Sunday, August 13, 2017

Happy Birthday

He would have turned 43 today. Maybe he'd have lost some hair, possibly gained a little belly from his late night Oreo habit.

The truth is I don't spend a lot of time imagining what it would be like if he had lived. He's gone & that finality robbed me of any sweetness in thinking about our future together. It's a cold, hard fact that I can't make sense of or explain away with platitudes. Losing him destroyed me in ways I never imagined and it feels like a slight to the life I've fought to build, the progress I've made in wanting to live again, to imagine anything else.

But I can remember all the goodness & the beauty & the love. I get to see it every single day in our kids. And on days like today I know just how lucky I am to be their mom.

Happy birthday Love. This one hit me hard. It's never going to stop hitting me and I think that says a lot about the impact you left on the world.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Long Time Gone

I haven't written in ages, I know. There are reasons for that, some good, some lazy, some just because I plain didn't want to. I tend to come to this place when I'm in pain, when the words bubble up & I can't stop them. Life has been happening & this place is somewhat a memorial for me, a shrine to chaos & gutwrench & healing.

It's been 4 years, 4 months & 16 days since our world exploded. Time has passed, the way it does, the world has moved along, and I often marvel at how incredibly different this life is than the one I thought I had ahead of me before cancer & death.

I've watched our children grow into bona fide teenagers. Our son is taller than most adults & is looking for a job. He crafts music feverishly, with the passion of someone who has both a gift & a message. I'm trying as hard as I can to help him hold on to that little fire in the face of this ugly world. Our daughter starts high school this fall. She's insanely smart & funny & a talented artist. She's going to be a force to be reckoned with with. She already is.

About a month ago, we moved about 40 minutes north to Stockton. I met & fell in love with a man who's lived here for over 20 years & all the pieces fell into place. The time was right, everybody was ready & willing, so we jumped in headfirst & made the move. It's working out wonderfully. We are making friends, adjusting to "city life" & getting settled in our new home.

I'm working part time in Modesto & have started taking baking orders again. I'm taking steps to start a new career in something, not sure what, but it'll come to me. I've recently taken up hula hooping & discovered I'm quite good at it! I'm drawing and reading and exercising and meditating every morning. I love my life. I love everything about it. And yet my brain feels like it is betraying me.

I weaned myself off my last anti-depressant about 2 months ago... so slowly. I thought things were fine, that with all my new ways of coping, with all the skills I'd learned I'd be able to handle the ups and downs and loop-de-loops & constant barrage of negative thoughts & mania that my brain seems to thrive on.

See, not once, not twice, but 6 times, I've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Something I've just flat out rejected because I know better. "I've never been psychotic!" I say indignantly. "I'm just naturally high energy & I get depressed sometimes!" Oh you mean cycling? Like rapid cycling? Like predictable, I'm Invincible & Sure I Spend Money I Don't Have & Can't Finish Simple Tasks & Can't Find Anything & Can't Make My Words Come Out Right & Fuck Anything That Moves & Make Grandiose Plans That I Can't Possibly Follow Through On then crash, can't stop crying, can't get out of bed, can't stop repeating how stupid I am, can't return phone calls, stare at the walls for hours, don't eat, sleep all day, start thinking about how it would be better for everyone if I wasn't here, start thinking I should drive off an overpass, start thinking I should just die because I'm never going to be anything do anything I just can't.

Oh. Wait. That. Maybe. Maybe they have a point. Maybe it's a spectrum. Maybe I'm so, so incredibly fortunate to live in a time when taking that simple medication softens the valleys & peaks enough that I'm able to do all the things I want to do without it being such a struggle. Maybe I stop making it so hard on myself. Maybe I internalize all those messages about "you wouldn't tell a diabetic they were weak for using insulin". Maybe I utilize the medication in conjunction with all the tools I've learned and I'm unstoppable, I go further than I ever thought possible, because I just accept this one little thing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Life changes so quickly.

I've been at ease with my grief... it's become a part of me, something natural, another facet of my being. I suppose that's how you live with it, another scar, precious and ugly all at the same time.

I forget how violent it can be. How wrenching. While I glide along living life as well as I possibly can... and I'm proud to say I AM living well... the pain wells up now and then and stops me in my tracks.

My heart remembers you. Saying I miss you isn't big enough... the words fall flat. My soul screams and shudders and longs for the one thing in the world that it cannot have. The sadness is so enormous it is almost enough to crush me. I don't know how I made it through when every moment was like that... remembering the agony of that time is enough to forgive myself for all the mistakes I've made since we lost you.

Forgive me, my love, I was drowning.

There is the smallest hint of sweetness in that pain now. It means you mattered. You were vital. The world is better off for your having been here.

Remember when you took me to the seawall and I was too scared to let go? You held me and we went down together, to see the crab with only one claw. When we drove to Knights Ferry and roamed around at midnight & laughed hysterically because we were far too old and married and responsible to act like silly teenagers. When you would flip your eyelids inside out & make me scream because UGGGH! Gross! You had a terrible voice and you never stopped singing out loud and telling me one day you were going to be a star.

You mattered. You are loved.

I miss you.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kidney Beans

I am heading into the third week of a flareup from hell. It couldn't come at a worse time... I am BUSY and have a million things that need my attention. And I feel too crappy to do much of anything. 

Silver lining? I am healthy enough much of the time to really get an effective break between attacks and I bounce back a lot better. But sometimes, things get complicated and life isn't as awesome as this piglet taking a bath.

This time, the stone(s) were stubborn and took their sweet time. I don't go to the ER or doctor unless absolutely necessary so I'm pretty much a giant ball of misery. But! My naturopath makes an herbal pain blend that makes it bearable. Then comes an infection, almost guaranteed after passing a stone. Easy enough, I've had around 9 zillion infections, got it. But then... I wake up and can't walk. My back is completely locked up, something I've managed to avoid for over a year. i'm stretching, taking all my potions and powders and drinking more water than should be possible and it's. just. dragging. on.  

I start to get panicky. What if it doesn't get better? What if I'm stuck like this again? What if my spell of good health was just some cruel cosmic fluke and I have to learn to adjust, to always be in pain again? I can already feel it draining me... I don't want to take this downtime to write, to finish my website, to use my brain, everything just hurts too much. Then the berating begins. You are just lazy and weak. You are just doing this to yourself, somehow. It becomes easy to hate your body, to feel it is the enemy. At the very time when you most need to love yourself, you begin to hate yourself. 

I am so very lucky. I have a partner who loves me unconditionally and takes amazing care of me. I can actually focus on healing because he has no qualms about stepping in to help... a gift beyond measure. It doesn't sound like a great deal on paper... "I'm a lot of fun but I'll be out of commission 
25-40% of the time!" :)

Fingers crossed I'm on the road to recovery. There are a lot of emotions that come up this month and I'm sure that has a lot to do with it do. I intend to do some kind of memorial project this year to commemorate 3 years. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry Christmas

I've always been a bit of a humbug around the holidays... the buildup and expectation that everything be perfect is draining and more than anything just means a lot more work for me! The past few years have been unbearably sad... with bright spots and lots of good memories (ask my mom why we don't drink tequila on Christmas Eve anymore hahaha!)... but it is a descent into a time of year that is for us steeped in pain.

I'm happy to say that this year was very, very different. We pulled off a great Christmas... a good balance of business and low key fun that allowed us all to relax and just enjoy the time together. My kids didn't get a ton of gifts... but they were really happy with what they got. Ivy made her own beautiful presents for everyone and our Asian themed Christmas dinner was so good I'm pretty sure i'll be working that off for the next few weeks. True to form, we started talking about what we're going to have next year before dinner was even finished!  

If there is one piece of advice I can give to new members of this awful club it is this: There is no shame in finding that spark. It may take a long time. You will have to force yourself and you will have to pretend for awhile. It will not be easy. You will have to shed beliefs about yourself, about your world and be truly fearless in doing so. Some of the people you love may disapprove, they may be scared for you. They may fade away. That is OK. You keep going. You check in with yourself, you feel your pain but you also feel immense joy as the broken, empty places scream within you and you treat yourself with love and compassion. Do not wait to love yourself. You are perfect as you are, amidst your struggle and chaos.You must be very, very brave. You've done hard things... and you will do more. You must treat yourself as the sacred being you are and find a way to enjoy your life, just as it is, every single day. I can't tell you how long this will take but I can tell you that it will never end. You will never stop feeling helpless and frightened and anxious and sad... but you must learn to live within that space and love your life with all those dark feelings. They've made you who you are and they will soften. And one day, like a seedling sprouting from the ground and seeking light, you will begin to bloom. 

Who knows what you will become?

I wanted to do this all by myself. Truthfully, I was terrified to REALLY love anyone. Loving someone means that I can lose them... that I very well may someday be tossed back into that vortex of pain. That is my greatest fear, going back to that place. But to deny myself this love... that would be like cutting off my oxygen. I had already decided, a long time ago, that I would live the rest of my life happy. Gaining that happiness means taking risks... I just have to meet the person worth taking that risk for. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's A Jungle Out There

Dating. DATING.


It was rough as a teen, rough as a young adult & by God, rough as a mid-thirties widowed single mom.

A funny thing happened though... at some point,  I just relaxed and began to enjoy the process. If you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince then I've become quite familiar at avoiding catching any warts.

I figured out that I actually enjoyed getting dressed up & having a drink with interesting people... the key is leaving it at that. Not every dinner date has the potential to be your soul mate & once that pressure is off it's actually quite fun to swap stories and meet new people.  Plus the stand up material is pure gold. I went out on a date with a guy who brought me a tie dyed rose dipped in glitter & two questionairres (along with pencils!) for us to fill out... it wasn't the worst date I've ever been on!

What dating has done is given me the space & experience to really sort out what *exactly* I want in a partner & a relationship. What I'm willing to compromise on & what I'm not. It's taught me to rely on my instincts... if something is feeling off, it's because something is usually WAY WAY OFF. That doesn't mean they aren't a wonderful person, it just means they aren't the person for you. I've also made a couple really good friends & you can never have too many of those!

Four months ago I sat down and wrote a letter... to God, the universe, whatever... laying it wall out. This is what I NEED in a partner, the must haves. And these are the things I WANT... would be nice but I not deal breakers.

More than anything, writing that letter made me feel good. I know who I am & what I want & most importantly I've come to a place where I feel good about my life exactly the way it is now... having someone would be wonderful but I'm in a really great place. Life is not what I thought it would be, but it's mine & I'm making it a good one.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Welcome To Parenting, Valerie Style

Hi Folks!

It's your friendly widow blogger with a post less likely to induce depressive disorder and more likely to just piss you off instead. A refreshing change of pace right?

So. Maybe you are like me and you look around and see a sea of other parents out there, struggling under the weight of their ergo baby carriers and organic juice boxes, pleading in a non-confrontational voice with little Skyler or Gavin (so as not to inhibit his burgeoning sense of self esteem or creativity) to please stop playing call of duty in 10 minutes so you two can sit down and do homework together (Which really means you're going to do his homework while he whines and shuffles and says "I don't knoooooowww! It's too haaaaaaard!!!" Right? Yeah, I know. I get it.). I have sat in gyms full of parents one-upping each other on everything from their kids grades and touchdowns to learning disorders. Munchhausen's anyone?

Let's take a little quiz, shall we?

How many times, when asked about yourself or your hobbies or interests, have you answered by describing your children and/or their hobbies? How many of you simply drew a blank?

How often is your free time/weekend time completely consumed by your kids activities?

Do your kids schedules dominate your families routine? 

When was the last time you completed a project of your own? Spent a half hour wandering aimlessly in a museum? Went to a film that wasn't animated?

Ugggh. Do you hear that wooshing sound? That's your life, passing you by.

Becoming a parent is one of the purest, most difficult joys a person can experience. It is a process of immeasurable love, nobility, patience & humility. But the truth of it is that our kids need us far, far less than we need them.

See, I have this crazy notion that your children may have come from you but they are. not. you. I've met some parents who forget that. They seem to keep trying to re-live their past through their kids... pushing in places that just don't need pushing and ignoring truths that would create an even richer, more dynamic relationship with their children. Don't get me wrong... everyone needs guidance and direction. But acknowledging that you have this amazing, nearly independent little human running around that has their own thoughts, feelings, intrinsic values, outlook... we can influence, we can gently suggest. We sometimes have to draw the line and take a hard stance. We often have to be the bad guy. But there is nothing as magical as the selflessness involved in loving this alien being you've helped to bring up... watching them thrive & loving them as they are.

Our culture currently promotes the ideal of the frazzled, chronically busy and burnt out parent as some sort of badge of honor. We are to sacrifice our sanity, our health and our happiness on the altar of success as society dictates: the  job, big house, flashy cars, cool gadgets & kids who are perpetually BUSY.

Do we ever stop to think if that is what is actually good for our kids? How about encouraging a few healthy passions? How about making time for boredom as a learning tool? I can't tell you how often my kids have built amazing things with cardboard and duct tape because they were bored and I didn't rush in to entertain them.

I have a confession: I have never enjoyed "playing" with my kids. Set me up with a board game or a craft, making dinner together or hanging out doing something we all enjoy and, especially as they get older, we have a great time. But playing kitties or superheroes or whatever? Nope. That's what you have playmates, each other and imaginary friends for. And frankly, my kids have never needed anyone to play court jester. They have big brains they put to good use and a healthy expectation of what Mom will and will not do for them.

Becoming a single parent has been, by far, one of the greatest challenges I've faced. I'll admit that sometimes I simply throw my hands up and yell "I can't do this!" Having my life derailed means figuiring out exactly what I need to be happy & knowing that in just a few short years, if I do my job right, my babies will leave the nest and I'll only be able to embarrass them when they come home to raid the fridge and do laundry.

So, call it selfish if you want. I'm cultivating a life that is definitely centered on my children but with plenty of room for me. Figuring out what I want and where the yellow brick road is leading me. Interestingly, I've found some fellow travelers along the way. Our kids may not be the future Ivy league-rs (or they might!) but they are INTERESTING PEOPLE. And the world needs more interesting people.