Baseball, Granddaughters & 2x4s

Hey Dadio,

Last week was the Padres home opener and the weather hit a soul-quenching 80 here in San Diego (there is so much pollen in the air, your allergies would be off the charts).  Did you hear that the Padres picked up Manny Machado? Remember when we sat so high in the nosebleeds at Angel stadium that I was afraid we’d fall off the edge? 

Since I know you would ask, here’s a quick granddaughter update:

Coura Joan’s two front teeth are popping through like a couple of teensy white chiclets. Her squinty four-toofed smile is the best part of my day. Her nickname of the week is Joanies, however, Maisley calls her Maya Malaya or Malanky or Makeherd (?). We have no idea where those came from. Coura climbs into every crack and crevice she can find, her favorite spot being the entertainment center. She eats each meal like I’ve never fed her before and she is most happy while booty bouncing around the coffee table, swinging, or comfortably tucked in the nook of my hip. She’s always watching and following her big sister (even if she just pushed her down) and she laughs when we laugh. She gets her helmet off in a month or so which means hard surfaces won’t go as easy on her – especially since those first steps are just around the corner.

Maisley is now dressing herself and much to my inner child’s surprise, loves anything with tulle.  The only way she lets me do “crazy hair” in the morning is by coloring it with bright hair markers. She calls popcorn, “Popcorns”, and her favorite food is a cheese stick. Her mood and energy is that of a dragon fly trapped in a glass bottle. She has challenged me in every way and I wish daily that I had a roadmap to understanding her next move and what she needs from me. Especially when she runs away from me at the aquarium and I lose her to a sea of fish and panic. She is sensitive to people and things around her, always the first to step up and help. Her preschool teachers say she is a really good listener at school. Weird…just like at home!

It’s harder as more milestones pop up and days go by because it means we are further away from how we were when you were here. But as the girls change and grow, I am excited to see your traits in them revealed.  You will always be a part of them in the form of DNA and vivid stories. So far I think Maisley has your helping hands and Coura has your go-getter determination.


I’m spearheading our mailbox renovation project on Rock Creek – although you probably already know this because I was talking out loud to you in Home Depot. “Tom the mailman” informed me that our post is about to topple over, so me and Ryan, alongside Warren and Mike are replacing it. In my first attempt at a supply run I got: 12, foot long 2x4s. I then realized I was supposed to get a 12 foot long, 2×4. I could use some light guidance for the install this weekend.

There are so many invaluable gifts you’ve given us since you left; deeper spirituality and faith, new people, greater awareness of the present moment, more knowledge about ourselves – the list goes on.  I’d rather be a girl with a dad here on Earth, but I’m going to take full advantage of these new experiences and perspectives as a form of gratitude. 

I have to remind myself all the time: our worst day was your best. From what I can imagine and what my heart knows to be true, you’ve never been happier. Life without you here is still a little like freshman year and I’m awkward and sometimes I hide in the locker room to eat lunch, but I’m slowly learning how to be in this new existence. How to honor and communicate with you in new ways.  The memories are cloudy and a little jagged, but I know one day they will come flowing out as easily as a breath.

Have you met any famous people up there like Abe Lincoln or The Great Bambino? Other than being with us all of the time, are you a guardian angel for anyone else?

Missing you every day in every way. Love you Dadio!

In a bottomless pit of gratitude and baseball game nachos (with jalapeños),

– Jen

I Thought of You

We pulled weeds yesterday. I thought of you.
We saw a mountain biker. I thought of you.
We rode a ferry on a perfect San Diego day. I thought of you.
Uge posted wanderlust-y pictures of Bondi. I thought of you.
The wind blew just so. I thought of you.

I wonder what I thought about before?

Imperfect Takes Practice

I feel like I’m chasing after something, perpetually a foot behind where I think should be.
Offensive piles of laundry.
Lost things and lost tempers.
Where’s Monkey?
Did you get Ergo?
How is it only 8:30?
How is it already 8:30?

I can throw out compassion like Tic Tacs to other people.
A break here, a bone there.
But when it comes to turning that kindness around on myself it gets lost, feels foreign and uncomfortable.
That’s how I know it’s exactly what I need.

I’ve always been someone who just pushes through.
It’s counterintuitive for me not to fight,
but learning how to be imperfect takes practice.

So I’m working on softer things like acceptance and letting go.
Finding a little give in the system for time and permission.

Right now being strong means surrendering.
Accepting anxiety.
Accepting love and anger.
Accepting that grief is a wandering road of highs and lows.
Accepting rather than throwing myself into the arena with resistance.

April is my wanderlust month. The time of year, every year, where my Google search history reads things like:
“What is the best South American country to travel to with kids” and
“Where is Glacier National Park” and
“What is it like to be in a motorhome with kids for two weeks”.
My mind’s nature is to dream up wild adventures.

Right now I’m recognizing the need to lay my full blown carpe diem to rest.
To take bites out of adventure, rather than trying to tackle a whole bucket list in one sitting.

I’m reminding myself that right now is just that. It’s not forever.
Right now is a season of longer days, birds chirping, flowers waking up and Zyrtec. Right now is finding peace in the collecting, waiting and resting.

I Found My Heart in San Francisco

This land is your land, this land is my land…

Pandora just happened to settle on these words chirped by Elizabeth Mitchell as we drove from Sausalito to San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge catches my breath every time I see it. At first just peeking over Victorian rooftops and then, in plain, awe-inspiring site. We rented a convertible, because why not on a 24-hour surprise birthday trip to San Francisco with no kids?

Looking up to see nothing but blue sky and “international orange” felt like a mix between Full House dreams and a rollercoaster to freedom. Ryan reached cruising speed and my hands caught the wind above. I was completely overcome by the near perfection of the moment.

The extreme joy I felt, coalesced with an extreme fullness of my dad. Then, a deep longing to have him there with me. To experience joy with him one more time.

If I closed my eyes under the warm sun, I could almost feel him right there next to me. He always said yes to a spontaneous trip. No questions asked, other than, “When are we going?”. Windows down, one hand on the steering wheel and his elbow resting on the side of the car. A baseball cap, Oakley sunglasses, chewing Trident gum, while giving me a half smile that perfectly said, “It doesn’t get much better than this.”

I felt my dad the whole trip. Ryan said he did too. On the flights as my calming voice: “It’s going to be okay. Just enjoy it”. In the butterfly that greeted us halfway up a long hill on our hike in Marin. In the solo mountain biker cruising amidst the expanse of empty trails. In a juicy orange. In the fog horn and the ocean bell.

It’s amazing that my dad was in San Francisco. It confirmed that inkling, that he’s in me. He’s in all of us. He’s everywhere.

So, listen to the songs he loved.
Go to the places he loved to go.
Travel 500 miles away and feel him.
But also, just be. He’s right here.

Collections

When I was little I collected erasers. Not just any ordinary erasers, but really neat erasers that were shaped like animals, shoes, lipstick and people. I would play with my eraser collection for hours like each little rubbery item had a pulse.  I would make up stories, sort them in a special order, and never, ever use them for their actual purpose.

I collected baseball cards and barbies (whom I played with until I was much older than the socially acceptable age to do so).

We collect and sort and organize things to feel comfortable, to make sense of what we see and to find order in the chaos. Collections give us a sense of ownership and pride. They make us feel uncommon.

I now collect things that I can’t hold in my hands; love, acceptance, experiences and time. Sometimes they are overflowing, other times, scarce.

One day I will pass along my eraser collection to my daughters, like my mom did for us with with her tiny plastic knick-knack collection.  I hope to also pass along the magnanimous gifts of my soul collection – that transcend both my small grasp and also this lifetime.

I hope they see how hard I am working on this unique collection. That they are moved by the brightness of what they have inherited over the years and have compassion for the rough edges that are still a work in progress.

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Lessons from the Desert

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

One saguaro, two saguaro, three saguaro, ten. Hundreds more lifelike cacti appeared as we made our way into the Sonoran Desert, away from the sunset, away from home.

The darkness was more comforting than usual as I lay my head against the cool glass of the car window.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of the night sky that looked less like a thin blanket scattered with holes and more like a thick, itchy wool one spangled with stars; the constellations drawn with light. 

There’s something about the desert that feels reliable while I’m unraveling. It’s resilient and can be held accountable. It’s consistent, tried and true. It knows all of the secrets.

Maybe that’s also why I can never seem to get away from it fast enough.

I’m not sure where postpartum ends and grief begins. Entangled ribbons of depression and anxiety. Words that sometimes feel too big and not enough. Words that grow in size when I say them out loud. 

Grief seems to amplify everything. Those uncomfortable particles of myself, old thought patterns and coping habits all come bubbling to the surface.

Those parts I dislike about myself seem to be readily available. But the parts I love, a little more hidden. Where am I amidst the brokenness?

I feel so much less understood in the world without my dad here.  He knew me and respected me; he was like me. We could relate to each other on a soul level.  He was someone who would genuinely listen to my travel itinerary or the intricacies of my work or other important things that many people would lose interest in. Without him here, it feels like one less person who is a mirror to my true self.

My acupuncturist reminded me today that brokenness is actually just a way for the light to come in. In Japanese culture, when a piece of pottery breaks, they seal it with gold in a process called Kintsugi, so that it’s actually worth more than before. Breakage is a part of the history of the object, not something to disguise. 

I like to think I’m being patched up with gold. That all of the light from the stars, all of the love from here and there is all slowly helping me put the pieces back together.

Someday I will feel as light as a road runner across the desert sand. I will feel as sturdy and confident as the Saguaro cactus. An arm here, a nub there, unflappable in harsh conditions…simply unbothered. 

 

Wish You Were Here

As we sat eating dinner at Panama 66 in Balboa Park, the sun had just settled in for the night and the iconic Museum of Man tower was illuminated with purple and blue lights set against the dusky sky. The kids were happy and we were happy. It was one of those beautiful moments where you sink a little deeper in your chair and let out a full exhale.

In the midst of so many fun-beautiful-exciting-adventurous moments in my life, even when he was alive, I would think, I’ve got to take my dad here. He would really love and appreciate this! We shared a passion for so many of life’s greatest, simplest pleasures.

As we were walking back across the string-lit bridge, I was telling Ryan how much I wish my dad was here to do things like this. To have a beer and enjoy the best of this life. To see his admiration and share in his well-deserved happiness. To return his love for me by sharing in life with him. I miss him so much.

In perfect synchronicity, Ryan looked down to see that someone had etched the words “wish you were here” into the concrete. I love when the universe matches on the outside how I feel on the inside. It makes me feel like everything is going to be okay.