Sunday, December 21, 2008

30 weeks and counting...

happy solstice everyone.
tonight is the longest night of the year.
tomorrow the light starts to return.

i am very aware of time these days.
i am now 30 weeks pregnant, which means in seven short weeks
i will be "full term."

soon i will be having the first christmas of my life without my mom,
who i will miss and remember very much on this holiday. this is also
the first christmas i will have with the bean.

i want to take time to remember my mom, and the way that she and our
family celebrated christmas. i want to remember to be grateful for all of the
ways she made christmas special. i am reminding myself to slow down and
savor these last few weeks of bean being a part of my body. i am, if nothing else,
a planner. so i need these days to calm my anxiety about all
the things that need to get done and all the baby books i need to read
and all the horrible things that could happen and J U S T
B R E A T H E. i hope the solstice, and the coming new year,
(or maybe just the winter chill!) offers you a chance to
slow down and remember and reflect.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


happy thanksgiving, y'all.

this thanksgiving i am grateful for many things.
as usual in my life, the thing i am most grateful for is my people.

i've been thinking a lot about courage lately.
the people i claim as my people are courageous.

they battle breast cancer, deal with recovery from double masectomies.
they've lost six month old babies who they visited every day in the hospital, only to never be able to bring them home. they've held, washed, clothed, and cradled their still born babies.
they've been sexually assaulted and abused.
they've lost loved ones to katrina, iraq, depression, cancer, addiction, and guns.
they suffer with depression, eating disorders, anxiety.
they've lost their hair, their ability to walk, their sight, their ability to eat most things, their indepedence (and their retirement savings!).
they've lost their closest friends and family after claiming their sexual orientation or gender identity. they've gained and then lost the ability to marry their partners.

but these people are my people because even in the face of all of this, they haven't lost their ability to laugh, or to make the people around them do the same. my people still want to know how YOU are, even as they are barely hanging on. my people know how to celebrate small victories and big blessings. my people know how to be grumpy as hell and how to cry. my people possess a certain amount of grace that helps to see them through. they may not be able to forgive themselves, but they definitely forgive you.

my people have not given up hope. my people know what's important - my people know that all we have is each other and a sense that things could be better. my people know about taking risks to get there.

the thing that has stuck with me since the historic evening of november 4th is this - many Americans - enough of us - were able to see through the lies and fear mongering to vote for a president who had been branded a pal to terrorists, a socialist, and a Muslim. (by the way, some of my closest friends are Muslim, so it really hurts me that this was considered an insult...) Many Americans - enough - voted for a man named Barack Hussein Obama - in a country where anything foreign is suspect. The fact that enough people took this risk and voted for hope and not fear makes me think maybe there are more of my people out there than I realized. And for that I'm thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

the little bean is not so little.

here's the 25 week picture, a week belated...
much more to say, coming soon.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

stop the rumor mongering!

ok, people, i want to clear something up. the use of "his mama" below was a mistake.
as you can see in the comments, every once in a while i slip and use "his" or "her." it just happened to be "his" this time.

we did not find out the sex of the bean, and we're not planning on finding out. i think it will be a wonderful surprise, and i look forward to welcoming and loving our child, whatever his/her/hir's sex or gender may turn out to be.

let the rumors be put to rest. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

the little bean

we had our first ultrasound this morning, and saw a picture of the (if i may start bragging this early) very cute little bean.

seeing the little bean makes it much easier to put up with the trials and tribulations caused by the hormones that are keeping bean healthy - fun things like pregnancy acne and pregnancy gingivitis. and seeing bean also helps me to forget the hip pain, morning sickness,
and fatigue that i have hopefully had my fill of.

before i got pregnant i imagined pregnancy to be this time of great beauty and peace. i imagined i would be like the earth mama below, glowing and beautiful and in my body and totally natural.
i guess i just didn't anticipate the pimples, bleeding gums, pain, nausea, and exhaustion. or the cravings for cheez-its and chocolate. oh well! it looks like bean has made out a-ok so far even through his mama's ups and downs, and that's certainly what matters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

20 weeks in puerto rico

mike and i had a lovely last gasp (before bean) vacation in puerto rico this weekend. pictures above - with a picture of me at 20 weeks somewhere in the middle of the slide show.

there were many highlights of our weekend, including happening on an independista rally, lounging on the beach (and then getting kicked out because we were using a fancy hotel's facilities!), lounging on the hotel rooftop (where there was a hot tub!), exploring el yunque rainforest, trying out the san juan bus system, and listening to live music at the waterfront.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

alaska women reject palin rally

people, check this out. thanks rebecca for alerting me to this - very, very hopeful!

food for thought

A few of you sent this along to me. Tim Wise is one of my favorite writers and anti-racist activists.

September 13, 2008, 2:01 pm

This is Your Nation on White Privilege

By Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

two feminists on palin. oh, three counting me.

sarah palin gets on my last nerve.
she is the reason i'm going to get involved in the obama campaign.
i'm deeply embarrassed about the possibility that i will be a citizen of a country with a vice president (and very possibly a president) who does not believe in evolution or global warming or sex education.

here's what eve ensler had to say about palin. (thanks to rebecca for this.)

and gloria steinem's thoughts are here. (thanks to dad for this one.)

there is a movement afoot to donate to planned parenthood in honor of sarah palin. (thanks to sara for alerting me to this brilliant scheme.)
planned parenthood will gladly send sarah a card to let her know about your kind gift. i just did it, and i encourage all of you who believe in comprehensive sex education to do the same. here's the link. click on in honory/in memory. and here's sarah's address for planned parenthood to send the card to:

John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

we're back...with belly

i'm sorry for the long absence.
there were many reasons, including unpacking and getting settled into our new home.

and: i'm 15 weeks pregnant! see above for the first of many belly pictures.
we are absolutely thrilled about the new little one developing in my womb.

bean (our name for the little one) has been wreaking havoc on my body. the first trimester was ROUGH. lots of terrible morning sickness and, in the last month, fatigue like i've never experienced.

it seems like i'm on the upswing - i'm hoping i will experience that second trimester high everyone talks about.

we were keeping this news hush hush until very recently. glad to be able to share with you here on some of the ups and downs of this new adventure.

Monday, July 28, 2008

over and over again

one thing i'm learning about grief - it's not a process that ends.
it's a process with peaks and valleys, but one that i can't imagine being over anytime soon.

we said goodbye to my mom's house a few weeks ago.
it was achingly, terribly, viciously hard.
we had a lot of help, so the physical part of packing up was quick and easy, thanks to mom's web of good friends. this meant that i had time in the weekend to truly grieve leaving the last place her earthly body inhabited.

i sat in her lovely backyard, with its tall trees and birds singing, and wept. and wept. and wept.
i asked for a message, some guidance, something...and what i heard was: it's ok to let go of her house. her spirit is with you always and doesn't reside here. i also swear i heard her laughing that the house is finally clean!

mike and i are now moved into our new house, so i am unpacking things from mom's house that i packed back in march when we started the process of packing up her house. it's alternately like opening presents at christmas (wow! this is beautiful! i forgot about this!) and walking through a minefield (i remember when mom used to make us iced tea in this pitcher when we were kids)...

i am learning to make space for really feeling these feelings.

Monday, June 23, 2008


today i donated over 25 pairs of my mom's prescription eye glasses to pearl vision, who will send them on to the lions club. the lions club then distributes the glasses around the world on "optical missions." the woman at pearl vision looked at me a bit strangely when i handed her the large bag. mom had eye glasses, and prescription sun glasses, stashed all around the house. i imagine what happened is that when she got a new prescription, she put the old glasses in the back of a drawer, and there they remained until we started cleaning out her house.

m, my brother, his wife and i have been cleaning out mom's house since she died. it has been at times harrowing, heart breaking, funny, boring, exhausting, frustrating, sweet...pieces of mom's whole life were in that house. her mother's keepsakes were also in the house so i felt as i was pawing through things that i was looking through generations of things not just mom's things.

we are nearing the end. we are hoping to have the house cleaned out by the end of the next weekend we are there. i have ordered a dumpster. as i have mentioned in earlier posts, my mother, god bless her, was a pack rat. she went back and forth from defending herself ("this is how i like things, having my things all around me makes me happy, i need visual stimulation, etc.") to feeling shame about it ("i'm a horrible housekeeper."). when we first started cleaning out the house, we had multiple piles: Keep, Trash, Glass Recycle, Plastic Recycle, Aluminum Recycle, Paper Recycle, Donate, etc. the last time we were there i just walked around the house with a trash bag. i talked to her as i was throwing things away - i felt this was necessary because otherwise i imagined her rolling over in her grave!

i am going to miss her house - it is the last place that i can feel her presence in. she liked things just so, and it is sad to leave the place she made home. i am hoping that filling my new home with her things will allow me to feel her spirit as i make my own nest.

Monday, June 2, 2008

deep connection

this weekend i went to my 10-year college reunion.
surprisingly, i really enjoyed myself.

i find, these days, that i can't- or maybe won't - put up a front.
when i'm feeling sad, or angry, or frustrated, or exhausted, you'll know about it.
i have less patience than usual and less ability to fake it.
when i'm tired, i'll cry at the drop of a hat.

so here i go, off to see people i haven't seen in 10 years and some other people
i've kept in touch with only off and on.

and they all ask me, "how are you? what's been going on?"
and what i want to say is, "well, my mom died. she died in february. she was
diagnosed with cancer in august and she was dead 6 months later. it's been a horrible year and
i can't believe i survived it but i think since i did that i must have this well of strength
somewhere that i'm choosing to believe will continue to carry me through as i try to heal
from this horrible thing that happened. how are you?"
but instead i settle for, "well, it's been a rough year but overall i'm doing great."

and suprisingly, i am able to tell people who want more than the typical reunion soundbite what happened. and i connect, with close friends and acquaintances alike, about loss. they tell me about the premature death of their mother. about a stillborn baby. i hear about other parents with cancer diagnoses. and it feels like maybe this is life.

and it feels so good to connect with other people who have experienced these terrible losses and survived. it gives me some hope. and it 's comforting that they get it. they get the exhaustion, the insanity, the depression that are a part of this thing called grief. they get dark humor. they joke about the stupid things that people say to people who are grieving. they get that these stupid things are better than silence. they get shock, and denial, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. they get incredible feats of strength at surprising times. how did we do all that the week after she died? and they get that all we have is each other. and so we have long, intimate conversations while those around us are doing the location-and-job-and-repeat game.

Monday, May 12, 2008


i bought a house!

and sold my mom's house.


you'll have to call me, or come to our house party on friday, if you'd like details...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

happy mother's day!

happy mother's day to all you incredible moms out there.

i've been thinking a lot lately (in anticipation of mother's day) of what my mom taught me about how to be a good mother.

here are some of the things that made my mom a spectatular mom:
  • amazing listening skills. my mom could listen to ANY story i told her, from thrilling to boring. she always made me feel heard.
  • remembering. my mom always remembered the stories i told her, and would ask me follow up questions the next time we spoke. this made me feel very important!
  • she always knew who my friends were, and why i loved them. this was a great way for mom to know more about me, my values, and what i might be up to on any given saturday night. she also taught me through her actions the value of good friends.
  • my mom always let me know how proud she was of me. this made me feel very confident and self assured.
  • trust. my mom allowed me to do insane things because she knew she had raised me right and even if i found myself in a jam, i'd figure out a way to get out of it. my mom trusted me even when it pained her - even when she was scared to death. i think her deeply faithful nature helped here. especially when i declared in my junior year of high school that i was going to zimbabwe.
  • leading by example. my mom never sat me down and said, "it's important to find a way to work towards justice in our world." she just did it, and i learned from her example.
  • ritual and tradition. holidays and weekends were special. mom knew how to make ritual and do tradition - with food, with music, with decorations...
  • being her own person. although mom was incredibly proud of her children, and talked about us at length whenever she got the chance even to strangers, she also had her own life. she had her own friends, her own interests, her own dreams, her own life.
here's to moms -- biological and chosen.

the line in this poem about "risk[ing] my significance" makes me think of the way my mom always put me first and gave endlessly of herself.

I will not live an unlived life.
I will not live in fear,
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as bloosom,
goes on as fruit.

Dawna Markova

Sunday, April 27, 2008


the sermon in church this morning was about how we are not orphaned from god, even when we feel orphaned by the circumstances in our life - be it a divorce or the loss of a loved one or some other great tragedy that makes most people feel alone.

the sermon really struck me today - because in a sense i have been "orphaned" by the death of my mother but have felt so incredibly held by my community that while i have felt deep sadness i have not felt alone - and amazingly even now, even as i expect that everyone will forget that i am still grappling deeply with this incredible loss, i am reminded (and for some strange reason surprised) that people have not forgotten, that i am still being held by that amazing web that i felt so strongly right before and right after my mom died. just a few examples of love i have received recently...

cj who sent me a kick ass care package which included SIX, count em SIX cds, all for the different moods that one who is grieving finds themselves in. dad who calls faithfully every weekend. lj and tim who ALSO sent a kick ass care package with delicious ginger snaps and yummy coffee. the person from mom's church who sent me a tape of mom's funeral. jenny who sent me a book of poetry. the people at my church who eagerly wanted to know this morning how last weekend's garage sale went. mom's friend who came over last weekend with food and helped us manage the crowd at the garage sale. another friend of mom's who invited us over to dinner on sunday after we had had an utterly exhausting weekend - who fed us nourishing food and then sent us promptly to bed. people who have called multiple times with offers to listen and sweet messages even when i haven't returned their calls. and those friends here in my life in philly who listen and sit with me while i cry. still.

i am aware that this process of grieving and healing has just begun and i am so grateful to feel the love of all of you so constant and strong that allows me to take my time, unhurried and sure in the knowledge that the amazing web is strong enough to hold me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

the sex columnist is always right.

this is dan savage's (syndicated sex columnist) column this week. it really hit home. especially the part about his mom going into the hospital not expecting to die and so not being ready to go. and also his sense that he has been able to get through a bunch of other tough times, but this one really has him "at a loss." check it out if you haven't already in the stranger, the philly weekly, or your local weekly.

At a Loss

April 3, 2008

I thought I could bang out a column today—a regular column, a column about my readers' problems and their freaky fetishes and all those asshole politicians out there. You know, the usual.

The day my son was born, I managed to slip out of the maternity ward and write a column; I wrote one the day I was indicted by the state of Iowa for licking Gary Bauer's doorknobs. (I was actually indicted for voter fraud—on a trumped-up charge, your honor—but Bauer's knob needs all the attention it can get.) I've written columns on days that I was dumped and on the morning of 9/11. So I figured that I could bang out a column today.

I opened my laptop and started reading your letters. I love reading your letters—I do. But I couldn't get into it. I just don't have a column in me this week. I'm disappointed in myself. I write this column at Ann Landers's desk, for crying out loud, and the old lady banged out a heartbreaking, truncated column when her marriage collapsed. If Landers could bang one out under that kind of emotional strain, then I could damn well bang one out, too. Just do it, right? Just fucking do it. But I just fucking can't.

My mother died on Monday.

Perhaps a sex-advice column isn't an appropriate place to eulogize an articulate, elegant woman, a practicing Catholic named for the patron saint of hopeless causes and, perhaps consequently, a Cubs fan. I mean, really. Eulogizing my mother back here with the escort ads? So let's not think of this as a eulogy. Let's think of it as a thank-you note, the kind of nicety that my mother appreciated.

Forgive the cliché: My mom gave me so much. She gave me life, of course, and some other stuff besides: her sense of humor, her bionic bullshit detectors, her colossal sweet tooth. She also gave me—she gave all four of her children (Bill, Ed, Dan, Laura)—her unconditional love. Long after I came out, she told me she always suspected that I might be gay; I was the quiet one, the boy who liked Broadway musicals and baking cakes and shared her passion for Strauss waltzes. When I asked my parents to take me to the national tour of A Chorus Line for my 13th birthday, that should have settled the matter. Your third son? Total fag, lady. But my parents were Catholic and religious and it somehow still came as a shock when I told them. My mother came around fast and she came out swinging—rainbow stickers on her car, a PFLAG membership card in her wallet, and an ultimatum delivered to the whole family: Anyone who had a problem with me had a problem with her.

But the real reason I feel compelled to thank her in this space, back here with the escort ads, is because I wouldn't have this space if it weren't for her.

My mother, as my brother Bill likes to say, made friends like Rockefeller made money and George W. Bush makes mistakes—and she was that friend you confided in and went to for advice. I was a mama's boy—hello—and I spent a great deal of time in my mother's kitchen listening to her tell her friends exactly what they needed to do. Sometimes gently, sometimes brusquely, always with a dose of humor. My mom liked to say that her son got paid to do something that she did for free—and isn't that the way the world works? Women cook, men are chefs; women are housewives, men are butlers; she gave advice, I got paid to give advice. (And for a few years, she did too; my mother and I wrote a joint column for a couple of websites in the 1990s.)

So I want to thank my mom. I wouldn't be writing this column today if it weren't for her gifts and her ability to find the humor in even the most serious of subjects.

Even death, even her own.

After a long struggle, we had to go into my mother's hospital room and tell her that nothing more could be done. She didn't go into the hospital expecting to die and she was not ready to go. But she took the news with her characteristic grace. She said her farewells, asked us never to forget her (as if), and paused for a moment. Then Mom lifted an eyebrow, shrugged, and said...


My mother wasn't crude; I didn't get my foul mouth from her. She used profanity sparingly and then only in italics and quotation marks. When she said "shit" on her deathbed, we understood the joke. What she meant was this: "Now, the kind of person who casually uses profanity might be inclined to say 'shit' at a moment like this. But I'm not the kind of person who casually uses profanity—and certainly not at a moment like this. But if I were the kind of person who casually used profanity, 'shit' might be the word I would use right now. If I were that kind of person. Which I'm not."

Everyone gathered around her bed—my mother's husband (my son has two fathers and so do I), my sister, my aunt—knew what Mom wanted: She wanted us to laugh. This woman, so full of life, who wanted so badly to live, having just been told she would not, she was trying to lift our spirits. ("Shit," for the record, wasn't her last word. Those were just for the family.)

Anyway, my mom is dead, and I am not in the mood, as she used to say. ("You are so," one of us kids would usually respond. "You're in a bad mood.") So I'm going to take a week or two off, from the column and the podcast, hang out with the boyfriend and the kid, and burst into tears in coffee shops and grocery stores. I'll run some greatest hits in this space while I'm away—I'll find a column or two featuring Mom—and then I'll be back, just as filthy minded as ever. In lieu of flowers, please send pictures of your boyfriends' rear ends. (Lesbians may send flowers.) If you're the donation-making type and you're so inclined, my mother would be pleased to see some of your money flow to PFLAG ( or the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (

Oh, one last thing: I was supposed to take my mother to see the national tour of The Drowsy Chaperone in Chicago this Friday, April 11. It was her birthday present. I got us great seats: seventh row, on the aisle. But I won't be able to use our tickets now. Not because it would be too depressing to go without my mother—not just because—but because, as rotten, stinking fate would have it, I'm going to be at my mother's wake on Friday night.

But I'm practical, like Mom, and I'd hate to see perfectly good tickets to a national tour of a hit Broadway musical go to waste. And it occurs to me that there has to be a teenage boy out there—in Chicago or close enough—who likes musicals and has a mother who loves him for the little musical-theater queen that he is. If you know that boy or you are that boy or you were that boy a decade ago or if you're that boy's mother or grandmother, send me an e-mail and I'll arrange to get these tickets to you.

Like I said, they're great seats. I would go if I could. But I can't.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

well said Daniel

m and i went to mom's house this weekend to continue the cleaning out process.i had the longest and deepest cry i've had since she died this weekend - i think having some distance, and then coming back to her house was what did it. i finally had some feelings of anger (elizabeth kubler-ross would be pleased) -why am i here to pack up mom's belongings intstead of here to visit her? it's not fair!

thanks to jenny for thirst, by mary oliver (one of my and jenny's favorite poets).

one of my favorite poems in the book so far is called Heavy.


That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
"It's not the weight you carry

but how you carry it--
books, bricks, grief--
it's all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down."
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled--
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

happy birthday mom!

mom would have been 63 today.
this is a picture from her 60th birthday.
let's just say that i was the designated driver.
i'll have a drink tonight for my mom!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense.
Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen.
It gives life a permanently provisional feeling...Up till this I always had
too little time. Now there is nothing but time.


I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense.
It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

my mom and brother at his wedding

thanks to cj for lending me A Grief Observed.

i'm going to have to agree with C.S.L. here. grief does feel like fear.
and i am experiencing the frustration of those habitual impulses.
it's easter. on easter i call each of my parents to wish them a happy easter.
today i called my dad. and then sat in a chair in my bedroom. and moped.
because i couldn't call my mom. at least not in the conventional sense.

my mom and i haven't lived near each other since i was in high school,
so most of our communication was done on the phone. we'd call each
other when something great happened in our lives, or something we
wanted to bitch about. we'd call each other when one of us was lonely.
sometimes we'd just call to talk. before my mom was diagnosed with
multiple myeloma in august, we spoke once a week. since august 2007,
until february 10, 2008 when she died, we spoke every day, with only
a few exceptions.

it is frustrating, indeed, not to be able to call her today and wish her
a happy easter, to hear all the gossip from church, to find out how
her weekend went, to tell her about the beautiful sunrise service
at the park i went to this morning and the lovely breakfast at church
afterwards. i know she'd want to know how cold it was at the service,
how long it was, how i got there, what i made for breakfast, who i talked
to at breakfast and what i did when i left. and she'd remember to ask
me about mike, how his concussion is doing, and when his next doctor's
appointment is.

we miss you mom. happy easter.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


this post is dedicated to jess, a true lover of booties.

i decided a little light-heartedness might be in order, after the rather heavy
post from last week. there will be plenty more sadness to come, i'm sure, so
here's something a little different.

i've been considering the things my mom enjoyed and/or did well in her life.
there are many things. one of the things she excelled in was saving things.
some might call it hoarding, or a certain tendency towards being a pack rat.
call it what you will.

one of the things i found in her house the last time we were there cleaning
things out was this.

this, my friends, is a box of handknit booties. f.pea, eat your knitting heart out.
these booties were made by mrs. kearns, a woman who lived down the street from my mom when she was a kid. the box actually has my grandmother's handwriting on it, which is even more impressive - my grandma saved them after they moved away and passed them on to my mom. i never did get the full story on why mrs. kearns made so many booties. all i can tell you is that everytime i was at my mom's house in the winter with cold feet, she'd offer me a pair.
and tell me to take them home with me. jess, who at that time was living with me instead of in lovely oaxaca, took a liking to these booties. she being one who also gets cold feet. so the next time my mom came to visit us in philly, she brought jess a few pairs. allegedly these were the last pairs in the house/that my mom owned. jess and i (yes, i got a few more pairs as well) were so happy.

so imagine my surprise when i came upon a whole box! m and i have decided that they will be the perfect thing for our new house - we'll have a basket at the front door for guests. maybe we'll even let a few booties walk off into the night...

her strength is in her principles

per steve's request, here's a close up of the card.

Monday, March 10, 2008

it's been a month since my mom passed away.
i miss her a lot.
this is an altar i set up for her in my bedroom.

the angel in the back is named courage.
the old woman on the card is titled "her strength is in her principles."
the ceramic tile is something that was hanging over her sink. it says,
"those who hope in the lord will renew their strength; they will run and not be weary;
they will walk and not faint. isaiah 40:31"
the cross is also something that was hanging in her house.
and the other cards are prayer cards from her funeral service.

as i continue to grieve, i will be thinking about how and what of my mom's life i want to carry on through the way i live.

Monday, March 3, 2008

where's the manual?

like most big events in life, there doesn't seem to be a manual instructing the unschooled on what to do when a loved one dies. too bad i don't own a television - i hear six feet under is a pretty good education in this stuff.

when mom died, i had no idea how busy we'd be in the next week.

we scheduled the wake, funeral, and burial; chose a casket; chose the concrete box one is required to buy for the casket to go in (!); decided on a design and prose for the prayer cards; wrote her obituary and decided to only have it published on one day and in one newspaper; picked out clothes and jewelry for her to be buried in; found a new home for her cat; decided on and purchased the paper for the funeral program; planned the funeral service with her pastor; created two displays of pictures of mom for the wake and funeral; chose flowers for the top of the casket; met with a lawyer to start the (long) estate process; notified friends and family of her passing; and tried to remember to eat and sleep.

one moment, i felt perfectly fine and at peace. the next moment, feelings of deep sadness, panic, and/or exhaustion would overwhelm me. this is the way my grief continues. coming back to my "normal" life, but without mom, has been extremely difficult. i hear that this gets easier; right now it seems to be getting harder. i'm confident the grief will become something easier to understand, to grapple with, to mold and shape into something i can handle. right now mom comes to me when she will - at night, on the bus, at work, during yoga, whenever and wherever. i'm just trying to ride the waves of grief and not fight too hard against the current.

from my mom's friend corrinne

here is a message from my mom's friend corrinne about walk she is doing in mom's honor...

A couple of years ago my daughter, Julie, started telling me I could/should run a marathon. After all, there were many women who were over 60 and running their first marathon. Being older and wiser I knew this just wasn't going to happen. Then in August 2007 my friend Ginny Gilbertson was diagnosed with myeloma. Julie took the opportunity to suggest that I could/should WALK a half marathon in honor of Ginny. She was getting older and wiser too since this was definitely a possibility.

So Julie found the Country Music marathon/half marathon to be run and WALKED in Nashville on April 26, 2008 and I could train with Team in Training. For those of you who don't know, TNT is associated with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society who Julie used to work for and who trained her to run her first marathon several years ago.

Last November when I visited Ginny and mutual college friends in Albany, NY, I studied with her the info from the Leukemia Society about the drugs she had begun taking and we both learned about her disease. I saw how grateful she was to have been contacted by people from the Society, including the buddy she was paired with. I saw the pain she was already beginning to endure. I saw her sitting in her dialysis chair for 4 hour stints. I told myself I didn't want my current health issues to take over and put me that situation so I committed to walk this half marathon for her and for me. It seemed like a win win situation to me.

Last December 28 I met Ginny at the Tampa airport where her son, Andy, who lives in St. Petersburg, pushed her in a wheelchair because already her back pain was so great she couldn't walk long distances. We drove down to Venice where Ginny had a condo next door to the condo of another Albany friend and we spent several days by the pool (and hours at the dialysis center) and saw the New Year in with much laughter and loving friendship. We both returned to our colder climates, she to her dialysis/chemo/pain coping routine, me to my training and regular work routine.

On January 28 Ginny went to the hospital with severe back pain and paralysis in her legs. The dialysis wasn't working to clean her system. Her heart wasn't behaving. Her children, Sue and Andy, and their mates came to be with her and her Albany friends kept vigil. She spoke with her pastor. On February 10 Ginny left this world for the next with Sue and Mike, Andy and Bonnie, and dear friend Anne by her side in a peaceful Hospice room at St Peters Hospital. We will miss her greatly. Less than 6 months from diagnosis to her passing; this should not happen to anybody.

I am walking this half marathon in Nashville on April 26 in memory of Ginny, and have pledged to raise $3000 for the Leukemia Society to help find a cure for myeloma and to give comfort to families and patients with this and other blood cancers. Please help me by donating whatever you can to this wonderful organization. My website to receive donations is


i can't believe in my last post i forgot to mention the amazing homemade ginger snaps and tofu spinach pie. it's only because as soon as we got back from the funeral and burial we ate them all while watching a project runway marathon. i know everyone handles grief differently, but i highly recommend tofu spinach pie and project runway.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"people are SO nice"

for the last two weeks i have uttered some version of "people are SO nice, this is crazy. i can't believe it" countless times. i'm going to try to give you a snapshot of the overwhelming generosity i and my family have been the recipient of lately.

people have cooked/baked/brought amazing quantities of food including the best brownies i have ever eaten in my life, baked root vegetables, vegetarian chili, a fruit bouquet, a fruit basket, a complete valentine's day dinner including fettucini alfredo, ceasar salad, wine, and a (prepare yourself-morbid humor coming) to-die-for chocolate cake, cheese and crackers, beans and greens soup, pizza, cherry pie, foccaccia, carrot salad, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and bags of groceries. as if this wasn't enough, i've also been treated to dinner out. and coffee.

i have also received a cd with calming music, a massage gift certificate and flowers delivered to my home in philly. the thoughtful, heartfelt sympathy cards just keep coming. many, many people made donations in my mom's name to the committee at her church that works with refugees (which she did for many years).

at the wake and the funeral, we asked people to write down a story or memory they had of mom. many people shared hilarious and/or touching stories about times they had shared with mom. and lots of hugs. lots of phone calls. my cell phone bill is usually $60. this month? $281! i mean lots of phone calls. and don't get me started on flowers. gorgeous arrangements. and plants. and friends who made time in their schedule to travel to albany to support me at and after the funeral.

and then there are the all the many acts of kindness done during the last weeks of my mom's life. mom's friends who came to her house to clean, to make sure she was eating, and who did her errands. mom's church family who drove her to doctor's appointments. the friends who responded when the lifeline service called them to tell them mom was in trouble. the friends who called me to let me know mom's condition was worsening. my childhood friend, who is going through chemo herself, who came over to the house and made me laugh for a few hours. the friend who came to relieve me in the morning at the hospital after i had spent the night. the friend who, when we were trying to find a place for mom to go to rehab, called everyone she knew to figure out which places were good and which we should avoid. friends back in philly who organized themselves to make sure i had someone to talk to and cry with each night while i was with mom. the nurses who held mom's hand, hugged her, comforted her, and took excellent care of her. the techs who lovingly bathed mom. the transportation aides who gently moved mom around the hospital. the social workers who helped mom to understand and process what was happening to her. friends who came for visits and handled mom's hallucinations with grace. the staff at the hospice inn who gave us so much privacy during mom's last hours and then so many hugs after she passed.

I have felt a great deal of support. Two different friends sent me emails with images of the support they were hoping I had – one was of feeling the wind at my back, that I could get through this not solely by my own power, but rather by a feeling of being sustained and carried by the support around me. The other envisioned lots of pillows put all around me by friends so if (when!) I needed to fall down, it wouldn’t hurt so much.

Both of these ring true. I thank all of you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

back to blogging

everything has changed since the last time i posted.

i remember in high school, after my grandfather died, reflecting on how i'd survive without my mom. my mom in particular, and moms in general, are central. if you're lucky, your mom is the person you call when you have a miserable flu and need to be comforted. your mom is the person you want to tell first when you find the love of your life, or are pregnant, or get a promotion. your mom is the one you call when you have that knitting, sewing, home repair, cleaning, parenting, relationship, or, in my mom's case, training question that you know she'll know the answer to.

moms are where we all come from. in most cases, moms have some (and most of the time A LOT) part in bringing us up to be the intelligent, caring people we are. we owe a lot to our moms.

my mom passed away on february 10th, 2008 at 6:45pm. her death certificate says 7:01pm, but i know better because i was there when she took her last breath. i'm hoping to use this space to share some of the experiences i had directly before and directly after her passing.

here is a picture of her and i celebrating her 60th birthday. she died at age 62.