Force of nature.


Today, in my head and heart, my sister and I are feeling the wild winds of the Pali Lookout. Holding hands as we stand at the cliff’s edge. The force of the wind presses against us like a full body hug, giving form to our thoughts of her.  And we’re shouting into the current, Happy Birthday, Mommy. We miss you.

Today she would have been 65.  A milestone year for sure.  There would have been a party, there would have been stories told, there would have been…her, holding us and smelling the napes of our necks and our children’s necks, telling us that the smell of us is for favorite sensory input.  Her smell is my favorite too.  The smell of her kalbi ribs in the oven, of the constantly burning candles in her home, and the smell of her tea rose perfume. I’m wearing it today and it’s just lovely.

4 years ago her sister and best friend, my sister and I, each of our husbands and her grandchildren carried her ashes to the Pali Lookout.  She joined her brother there, and we cried and laughed as the crazy winds blew the ashes down over the valley of a place she loved…and a little bit right back on us.

And as our mostly somber little hiking party filed back toward the rental van to continue the trip down mommy-memory-lane, my two year old daughter stepped in dog shit. Then she spread it like finger paint all over my jacket. And we laughed some more.

One of the best gifts she gave us was the ability, and permission, to laugh through life’s inevitable dog shit.  So cheers and happy birthday, Mommy. I promise I laughed today.





The girls ran in their first cross-country meet yesterday.  It was an elementary school invitational held at the local high school.  Sass, who turns 6 this week, was nervous. I asked what she was worried about. She started crying and said that she didn’t want to get lost. I told her not to worry, that she couldn’t get lost because she would be running with the rest of the kids.

She looked up at me with those huge, drippy green eyes and said, “No, mama. I won’t. I’ll be in the front.”


5 years and it’s still there.

I put the last of her disposable razor heads on my pastel purple razor this morning.  I fished it out of a big plastic bag that once held a ridiculous amount of them, along with some hair combs.  I couldn’t believe it was the last one.  I also couldn’t believe that the supply had lasted so long. I remembered her teaching me how to shave my legs for the first time, and I lost it.  I’m lucky I didn’t injure myself trying to shave my legs through the sobbing.

Soon, maybe too soon, after my mom died my sister and I went through most of her stuff and decided what would be kept, what we’d give away or sell, and what we’d toss.  Much of that time is a haze for me now. Tomorrow, it will have been 5 years.

We kept a lot of things, of course.  Things we would give to our own children, including some clothes that are kept in dress-up boxes in our homes.  It’s really quite fun and not at all sad to see the kids play in her clothes.  There are also her reading glasses, but these we can’t take credit for.  In the weeks before she died, when she could no longer read, she pushed out the lenses on all of them–there were a lot of them–and gave them to us for the girls to wear. We also kept furniture and art that now hangs in our homes, along with jewelry, books, and (for me, for practical rather than sentimental reasons) those razors and combs.

Not long after she was gone, we held a garage sale during which we gave most of my mom’s home furnishings (custom curtains, pillows, etc.) to a single woman for next to nothing.  The woman showed up at my sister’s house in the middle of the sale and fell in love with the curtains.  They were beautiful, of course, ’cause my mom picked them. But I can’t for the life of me remember what they looked like, just that they were made of heavy gorgeous fabric and that this stranger was fawning over them.  

My sister and I had tried to keep any discussion of the origin of the things for sale to a minimum.  We thought it might be too macabre for people to know that the pillows they were holding were left behind when a woman died 50 feet away from where they were standing. Mostly though, we just didn’t want to talk about it.  Talk about her, at all, with these strangers.

The woman with the curtains was different somehow, so we told her.  She then told us how sad she was for us, but that she would take care of the things she was buying.  She told us that she’d recently left her husband after a “really awful time” and needed all new things for her new home.   

That was it.  It was all my sis and I needed to hear. She could have the whole lot. We helped her put our mom’s things in her car.   And later we talked about how fitting it was that a woman starting out on her own again, so bravely, would have our brave mom’s beautiful things surrounding her.

So today I used the last razor.  It’s clear that she liked to buy in bulk, and also clear that I don’t like to shave my legs as often as I probably should.  It’s not so clear how it can feel like her leaving us just happened yesterday. How I can feel like it was just the other night that I was talking to her about a work problem, or a kid issue, or a home decorating dilemma.  How a stupid disposable razor could reduce me to tears in the shower.

Really, though, it is clear.  The loss of someone you love never leaves you.  But more than the loss, it’s the love that doesn’t leave.  It’s not “there” in the art or furniture.  But it’s there in the empty eyeglass frames. It’s there in the faces behind those glasses, and it’s clear as the eyes smiling behind them.  She’s there.

Tutu glasses, May 2013

Tutu glasses in full effect, circa May 2013

Yoga pant mafia.

Today, I want to be part of the yoga pant mafia–a phrase my husband affectionately uses to refer to the moms lingering off to the side of the playground at elementary school drop off and pick up. They stand in packs, wearing aviators like my own, without urgency and with well-toned rears shimmering in their 5% Lycra/95% organic fiber yoga pants.

I see myself in the reflection of their lenses, my cell phone in one hand with a call on mute, hurriedly wiping dried chocolate milk from my girls’ faces with the other and kissing their heads goodbye. [Yes, I let them have chocolate milk with breakfast.] I can’t tell if they’re looking at me, if they can sense my envy. Those lenses are so shiny gold and opaque.  Where are they going after this?  Will there be mimosas?

I’m not in yoga pants. My black suit carries strands of our new puppy’s hair, a toddler-sized thumb smear of yogurt and a dry cleaning tag affixed oddly on the inside seam of the seat of my pants. I haven’t yet removed the pin and stiff paper tag.  It’s my own bit of martyrdom today.  A guilty-feeling working mom’s discreet bit of self-flagellation.

But, I’m heading out now for lunch.  A quiet lunch by myself–that would be impossible if I was home.  There is so much that would be impossible if I was a full-fledged member of the yoga pant mafia.   So, I’m taking the tag out of my pants before I head out.

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That smile.

Her mouth is a jumble of big and small teeth.  When she smiles a single adult front tooth disrupts the upper row, throwing the whole grin adorably off-kilter with its size and slight angle inward.  I was staring at a picture texted to me by husband of her face and that smile tonight, expanding the image between my finger and thumb until all I could see was that smile.  It’s the first physical manifestation of her transition from my little girl to…not so little.  Sure, there was the whole baby teething time period, but that was still a part of infancy.  A time when I could not wait for those milestones to come and go.  But now, I’m not so eager.

I stared at that tooth and my heart sank.  We are on the march to adolescence, and it’s a fast one.  Rag-time fast and syncopated.

She’s only 7.  Some days she wants to sit on my lap and have me hum a familiar song. She nuzzles in while I comb her hair with my fingers, from her temple around her ear to her neck.  The low hum and repeated path of my fingers along her scalp lulls her to sleep. Other days she’ll talk to me about her little sister and brother in the hushed voice of a wise collaborator in parenting.

Mom, don’t worry.  I told him that sometimes you have to try things that make you a little nervous ’cause that’s when the great stuff happens. I told him it’s okay to be scared, and that you can be brave and scared at the same time.  

I’m nervous, but I know great stuff is about to happen.  All too soon her smile will be uniformly grown-up [please God, without the assistance of orthodonture] and she’ll shudder when I start to hum that slow song.  At times she’ll wish for the 250 miles of distance that lies between us tonight, and roll her eyes when I remember out loud that day when she got her first pair of glasses and how cute her little snaggletooth smile was.  She’ll also be on her way to becoming the amazing adult I get to see glimpses of now.   Sweet and brave and strong. Clever and kind and freckled.

Still, I already miss the little girl she was just last year and I miss her tonight, right now.

Good nigh, sweet girl. Mommy loves you.

Good night, sweet girl. Mommy loves you.

Three things at once.

You can be three things at once. You just have to take turns… ’cause bunnies and cats can’t breathe under water. And whales need to swim deep for food. But they all breathe air.

That’s why the Cat Bunny Whale is all good.

Sass, 5. Found object artist, big (and little) sister, self-help guru.

This mom, wife, lawyer agrees.



Triethanolamine and me.

I stabbed myself in the eye with a mascara wand yesterday as I was texting and applying said mascara at the same time. The mascara was a super-powerful polymer type that bonds and builds eyelashes like those of baby giraffe. It stuck to my eyeball, then stuck to my lids. Actually stuck my lids together. It’s the kind that requires its own brand of mascara remover (because of the super-powerful patented properties). So I had to feel around blindly–one eye glued shut, the other obscured by my tears–in the medicine cabinet to find the remover. I rubbed it all over my fused and smudged eye, and finally my lids opened. I did this all with one hand–because, texting.

I put the phone down, cleaned up and reapplied makeup to the left side of my face, including the super-powerful polymer mascara.

I then finished getting dressed in natural fibers. Reminded the babysitter to only use the new sunblock on the kids because that other stuff is full of chemicals. Poured myself a BPA-free to-go mug of organic coffee and headed out the door.

I sat in my car for a minute and Googled the ingredients of my mascara.


I read chemical Safety Data Sheets for a living. Some of that stuff is not good. But it’s really all about the dosage.

And my eyelashes. Seriously. They look like a baby giraffe’s.

I decided not to Google what was in the remover.



I didn’t think I would cry about this, but I did.  I was. [I still am.]

I was sitting in my car furiously updating the live feed from the SCOTUSblog, waiting for news on the marriage equality ruling. Then, with my umpteenth down swipe, it was official.  Dissents notwithstanding, the highest court, and ultimate arbiters of all-things-legal, in this amazing country of ours has ruled that everyone is free to marry the person they love and no state may refuse to recognize that choice.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority:

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.”

Justice Kennedy is 78 years old. He was appointed by President Reagan to the Court in the 80s. He is decidedly not a millennial. But he is part of this new generation, as we all are. The country is not the same as it was 200 years ago. And how awful would life be if it was? No toilet paper, no Starbucks, no Google, and no freedom–for so many. Justice Kennedy and the other four Justices who joined him are right. This is about liberty, so basic and so material for so many of us. And so easy to understand for the youngest among us.

My kids were attendants in their first wedding two years ago. At 5, 3 and 1.5 they wore the fanciest clothes of their lives and walked down the aisle with their cousins, throwing dinosaur stickers instead of flower petals. Never once did it occur to them to ask why there were two brides.

It was a wedding and a wedding to them was, and still is, about love–about a commitment to love and build a life with another person.

So, it feels pretty amazing to sit here in my office [where I’m supposed to be working…sorry clients] and pour over the words of the Supreme Court. To be nodding along with joy in my heart and a smile on my face, the same way I used to feel when my mom read Shel Silverstein poems to my sister and me.

The battle for equality is far from over. There are still so many wrongs to be fixed, and hearts to be changed and healed. But this morning, I’m awash with happiness and optimism.

God [or whatever higher or inner power you choose to believe in] Bless America!


“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends.


Soggy metaphors for loss and love on the second day of summer camp.

It tends to comes out of nowhere, when it is the furthest thing from my mind. And then it is there, my frontal lobe sending mom-soaked dopamine compounds throughout my brain. Making me stop for a moment in my tracks, just long enough to pass through a sidewalk sprinkler of memories and emotion. The moisture is barely noticeable, quickly evaporating on a summer day. I can choose to stand still and let the sprinkler hit me again, or walk on. Usually I walk on, the shock of it quickly passing. Sometimes it leaves me chilled, but mostly it feels good. Cool and warm at the same time. Like her.

When my mom’s death was fresh, raw and recent, it felt like I was standing at the shore break after a storm. Unevenly spaced waves were crashing around me, carrying tangles of seaweed and other harsh matter dredged from the ocean bottom. It was hard to breathe. I couldn’t move as the sand gripped tighter and higher around my ankles with each wave. My eyes stung too much to open, making it impossible for me to know when the next wave would break over me.

It sucked.

Now, almost 5 years later, it sucks less. I can breathe. My eyes are open and I am no longer stuck in the sand and waves.

Still sometimes, I am drenched by loss of her.

Today was the second day of summer camp for my 3 year old son.  Yesterday’s drop off was easy, but by pick up time he was sobbing.  This morning he was refusing to enter the classroom.  Asking for a new camp, asking to go home, yelling for “one more minute of talking.”

I was late for work already, my mind racing with thoughts of the thousand things that [still] need to get done.  I was tired from his mid-night calls for trips to the bathroom, sips of water, made-up songs about tall towers, and blanket adjustments.  I wanted to pick him up and drop him in the middle of room and run.  I wanted to scream.

I closed my eyes for a second and was hit by the sprinkler. Confusing and cool, the thoughts rained down. I felt her. I felt her perpetual calmness and infinite patience in all child-related matters. I sat down on the bench outside the classroom and looked at his tear-soaked face. I asked if he wanted to play with me for a while and he nodded. We played with imaginary cars and jet planes. Then we zoomed those cars into the classroom and I asked if he wanted to see where his sister sat when this was her classroom. He nodded, then audibly “ooh”-ed as he sat in the chair that was his sister’s. A minute later he waved me off with a quick goodbye and I left.

It was comforting to him to think that his sister once sat where he sat. It is comforting to me to think that my mom was once where I am. I am not her. I don’t have the tolerance that she had; but I still have her.

I have the ability to call upon her, or to have my subconscious call upon her. To splash myself with the memory of her, and let those thoughts work their sometimes sad but, now, mostly wonderful magic. To remind me to stop rushing, to breathe. To let my kid find his way in his time–just like she did for all of hers.  And to abuse oceanic and neuropsychological metaphors–just as she would have done.  Love and miss you, Mommy.

All smiles on the first day. Not so much on the second.


We started Harry Potter a few weeks ago. The girls are 7 and 5. They want me to read with the lights on because they think the light of the kindle on my face as I read makes the story too scary.

They want to talk about each paragraph. One empathizes and wonders out loud what could have happened to Voldemort that made him so angry and mean. One stops the reading so that she can describe the vision in her head of Hogwarts from the train, with details vibrant and wholly absent from the text. In her mind, there is a gold roof and a battalion of owls are swooping with balloons in their beaks.

We took a break from the action after reading that Dudley was heading to the hospital to have his tail removed, and talked about what we would do if we had tails. Pig tails would be removed. They’re cute but would get in the way when we sit and wear pants. A prehensile monkey tail is a different story. While it poses the same apparel and seat challenges, such a thing would be so useful to climb and swing at the playground. Yes, a monkey tail is a keeper.

Reading with them is magical. Each chapter takes twice as long as it should as a consequence of their commentary. But it is fun. And when it’s time to call it a night, because one or the other is yawning and having trouble fighting the magnetic pull of her eyelids to one another, I feel sad.

Maybe it’s just that I’m tired too. Or it’s that I feel guilty because we don’t get to read like this every night. Some nights I’m not there. Some nights there is just no time. But really it’s more than that. I’m sad because I don’t want it to end.

I know that this time is short-lived. That they won’t always let me read to them. They won’t always share their opinions, and questions, and visions with me. They won’t always think that having a prehensile tail would be cool.

Tonight I’ll be home. Tonight we’ll read some more, talk some more, and when they stop interrupting I’ll know that they are tired and it’s time to call it a night. Time to let them drift off to dreams of owls and powers of transfiguration. And I’ll try very hard not to be sad, and to appreciate that the magic of this time is a factor of its fleeting nature.

And when they begin to refuse my offers to read, and refuse to think that animal appendages are cool, I’ll look back on nights like these and remember their magic.