15 days.

15 more mornings.

That’s what’s left of this Salvador Dali fever dream. Of its melting clocks in a desert devoid of reason.

4 years ago I thought of the election, of the outcome, as the end of a long summer. I likened it to a change of season. It wasn’t. It was a step through a wormhole. We landed in the desert.

There is so much missing and wasted. Minds warped by fear and falsity, faith twisted and torn.

Parenting has been hard. It’s always hard but this…these questions…these images…this celebration of worst impulses, denied science, naked racism and hatred, has often left me lost. But we’ve done our best. Or the best we could muster.

We helped and learned and moved. Talked and talked and talked. We got tired and energized, put our masks on, and made our own map. We built sandcastles. And watched as they melted away.

Today was a fresh low. I hope I was right when I explained to my little travelers at bedtime that it’s the beginning of our journey out of this desert. Of the reconstitution of our time.

10 years.

A decade.

Every October it creeps up on me. It shouldn’t, but it does. It’s the month with the most birthdays of my favorite people. I’ve done the math. It’s the most.

It’s also the month my mom died. Too early and after too long, and not long enough.

But here we are, a few days into October, and here I am. Surprised and not surprised at all.

After she was gone we were palpably minus one in the house, but her body was still there. In my sister’s living/dining room, converted into a hospice room, she was there and she wasn’t. We had to wait for them to come get her. So we watched Glee. It was the Britney episode. We were late to watch it, because we were busy. And suddenly we weren’t.

We were busy doing awful things. Caring for our own babies while easing, we hoped, our mother’s pain. I look back in awe at the women we were ten years ago, and in awe of what we’ve done since.

We didn’t stop. She never stopped. She put one foot in front of the other. She made leaving a house, whether across town or the country, an adventure instead of sad. She worked her ass off, and did hard things, and found plenty of reasons to laugh while doing those hard things. She cleaned the houses of our friends’ families and never once allowed us feel shame about it. She ate books for breakfast. She was an incredible cook and hostess, and a terrible dancer (sorry, mom) but she played albums at full volume and called us to dance solos. She became a straight-A college student when I was in junior high. She became a teacher. She had always been a teacher, but she finally formalized the role in her 40s. She changed lives—her friends’ and her students’ and ours.

She was my mom, and she was always there until that October night 10 years ago.

Every day without a mom is one too many. Every day, I do my best to be half the mom she was.

And every October, it creeps up on me. The memory. The loss. That Glee episode.

I’m watching it on Netflix now.

I’m so sad she missed it. It’s really good. And I’m sure she’d be glad we found a reason to laugh that awful night ten years ago.

Tutu would never.

The dead are lucky in their abundance of reverence…or rather revered-ness. Especially as time moves on, that reverence grows. The sharper edges dull and what’s left is the best of the lost.

Memories (and retellings) of the tougher, graceless moments fade as we focus closer and closer on the highlight reel.

My mom, and my memories of her, and retellings of her glory are no exception. There are absolutely outtakes in her reel, bloopers that were far from funny. Moments that I know without question she’d want forgotten.

She was human after all. Complicated, beautiful, brilliant, warm, creative, rarely wrong, and sometimes wrong. Still, the stories I share with her grandkids are sweetly devoid of the mistakes.

Do you know what Tutu did when Aunt Devon and I said we were bored?

Do you know what Tutu told me when I told her I’d live on the moon someday?

Let me tell you what Tutu said when I came home crying…

The kids have gobbled them up. They’re part of our lore. Refrains in our little family’s anthem.

Tutu would have done…

Tutu would have said…

Tutu would never…

Tutu would never say, “stop crying.” She’d say, “scream in your pillow.”

Kick that tree.”

“Write this down.”


“Put one unhappy foot in front of the other less unhappy foot, and keep moving.”

“Feel the wind and smell the rain coming.”

“Find something funny and laugh.”

She would never have left if she had the choice.

She would never, could never, have been a better mom than she was to Dev and me.

Almost 11.

She rides shotgun now.

And wears my shoes. The ones that no longer fit me.

At a certain point you’re supposed to stop growing. At least most of you is supposed to stop.

My feet grew though. A half size times three.

She’s the oldest. Responsible for the first half size of podiatric stretch.

She’s responsible for so much.

She’s next to me. Her profile growing more refined with each glance. I can barely see the baby see once was.

My shoes won’t fit her next year.

Then she turns to me. Her eyes have not changed.

Blue grey shining with the reflection of ice lacquered trees outside her window. Reflecting my love. And making my heart grow a half size.

“Keep your eyes on the road, mama,” she says.

Waning moon.

His limbs wrap around me like a boa constrictor. My neck, my waist, my left leg encircled and a hand stretched impossibly from the base of my skull to my cheek.

This 6 year old belongs in his own bed. But I don’t move him. I don’t resist his nighttime slithering and squeezing because I know this will not last. Soon enough he’ll decide he’s too old for this.

As my mom laid in a hospital bed after learning she was diagnosed with a cancer that would all too soon take her from us, I slid myself in next to her. I wrapped my limbs around her and squeezed.

My mom was a next level snuggler. She loved us in her bed. At some point though, I was too old for such raw affection. I stopped my slumbered slipping into her room.

Now my big girls, once baby boa constrictors themselves, still find their way into my bed. Mostly when they’re sick but sometimes, on rare weekend mornings when we’re not rushed to get to a soccer field or ice rink, they’ll snuggle. We’ll talk about the things on their minds. Big things and small things. But it’s not enough.

That warmth, their whispered questions in the pale morning light, their arms around me. It’s pure mama bliss.

It’s dark tonight. Clouds send the waning moon’s light back toward heaven.

I’m not moving him out of the bed.

10 and a half years.

10 and a half years ago I won the lottery. I was a new mom embarking on the long icy road of working motherhood. I was exhausted from the work of keeping a new baby alive and exhausted at the thought of returning to work outside the sleepless yet warm and blissful cocoon of our little home. I had no idea at the time how long that exhaustion would persist, and no idea just how lucky I would be to know and love the woman who was about to change our lives for the better, forever.

Ewa arrived early for her interview. The baby was screaming her gorgeous little head off. I hadn’t showered in days. The dog was at a constant 3 inches from my heels, stalking in perpetual vigilance of my deteriorating well-being. Looking back it’s possible the dog was the only one fully aware of the dire situation we all faced.

I was a mess. And Ewa, she was not. She reached out for the screaming baby and I surrendered her before I even introduced myself.

Ewa told me to sit. She walked and bounced and talked to me about her experience caring for others. She’d been with two other families for almost a decade a piece since immigrating to America. Those families oozed loved for her when I later called them. And we would soon come to share that love of the perfectly crazy, magically patient, wonderfully charming and caring woman who has cared for all of us for the last decade.

I held that once tiny screaming baby, now large enough to share my clothes, last night as she sobbed. Ewa is leaving us. And we are all heart-broken. Through the births of two more screaming babies, and the deaths of a number of well-loved fish and assorted insect pets, my sweet vigilant dog and my own perfectly magical and wonderful mother, Ewa has been a mother to us all. Holding all of us through our screaming and tears, telling us everything is perfectly as it should be, and that we are doing great jobs whatever the job in doubt may have been.

As the 6 year old said this week, “it’s time for her to enjoy her life without our wild craziness and to rest and eat all the lollipops.”

It is time for her to go. It is time for us to learn how to live without her. There will be less magic in our home, less multi-colored sugar sprinkles on broccoli, less sage advice delivered with her sweetly imperfect English, less being told I look “famous” as I leave the house and head to work, less Cheetos delivered one at a time as rewards for good behavior. Less so much else, but not love. Her love and our love of her is stuck to our hearts like Cheeto dust to our fingers.

We will love her and miss her terribly. I won the lottery when she walked through our door and our lives have been better every day because of her.

Enjoy your retirement and all the lollipops, Ewa. You did a great job. We are so so so lucky to know you.

Mama’s Day.

Motherhood is whispering the end of the story to an 8 year old who’s too afraid to keep reading Harry Potter. It’s unclogging a toilet when a kid finally poops after 5 days of not pooping. It’s combing lice.

It’s watching a night vision video monitor intently, trying to see if the baby’s chest is rising and falling but not wanting to go in and wake her up. It’s reading a book you’ve read a thousand times and trying (and failing) to match the enthusiasm and voices you’ve given to its characters the last 999 times.

It’s craving the scent of the napes of their necks and their bodies snuggled in your bed when they really should be in their own. It’s worrying if they’ll remember that thing you said in frustration that you wish you hadn’t. It’s imagining who they’ll be as teens, as adults, without you.

It’s excruciating.

It’s excruciatingly beautiful.

I miss my mom.

I want to be a great mom.

I’m so very grateful to be a mom.

Green dots.

You are on a journey through places.

You need to find all the green dots to come back.

And hold on to these cards.

Yesterday began with a conversation about safety in school. My kids are elementary age, there would be no anti-gun violence walk out but there would be conversation. So we conversed over bowls poured too full of hazelnut granola and custom toasted bagels, one lightly, one medium and one not-at-all.

We talked about scary things, about people who use guns to hurt other people, about who the safe adults are in their school and the rest of their world, about adventures they want to take and about planning to be safe on those adventures. We talked about power and the power of voices united, about speaking up and why some bigger kids would be walking out. We covered all of this ground in 8 minutes.

The world is often a scary place. Precautions must be taken. Sometimes they include knowing where to go and hide in the event of an emergency. And sometimes they involve some research about the kinds of predators that live in a particular desert and what kind of anti-venom must be secured in advance of one’s trip.

I’m trying to teach them not to be afraid. Or rather to not be so afraid that you don’t go out and live a loud and gloriously messy life. To be brave. To take chances. To speak up. And to be safe.

After breakfast they left for school and I left for work. And a few hours later I received a text about a gunman blocks away from their school.

I called the school but no one picked up. They were locked down. My children were locked down in their classrooms with brave and calm teachers who were delivering custom-crafted messages about what was happening. For the kindergarten, almost none at all. For the second grade, a light version of the truth. For the fourth grade, medium toasted.

I spent 55 minutes in fear and frustration reading twitter feeds and watching live streamed images of snipers. Wondering if I’d said all the right things in our 8 minutes over breakfast. 55 minutes until I received a call from our babysitter reporting that she had the kids and was heading straight home. All was fine. I’d see them soon.

Eventually we heard that it was a hoax. Some sick duck had called the police from far away and reported a hostage situation. No one was physically hurt. That was the good news.

The bad news is that our community was hurt. Our children, our parents, our neighbors, and first responders who raced to help. Our teachers who spent an hour externally keeping kids quiet and calm and entertained, while wondering internally if this would be the day they didn’t make it home. That’s a hurt that lingers.

I got home and the lights were off. My law enforcement husband opened the door. He’d raced home upon hearing the news. And now he stood in the doorway.

His face was serious. But it’s always serious.

“Brace yourself,” he said.

The lights flickered.

I was handed the note above. I was going on a journey.

The kids in their homework-less hours at home created a scavenger hunt. Their dad and I were instructed to find the green dots. They were happy dots on happy things as we moved through worlds they created in all of our bedrooms. There was a “world kindergarten” and a “photo shoot” room. The “ar[c]tic” and a “coffee shop.” We had to collect the dots and hold on to them to come home.

They were fine. The rooms and the kids.

I was not. I moved through each of the rooms looking for green dots. Looking for lightness and adventure while carrying the weight of the day with each step. The anxiety and sadness I felt, the weirdness of a school day that began with gun safety talk and ended on lock down. The Alanis Morissetteness of it all.

But I kept looking for dots. Carrying them with me as instructed. And by the time the dots were all found–after we’d tip-toed through a kindergarten of reading stuffed animals, and petted a cheetah dressed to the nines on a photo shoot stage, and jumped across iceberg pillows, and sipped coffee with Jill the doll and her pal Dolphin–things were different.

By the time we’d collected them all, I was ready to come back. I think I’m going to carry them with me for a while.


For months she’d been asking to get her ears pierced. Her sister did it for her 8th birthday two years ago without incident.  A quick visit to a local retail chain and, click, click, sister was done.  On to a lifetime of accessorizing her earlobes with assorted enamel emojis, sure to be followed by dangly odd creations in her teens, and someday a couple of tasteful, inherited pearls.

Little sister’s 8th birthday was a week behind us when we arrived at the mall. The piercing had to wait until the soccer season wrapped up. We scooted straight from the last game to the mall, excitement building as we discussed the relative merits of a simple gold ball vs. a heart or star.  The non-ball shapes would be easier to turn which anyone who’s ever been pierced knows is an important task. As the wound heals you don’t want adhesion.


“What is adhesion, mama?  Is it painful? Will it hurt when they put the earrings in, will it hurt afterward? Is it like a shot or a little pinch? On a scale of one to a billion just how much will it hurt.”

Oh boy.

Trouble was brewing.  Still we made it to the store and completed the paperwork. We watched as two slightly older junior cheerleaders with large bows in their hair sat still while bezeled cubic zirconias were plunged into their lobes. Click, wince, click. Click, “that wasn’t so bad,” click.

No tears. Big smiles, as big as their bows.

Then it was our turn. She sat in the high chair, like a bar stool, looking like she could use some liquid courage. Her eyes, pupils now swollen to twice their usual size, were darting all over the place.

“It’s okay, kiddo. It’s going to be fine. Do you still want to do this?”

She did. But she needed a minute.

That minute turned to 36. 36 minutes of a patient latex-gloved piercer standing by while my poor girl alternated between deep breaths and whispered self-encouragement.

You can do this. No biggie. You can do this. But I don’t want to do this. But I want to do this. You can do this. Don’t be scared, don’t be scared, don’t be scared.

And so it went for 8 more minutes. 44 minutes of sitting in that high chair. 44 minutes of me working through my own waves of guilt, frustration, love, pride, and acceptance.

So what.

Come on.

Do I hold her down?

We should go.

Let’s give her another minute.

I’m pretty sure every minute I let her sit here is an hour of therapy I’ll need to pay for some day.

I should tell her to suck it up.

This is what she wants.

It’s her body.

It’s not my choice.

It’s not anyone else’s choice but hers.

We left at the 44 minute mark. Her ears bearing small black Sharpie dots where earrings might have been.

I paid for the earrings because the hypoallergenic case had been opened.

She says she wants to try again when she’s 9.

Honolulu Haunting.

My mom was a storyteller. Some of her best stories were those involving ghosts and the supernatural.  She swore they were real–the ghosts and her stories.  I’ve been thinking a lot about ghosts lately, half-wishing she was one hovering lovingly nearby and half-wincing at what a terrifyingly unlovely thing that would be.  Still, I’d have her as a ghost in a heartbeat. Until then I have her stories. 

In the 80s my mom found herself on a solo trip to Stonehenge. The destination was befitting a woman who loved mythology, and history, and science, and especially loved them all rolled in to one mysterious circle of stones.  

She believed that science is crucial, that it’s what makes mankind better through explanation and invention. She loved history, the wretched and wonderful story of where we’ve been. And mythology because it’s an ingenious gap filler that provided answers to the questions that surrounded mankind in a time before science took hold. 

God, I miss her.

So there she was on a tour bus to Stonehenge. A stranger sat down next to her and the two introduced themselves as civilized folks do. The woman was from Honolulu. So was my mother.

They compared notes on places and restaurants, and played that game where you try to find a family or person you know in common. And they found one, sort of, as they listed neighborhoods and addresses at which each had lived. The conversation came to an abrupt end soon after they discovered an address they shared about a decade apart.

So, did you see…I mean, did you have trouble in that house?

My mom nodded. Not trouble, but something, she said. 

The woman stared out the window and they didn’t talk again.

The something, according to my mom, was a ghost. Not an aggressive, horror movie kind of poltergeist but something. 

My mom was a teenager in that house and the stories she told about that time were ones I asked her to repeat over and over again. How the lights would flicker as she saw odd human-form shadows. How the television would go on the fritz at odd times almost always accompanied by a strange chill in the air. How there was one night when she was not supposed to go out but her parents were gone at a party, so my mom took a chance and absconded. 

Her parents should have been out until early morning because they loved a good party.  So she wasn’t in a hurry that night as she walked down the sidewalk just a few houses away from home. Then suddenly she felt a touch on her back and turned. No one was there. So she started walking again and this time felt the touch more firmly, a hand between her shoulder blades now pushing. She started to run but the touch did not let up until she made it to the back door of the house. And just as she closed the door behind her, spooked and shaking, she heard her parents’ car pull up the driveway.  The ghost had saved her from the worst fate a teenager could face—being grounded.

Ghosts are myth. Sometimes created to scare or to enforce societal norms. Sometimes they’re simply entertaining fable. Sometimes they are figments of heartbroken imagination. 

Than again…who knows, maybe they’re real. Just as much of science was myth before it became real, maybe the same is true of ghosts or spirits or souls. I’m not sure what I believe about any of it—but her stories are my history and I believed her.  

And like I said, I’d have her as a ghost in a heartbeat. 

Pali Lookout, Hawaii. Another mythical place she loved.