Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day weekend 2013

a nearly ancient photo I took of Morro Rock in Morro Bay in 2003

Late last Friday afternoon we piled the girls and all our gear into our car and began that long drive up the coast of California - the drive that should take three and a half hours but really takes us six.  In all honesty I wasn't very keen on making the trip this time.  We usually see a lot of family when we visit Morro Bay and Cayucos, but this time there would only be Jimmy's Grampa Al, who is 96 (or so I thought - he said he was 97) and having more and more trouble leaving his apartment, and Jimmy's cousin Dylan, who is graduating this weekend and who has, you know, a life, and who probably didn't need a family of four crashing his last high school weekend.

But we went, and it was wonderful.  It was extra tiring to be away from home without all the built-in babysitters we usually enjoy when we visit family.  And we missed everyone so much.  It was so good to see Grampa Al, though, and so good to see Dylan - Dylan who actually spent time with us voluntarily, without complaint, and on more than one occasion.  He either genuinely enjoyed himself, or his mom gave him a really nice bribe.  Either way, though, we won.  He was great company, Grampa looked as happy to see us as we were to see him (very happy!), and Auntie Barbara came home and hung out with us the last night of our visit.  So good.  We got to see family after all.

We also got to see some stunningly beautiful land on Saturday.  We have another family member who showed us around some private property above Cayucos, up in the hills, past miles of dirt roads and cattle gates.  The property was just gorgeous, perched on a high hill, covered in barn swallows, and the girls had a ball.  They explored outbuildings and chased cats and climbed fences.  Jimmy caught a lizard for them to hold, and another lizard snuck into the car only to appear on Evie's lap later on.  Thank goodness she didn't even see it, particularly while we were driving!  I saw it after we stopped and shooed it out (and then I worried about more lizards in the car during the whole ride home.  Obviously!).

And on Sunday we hit the beach.  Idyllic.  Two California girls, that's what I have.  Lena who looks like she was born to live on the beach, and Evie who is determined to learn to surf as soon as humanly possible, DAD. (Pay attention to your swim classes, baby, and maybe it will happen!)  As a Midwesterner, it baffles me to be raising beach babies.  But it's the best thing in the world, too.  Beach babies who chase cats on farms and swordfight with sticks on mountaintops and who prefer to wear wetsuits on the beach because it means they can play in the little surf for that much longer.  It's all just the best thing in the world.

We had a fantastic time last weekend.  How about you?

photo credit - Jimmy

Friday, May 24, 2013

Lena & Eve's bedroom featured on Apartment Therapy!

Yay!  You guys, I am so pleased to tell you that the girls' bedroom is featured on Apartment Therapy today.  Pretty cool, right?  I know!  Super cool!

Squeezing two kids into that tiny, long-shaped room has not been easy, but I know plenty of other people have even smaller spaces, and they make it work.  Luckily, our girls don't really know any different, yet.  And I think sharing that space is encouraging them to really form a tight-knit sisterly bond.  At least, that seems to be the case right now.  If they're still in that room in ten years, I'm afraid I'll be saying the opposite!

But, for now, it works.  It works very well.  In fact, I never could have predicted this, but since we got those bunk beds the girls beg us every night to have a sleepover together in the bottom bunk.  At first this seemed to be because we would occasionally drape blankets from the top bunk to form a tent around the bottom bunk, and they loved to drag flashlights and anything glow-in-the-dark in there.  But now they want to "sleepover" every night, regardless of the tent.  It's adorable.  And it totally wrecks their sleeping schedule.  But we let them do it every weekend night, and the whole family is pretty happy about that.

Thanks for the feature, Apartment Therapy!  We appreciate it so much!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Memorial Day weekend, 2001

Twelve years ago this weekend I moved to Los Angeles, ready to put my set design and drafting skills to good use in the film industry.  I don't know what I expected.  That I would be here a year?  Five years?  That I would be spending the rest of my life on set, or covered in paint and sawdust, or making blueprints?

with my dad and brothers at one of my early gigs.  (nice swag, guys!)

Well, who knows.  Whatever I expected, I don't think I got it.  I think I got much, much better:

You've been good to me, Los Angeles.  Happy twelfth anniversary!

Monday, May 20, 2013

childhood, parenthood, and childhood

Life is good, and we are in a good place.  Right now, Jimmy is technically unemployed, but we know he has a job come July.  Our home is small, but it is our home, and it stands strong around us to keep us cool in the day and safe in the night.  Most of our family is far away, but all are well, and we can hear their voices almost any time we like.

Lena is five-and-a-half years old, about to finish kindergarten, heading into her first real summer vacation.  She puts on shows in our living room, she curls up with piles of books to read, she sings songs while she draws picture books, she knits her brow in concentration as she practices her swimming stroke.  She says, "Remember when I was a baby....?"  As in, "Mom, remember when I was a baby at my old preschool, and I used to play in the sandbox?"  She is big enough to unbuckle her little sister from the carseat, to dress herself, to fetch her own snack and cup of water.  She is learning to tie her shoes.  She is a happy bundle of pink skirts and dirt on her face, of deep questions and poop jokes.  Every day she comes home from school with a pack of joys and frustrations, the frustrations usually being along the lines of playground arguments over hopscotch rules, embarrassment over missed questions in class, or forgetting to put a special leaf she found into her backpack to bring home.

She is so very five.  I look at her, and I remember being five.

Of course, I am quite a ways off from being five.  This year I am thirty-five.  And lately, the thirty years between, how do I explain this?  They terrify me.  Because I don't understand what those thirty years have done to my childhood.

(I am fine.)

I am very fine.  My family is fine.  But so many of the foundations of my childhood are gone.

The neighborhood I grew up in used to be a pretty, well-groomed picture of suburbia, neat lawns, kids bicycling in the streets.  Now, some homes are still cared for but so many others are not, even to the point of abandonment.  Untrimmed trees bow low into sagging gutters and the grass grows high.  Last year I learned that the lazy creek winding behind the homes across the street from ours was discovered to be seeping pollution from nuclear waste improperly buried near it sixty years ago.  And the school I attended from kindergarten through high school isn't even a site to drive by, anymore.  Bulldozed to the ground, they even took the steep hill we used to climb from the grade school to the high school and leveled it flat, right down to street level.  Every brick is gone.

Even the church I was raised in, the one establishment I always trusted during those years, a strong, loving, educated church nearly one hundred years old, now - even that church sits right this moment teetering on the edge of existence, and for just no good reason at all.  A family argument gone terribly wrong, maybe.  Truthfully, I'm not there to be a proper witness.  But for all the people trying to pull it back up to safety, it teeters still, and I don't even know if it will exist when I fly back home in August.

But all of this is small, to me, when I think about my childhood friends.  Buildings may come and go, establishments collapse.  But my friends...  I've known them since classroom naptimes, chocolate milk in little cartons, foursquare, and losing baby teeth; I've known them since camp bonfires and late night sleepovers, and I've known them since first driver's licenses, SATs, and ordering caps and gowns.   Some of those friends are very well today, and they seem from here to be happy.  But there are others, other whose eyes look always dull with disappointment, with addiction, with multiple rough divorces.  Others who give me relief just when they "like" a silly Facebook meme, because that "like" means they are still alive, possibly sober, and existing somewhere with a roof, a door, and an internet connection, even if only for the moment.  But at least they are still alive.  And as an adult, I continually re-learn the stories of my childhood through the stories of my friends' - friends whom I had no idea were living their childhoods with the worst of the worst:  family addictions, prejudice, shame, abuse, rape, suicide.

Thirty years terrifies me because, as usual, there aren't any good reasons, any good answers as to why or how.  Some of us have excellent starts, some of us have terrible starts.  Sometimes we meet expectations, sometimes we rise above, and sometimes we fall excruciatingly short.  At some point in life, surely we each do all three to some extent.

We can say a lot about parenting, individual responsibility, psychology, climate, Fate.  I think we could argue the topic all day and all night, forever.  And I think it's naive to assume that now is the time to argue the question at all, as though the next thirty years won't offer up just as much unexpected change,  just as much revelation, for everyone.

I worry for my friends who are in trouble now.  But I am terrified for my children.  That I don't know exactly how to protect them from terrible choices and awful circumstances.  That there is absolutely no way to predict the outcome.  That there may not be a way to see fully what is happening in the present.

We do our very, very best, and every day we plan to do better tomorrow.  We are vigilant, and wary, yet we insist on hope until the hope bursts through our pores and waters our eyes.  We pray.  We call desperately on the grace of God.  We whisper "faith."  We try, we try, we try to let go of yesterday, and we try to let go of tomorrow.  We do what we can for today.  We do our very, very best.

And whenever we can, every time we can, we tell our children we love them.  Wrap our arms around them.  Kiss them.  Squish them.  At all costs we make sure they learn the first, most important lesson:  they are loved.  Please, teach them they are loved.

The second lesson?

To laugh.

Teach them how to laugh.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


The good news is that the new treatment is working.  Thank you all, so much, (again), for your wonderful support.  The bad news is, well, there isn't really any bad news.  The fact that the new treatment is working does mean that I do appear to have an underlying condition causing so many of my problems, including my depression.  But even that isn't really terrible news because it is all common enough.  I have never experienced any of the more serious physical effects of this condition.  For the most part, it is all good news.  Really good news.

I need to be honest - for reasons I can't explain at all (because I don't understand them myself), I am finding it terribly embarrassing to write about this.  Yes, me, the one who writes about depression on her public blog.  But I do think this is important, particularly if there is anyone else suffering from the same condition but doesn't realize it, so, here goes:  I am being treated - with medication - for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.

From what I understand, most women who have PCOS discover it when they have difficulty getting pregnant, or because they have enough trouble with their cycles that they land in a doctor's office.  I have been lucky enough not to have those problems.  But, again, from what I understand, there are also plenty of women like me:  women with low energy, sugar cravings, real difficulty losing weight, and chronic depression, who end up flying under the PCOS radar.  It is true that all of those issues seem to go together - that if you could just solve one problem, the others would go away - and that's what I have been telling myself since I was a teenager.  Part of PCOS, though, is insulin resistance, and that is mainly what I am being treated for, and wow.  Just wow.  Thank you again, modern medicine.

This is my experience so far:  after working through the first few weeks of side effects from my new medication, I am feeling pretty darn good.  My energy is up, my sugar cravings are down, and I no longer sleep like an appliance which has been switched off, unplugged, and locked in the back of a broom closet.  As much as I still enjoy sleeping late in the morning, I can get out of bed, and I don't feel obliterated for those first two waking hours.  Honestly, I was beginning to feel really terrible lately.  There were days when I thought I would fall asleep in the car just driving to get the girls from school.  I could get nine hours of sleep at night and still wake up feeling like I needed nine more.  My vision was getting weird, like I couldn't focus properly on anything even though I could technically see just fine.  I couldn't concentrate.  And my need for sweets was out of control.  There were afternoons when the only thing that stopped me from eating the entire contents of the sugar bowl was sheer embarrassment.  And I'm certain the increased sugar intake explains the heap of minor inflammatory issues I've been dealing with for the past couple of years:  itchy skin, night swelling, night sweats, minor bouts of psoriasis, and minor - but chronic - asthma.

I haven't entirely ruled out food allergies.  It would also make sense to discover that I have a wheat or dairy allergy.  But it has been crazy hard to attempt exclusionary diets in order to find out, and at least now I have a reason for that aside from just having to hate myself for being completely lazy and entirely lacking self-control.

Things are on the right track.  I am feeling better every day.  I'm still adjusting to the new medication, but for the most part, you guys, I feel great.  GREAT.  Okay, to be perfectly honest, a nap does sound sort of nice right now.  So does a cookie, always.  But, well, I don't feel like my life depends on having both of those, anymore.  A month ago I felt differently.  Embarrassing?  Absolutely.  Worth sharing with you?

I really hope so.

Friday, May 10, 2013

(__________) Day

I know, it's another photo of me and my sleeping Eve.  Honestly, I just can't help myself!

Hey. I don't know if you've noticed - the flyers, the posters, the commercials, the coupons, the pop-up ads - but Mother's Day is this weekend.

I had planned to write something very short today about how grateful I am to be the mama to the two most beautiful, most intelligent, most goofball of all goofball little girls in the whole world, how grateful I am to have the most amazing mama of my own, how much I miss my Grandmas, and to wish you all (all) a happy Mother's Day.

But this year I'm going to have to add to that.

Just like Valentine's Day, whenever Mother's Day rolls around I usually hear a lot about what a bullshit holiday this is.  And it sort of is, we all know that.  Hallmark, big business, overblown holidays, Capitalism, America the Corporate.  It's a valid, albeit a pessimistic, point.  But now, in addition to that, I'm reading more and more every year about how alienating Mother's Day can be, particularly to those who have lost their moms, or who had terrible moms, or who have lost their children, or who want very much to be moms but aren't.

God.  I am so, so sorry that anyone feels that way.  And I have dear friends and family whom I suspect may feel the same way.  I am glad that those wells of hurt are getting out there in the open, too, for the rest of us to be made aware.  Some of the writing is angry, but a most of it is written out of genuine pain, and it absolutely just breaks my heart.

At the same time, can we not pin this all on Mother's Day?

Now, I feel like, being a mom myself, and having a wonderful, living mother of my own, that I'm not allowed to ask that question.  I feel like asking it is being insensitive.  In fact, I feel guilty just being a mom, now.  I feel guilty for mailing off cards to my mom and mother-in-law.  I feel guilty for the pudgy kisses and handmade cards I've been getting all week because my five-year-old is overexcited and my three-year-old has zero concept of calendar dates.

I am really sorry that it makes you feel terrible when the pastor asks all the moms to stand up during Mother's Day church service every year.  Does it help that I hate standing up in church?  Probably not.

I don't know how to fix this.

I can't fix it.

But, also, I know in my heart that it isn't right to feel guilty for celebrating my mom every year.  Motherhood - parenthood - really is insane, shredding, rending, pummeling, heartbreaking, blindingly terrifying work, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, from day one until forever.  And my mom was - IS - amazing.  I will celebrate her without apology for as long as we are both alive, and even after that.

No, I don't know what it is like to be missing her completely.  I can tell you - something that I wasn't planning to tell you - that this year I impulsively mailed a card to my Grandma Shannon.  I've never done something like that before.  But I saw the card and it just seemed so perfect for her, so I bought it.  And then I realized that this December she will have been gone twenty years.  Twenty years that I have honestly missed her every single day.  So I wrote her a few lines in a card I bought at Target and mailed it to nowhere, and then I laid my head on my desk and cried for half an hour.

My grief may not match your grief.  I know.

I'm trying.  But I can't fix this problem.  I'm just asking that please....maybe?  Try to also understand that most of us moms don't feel deserving of all the cards, flowers, standing up in church, or whatever, either.  Most of us are just thinking about how we aren't possibly anything close to the BEST MOM IN THE WORLD! because we keep yelling when the kids are too slow walking out the door and we still haven't mended our daughter's favorite princess dress that's been in the sewing bin for THREE MONTHS and we forgot to sign them up for camp on time and we intentionally distracted them after school so they wouldn't see the popsicle sale because we just wanted to get HOME and put on sweatpants and watch another Jane Austen movie for the millionth time because it's the only freaking movie we can watch while the kids are in the room and we are NEVER going to make it far enough into Game of Thrones to see the dragons because those kids just will NOT go to sleep at night WHAT are we doing wrong???

And Mother's Day doesn't even feel like our holiday either, because it still feels like a holiday for our own moms.  Moms who we know weren't perfect, and we didn't always get along with them, but they were our moms and we needed them and our moms were there for us.  Or they weren't.  Either way, on Mother's Day we think through all of this and realize that although we feel unworthy and unqualified, we have a role to fill on this day for the sake of our kids.  Because they need us to be the best mom in the world.  So we kiss them (happily) and say thank you, we put our grocery store roses in a vase in the living room for the whole family to enjoy, we stand up in church and try not to appear as embarrassed as we feel, and we redouble our efforts to be the best mom in the world, now, because this is what our children need from us.

I know this holiday looks like it's about us, the mothers.  But really, it wasn't our idea.  We appreciate it.    Sometimes we get a nice massage coupon out of it.  But really, we just go along with it for our children's sake, and because we know that the rest of the moms in the world could certainly use a day off, and because we probably have our own people to celebrate on this day, too, living or not.

Is there any way we can be more sensitive, or helpful, to those of you who are hurting, without giving up the whole holiday?

I can't fix the problem.  I would very much like to help.  But - and I am SO sorry - but I just can't keep feeling guilty for celebrating Mother's Day.