To you, Dadio

Where are you?

When I’m angry at you for leaving. When a shit-storm is passing through our family and the world. When the comfort of home is far out of reach. When I look through hundreds of recent photos and you’re not in one. When nothing makes sense, nothing goes right and grief rages on. When a beautiful baby boy is born.

Where are you?

The answer to my vocal doubt has never not been – I’m right here. I’m wherever you are. 

I rubbed my cracked heels together the other night, the same way you used to while sitting on your big brown chair in the family room, talking about sports or politics or something. When Maisley yelled, “I’m hungry!”, I pulled an old trick from your playbook and replied with, “Hi Hungry, I’m Jenna”. 

I see you in me. 

I see you in Nicole the way she stands up for what she believes in and how she says it with conviction. I see you in Linny in her carefree moments, the way she tells a sly joke and laughs with every tooth God gave her.  I see you in Meesh, the way she says yes to spontaneous happenings while navigating her days by always doing the next right thing. I see you in mom with her overly generous heart and the way she walks us out to our cars, offering to help us carry our bags. 

I see you in Brandon’s calm, intentional demeanor and in James’ inventive projects. And of course, I see you in Ryan, the way he has grown into his sarcasm game towards mom, the joy he gets from sweeping the side yard, and the way he never tires of working to create the best life for his family.

You’ve missed so much according to my human mind, a lifetime in two years. 

I desperately want to tell you about our air conditioning leak and the ins and outs of our escrow deal. The tone of Coura’s voice as she sings, Take Me Out To The Ball Game. The way Maisley pauses every time she hears a cricket and says, “Hi Poppi!”

But whenever I have that recurring dream about you coming back home after living in San Francisco or somewhere else far away, the only thing I end up saying profusely is, “I love you, I’m so thankful for you, I miss you.”

I hope you never wonder. I hope you can see the corners of my healing heart and know that they are yours.

I love you, I’m so thankful for you, I miss you.

Four

I twirled her silky hair around my finger while Ryan read, How to Catch a Mermaid. It looked like a chocolate and vanilla swirled cone. Like the ones we used to devour from McDonald’s after a long day at the beach.
She’s beautiful and full of fire. I worry I won’t know how to be her mom sometimes. I worry about sending her to preschool and also to not.
She is insistent. Independent. Into high heels.
I hold her hair like it’s mine.
I get quietly petulant thinking I should get to decide if it’s worn down or in a braid.
One day I’ll have to let go of her hand and say, “No speeding!”
Another time, “No drinking!”
I’m slowly letting her go more and more everyday.
She’s like the mermaid they could never actually catch.

Lessons from the Little Ones

The first hour or two of a long road trip is really just your mind scanning to see what you forgot. The car potty. Not the car potty. The good thing about road-tripping during a pandemic is that peeing on the side of the road feels mostly acceptable. 

Van patrol set off to Sacramento, CA, Crater Lake, OR, Hood River, OR and then our final destination, Orcas Island, WA. It sounds easy typing it out, but hours of patience, sight-seeing, please don’t touch that, podcasts, snacks, canoe rides and cabin stays all dotted our map up north. 

One of the most unexpected memories of our trip was seeing what my daughters chose to love and enjoy along the way. 

At Crater Lake National Park, the girls were so excited about playing in the snow, I wondered if they even noticed the bucket list view. At the pottery shop on Orcas Island, they found a tree-house of their dreams. At the best fish and chips in town they skipped their lunch to fill shell buckets with rocks and chase the chickens. 

At first I felt a little annoyed – we came all this way and you just want to play in the snow?! This is the reason we came here.  The illusion of control is alluring. It draws me in over and over again. Like a wiley temptress, my pretend friend. 

But then it happened to me.

Driving home from dinner to catch the sunset one night on Orcas, a golden, warm glow lit up certain parts of the dense, thick forest, the way light from the sun streams into your home and forms spotlights on the walls. The way it feels to see love shine on the face of a beloved. It was breathtaking. 

What if instead of only looking at the sunset, we see what’s being illuminated by the light. What if we look up, or across the street, or around the corner?

As usual, I’m not sure who’s the teacher and who’s the student between my kids and I. 

How wonderful (and challenging to the ego) getting to know my girls, and witnessing who and what they want to become. Seeing how they want to experience their world from an unfiltered perspective, uninterested in what they should be enjoying. 

We asked Maisley her favorite part of the trip – four days on the road and seven days on a magical island – and she said watching a show in the car.

Fine by me!

Orcas Island

I felt a whisper calling me here. Drawing me in the way a mother picks up her baby and holds her close to her heart. 

Off the ferry and onto the island, turn left and then go straight onto lover’s lane. Just like the street I grew up on; Amantes.

Welcome to Orcas Island. 

Wonder is not contained to the vast beauty at the top of Mt. Constitution, but in the tiny wild blackberries strewn along the side of the road. The irony of birds bathing in a pothole of water. Purple bell shaped flowers; church is in session. Eye contact with a grazing deer. A vibrant flower stand that runs on good faith and a cash box. Masculine and feminine energies equally meet in this vortex of centered, grounded, whimsy. It’s true, there’s really nothing like summertime in the Upper Left, USA. 

Home is the memory of my soul, the knowing of a person or place not on experience, but on inner knowing. The tree of my soul matching the canopy of enchanted forest green all around me. 

I wonder, does everyone feel at home on Orcas Island?

How to fall in love with me, for me

To fall in love with me
is to say I love you and I see you to every piece of me.
I will never leave you,
you’re my priority.
It means fresh flowers around the house;

anything the color green.
Lots of trees.
With anxiety; unending compassion and reassurance.
With anger; validation and love.
With excitement; permission.
Go easy on me when the laundry piles up.
Time to read.
Time to write.
Time to play barefoot outside.
Connect with people I feel connected to.
Push me to walk when I want to run;
and the opposite too.
Pray unceasingly.
Enjoy Ryan-love, family-laughs and kid-kisses in the magical now.
This is a falling-in-love list for me.
How do you fall in love with you?

 

*Jordan and I came up with this fun idea when we were working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

This Father’s Day

We went through your old things;
report cards, photo books, trophies, letters.
When you were 19 you noted that having an exciting life was a 1 of importance to you (18 being the least). I’d say it definitely wasn’t boring.
Did you have any big ragrets?
Not even a single letter?

The back house smells of 24 and World Cup parties.
We’re not with you, but here with all of your things. What stories did you have to add? What happened with Lisa from sophomore year? Did you in fact have a bitchen summer?
This Father’s Day felt a little lighter. Family felt a little stronger. Your memories felt a little happier.
Though grief doesn’t really know the calendar. I wonder if tomorrow I’ll feel desperately sad.

I wanted more of you and couldn’t stop standing in the back house trying to feel and hear you. True father-daughter love is keeping my Cinque Terre painting on the wall all those years.
Mom was about to say something inappropriate at Papa’s house and I smacked her leg under the table and she yelped, “Okay Jeff!!!”
Honoring you at home and at bat. Remember how every time we missed the ball you’d say, “My bad that was a bad pitch.”
Thank you for holding our hearts and characters with unconditional positive regard (Cheryl Strayed’s phrase). I hope my kids see me the way I see you. I hope they feel as safe with me as I did with you.

We’re older now. Grief and motherhood haven’t exactly been anti-aging for me. Maisley just turned 16 and Coura walks, talks and surprise, surprise is a strong willed wildling.
What hasn’t changed – the love I carry for you in every cell of my body. The way missing you has become a way of life. How I still lean into your affirming side hugs. I’d truly give up everything I own to spend a minute with you on your worst day.

I love you Dadio. I hope it feels like glass on Bass Lake every day where you are.

Group Projects

Don’t you know how hard I’ve been worrying on this project?
I worry so hard.
I worry overtime.
Late at night, in the morning, sometimes all through the day.
I’m worrying so much harder than all of you.
Where is my praise?
Where is my validation and compensation for all of the worry I’ve been doing?
I have an inkling that my worry isn’t appreciated here.
Fine by me.
I’m just going to stop worrying. 

Gardening

I ask God to pull out the roots of anxiety in my mind and body.

When I close my eyes,
I envision God
taking the deep-seated roots,
transforming the pain, fear and grief
– into love –
and planting a garden.

A garden
of vibrant color,
warm sunshine,
easy, deep breaths and
nourishing beauty.

A garden,
ever-green
and eternal.

Two for One

It seems
that

deeply 
and compassionately
falling in love
with myself
– every layer –
feels a lot like
finding
God.
Or is it the
other
way around?