February 2015

I started a new journal over the holidays. I hadn't finished the old one, but I needed to feel the weight of the new book in my hands. I needed something that represented what I'm starting now, not who I've been over the past three years.

From the time I was 16 I started numbering and dating my journals. To remind myself what volume I was on, I turned to the beginning of my previous notebook - the one I started when Mom died.

I couldn't help but read the first entry. And I wanted to share it now. If my apartment burns down and I can't get to my journals, at least I'll have this captured here.


Friday, February 13, 2015
San Francisco, CA

Mom died yesterday. At 6:30pm Central Time.

There are so many things to say, but so few I feel I can say. I feel like I should talk about what happened - how she's not suffering anymore; how she chose this; how she went on her own terms...

But that's not what I'm thinking right now. What I'm thinking is that my mom is dead.

MY mommy is gone.

I will never call her again. I will never fight with her again. I will never hear her laugh again. I will never buy her another diet coke.

I am alone in this world.
I am an orphan.
I am homeless. Truly, achingly homeless.

The truth is this: I am my mother's daughter. I am a product of that house in Ozark. And everything I am today is because I fought for my love of San Francisco.
With all of those things gone,

Who am I?


I've spent the last three weeks or so feeling caught between my mom's world and my own. Kind of the way Mom has been caught between the world of the living and the dead. I have been so anxious I couldn't work. But I haven't been able to cry, either.

I wished for this. I wished for Mom to pass so things would finally be over. But now - now I'm not caught between things anymore. Now I don't feel all that much of a tether to this world. I just feel heavy. Or sometimes too light. Like I might float away.

Like I am no one.


difference between what I know and what I believe

There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can't fix it you've got to stand it.

~Annie Proulx, Close Range, "Brokeback Mountain"


when a woman doesn't respond online

  • How'd your Saturday go on this fine summer day?
  • In response:
    Wow crashed on your arm he did.
  • In response:
    Cute kittens. Yours?
  • In response:
    And you gravitated to the kids.
  • In response:
    Nice profile shot.
  • In response:
    A bevy of beauties. & you are mos’ def' center show.
  • In response:
    Your hat sets off your alluring eyes. (Too trite?)
  • In response:
    Kayak or canoe? What lake? Or does any body of water do
  • In response:
    - I’m always looking for fun & a teamate sounds like icing on the cake - real or casual, both have positive merits - even though we are the same height, I don’t know if I can push you up against a wall. I saw those muscles in your arms & legs. You got me on arm strength, I think. - I never fit into any boxes. Ever. - whether it be Sunday or any other day of the week, best friends make all errands fun… ish. - all of my conversations are unfiltered (even this one). - I can lead, but to dance? Not certain of that. - the only thing I see about your height, is that I top you by a 1/2-inch.
  • In response:
    Phenomenally beautiful image of you. Your eyes, nose, & cheeks speak volumes to me, as does your most gorgeous curves & that most beautiful cleave of yours.
  • In response:
    I like seeing you astride the horse. I can see your full length here, and it looks really nice from my vantage point.
  • In response:
    Pretty kitties. Yours?
  • In response:
    Still a pretty face. Great eyes.
  • In response:
    In a bevy of beautiful women, you stand out.
  • In response:
    Great shot. Gorgeous hair, sexy neck & lower jaw, laughing eyes
  • In response:
    Is it a specific place, or a more general location? You do look happy, from your beaming smile to the flush of your cheeks. I’d comment on the rest of your face, but I can’t see it. I also find that your very slight hint of cleavage, is an extreme turn-on.
  • In response:
    Since I share your height, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. Where on the SF Peninsula do you go to “jump into creeks”?
    In response:
    - Goats & chickens? No horses? - So a lake for the summer & ski-mountain for the winter? Sounds lovely. - How does girly & tomboy work together? Sounds like a fun mix. - I like to be outdoors at least most of every day, & have always been told by others that I’d be a great father. - I’m certain that I’d be able to keep you up all night, whether it be via laughter, or by bedroom activities. - l too, think laughter is good for the soul. It has gotten me through both good & bad times. - I’ll add that as an outdoor photographer, I enjoy everything around me, but I can be slow sometimes, as I want to see it all.
  • In response:
    Why not? Or is it that you just haven’t found the right ones?
    In response:
    - Cool, I’ve never met anyone from St. Louis. I hope me being an ardent Giants fan might not be a problem, but it also might give us something to agree to disagree on. - I like to use new tech gadgets, does that work? - I never take myself seriously, so sometimes that leads to all the wrong adventures - Do you ever go kayaking on the Bay? I have always wanted to do so. - which mountains do you head towards?
  • In response:
    What sort of genre of reading calls to you?
  • In response:
    - I believe that by now, this is much more than just a simple “hi”. In fact, I do think I’ve made quite an effort here. - unfortunately, I’m really bad at dancing, and have (3) left feet, so maybe you’ll have to lead me onto the floor. - all of my converstations are unfiltered & honest, including this one. - whether it be Sunday or Wednesday, I always enjoy doing errands. - I am the most out-of-the-box individual you may ever meet. - I am always gentle, but if you want me to be more than that, all you need to do is ask. - real & casual? Sounds like that could be way fun.
    DUDE. If I was interested I would have responded. You have now entered into super creepy guy who is harassing me. You need to STOP and leave me alone now.
  • 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.