AddThis script

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I wrote the dedication for my book today. It consisted of two words, just eight letters. And after I typed them, I cried for a long time.

Many times during the last three years, I’ve wondered why I was writing this story, why I continued to torture myself with the past. I could have tried to let his history be something I thought of only when medically necessary. Instead I’ve read medical records, interviewed doctors, and forced myself time and again into the sad and desperate places I’ve been during this journey.

When I turn the completed manuscript into the MFA department on November 16, I hope that I find it was all worth it, although I suspect that won’t be something I know for some time.

[And thank you to those of you who have contacted me, wondering why my last post was in July. The thesis has been all consuming, and I’m looking forward to different types of writing, including this blog, in the coming months.]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I love the way you dance...

I’ve been dancing occasionally with a guy that looks like my ex at my Monday night dance class—you know, similar height, similar body type, similar hairstyle. And I think it’s improved my relationship with my ex (which was already quite good) because every time I see him or interact with him, I remember how much fun it was seeing him let loose at dance class. Arms swinging, knees up, all with a serious expression, of course.

While it’s unlikely that he would ever indulge in an unstructured dance class, especially one with a slightly spiritual edge based in the realm of personal growth, it provides me with much humor to imagine him there embracing something completely out of character. It’s just a little harmless transference psychology. And it makes me chuckle. Another benefit of my Monday night class.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The unsung mother

A year ago on Mother’s Day, I came across a picture of my kids online. It was not a picture I had taken. It wasn’t a moment we shared together. And it was then that I realized that my kids have a life that I am not a part of. Intellectually, I had known that for a long time. They go to school without me. They have playdates without me. They have visited their grandparents 2,500-miles away without me. They live in another house half the week. Without me.

But that photo wasn’t just a snapshot of them at the park or at the beach or at a restaurant. It was a picture of my kids snuggled up with my ex-husband’s girlfriend. The picture was taken on Mother’s Day. I knew that because R wore his sweatshirt printed with cars, and C wore his Giants’ tee shirt—the clothes they were wearing when I dropped them off earlier that day. And I saw that picture because the girlfriend and I have some mutual friends on Facebook and it showed up in my newsfeed.

At the time, that picture felt like a kick in the stomach. Who exactly was that woman cuddled up on the couch with my boys? I knew a little about her because my kids talked about her and her dog and cats. But she was a stranger to me. At the same time, she is someone who spent lots of time with my kids. They are comfortable around her. They get excited when they see her car parked outside their dad's house. They ask if they will get to see her over the weekend. They like her. A lot.

After seeing that picture, I spent a bit of time struggling with my feelings. I wanted my kids to like her because if they didn’t, well, that would be bad. But I didn’t want them to like her too much because, well, I’m their mom.

A few months later the universe did me a huge favor. It gave me a friend who helped me see things from the other side—as in, from the girlfriend’s perspective. My friend had fallen in love with and married a man with two young children. Those kids are about to graduate from high school now, but she helped raise them. She helped make their lunches and drive them to school and comfort them in the middle of the night. For fifty percent of their lives, she was their mother too.

From the time they were six years old, she was just as much a part of their lives as their biological mother. She loves them as her own and refers to them as her bonus kids, because step kids seems too impersonal. Years from now, I suspect my kids won’t remember a time before their bonus mom, just as they won’t remember a time before their bonus grandparent. He came into our lives when R was an infant.

I feel fortunate that my ex chose someone who has welcomed my kids into her life. I feel relief that my kids want to spend time with her. I feel lucky that there is another person who loves my kids and wants to be a part of their lives everyday, and especially, on Mother’s Day. Because there could never be too many people loving my kids. Bonus parent. How lucky. For all of us.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Is this article sponge-worthy?

Even though Seinfeld aired its last episode 13 years ago this month, so many situations in life still circle back to its timeless tales.

On my way to class tonight, the woman I carpool with and fellow MFA student and I chatted about how we get our news. For better or for worse, I've found that breaking news often comes through Facebook. Someone comments on or reposts an article and it shows up in my newsfeed. Handy. From there, I either click on the link or head to Most of her news used to come from the, which is set as her home page. But things have changed.

Two months ago, the NYTimes started limiting the number of articles that could be accessed for free each month. As a result, she finds herself hesitating before exercising her index finger. I was immediately reminded of Elaine’s dilemma after learning that the Today Sponge was being taken off the market.

With every choice we make, we give something up. For Elaine, it was one of her coveted sponges. For my writing colleague, it's one of her 20 free articles. In both situations, it's only after they go through with it can they know if it was worth it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Don't stop

There have been many times in the past two years when I’ve wanted to stop. Stop writing. Stop doing homework. Stop going to class. Life has attempted to distract me in many enticing ways. But there are just two more weeks of class. And when this semester ends, there are no more classes. Not just for the semester, but for my MFA program.

There was an ever-so-subtle shift in my attitude three or four weeks ago. It went from When is it going to be over?! to Oh, it’s almost over! Once classes are finished, I’ll be working tirelessly on my manuscript for several months. But the weekly discussions about narrative arc and structure and pacing will stop. The weekly conversations about voice and narrative distance and tone will stop. The weekly assignments focusing on bringing things to life on the page and creating compelling dialog will stop. I had my final workshop last night, meaning it was the last time classmates will critique my writing.

I’m just guessing, but I suspect there will be many times when I wish it could begin all over again.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A consolation vacation

We were tossed into retro romance the instant the Tang-colored door swung open and swallowed our tired bodies. Once our eyes adjusted to the brightness, we were surrounded by bold. There were the paisley bolster pillows for our backs, the purple and orange striped carpets for our feet, and slick, red plastic chairs for our booties.

Beyond our room, through the glass, those could have been tropical waters reflected in the turquoise sky. But once we slid the door open and stepped onto our balcony, the cool Northern California February breeze pinched our skin.

Still, we didn’t immediately go back into the heated room. That view held our dream of being dipped into warm waters like strawberries into melted chocolate. As if on cue, that’s when we noticed the hot tub below.

But this was not a romantic getaway. Yes, I shared a bed, but there was no nudity outside of the shower. There was no kissing, outside of playful pecks. There was no arousal, even though I’d hoped for a juicy dream. This was a weekend with my mother and two boys in Santa Cruz. We’ll call it a consolation vacation because my mind was preoccupied with snow and skiing. It was Ski Week after all. My boyfriend and his kids and me and my kids were separated by 200 miles, 6,225 feet in elevation, and circumstance.

I didn’t really want the thick coats and ice scrapers of Tahoe—at least that’s what I kept telling myself while we debated a walk on the beach versus a swim in the chlorine. I hate that my son’s medical diagnosis crops my map and makes mountains off limits unless accompanied by an oxygen tank. So I exercised my credit card and splurged on views and heated pools and hot tubs. Those high-thread count sheets, down pillows, and snow-white duvets softened the emotional toll of being stuck at sea level.

My family didn’t know that they didn’t get to go to Tahoe. No one complained that they played in the sand instead of the snow. No one complained that they soaked in a hot tub at a hotel with lime accents and veneer next to the salty ocean instead of in one at a cabin with floral wallpaper and wood paneling next to a clear lake.

But it was so darn romantic. “It’s like being on my honeymoon,” my mom said.

“Then I must be a disappointment,” was my snarky reply. Although what I meant was I wished we were there under different circumstances.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Twenty gigantic minutes

We were under fluffy blankets and our bodies pushed into plush pillows yesterday afternoon as I read book after book after book. There was a little Dr. Seuss, some Shel Silverstein, the story of Library Lion, and the perennial favorite—H is for Homerun.

From there, we took our gloves, bats and balls to the park. There were pop flies, foul balls, and homeruns. There were fingers digging in the dirt, grounders, and dogs. It was a beautiful day and the sun was warm enough that we shed our jackets into a heap next to the dugout.

I managed to make dinner. I cut broccoli, ginger, onions, and garlic. I made brown rice. I fried tofu. I mixed and measured soy sauce and peanut butter, vinegar and molasses. I even sat at the table for three-point-five minutes as I inhaled the end result. I did all of those things, even though I knew it meant I would have to forgo a shower before dashing out the door for my hour-long drive to San Francisco for class.

Even though we did all those things, I still feel like I’ve failed because I wasn’t home at bedtime. I didn't read those stories at the right time of day. I didn’t pull up the blankets, smooth their hair back and touch my lips to their foreheads. I wasn’t there when they decided which moon phase to set the night light to. I wasn’t there to hear whether baby whale was welcome in bed or to hear C remind me to close the closet door because having it open is scary.

I missed those 20 minutes. Those crucial 20 minutes. And somehow it negates the hours that we spent together. I forget about the weight of R on my left and C on my right. I forget the constant, “Wait, wait, go back,” as one of them flips to the previous page to point out an inconspicuous frog in the illustrations. I forget about the 97 pitches I threw, the 39 balls I chased, the glorious dirt I brushed off of their pants, and the 284 smiles. I forget about the broccoli stalks both boys requested as I cut up dinner.

I missed those 20 minutes.

Classes will be done in May. As the endpoint approaches, the more I’m thinking about what I’ll gain when I’m done—Yes, a Master's degree. But more importantly, I'll get to put my kids to bed four nights a week instead of just two. As the endpoint approaches, I’m even more aware of what they’re missing, what they've missed. And I hope that there will be enough time to make up for all that I'm missing, all that I’ve missed.

I know that I have a lot of time with my kids. Quality time. Maybe because R is turning eight and C is turning five, I'm wondering how much longer I get to kiss them good night. How much longer they’ll sleep with stuffed animals. How much longer they’ll want to snuggle up and read the stories they love, the stories I’ve grown to love. Whatever the answer, it won't be long enough.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome back, Love

For the first time in eight years, I thought more about love on February 14, than I did about sadness.

Sadness typically gets my attention because Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day coincides with Valentine’s Day (yes, on purpose, because of all the hearts). As a result, every year since Riley was born, heart defects have held my attention on February 14. I've written about it a lot too. I wrote about it here, here, here, here, and here.

But this year, even though sadness occasionally keeps me up at night, my Valentine's Day was filled with heart-shaped pancakes, flowers, a lunch date, making Valentine's cards for my kids, swimming lessons, friends, dancing, and the post-dancing ritual of dark chocolate dipped in peanut butter. I think part of the reason it's easier to focus on the good stuff is because Riley is stable and close to an important milestone. On his 8th birthday in April, he will be four years removed from his last operation. That’s half his life ago. But also, I’m settled and happy. It easier to focus on good stuff when surrounded by other good stuff.

The idea of combining Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day with Valentine’s Day is cleaver (yes, because of all the hearts). And it encourages people who don’t have CHD in their lives to think about it one day out of the year and possibly do something (if you really want to know, click one of those links above to find out what you can do). But for me, every single day is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day.

It was almost midnight before I thought about it. It wasn't a conscious choice. That doesn't mean I forgot about what we've been through or what is to come. But it was a gift to just enjoy my lovely and love-filled day. I think all the parents of kids with heart defects need a day to just be in love with their kids, in love with their friends, in love with their lovers. Valentine's Day seems like the perfect choice. So I'm letting go of CHD Awareness Day and I’m giving myself permission to keep February 14 as my day off. Indefinitely.