, although she meant well, tried hard and is doing GREAT for Sicily). I joined an online community and started writing this blog, and those two things led to this: a book that actually helped.

Catherine Tidd is the author of Confessions of a Mediocre Widow: Or, How I Lost My Husband And My Sanity; she is also the founder of the online community I joined.  Catherine's husband died in a motorcycle accident when he was 34, leaving 31-year-old Catherine widowed with three children under six. In addition to founding a very supportive place online for other widow(er)s, Catherine has also written the only book on being suddenly widowed that actually completely GETS IT.

She gets the shock that comes after death.

She gets the manic need to move on and the paralyzing inability to remember where you put the shoes you JUST TOOK OFF.

She gets the weird look people get when you bring up your dead husband, and understands the sharp intake of breath that people have when you refer to him as "my dead husband" (see also references to "The Widow Card").

She even gets the complicated mess that is dating as a widow.

And WOW, does she ever get the blessing and a curse that is being a widow with children.

Catherine Tidd explains in direct, funny, and honest language what it is like to be left without the person who knows you the best; she talks about what it's like trying to figure out how to do all the stuff that the other person used to do (and which you probably took for granted); she explains the difference between "regular lonely" and "widow lonely" in the way I see it in my head, only she has managed to put it into words:

"The best way I can describe it is the worst kind of homesickness you can imagine because you can't pinpoint what it is you're missing. It's more than just losing a person - it's yearning for a way of life you had and know you will never have again. And the difference between being widowed and other types of loss is that, in most cases, we've lost the person we could lean on and talk to about the despair that we're feeling. We've lost the person we can be most honest with. We've lost the person who would hand us a box of tissues and a glass of wine, hoping that our nervous breakdown would stop before halftime was over."

Above all, Tidd gives grieving widows the room in this book to laugh, to be lost, to be found, to be angry, to grieve, to grow and to move on. At the end she offers suggestions of what to say and do for widows and also for people who are grieving with them. This was the only helpful book that I have read about becoming and being a widow. I found myself laughing and listening to Tidd as I would listen to a friend telling her story; she has a voice that is compelling, a story that is real and a book that is an invaluable addition to grief memoirs. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and not just for widows; for those of you who are watching me (or someone else) go through this process, Tidd's book offers insight into what is happening as we experience the awfulness of widowhood.

I don't really share self-help books much, but this one was a bit of a revelation.  I hope none of you need it, but if you do, or if you know someone who does, I cannot recommend it enough.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Out of My Head. For Now.

Warning: This post may be very difficult for some of you to read, so please use caution. It was difficult to write, but honest and true and raw and what needed to not be in my head. There is a stretch of road on Barrett Parkway that gets to me. It's dumb. There is nothing significant that happened to me on that road, it's pretty bland and very brief, but twice I have started bawling for no reason on this stretch of road. I dictated this post in one breath into my phone two days ago, and I can just now look at it to transcribe it. It is not as hopeful or cheery or reflective as the last few posts may have been - just a very brutal moment in my head.

Sometimes I can't get the image of his bloody, dying face out of my head. It is vivid and graphic and filled with violent pictures of torn flesh and bone and hair mixed in with glass, his body sprawled across the front of the car. I can't stop imaging what he might have thought as he died in a car alone in the middle of the night, a block away from his house. Did he think about Sicily? Did he have a moment of consciousness where he might have considered what he was leaving behind? Did he apologize? Feel remorse?

It is torture to think about these things. I don't know why I do it to myself except that I cannot help it. I am not looking for why or how. I know why and how. These thoughts spring into my head unbidden and will not go away until I think them, examine them, roll them around for a bit.

If I could just talk to him one more time I would ask him what he was thinking as he died. I would tell him that I love him and I miss him every day, even as we begin to move on with life.

I would ask him where he is and what it's like, and if he was right or wrong. Just to hear his voice.

Of all of the hard years of my life, this has been the hardest. I told Sicily the other day that I hope this is the worst year of her life. She knew what I meant.

I wish I had been there in his final moments, not a thousand miles away. Even if I was just sleeping in my bed I felt like it would have been some comfort. I hope there was no pain. I hope it was quick. I hope there was no moment when he had to think about what he had done. I hope there was a flash and then nothing. It is torture to think he was aware in his final moments, and I can't know for sure that he wasn't.

Out of my head. For now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Big, Inflated Ego

My horoscope for this week from Free Will Astrology:

"Maybe your ego isn't big enough. I'm serious. Is it possible that you could benefit from being more proud of yourself? Would it be healthy for you to give yourself more credit for the struggles you have weathered and the skills you have mastered and the beauty you have managed to forge out of the chaotic raw materials that life has given you? I've got a good feeling about this, Pisces. I can imagine you summoning the playful courage you will need to express more confidence. I can even picture you beginning to fantasize about embarking on certain stirring adventures you've never believed you were strong enough to try before now."


So this year The Child and I have been saying "yes" to most things we have been asked to do/places to go/experiences to have. The vast majority (okay, all) of these things have dealt with The Child and making opportunities for her. Nothing wrong with that for now.

But in the long-term, eventually I will have to find something to really and truly care about again, and that means, perhaps, inflating my ego a little.

Death has a way of sitting you on your ass. Hard. It is difficult to remain confident and self-assured. And when that happens (thinks punch to the throat), it takes time to stand up again and gather your wits, to feel good about yourself, what you do and why you exist. People who believe in God (or at least profess to actively follow an organized religion) gather those wits by saying "Things happen for a reason," and "S/he's in heaven now." I understand how that could work for them, but it's not quite good enough for me (see earlier posts on this topic and my feeling, in general, about those pithy platitudes).

Which is unfortunate. Because that seems really easy. Turning it over to someone else, saying, "Here. You deal with this, then let me know what happens next."

So I am not doing that. I am trying, hard, to summon some "playful courage," and to "forge something out of the chaotic raw materials life has given [me]." Trying to develop the big, inflated ego that Rob Brezsny says I should have about myself.

Should be interesting...