9.20.2017

the last time I flew to Hawaii



Three years ago I left these monkeys for the first time. I had adopted them in fall, had back surgery in March, and spent all of spring and summer in bed watching them. That is, when I wasn't in physical therapy. The trip would be a test. Was I ready to travel again? Could I do a hike? Could I dive? Maybe even surf? I had no idea. And these cuties were less than a year old when I left them on their own for 3 weeks. 

I had planned the trip because I was starting a new job at a new company, and I wanted to spend some time with my mom and get in a few beach days before I really put my head back into my career. I went home and had an amazing week with my mom, and then went to Kona with my best friend, and then to Kauai on my own. I even delayed my return a couple of days because I was so happy there. 

As I played with the kittens today before I left for Kauai once again, I thought about how much they've grown, and how far I've come. In my last job, I wouldn't have taken this trip. I wouldn't have felt like I was allowed to leave during a go-live, regardless of the circumstances. Any issues arising during testing (as they always do and definitely did this week) would have made me change my flight. Both my company's strong work-life balance and my priorities as I've matured helped this one along. I'm thankful for that change.

I'm also thankful that this time I won't be in Kauai alone. My friend is joining me so we can have some one on one adventure time before she starts a family. I'll cherish every moment.

I'll even be diving with the same folks that took me out last time. I can't wait to see more of this beautiful area.

One thing is a pretty big change, though. Last time I went, I went home first. My mom was mostly pretty healthy. We went to dinners, I took her to feed the lions and tigers at a local sanctuary, and we even found the old creek where she and my dad used to take me as a baby. It was on private property now, but that didn't stop us. That trip was the last time I saw my mom walk. It was the last time I saw her stand. It was the last time I saw her in her own home. It was the last time I saw her as the independent woman I knew her to be. 

Only three weeks into my new job, I got a phone call that pulled me out of my new company's big quarterly gathering, made me miss a close friend's wedding, and led me to take 12 weeks off of work over my first 6 months. My mom died in February, and it was at least this time that next year before I was even functional again. I didn't travel for quite some time. 

I used to travel a lot. First it was because I was lucky enough to have a partner who traveled and showed me that it was something worth prioritizing. And then because my work took me to exotic places. Long plane rides, getting through TSA, and status (oh how I miss my 100K!) were the norm. Last year I went to Mexico, but that doesn't seem like traveling, really. This year, though, I struck my travel bug again with my trip to South Africa, Namibia, and Germany. I grew in the three weeks I was away in a way you just can't when you're at home. 

And so right now, I sit in the airport lounge. My flight is delayed, but I love being here in the airport. There are fires and disasters with my client and even at my company that would normally have me so stressed out I wouldn't feel good about leaving. And I'm so extremely happy. 

I'm about to get on a plane to go to a place I know and I don't. I'll see some things I haven't seen before. I'll have some new adventures. And I'll do most of it with one of the people I love most in this world. 

I feel a little bad about leaving these adorable kittens at home. I feel pretty guilty about leaving my team when there are bugs that need to be fixed and people need a leader to guide them to launch. But what I know now is that any day, any time, no matter how much you plan for it, you can get a call that changes everything. As much as those of us who plan for a living want to plan, we can't plan for everything. There's no such thing as contingency in life. 

So I'm excited to get on that plane, even if it means handling a few disasters from the beach. As long as I can do it with a pina colada in hand while the waves splash against my feet.


4.19.2017

traveling to semi-exotic places without a mom to console

I panic before I travel.

Every time. Without fail.

It doesn't seem to matter that I've boarded planes for international flights more than 50 times in the last 10 years, or that I'm taking the trip of a life time, or that I'm watching someone I love get married...

I freak out.

But, I've done this enough to know I can tell myself this is something I do. I tell myself it's fine that I'm not fully packed yet - I can pack in my sleep - I'm a pro at this shit. I tell myself the cats will be fine - they like my catsitter better than me half the time anyway and won't really remember how long it was when I get back. I tell myself that on the last days of my trip, I'll be wishing I could extend it.

And this works. Until tonight, when we hit the 36 hour mark.

Because tonight I realized something new.

Every other trip, every other freakout - I got through them long enough to have that panicked call with Mom. The one where I tell her I'm stressed out because I have too much to do. And then she tells me I don't have to go because whatever place I'm going is too dangerous and she'd rather I not go. And then I automatically reassure her that it's totally safe and tell her all the amazing things I'm going to see and do and I make myself excited about the trip and can finally pump myself enough to finish packing. And then in the airport, we have our conversation before I board the plane.

But Mom isn't here to tell me South Africa is scary and what the hell am I thinking driving through Namibia and don't I know people get killed there? She isn't here to recall the memories of her feeding lions and tell me I should just do that instead.

And worse? Mama isn't here to tell me all the things she wants me to tell her brothers and sister when I see them in 2 weeks. She isn't here to ask me to bring her back her favorite cookies that I can only get there. She isn't here to remind me of the phrases and places I can't remember.

People think grief heals over time, but it doesn't. The thing is, there are always more firsts.

I guess this is the first time, that instead of calling her and showing her pictures later, I'll be taking Mama with me.

Grief and travel panic, combined with general work stress and a not so healthy dose of whatever sickness has knocked me out for the last week - that's a cocktail for one hell of a trip.

Here we go.

2.17.2017

Life Cycles

Two years ago today I sat in a large room that was made up to look artificially cozy. I bought a casket for my favorite person in the whole world on her birthday.

I also thought about how the funeral industry could really use better sales technology, but they probably won't invest in it because they don't need to.

Last year, my amazing friends made sure I was surrounded with love and tolerated me taking lobsters out of their tank.

Today, my friends will eat German food with me to keep me distracted from the fact that caskets should not be birthday presents.

It's a hell of a day, but I've got some amazing friends.

12.23.2016

i believe in santa

I was in 3rd grade, maybe? Too old to believe in Santa. I knew Mom bought my gifts, but I still believed Santa existed somewhere in my mind because I wanted to believe. My mom helped that by always leaving the tags off a couple of gifts that were bigger things that we really couldn't afford. She knew I'd recognize her writing, and I called her out on the ones she labeled from Santa, but somehow, after all the gifts were done, there were always a couple of extra things with no labels that mysteriously had different wrapping paper and hadn't shown up until Christmas Eve.

I think this was a holdover from her German family. Mom told us that in her family, they would go to Christmas Eve mass, but Oma would always have a reason to leave early. When they got home, Oma would have set up the tree and laid out all the presents. So everything showed up when the kids got home from Christmas Eve church. Before that, there was no tree, no real presents - but there was always the advent calendar.
We kept up the advent calendar tradition, but we decorated a tree and laid out some presents. Mom still held onto the tradition of not putting most of them out until Christmas Eve. By third grade, though, I'd found Mom's hiding places and as most of you who know me now would expect, I'd called her out on her lies. So she started putting the presents out earlier. But every Christmas morning, there were always a couple that hadn't been there the night before. 
So on one night, this night that I remember so vividly, it wasn't crazy for me to think there might be another explanation. My parents sent me to bed, and it was one of those magical Christmas Eves that had snow on the ground. I thought I heard something on the roof, so I looked out my window. I swore I saw snow falling from the roof. I can still remember everything about that moment...the glow of the colored christmas lights, the smell of the snow, the cold from the window.

And then I heard sleigh bells. I swear I heard them. I remember them. I ran out to tell my parents and only found my mom in the living room. She told me if I didn't go to bed Santa wouldn't come and if he was really here I must hurry and go to sleep. I'm not sure I fell asleep quickly, but I don't remember anything else anymore until the next day. I went out to check the roof. There was a disturbance in the snow above my window, clear evidence of Santa. There were also marks and deer poop in the yard. 

Of course I know now that my dad did that. He raked the snow over my window and he left dog poop in the areas where the sleigh had landed in the yard. My dad, and my mom guarding me, helped me believe for just a little longer - because they knew I wasn't ready to think it wasn't real. 

I know it wasn't really Santa up there. I know that what I really believe in is that magic of the world and love for all of our fellow beings. I hold tight to that one.

But when I think about that memory, I feel the cold of the glass window on my cheek, and I hear those bells - I never found those bells. And mom never owned up to that one. 

The mind can play wondrous tricks on a body, but maybe, just maybe, there's still a little bit of magic left in this world.

11.29.2016

How Baseball Brought Me Home

Those of you who know me now might be surprised to learn that I didn't grow up a baseball fan. I grew up in the land of football and basketball, and honestly, because of my height, all I cared about was basketball. As a kid, my crushes were on the basketball players and the rodeo guys. And maybe sometimes those bad boy art kids. :)

None of this EVER extended to professional sports. My heroes were local. I may not remember all the names, but I sure remember pictures in brochures, posters on my wall, and events where I got to meet the latest and great basketball centers and team ropers. I used to ride my bike down to the park and sit on the fence to watch the guys practice before the shows when the rodeo came to town. Once I even helped unload the hay. That was a shining moment for me.

In terms of baseball - I heard about it, and when it came down to it I always associated with the Cardinals rather than the Royals for some reason. We were slightly closer to the Royals, but the Cardinals felt more big city to me. I never really watched the game, but I felt this affinity to St.  Louis that I couldn't explain. It wasn't about the city, though - it was about the Cardinals.

I went to my first baseball game in 6th grade. I didn't really understand the sport. It was super slow and nobody had to be in shape like we did for basketball. But our entire class took a trip to Kansas City. We watched a game between the Royals and the Mariners, and I saw Ken Griffey Jr. play. I had only heard his name, but I knew I was watching something special. I let it go after that until I got to college. Mostly because even at a young age I somehow knew I loved St. Louis and hated KC, and that had nothing to do with sports.

I went to college in St. Louis, and local sports took on a totally different meaning. The Rams won the superbowl my freshman year of college. The blues made it to the championships my Freshman year. And in case you didn't know, I had joined the winningest women's basketball team of all time at Washington University.

St. Louis is nothing if not a local "small town" made big. And it's really just a baseball town. So with all that was happening, when my new teammate (the guard with the shot that rolled off before you even got the ball into her hand) couldn't stop talking about her Cardinals crush, I started paying attention. She was all in for Rick Ankiel. So I started following the Cardinals more closely, for her. As a member of a national championship team, we ended up being celebrities in our own right at local bars (I've since found this happens when you're as tall as I am regardless of how good you are at any sport!) I recall one night we were all out with the older girls at Morgan Street Brewery in Laclede's Landing. Some of the Cards players were playing pool, and a couple of them came up to talk to some of the taller of us basketball players who were at the next table. All I really remember is my roommate going apeshit over seeing Rick Ankiel, and that although we didn't know the rest of the rookies at the time one of them turned out to be Albert Pujols. They were super nice, they were funny, and they didn't walk away when they realized we weren't fawning all over them looking for a hookup. And maybe somehow that solidified it for me.

So I moved out to San Francisco. And shortly thereafter I started dating a die-hard Giants fan. He had season tickets. So we started going to games. At first my Cardinals fandom won out, but slowly I learned the Giants, too. The stadium here is so amazing! It's hard not to fall in love. And then, my favorite player of all time, Mike Matheny (is it terrible that this is my definition of manliness?) , got traded to the San Francisco. So I had season tickets and my favorite player was the catcher in one of the best stadiums on the planet. It wasn't hard to become a Giants fan!

Within just a few years, though, I started started traveling regularly to Asia, and everything changed.

Time zones really fuck with you, no matter who you or where you are.

I started traveling to Penang, Malaysia, and a couple of things happened on the sports front. While I had always been football fan, I couldn't figure out how to keep up with the game. I tried for awhile. I knew my rams sucked and the SWMS (Now MS University) boys had their thing going, but it was just too difficult to follow from Malaysia. The problem and beauty with football is that you can only keep up with the game if you watch EVERY weekend. If you travel for a living, this is the death of your fandom. If you travel internationally, if you have ever spent months away from American tv, you understand why this is impossible.

We were all sitting in a meeting one morning at 6am Penang time during the 2012 playoffs. One of my leads who was traveling with me from the US had a SlingBox. So even though we had a 7am start time all of the Americans were watching Stefan's laptop. Instead of that being a problem, that became the agenda item for every hour for the next few days. GOD I love San Francisco people when the Giants are involved in a playoff.

ANYWAY. It turns out that when you're across the world in Malaysia, you don't share a lot with your family in Missouri and your friends in California. So even though my boyfriend in California really didn't care about the Giants 2012 performance, those Skype calls about how they were doing went a long way to connecting. And even though my mom in nowhere Missouri couldn't give 2 shits about baseball, connecting on how the giants did that night on the news meant a whole lot to her. I was up when everyone was else back home was asleep. But somehow, we all connected on the Giants progression toward the Series. Baseball gave me a link to everyone back home.

And so I came back home. And weirdly, I was more of a baseball fan than I had ever been before. I loved my Giants, because they had made me feel at home. And I loved my Cardinals, because they were my home. But I was still figuring it all out.

I had back surgery during spring training in 2014. I can't tell you my decision was made before then, but I'd like to pretend maybe I was still an open contender. The truth is. I've always been and always will be a Cardinals fan. (Maybe that's another post!) I spent the summer doing physical therapy and watching both teams closely. When I was well enough to fly, I took a trip back home to see my mom before I started a new job. That September trip didn't me much about baseball, but it sure did give me a lot of insight into my relationship with my mom and my home.

I'm one of those people who lived in the same house my whole life. Things changed over the years - we went from well water to city water, carport to drive ways, installed a small basketball court, built a cellar, planted trees, cut down trees, put in a shower - but it was the same house. That was my home. My home, with my Mom. My parents divorced when I was 16, and the last couple years I was in high school, plus all through college and a couple of years afterward, my mom and I lived very much like the Gilmore Girls. We were best friends who shared everything, including most of our time back home. Mom worked hard on her feet 6 days a week to make sure she'd be able to do what she could to get me out of our little town, and she spent her free time out going to all of my basketball games, so she didn't have a lot of energy for adventures and shopping trips. What she did have is a lot of love and time to sit with me in that living room for hours and seamlessly wander back and forth between conversation and quiet time - just the two of us.

When I moved to San Francisco, I think Mom found the quiet time was too much. She filled it with friends, but within a year her best friend died from the complications of breast cancer treatment, which my mom was also facing. Faced with her own mortality and the loss of her friend and distance from me and her other children, Mom allowed a persistent suitor to move in and make her home his own. It was just like her to take in strays - but cats were easier to love.

I spent that time home in September of 2014 trying to do everything I could to spend time with Mom. I spent as much time as I could tolerate in the house, but that was challenging. Partly because I have asthma and he refused to stop smoking indoors. But mostly because I couldn't refrain from fighting with him. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep my mouth shut. There were too many issues:
  • Mom was on oxygen and not supposed to be around smoke, but he smoked indoors
  • he had a confederate flag up on display in the living room and wouldn't let me even put in the closet while I was there
  • I had made a feeding station for the cats on a higher surface so my mom wouldn't have to risk injury by bending down to the floor to feed them, but he moved it because he didn't want the cats jumping up on stuff
  • He kept loaded antique guns all over the house even though he was usually drunk and Mom didn't know how to use them 
I could go on and on, but my point is that my inability to restrain myself from arguing was not about my not fighting, it was about me loving my mom and not being able to sit with her quietly and bond while all this was going around us. The few times we did try, he ended up turning up the tv really loud and complained that we were gabbing too much.

So I took Mom out. I took her to her favorite things and to things she might never get to do. We went to the big cat sanctuary and Mom got to feed the lions and tigers. The smile on her face still makes me cry. We went to Red Lobster and got subs at the Sub Shop. We went on an outing to find the spot where my mom and dad used to take me and my siblings to go play in the creek. Mom was happy, and we were bonding. But all she could think about was whether her partner was okay at home. She didn't think she should leave him alone that long. Her worry for him cut our time short, and I hated him for that, although I wouldn't know how much until a few months later.

I had my fill of trying to play nice and returned to SF to start my new job. The Cards lost to the Giants in the playoffs and I shed my tear before putting on the orange. Just a few weeks into it I got a call from an emergency surgeon. My mom was in the hospital and might not live through the night. Even if she did, she might not make it the week. I flew home the morning of October 24 and was watching game 3 of the WS when Mom woke up to talk to me. The first thing she said to the surprise of me being there was, "Am I dying?"

We never lied to each other. I told her I thought she might have been, and she'd scared me, but it was looking really good now. She didn't want to talk about how she was feeling, and she didn't want to call anyone, so she asked me about what I was watching. Once she figured out which team I was rooting for (obviously I wanted the Giants to beat the Royals), my mom asked me to explain baseball to her. My MOM asked me to explain baseball to her.

The next week was touch and go. I spent every minute they'd let me by Mom's side in the ICU. She couldn't even really see the tv, but she watched baseball with me. When the nurses came in, she asked them who they rooted for. She told them proudly that I was a Cardinals fan but I was rooting for the Giants because I was living in San Francisco. She couldn't remember what she ordered for lunch, but she remembered that. She told one nurse I had a crush on the catcher (she misunderstood - Matheny HAD been that catcher).

It wasn't about the baseball. I actually end up watching most of the last innings at a nearby bar because the games went too late. It was about having that time back. Mom and I were sharing space and moving back and forth between watching something and talking - just as we always had. Nobody else was there bothering us. The nurses coming in acknowledged they were interrupting, and Mom included them in the conversations. She even tried to set me up with the hot male nurse. Mom and I had our time back in a way that we hadn't in a decade. It was beautiful.

Mom and I celebrated the Giants winning the 2014 world series shortly before I flew home to go back to work. Unfortunately, the story of why baseball brought me home doesn't end there.

In February, after months of travel back and forth and many more scares, Mom died. After the funeral and taking care of everything I had to, I lost it. I pretty much flew home, got pneumonia, and stayed in bed for a month. When I finally started to come out of it, nothing mattered.

And then, all of a sudden, spring training was on tv. I can't explain the feeling of watching baseball again. The last time I had watched was with Mom. And now, I could watch again. So 2015 became the year of me being the biggest, most devoted fan I had ever been. Anytime I missed Mom, I went to watch baseball. And then people started talking to me and it became less about missing Mom and more about loving the game again. And then, it became normal.

So now, baseball just IS. Watching baseball is the best because if I don't want to talk to anyone I can be so into the game that I don't want to talk to anyone. OR I can go watch the game and use it as an excuse to get out and socialize. The great thing about baseball is that there are so many games I get to make that choice. There will always be someone out who I can teach something to, and there will always be someone out who can teach me something.

I do feel a little lost during the months without baseball, but I don't travel anymore, so maybe it's time to care about football again? It'll never be home, but it's something.

For the record, my heroes now are women who make it through careers while raising families, and my crushes are men like Mike Matheny who've managed full careers with no scandals.

Is it April yet?












11.25.2016

he called my mom

I've been on a Gilmore Girls kick for a couple of weeks now, culminating in an epic marathon this weekend. I had never watched it before. I was in college when it started and too busy to watch much tv, and since we didn't have Netflix to let us binge I couldn't exactly start from the beginning. With the announcement of the revival my friends started chattering more and more about it, so I decided to catch up.

People who've only known me as an adult know one side of my relationship with my mom. But the relationship I had when I was a high school kid living in her house? After it was just the two of us? It's soooo like Lorelai and Rory. My mom had me when she was 38, not 16, and her dating life wasn't a central plot line - but the codependent best friend thing? We had that down pat.

The last few years, my mom gave horrible advice. I've noted some of those gems in this blog. But she was still my mom. There was a time I didn't know her guy advice was horrible. And, sometimes it wasn't.

Tonight, I had a super strong urge to call her to ask/vent about the recent spate of boy confusion I'm facing. Sometimes a girl just wants to talk to her mom. And then I thought about what terrible advice she'd give me. But I tried to remember a time she had good advice, and this amazing memory popped up:

When I was 17, I broke up with my boyfriend. He called my Mom to persuade her to change my mind. When that didn't work, he had his mom call my mom. Of course, the first thing my mom did was tell me and we spent an evening laughing about it together. Why? He was 24.

I can hear her chuckle now. Maybe because I'm making the sound myself?

God I miss my mom.

Onto more Gilmore Girls.

10.23.2016

rainbows

There's nothing like the smell of the trees after a really big thunderstorm. Lighting and thunder are not rare in southern Missouri. It's one of the things I miss most being in California.

I associated storms with my dad, but recently I've realized I was only thinking about part of the memory. Every time the skies turned grey, my dad would go out on our front porch. We lived on a VERY steep hill which afforded us a nice view from the front.

the hill is a whole lot steeper than it looks from the road below

When a storm came in, my dad used to stand on the porch to watch the valley below and the hills beyond. And of course I would join him. We'd leave the screen door open so Mom could fill us in on whatever the news was saying - just in case a tornado was coming, although Dad usually called it before it made it to TV. Standing on the porch watching storms, watching my dad watching storms, is as much a part of my childhood as school or summer road trips. Mom would prep the indoors, gathering the candles and flashlights, while we observed the conditions.

If you've never smelled a thunderstorm, you're missing out. There's something incredible about the way the air changes just before the wind comes in. This is especially true when there's a tornado, but we'll save that for another time. Both of my parents loved that smell. I had thought only of my dad on the front porch watching the clouds for so long, but recently I remembered something else.

After every storm that happened during the day, Mama would take me out to the backyard. Through the pinkish tinge of the sky that happens after a daytime thunderstorm, Mom and I would hunt for rainbows. If we saw even the faintest tinge of one, or if it looked like there might be one on the other side of the hill, she'd pack up the truck so we could all chase it. If we couldn't find one, the answer was always that we just couldn't quite see it from where we were standing.

My mom's endless search for rainbows taught me to never be scared of the storm. Every time it rained during the day my first thought was, 'I wonder where the rainbow will be!' I don't know if she did that for me, or if it was just part of who she was - I'd like to believe it was a little of both. What I know is I spent hours in my backyard and in my dad's truck hunting rainbows. I always knew they were the reward that came after a great storm.

~~~~~

In February of this year my incredible chosen family helped me honor the anniversary of my mom's death by celebrating her birthday at her favorite restaurant. Back home, there aren't a ton of options for great food, and Mom's all time favorite was Red Lobster. We decided to go the Sacramento location and make a long Tahoe weekend out of it, which turned out to be exactly what I needed.

You see, after Mom died, I got pneumonia. It gave me the perfect excuse to stay in bed all day for a couple of weeks sleeping and ignoring the world around me. I was too sick to let the grief really sink in. I lay in bed, and I cried - but I never could quite acknowledge whether it was from sadness or from sheer sickness and exhaustion from coughing. So I just existed in my bed. For almost a month.

I pulled myself together just enough to interview with a client who was doing something pretty spectacular. They were looking at ways to better monitor the long term health of clinical trial patients to eventually reduce the ill effects of chemotherapy. It was a little too close to home - Mom had died from long-term complications caused by her chemotherapy and radiation years earlier - but it was the only kind of work I was really capable of doing.

I dove in to my project, and I loved it. I loved my account team, and I started leading some efforts there. I took on a leadership role in our charitable organization. I let my work life fill up all the emptiness I was feeling everywhere else.

As the one year anniversary of Mom's death and her birthday (only 5 days apart) rolled around, I found myself starting to relax and let myself feel a little more. My project was under control, and I had such an amazing support network - we were building up to this 5 day break that was all about my mom - I felt safe.

So I let it all in.

Turns out, it was a little more than I could handle. Once the emotions really start flooding in, it's difficult to control the aperture. The anniversary was Feb 12, and we were celebrating on Feb 17, with a 4 day stint in Tahoe afterward to let me get my bearings. Once we had the date planned, I started letting go. By New Year's I had realized I didn't want to be in the relationship I was in at the time, by January I had pretty much stopped sleeping altogether, and by February I stopped pretending to be okay. On February 12, my best friend and I shared an amazing German dinner in honor of Mama, in which we told stories and showed pictures to our incredible bar manager - who made sure I had plenty of Underberg.

Underberg lets you keep eating (or drinking) after all that heavy food

In those final days before the birthday celebration, I let myself go completely. I couldn't think about anything else. I couldn't sleep for more than half an hour at a time. I wrote a lot - some that I posted here and some that will never see eyes other than mine. But on Mom's birthday, my incredible chosen family - even those who could only join by phone - spent an evening with me that I will never forget. What I will always ALWAYS know, is that I am so blessed to be loved by amazing people. And in true Mom fashion, the evidence is in how much they ate!

this was only half the table


They even supported me grabbing a lobster from the tank without staff seeing!

I can hear my mom's laugh now

A couple of us stayed up until 4 or 5 in the morning talking. Just loving each other. I was so thankful because there was no way I was going to fall asleep. But I did. And the next morning we all got into our cars to drive to Tahoe. I had made it clear I wanted to drive alone. I needed to drive alone. I wanted a couple of hours to myself before the weekend with everyone else. I needed some time to talk to Mama. I left just a little before everyone else. As soon as I got onto 80, this is the first thing I saw.

rainbows never really come out as bright in pictures


This doesn't happen often, but I actually had to pull over because I was both crying and laughing so hard I couldn't really see the road properly. It was just too. damn. perfect.

~~~~~~

I don't know if I believe in an afterlife. I definitely don't think people who die sit around trying to talk to us. I spent several months after my mom died wishing I could talk to her. Wishing so hard I could believe in talking to her. I even tried. I tried some form of prayer - just talking out loud, or even in my head - but I always knew it was bullshit.

I talked to several people about this, and had one who I trust a great deal tell me that she felt very strongly that my Mom was present in some moments. Not hanging around, not some spirit trying to communicate, just present in some moments. I've tried to believe that.

I believe Mama is here because she lives within me. I believe her presence is in my mannerisms, my memories, and the things she has shaped in my behavior. I believe that's how I connect with her. When I break out one of her laughs - her signature deep-voiced "heh heh heh"- I used to cringe, and now I smile with pride. I frequently give myself the terrible relationship advice she would have given me before ignoring it as I always would have. I often look in the mirror and judge myself, and then find myself seeing the beautiful woman my mom was so proud to have raised.

My mom is here now because when I look at this picture of her making this crazy smile, I recall about a thousand pictures of me making that silly over exaggerated smile.

when I make that face I'm usually at least 3 drinks in


My mom lives now because she lives through me.

But for her to be some OTHER thing that can communicate with me? That's absurd.

~~~~~~

So when this rainbow popped up on the highway, I actually thought in my head, "Mama?"

I pushed that away pretty quickly. I did try to talk to her. I stopped myself because it felt stupid, but I spent my hours on the road grieving and celebrating all that I could. By the time I got to Tahoe, the rainbow and the friends had given me this calm hope. I no longer needed to grieve or recover. I spent the next few days enjoying my time and moved on pretty quickly.

As soon as the weekend was over, I switched right back into "normal" mode. We had a couple months left of snow, and then had plans for a pretty epic Tahoe summer. My best friend was getting married and I was planning the bachelorette party. I was selling a new project to a client and delving into fun work stuff. And baseball was starting! Life had so many distractions to offer me!

It really was an epic summer.

And then about 3 weeks ago it started to fall apart. Tahoe summer ended. The wedding was over and all the people went home. And the last straw? The Cardinals lost. And then the Giants. So baseball was over. (I promise there's a post coming about why that matters so much!)

Without those distractions, whatever I'd been feeling before that weekend in February started to settle back in. It really felt (feels?) as if I let myself get swept up in distractions to avoid everything and now that those aren't around I'm finally coming back to the way I felt before that weekend in Tahoe.

I know it was silly to think I could put a cap on my grief in the first place. I know it doesn't work that way. I also know I didn't plan for all the major fun things that had been keeping me excited since then to disappear at the same time.

So things have been a little harder lately. I'm a little more tired than usual. Being social takes more energy. I'm not as focused. I'm not as sure about all of my decisions. And I haven't been feeling great about any of that.

But this past Sunday morning I woke in Tahoe and I stepped outside and I saw a rainbow that felt like it was shooting right of the ground in front of me. I know that doesn't really mean anything other than what I take from it. I know what I'm taking from it, though, is that whatever I'm feeling right now is okay. It's part of the process. The choices I'm making now are good, they are solid - because they are grounded in love and pain and wisdom and hope. I know there's a rainbow waiting on the other end of the storms, and that's only part of what makes them beautiful.

But my first thought, with no hesitation, was...

"Thanks, Mama."