Crickets

This electric nervous energy has me levitating lately. Everything around me is just out of reach. Gravity is nowhere to be found and I’m trying to grasp and hang on to anything I can.

Sitting in a state of grief has opened me up to smaller nuances and things that I might not have noticed before my dad died. I am on high alert, paying close attention to any signs of him that may appear. 

So far, all I’ve been hearing are crickets.

My mom and dad had pesky little crickets in their house when they first moved in together 30+ years ago. Right before my dad left for his very last bike ride on September 29th, my mom yelled something like, “We need to get rid of these crickets in the garage!”

Since the day my dad died, crickets have been showing up at just the right time.  At first we didn’t want to believe it, hoping for something a little more glamorous than a cricket as his spirit animal.  A hummingbird perhaps? Shooting stars?

But the crickets are prevailing, in little, pay attention or you’ll miss it kind of ways.

At the end of the night at Lindsey and Brandon’s rehearsal dinner, the lights went out for a scheduled blackout and then silence; crickets. I came home for the first time after he died and what was chirping in our garage?

The crickets are also emerging in bold, clear as day kind of ways.

I had started a class on Tuesday nights in early September, a course on unblocking creativity through the workbook, The Artist’s Way. The week after my dad died I couldn’t get myself to go. I couldn’t drive anywhere, let alone think about anything other than my dad. The following two weeks I kept wanting to go, but didn’t have it in me.

Finally, I went. I was anxious, but looking forward to it, as the class had been a breath of fresh air every week. New people with unique perspectives, wild imaginations and a zest for life.

I walked in early and sat down next to our instructor. A few minutes into our conversation she paused and said, “There’s that cricket again! It’s been here for the last three weeks and we can’t seem to figure out where it is.” Three weeks, which means, the week I stopped coming, my dad had been holding court at the Soul Flow Art Studio in my place (and let me tell ya, that wouldn’t normally be his scene).

At first I thought she was joking because it was so perfectly orchestrated. I couldn’t stop smiling. He’s still guiding me, telling me to keep going, keep writing, and to stay on this path. I felt comforted. A quiet nudge, just as he would do. Thanks Dadio, I see you.

Crickets seem to suit him. We can only hear him in the quiet. He is peaceful, unassuming. He brings us good luck. He always used to get so mad at us for talking over each other a million miles a minute so he implemented a talking stick. Now he is still telling us to be patient and listen.

Yesterday I had this overwhelming sense and understanding that I now have my dad right next to me every day. Like a four leaf clover in my back pocket, Dad is with me through every big decision, every cheers, every airplane ride, and every down day; all of it. Our relationship is different, but maybe it will be even stronger somehow than before.  There’s no calling or texting, he’s just there. He’s got my back, him and God, and that makes me stand a little taller.

When I start paying attention, I feel myself slowly drift back to Earth. There is magic in the quiet. Crickets. 

Life Right Now

I am a deeply sensitive person. I often “numb out” when watching sad movies or hearing sad stories because it’s just too much

Now I am here, living out my worst nightmare: something bad happening to someone I love. And it’s real, even though it doesn’t feel like it. 

Enter: anxiety, panic attacks, physical pain, fear, endless questions. 

The deepest sadness I’ve ever known is now tangled throughout my everyday.  I have to feel it and let it move through me.  In the midst of it all, I have to keep committing and recommitting to living out loud, just like he did. 

Each day I am discovering small joys, grounding myself by touching the dirt and sitting on our cool driveway. Walking barefoot around our rain-kissed neighborhood. Listening to Coura Joan laugh. Doing sidewalk chalk of really big, really spooky pumpkins with Maisley. Taking baths with lavender epsom salt. 

There’s a house down the street that has a life-like skeleton in their driveway as part of their halloween decorations. Everyday, the skeleton is doing something new. Yesterday he was fixing a car, today he is skating on a ramp, what will he be doing tomorrow? That skeleton, that dead, plastic set of bones we have dubbed “Steve”, might just be the best thing in my life right now.

A tiny part of me can see that in feeling this full spectrum of emotions, that in my biggest brokenness, I am becoming more whole. That this is life. Sorrow, despair, joy and love. 

 

 

 

The Summer of Life and Death

I’ve lived 31 years without knowing what grief is. I know about death. People die all the time. Just not people who are ingrained in my DNA, my every memory, my childhood, and my entire existence up to one moment.

From one moment to the next, my life became unrecognizable.  I’ve been propelled into an alternate universe where I feel every emotion, often at once. Everything and everyone around me feels like glass, like the rest of my life could shatter at any moment. Homesick, as the priest said.

Who will I be on the other side of this loss? What does life look like without my Dad?

My daughter was born on June 1st. My dad died on September 29th. It’s a strange thing having life and death in the same season.  As I stood there in a vulnerable postpartum state, my heart wide open, physically exhausted and run down, I lost one of the single greatest influences of my life: my dad.

I can’t help but recall the process of birth as I am learning to survive death.

As goes birth, so does death; breath by breath. If you fight against the surges, they will sweep you away, becoming even more painful and intense. The only way I am learning to survive is to sway with the intense surges of grief, surrendering to this powerful force and allowing it to move through me. Once it is has passed, I desperately search for the peace and joy in the moments in between, trying not to dwell on the intensity of what I just felt or on what’s coming next.

I’m not sure exactly what happened in between her birth and his death. It all feels blurry right now. I think there was sand and sunshine, a little doom and June gloom. Birthday celebrations, trips and other ordinary memories that are now anything but that. 

The only thing I am sure of is right now. I am alive. Living this season, this moment, in gratitude, prayer, anger, sadness and hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Dad Showed Up

My dad showed up. 

He showed up every day to work as a compassionate and intelligent boss, a quietly confident role model, never once taking a sick day.

He showed up every day as a dad, in steadfast love, support, advice and compassion.

He showed up to every soccer game and track meet with a smile, like he wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. He once surprised me and flew from Las Vegas to San Diego for a quick 4-hour trip just to watch me run the 800. I will never forget the feeling of seeing my dad there to cheer me around the track.

He showed up every day as a husband, kissing my mom first thing when he came home from work, being the best teammate and partner for endless parties and bbqs, building a successful life together from humble coupon-cutting beginnings.

He showed up as a handyman, a Jeff of all trades, to help me fix things around our house as a first-time home buyer. Who else but my dad to would be crawling through the attic, cutting a whole in our loft to install air conditioning. Or showing up with the exact tools to perfectly patch a whole in our wall. Don’t know how to fix the toilet handle? I’ve got a dad for that.

He showed up across the world when I needed him most. I called him crying while studying abroad saying that it was hard to be away from home. He called me back saying he’d love to come visit. We traveled around Italy together and then again years later around Australia and New Zealand, never getting sick of each other, sharing beers, hikes, laughs and unforgettable adventures.

He showed up in humility for everyone in the community in big and small ways with his golden heart. Helping a neighbor grab her bible that she dropped in a storm drain, fixing leaks, financially supporting make-a-wish style trips for people in need, and always doing the right thing.

And more than anything, what I will miss most, is that he showed up as himself every day; down to earth, a humble essence, with a keen perspective on what was important in life.  My dad treated everyone he met with respect. He lived out what it means to work hard and did it with the greatest witty sense of humor.

Today, we show up in his honor. We show up as reflections of him, and the kindness he showed us, We show up as the best versions of ourselves. We show up in deep gratitude and with enormous pride for what he gave us.

Dadio: we will always be your biggest fans, your number one babes. Thank you for our memorable conversations spent at 35,000 feet, thank you for grinding up mustard hill by my side, thank you for Sunday morning brekkies, for endless early morning ski runs at Bass Lake and for 31 years of countless more memories.

We are who we are because of you and mom. We will live out the rest of our lives with you in our hearts, forever entwined in our choices, our actions and our character. I love you Dadio.

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Dear Coura

Dear Coura Bear,

I think my first words to you weren’t exactly words, but sighs of joy, admiration and relief. I eventually looked up to your dad, breathless and euphoric, saying, “Oh my God, I can’t believe she’s here. She’s so perfect.”

Your birth day was a mix of blurry moments and vivid ones that are stamped safely in my memory. When we first met I remember seeing the tiny pink hemangioma on your middle toe. I love that it still makes an appearance when your bitesize feet pop out of the Solly wrap or the car seat; it’s uniquely you.  

You were covered in thick vernix and your face was all scrunched up. Your beautiful, plump lips were hard to ignore, mushed together sideways like they were too tired to match up just right. You had long curling eyelashes that people would pay a lot of money for and the softest part of your skin was the inside crease of your elbow. It felt just like butta.

Your blue-ish kind eyes, one just slightly bigger than the other, are brightening by the day. You squirm and stretch and grunt your way through the wee hours of the morning. You fit so comfortably on my chest. I know firsthand now how quickly these moments go, so I take an extra deep inhale of gratitude when your face is soundly asleep next to mine. Your smile is always close to the surface, ready to cheese at a moment’s notice.

Your sister loves you so much, sometimes a little too much. You already think she’s the funniest one and someday, she will be the keeper of your deepest secrets and wildest dreams.

There are a few things you will come to know about us, your forever family. Like how Sunday mornings are for banana pancakes. And that we don’t sit still for very long. Or how much we love road trips and family adventure days. And that around here, the trash man is a superhero. We will grow together and you will teach us new things about who we are and the capacity of our hearts.

We are so happy you joined our family. You will always belong here. We’re far from perfect, but you are the perfect fit. 

Xoxo
Your mama

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In & Out of Mom Mode

As I dive deeper into motherhood, I feel like I’m growing further and further away from my carefree, 20-something former self. Ryan just kindly informed me that we are closer to Maisley’s first day of high school than to our first day of high school. He loves saying shit like that.

My favorite little sister** is getting married in less than a month to a guy who’s had her heart since day one. We celebrated her, and their upcoming “I do’s” with one last olé in Santa Barbara a couple weekends ago.

Going to a bachelorette party as a fresh mother of two felt like worlds colliding. Diapers, breastfeeding and “please don’t climb on the counter” became girl-talk, cocktails and pin the smooch on the penis. It was a blissful, refreshing, 48-hours of fun. But I felt like I was a little rusty on remembering how to live freely, let go and not worry about the clock or how many times I refilled my red cup. I kept picking up small items from the floor and moving scissors away from the edge of the counter.

It’s hard to jump in and out of lives and old selves and new selves. Like bags of breastmilk sitting next to bottles of tequila in the freezer. Or pumping while sitting at a lingerie party (opposite ends of the sexy spectrum).

Each child has rocked my existence in a new way. With Maisley it felt like an identity crisis. With Coura it feels more like a new opportunity for self discovery.

As mothers, we tend to get caught up in mom mode – wearing mom jeans, talking in a mom voice and doing other mom things; all the while forgetting about our other identities. Sometimes it takes a bachelorette party to remind us that we are also the girl who likes to let loose (or even just the girl who showers and has normal conversations with other humans).

I hope that as my girls grow up, I continue to foster all sides of myself so that they can clearly see: “I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom”.

** Just making sure you are both reading this

I Lost My Train of Thought

Sometimes I look at the date and am surprised by it. Like my circadian rhythm is permanently set to another timezone. It’s summer, but I don’t really know what time of year it is. The sleepy postpartum fog takes me out of everyday life. It’s hard to make normal conversation with even close friends and family, let alone the chummy cashier at Trader Joes. I stare into space more than I should. My mind feels sporadic and consumed by feeding schedules, diaper changes, sunscreen application, laundry…August 20th. My mind goes into a quick panicky review: Is it someone’s birthday? Did we miss preschool orientation? What have I forgotten? Who is awaiting a return text or call? I always wonder the best time of year for having a baby. As if there’s a certain season that is better suited for turning your world upside down in the best and hardest way. Summer is nice because it’s warm and there’s always something happening. It also makes me feel like I’m not doing enough and too much at the same time. The fourth trimester is coming to a close, but I’m not ready to jump back into being “normal”. And what is normal? Normal has shifted again. I need more time to piece our new life together. Maisley’s constant whining feels like tiny ice picks to the brain, amounting to the loss of our minds. As Ryan so astutely observed, if I even look at cheese right now, Coura becomes an explosion of gas and fuss. Tomorrow I will look at my phone and it will be a new day. This too shall pass.