Posts Tagged ‘life’

A Girl and a Goat from Gaonli

Friday, January 16th, 2015

When I was four years old, a missionary from India came to my Sunday school class. I don’t remember her name, just her sari. I had never seen one before and I was captivated.

She told us stories of the faraway land of India, of monkeys and camels and elephants, of the crowded slums of Mumbai and a woman named Ramabai Mukti who founded an orphanage and school for unwanted children.

It was a lot for a four year old to digest, but the woman and her stories made a huge impression on me. For years I was obsessed with India. I studied the country, its culture and history. I read alot about Ghandi. I asked my mom to take me to Devon Avenue in Chicago, where I purchased a sari of my own.

From the time I was 4 until I turned 16, I told everyone I met that I was going to be a missionary to India. As a religious kid in the Midwest, that seemed the best option to me for visiting this exotic land. Certainly my family would never have the money it took to travel to a place like that–we went to Indiana on family vacations.

And besides, I wanted to help. Even as a really young kid, I was struck by the idea that somewhere across the world, there was a girl like me.

But while I was born into a family who loved me unconditionally and encouraged me to follow my dreams, whatever they might be, this girl was born into a culture where she had no worth, no value, and no options. It seemed like a very random assignation of destiny to me. Why me? Why her?

 

As I got older, simple answers like, “Because it’s the will of God” didn’t work anymore. And although I renounced my future career as a missionary in my mid-teens, my fascination with India remained.

And finally, 37 years after I first heard of India, I set foot on its soil.

Last November I traveled to Jaipur with Tea Collection. My colleagues were there to shoot an editorial catalog for our Spring 15 collection, which is inspired by the beauty and culture of India. I was there as the storyteller, to record the sights and sounds and smells of our visit. To take notes on what it felt like to be there. To observe, to ask questions, to internalize the experience so that later I could make it real for readers who hadn’t come along on our journey.

But I had a second purpose. Tea Collection partners with the Global Fund for Children, and I and my coworker Jessie were to spend a day visiting a GFC grantee in Jaipur, an Indian-run nonprofit called Gram Bharati Samiti.

The day we spent in rural villages with Bhawani, Kusum and Sarita was the best day of my whole trip to India.

Better, even, than my birthday two days later when I was surprised with a chocolate cake and a gorgeous photo taken by our photographer Hideaki Hamada.

The people I met that day, the staff of Gram Bharati Samiti and the girls and women in the villages we visited–their faces will stay with me for the rest of my life.


I wrote a blog about my experience for Tea–you can read it here, and please do. You’ll find all about a 6-year-old girl named Buja and the amazing gift (baby goat!!) I was given by another girl named Rekha. It’s the best story, really it is.

 
Hardly a day has gone by since I came back without me thinking of those girls, those villages.

Someday I’m going back. I’m going back and I’m taking Bruce and Lucette with me.
We’ll ride elephants and tour palaces and go back to Gaonli village to see if Buja’s still there.

And then we’ll hop on a plane and head south to Mumbai. I want to see where it all began for me, I want to visit Ramabai Mukti.

 

 

 

-Lo, who can’t believe 2014 went by without one. single. word.

 

 

Life Is What Happens

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

cornfed

Damn. I mean, Damn!

I have never neglected this space for such a long time. In fact, I used to post a minimum of once a week fairly effortlessly. But then, there are a lot of things I used to do that have become past tense.

If there are any of you out there still reading, I apologize for the long silence. It was an unintended sort of thing. A month would go by, and I would think, “I need to update the blog.” But then I would get busy, for there are a million and three things on the to-do list, always. Or I would be too tired (see aforementioned list). Or I’d get distracted by a tiny corn-on-the-cob waving lass (see above photographic evidence).

Or I would just think, “I have nothing to say that anybody wants to hear.”

And that may still be true. Or maybe it never was. But in the end, I’m doing this for me. I’m reclaiming this space to reclaim a small part of myself that feels lonely and lost.

Around the time of my last blog post, some six (gasp!) months ago, I began writing a poem which in drafts has alternately been titled “Heart” and “Lost” but will likely not be called either of those things by the time it’s finished.

I began it in a haphazard style, having awakened one day with an idea for a new cinepoem blazing in my brain. But the poem must come before the cinepoem. So I wrote, awkwardly, as you do when trying to wake a sleeping limb.

My brain felt numb and the words felt heavy and I struggled through five lines. And then I put it away and thought, “I will come back to this.”

And now it’s July.

Anytime I would think of the blog or the poem, (in between scrambling eggs while the tot sat in her highchair banging a spoon and chanting “eggseggseggseggseggseggseggs!” and trying to race down to fling blankets and tiny PJs and multicolored socks into the dryer before the tiny PJ owner noticed my absence and going to work and coming home and remembering to say hi to Bruce and squeeze in a “Howwasyourdaydear?” In between all of that,) I would think, “Oh, it hasn’t been that long. Surely I’ll have some time tomorrow. I’ll carve out an hour.”

And now it’s July. No-one is more surprised by this than I.

This day isn’t any more or less busy than any other day, but this is the hour I’ve managed to seize. And perhaps it’s true that I have nothing to say. Nothing anyone other than me finds fascinating, anyway.

But it IS fascinating to me. This life with all of its chaos and tumble and rush. It’s endlessly fascinating.

The way she says new things, every day, that show a little mind whirring and buzzing and becoming. The way her hair grows in frantic ringlets all over the back of her head but on top, and in front, it’s perfectly straight. The way she climbs to the top of the tallest ladder on the playground, fearlessly. The way she brings me books and climbs into my lap and says, “Sit here a minute, mommy.” The way she runs, with graceless toddler bravado, arms flailing, pigtails boinging. The way Bruce and I will catch each other’s eye over her head at random moments and just grin at each other like, “Can you believe this?!”

The silence of the past months, it seems, is an indicator not just of busy-ness but of becoming-ness. Of tired-ness. Of happy-ness. Of all the -nesses that make up a life.

And someday I’ll write all about it. Someday the words will catch up.

In the meantime, I’m going to grab an hour when I can. And I’m going to finish that poem and name it something ravishing. And I’m going to shoot a cinepoem. Soon. Like in a matter of weeks soon. (Really. Shel and I have a shoot date on the calendar.)

And if you’re still here and waiting, you’ll be glad you did.

-Lo, full of wishful hopeful thinking.

Room and Bored

Friday, March 25th, 2011

busy

Today someone asked me when my next book is coming out.

I didn’t know whether to get stabby or fall over laughing.

I haven’t written even one single poem in almost three months, even though my to-do list has, in the number two spot, the title “evacuation” followed by the imperative “WRITE IT!!”

It’s not a lack of words that’s the problem, you see. It’s a lack of time. As I told the aforementioned someone, “I have a six month old baby! I’m lucky to put my shoes on the right feet in the morning.”

So then, the follow-up went, “Well, what keeps you so busy? You know, besides the baby?”

(Warning: Impending rant. Take a deep breath and duck.)

Besides the baby? What do I do all day? Other than working 40+ hours a week at one job and landing myself a brand shiny new job and commuting back and forth and coming home and doing laundry and dishes and diapers and feeding the baby and dressing the baby and feeding and dressing myself and sometimes even brushing my hair? What else?

Well, there’s the cinepoems that get entered in film festivals and there’s the etsy store orders to fulfill and there are irises in my backyard that desperately need repotting. And once in awhile I try to exercise. And get a manicure. And even a pedicure, if I’m feeling really cheeky.

Wow. Ok. Bitter, party of one!! I shouldn’t get stabby about the question, I know.

Because I do remember what it was like to be bored. To have oodles of hours to fill. To lie late in bed and luxuriate in the question of “What should I do today?”

But that was eons ago in a time before Boy and Baby and video poems.

Today I’m just wallowing in guilt over letting another month nearly slip past with nary a blog post.

And the trouble is, I can’t promise to get better! Life is just a blur these days. And so am I.

But for my own sake, i swear, I will trap some of these words on a page. And then, if I deem them worthy enough, I’ll share them with you.

It’s not a new book, no, not at all. But it’s something.

-Lo, who hounds her own favorite authors for their next works and knows that really, all this means is that she should be flattered.

Turn off Twitter

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

mood: hungry | drinking: not yet

mt_tam_trail

This article dovetails nicely with my previous post. Written by Anne Lamott, it was published in the April 2010 issue of Sunset Magazine…

Time lost and found
-Anne Lamott

I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief–and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions–that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.

This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity–cell phone, email, text, Twitter–steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life. That a close friendship is worth more than material success.

Needless to say, this is very distressing for my writing students. They start to explain that they have two kids at home, or five, a stable of horses or a hive of bees, and 40-hour workweeks. Or, on the other hand, sometimes they are climbing the walls with boredom, own nearly nothing, and are looking for work full-time, which is why they can’t make time now to pursue their hearts’ desires. They often add that as soon as they retire, or their last child moves out, or they move to the country, or to the city, or sell the horses, they will. They are absolutely sincere, and they are delusional.

I often remember the story from India of a beggar who sat outside a temple, begging for just enough every day to keep body and soul alive, until the temple elders convinced him to move across the street and sit under a tree. Years of begging and bare subsistence followed until he died. The temple elders decided to bury him beneath his cherished tree, where, after shoveling away a couple of feet of earth, they found a stash of gold coins that he had unknowingly sat on, all those hand-to-mouth years.

You already have the gold coins beneath you, of presence, creativity, intimacy, time for wonder, and nature, and life. Oh yeah, you say? And where would those rascally coins be?

This is what I say: First of all, no one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor. Otherwise, you are mostly going to learn more than you need to know about where the local fires are, and how rainy it has been: so rainy! That is half an hour, a few days a week, I tell my students. You could commit to writing one page a night, which, over a year, is most of a book.

If they have to get up early for work and can’t stay up late, I ask them if they are willing to NOT do one thing every day, that otherwise they were going to try and cram into their schedule.

They may explain that they have to go to the gym four days a week or they get crazy, to which I reply that that’s fine–no one else really cares if anyone else finally starts to write or volunteers with marine mammals. But how can they not care and let life slip away? Can’t they give up the gym once a week and buy two hours’ worth of fresh, delectable moments? (Here they glance at my butt.)

Can they commit to meeting one close friend for two hours every week, in bookstores, to compare notes? Or at an Audubon sanctuary? Or a winery?

They look at me bitterly now–they don’t think I understand. But I do–I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask them whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement, and then work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?

If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living in this manic way?

I ask them, is there a eucalyptus grove at the end of their street, or a new exhibit at the art museum? An upcoming minus tide at the beach where the agates and tidepools are, or a great poet coming to the library soon? A pond where you can see so many turtles? A journal to fill?

If so, what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free–that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for.

Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? Or wash the car just one time a month, for the turtles? No? I understand. But at 80 will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren?

I think it’s going to hurt. What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.

I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.

-Lo, turning the computer off now.

Finding Gratitude

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

mood: quiet | drinking: koolaid-tasting vitamin water
us_house

In the spirit of the impending holiday, I’m going to make myself a little list of the things I am grateful for.

I’ve realized recently that I’ve spent the better part of this year griping about all the changes in my life. Time to step back and take a breath and notice the things that haven’t changed, or that have changed for the better.

So. Here they are, off the top of my head: Ten things that make me happy to get out of bed in the morning.

1. Boy. Through good, bad and ugly, he’s always there when I wake up. It’s an easy thing to take for granted in the hubbub of everyday living.

2. LeeLoo. She’s had a tough year, and is coming up on her 12th birthday, which in dog years is rather geriatric. But she’s hanging in there and is always ready with a lick and an eloquent Boxer sigh.

3. Our new home. We’ve only been sleeping under its roof for 10 nights, but it already feels like home. It’s cute, it’s cozy, it’s ours. And at night, you can see the stars so brightly and the ocean thunders so loudly. I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

4. My family. Mom & Dad were here just a few weeks ago, and my sister and I were talking about how weird we are, among most of our friends, that we actually enjoy spending time with our parents. I’m grateful for that kind of oddity.

5. My friends. Recently a small group of good people gathered for chicken pot pie at a cozy restaurant in the Castro to celebrate my birthday, and I looked around the table at all these people who love me–just love me, asking nothing of me in return–and I was overwhelmed with my good fortune to have all these lovely ones in my life.

6. Books. I’ve been reading so many good ones lately. Right now I’m nearly finished with Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. God, I love books. I love getting lost in another world or being enraptured with the turn of someone else’s phrase. I would be lost without words in my life.

7. New acquaintances. You’re never too old to make new friends, and I’ve made two new forays in that direction recently, meeting Louise, the friend of a friend, and Julie, who took my photo for her art project I live here: SF. I love those unexpected moments when you connect with someone new and think, “Huh. This chick’s pretty cool.”

8. Etsy. Yes, I know, it’s geeky. But this website has opened me up to a whole new world of artists and crafters and seamstresses and amazingly creative people. My sister bought me a Lisa Falzon print off Etsy for my birthday this month and I’m totally in love with it. How else would I have discovered an illustrator in Ireland and have one of her pieces hanging on my dining room wall?

9. Creative outlets. My writing group, first and foremost. The girls in this group rock my face off every time we meet, and I’ve written some things this year that would not have been possible without their input. And then there are the cinepoems. Michelle and I just continue to work so well together and continue to churn out new ideas. We just finished “Homogeneous” and already we’ve got another shoot in the works for December.

10. San Francisco. As I said in my last post, I just really really love this city. It’s a beautiful, weird, wonderful place and I’m so happy that I get to call it my home.

As it turns out, there’s so much to be grateful for, even in the midst of a truly crazy year. And I am, I am grateful. And lucky. And blessed.

And so are you.

-Lo, choosing the bright side.

If Wishes Were Fishes

Monday, November 9th, 2009

mood: stretched | drinking: extra-strength tea

wishes

There’s no use pretending otherwise. I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed. I’m worn too thin.

And I’m mostly out of words–the good ones, anyway. It’s very rare that I run out of words totally and completely. So I’ve got a few left in me, as you can see. But I can’t promise that they’ll be anything worth getting all worked up over.

So I sit here on the eve on my *whispermumble*nth birthday (that would be Tuesday, November 10th, if you’re keeping track) and try to gather my wits and set down a few thoughts that have some semblance of order.

Every year, on my birthday, since as long as I can remember, I have the overwhelming compulsion to get all reflective and write something profound, some gorgeous and overwrought statement about myself and my life and the meaning of it all. This year is, in that respect, no different than all the previous years.

In all other respects, however, this year has been very different. It’s been quite a son of a bitch.

The last few weeks alone have been, well, I don’t have the right word that will adequately define the last few weeks. Insanified? Critchy? Whoppadoozical? I don’t know.

It all started about the time we closed escrow on our new house. Which is good and lovely and amazing and yay and all that. However, we haven’t moved yet b/c we wanted to do some work on said house before unloading all our boxes. Electricians were hired, plumbers were called, I took a week off work and painted for 7 straight days. Etcetera.

In the midst of all that, my mom and dad came out to visit from Illinois, so there was a lot of back-and-forth between my house and my sister’s place, 2 hours away.

My grandmother came out with my parents, and ended up falling ill while she was here, so there was a bit of consternation.

Then my in-laws were in town for a little bit, at the same time as my parents. Then Boy had to go out of town for a bit. And I had to go back to work. And LeeLoo developed a giant hematoma overnight on her ear that required surgery and stitches and the cone of shame. As soon as that one was healed, she grew herself another one on the other ear.

So as you can see, it’s been Whoppadoozical.

Now I’m back at work and trying to pack up the apartment as well, because we move on Saturday. So taking the time to write this post feels like a self-indulgent luxury. But necessary, somehow.

Anyway, as I started to say a few paragraphs ago, it all really started before all the visitors and plumbers and painting. It started right before that with a couple of fairly life-shaking events.

And I don’t mean to be a tease, but I’m not going to tell the world wide web about those events right now. I’m not ready to talk about them yet. I have barely had time to figure out what they mean to me. But I likely will refer back to them at some point in the near future.

It’s just important for me to realize, in the context of my impending birthday, that I have never experienced such a year of change and upheaval and alteration. I guess if I go back all the way, it started just over a year ago, the first week of November 2008 when my Nana died, I got laid off from my job, and attended a funeral on my birthday.

Things just haven’t gone back to normal since then. But I have hopes that they will. It will be a new kind of normal, but still…

So I suppose that is my birthday wish this year. A return to normal. Some semblance of peace. Me and Boy and dog and fog and a little bit of quiet. That’s all I ask for.

And, let’s be honest, a few un-normal things like a new adventure across the sea wouldn’t be out of the question, either. Don’t want to get too boring in my old age, after all…

-Lo, in need of new words and more time to write them.

Even the azaleas are anxious…

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Mood: half-anxious, half-resigned | Drinking: dreams

fret_wall

Fear and love sometimes feel the same, like a thousand violent butterflies beating their wings against your stomach, shredding their way out.

Hope, as I’ve said before, is a knife edge. And I am currently quivering with hope and fear. Knives and butterflies.

I think my current state is quite aptly described by the word “anxious”, with a side of “nervous” and a pinch of “fretful” thrown in. But I’m working, oh so hard, to be zen about it. To say, “what will be, will be.” And be ok with that.

It’s just that I don’t know what will be. And in the not-knowing lies the anxiety.

Let me be all cryptic for now. I’ll explain on the other side. Deal?

Until then, a little Kristy Bowen to make us all feel better. Or at least to make me feel better…

fret
by Kristy Bowen

Lets say a woman’s heart
is like a windup bird.
The conservatory filled
with oranges and the cellar
disordered, unstable
with the pull of thieves

gathering outside the windows.
I’ve invented this: the panic,
copper tongued and shaken.
I’m dizzied, dulcet.
A thin layer of graphite
blooming beneath my skin.

And here, my sleight of hand,
my tour de force,
skirts come all undone
and tapping out code beneath
the dressing table. I am
impossibly lovely, impossibly
fixed against the horizon.
Any attempt at flight
ruining all the furniture.

***

-Lo, beating wings and biting nails.

Permanent Marker

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Mood: head above water | Drinking: fountain soda

poppy

My first tattoo came on the heels of a breakup.

I didn’t do anything as reckless as inking a broken heart over my left boob. Just a tiny rose, thorns attached, hidden inside my left ankle. It was barely worth the 15 minutes of needle time, it was so small.

But I felt a bit rebellious, a smidge dangerous, a dash mysterious, and I wore it proudly, shunning socks in the chilly Midwest springtime — the better to show it off.

I was all of 23 and teetering on the brink of an identity explosion. I was a late bloomer when it came to so many things — my first kiss at age 19, my first drink at 22. But once I got started, I really made up for lost time.

I had spent so much time during my college years making good grades instead of discovering myself. By the time I hit age 23, I was ripe for discovery. The layers peeled off so quickly, one after the other, until I reached the bare and brazen core and got a good look at the girl I was, and the woman I wanted to be.

Somehow, that whole process involved some permanent ink.

I can’t say that my parents were too happy with the little pink rose, but it was nearly unnoticeable. Of course, the winged angel that showed up between my shoulder blades, and the spike-and-wire heart that appeared on my right ankle shortly thereafter were a bit more disconcerting.

Thirteen years later, I think my identity has been pretty well established, although I feel the need for constant improvement upon the woman I am. A tad more patience would be good, for one thing.

I wear the story of my becoming on all my appendages, now. A catalog of words and art that is as much a part of me as the heart that pounds beneath my skin.

The original rose is gone now, consumed by a black ink dragon, appropriately named “Rose”. The angel on my back remains, though as you can see, she’s no longer alone. I’ve kept the spiked heart, too, and scattered more black lines on my arms — a symbol for healing inside my left elbow, a bird on my shoulder, belladonna on my right arm, and my latin motto on my wrist. Boy and I shared a symbol on the eve of our wedding, stained into our lower back and now, for me, joined by two of Hilary Knight’s Beauty & the Beast birds.

I don’t know if the catalog will grow much bigger. These things are hard to predict.

I’ve heard some say that people get inked only to improve their self-esteem. I can’t, of course, speak for anyone but myself, and for myself I say these marks are not an improvement, not even a decoration. They are not there to make a statement.

My tattoos exist only for me. They are my map, my compass. A memoir. I’ll never forget where I have been, nor yet where I want to go. I bear the memory in my skin.

Tattoos are not for everyone, and they are a choice that should be made with care. Get that Tasmanian Devil smeared on your left butt cheek today and you may find yourself wishing for a laser tomorrow.

But for me, tattoos tell a story. And I’ve always loved a good story…

-Lo, who hopes it will be an epic tale of love and adventure.

P.S. Personal experience with the following tattoo artists allows me to give them the highest recommendations:

Jesse Tuesday  *  Laura Satana  * Rocio Arteaga  *  Marx Barry

Let There Be Dark

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Mood: Low | Drinking: Watery Tea

nuuanupali

Although I’ve never been a big holiday cheer sort of gal, I have, in times past, managed to muster up a helluva lot more cheer than I am this year.

2008 didn’t come in looking like a brawler, but she’s going out leaving me battered and bruised and more than a little bewildered.

I’m no stranger to getting laid off. I survived the dot com bust of ’01, and I know such things are to be expected when you’re a creative person working in a corporate company while the economy sinks below sea level.

Funny thing is, I wasn’t expecting it this time. I’m the only copywriter in my entire company, and I thought that alone garnered me some job security. Not to mention the fact that I’m a damn fine employee. I work hard and fast. I don’t miss deadlines. I’m more organized than the average type-A office manager. My cubicle is fetchingly decorated. In short, I’m a gem to have on staff.

But it seems the hard truth of the lesson learned is this: Companies don’t give a shit about you.

It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how early you arrive or how late you leave. It doesn’t matter how valuable or singular your skills. When push comes to shove and you’re up against the almighty dollar, they will shove you out the door without a second’s hesitation.

Yes, I’m bitter.

I’ll get over it. I will. But when your entirely unexpected layoff is sandwiched in between the sudden death of your grandmother and your birthday; when said layoff means that the baby you’ve been postponing for 5 years has to be postponed even longer; when your CEO-dictated departure falls on the day after Christmas, well, I think you deserve a good wallow with a heaping spoonful of bitterness on the side. Don’t you?

In the meantime, my website has been down, my neck has a squinch, my dog’s eating dirt, and there’s a wee Asian boy outside my window screaming at his mother in Mandarin because she took away his favorite toy or some equivalent of toddler trauma.

*sigh*

Once the poor-mes are over, though, I’m going to fix my sights on a few things I’ve been promising you all for a long time and have not yet delivered. To wit: the long-awaited arrival of the newest cinepoem, Homeland Security; the long-overdue overhaul of this here fine website, including a real live RSS-feed on yon blog; and some shiny new poetry, fresh from my writing group revisions.

Sound good to you? Yeah, me too.

Now I’m just going to wrap up the boo-hooing and get on with it.

-Lo, keeping her silver lining intact.

The Unbearable Lightness

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Mood: Numb | Drinking: I should be!

verybadday

When I was little, I loved the book about the boy Alexander and his “terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day.” Something about the drama of that statement seemed hilarious to me at the time.

But I have had a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good week, and am not yet finding it hilarious.

The lead-in to this supersonically shitastic week began last month when my parents were visiting and we got a call from my aunt, who lives in Hawaii. She has had my grandmother living with her for the past year and a half. Three weeks ago, Nana was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Upon hearing the news, my mother decided to fly over to Hawaii so she could see her mom and see what she could do to help. My sister decided to go with her so she could introduce her 10-month-old son to his great-grandma before it was too late. I decided to go with them to be of whatever support I could.

So on November 1st my mom, my sister, my nephew and I boarded a plane to Oahu. I’ve never been to Hawaii before. It’s a very strange experience, going to a vacation spot on such an anxious family errand. Everyone else was wearing bikinis and flaunting their newly acquired tans while the three Witmer women jostled about on various harried excursions, sweaty, disheveled, toting a tired baby and wearing decidedly un-tropical shoes.

Thus began what has quite possibly been the worst week of my life. The photo above was taken on Sunday, November 2, at sunset on the North Shore near Haliewa. It was possibly the last truly peaceful moment I will have in quite awhile.

On Monday, while I was at my aunt’s house, Nana suddenly complained of chest pain, then head pain, then her knees buckled as my aunt was helping her walk. I lunged across the room to help catch her as she fell, and my aunt and I lowered her to the floor where she lay, gasping for breath like a fish on the shore, eyes rolled up in her head.

My aunt and I were the only ones there at the time, so I called 911, then called my mother as I stood at the end of the driveway waiting for the ambulance. My mom and the paramedics arrived at the same time, and she and I drove behind the ambulance to the hospital in Wahiawa.

Nana was pronounced dead 20 minutes after our arrival.

That was Monday. On Tuesday, amid the shock of grief and initial frantic funeral planning, I anxiously watched election returns come in. I had cast my vote early at city hall once I knew I would be out of state on election day, but I missed the thrill of that early morning democratic ritual, wearing the sticker in to work and walking about the rest of the day feeling oh, so civic-minded.

I didn’t have access to a TV, so I was scanning several websites at once and instant messaging with Boy, trying to keep up as states were called blue or red.

Of course, I am overjoyed that Barack Obama is now our President-Elect, and I am filled with hope at what that means for the future of our battered country. But the thrill of victory was tempered by the passage, here in California, of Proposition 8, which takes away the right of gay couples to get married. Such a crushing blow for equal rights everywhere.

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, my sister and I woke early and packed our bags because our return flight for the mainland was scheduled for that afternoon. First, though, we stopped by my aunt’s house to help deal with decisions that needed to be made: When were my aunt and my mom flying back to Illinois? When should we have the wake and the funeral? What relatives still needed to be called? Who were the pallbearers going to be? What photos of Nana did we have for a memorial? What clothes should she wear in the casket?

So many decisions, so many emotions, and no time. As my sister and I checked our bags at the airport in Honolulu, I realized I had left my credit card at the Mililani Kinko’s where we had been scanning in old family photos so Boy could use them to make a memorial DVD for the funeral service. I’ve never forgotten my credit card anywhere. What a time to do it!

Seven hours later, give or take, my sister, my nephew and I landed at SFO a bit bedraggled and worse for wear. I crashed into bed at about 2 a.m.

That was Wednesday. On Thursday, I woke up early and headed into work, my head full of all I needed to do to prepare for yet another trip. I needed to tell my boss that I would be taking bereavement time and traveling to the funeral. I needed to catch up on work I missed because of the trip to Hawaii.

Instead, I walked into work only to find out that I, my best friend, and about 1/3 of my company were being laid off. I was completely blindsided. I knew, of course, that the economy was awful, but I naively assumed that my job would be safe. I was wrong.

That was Thursday. Today I woke up and wondered what else was going to go wrong. At 11:30 a.m. I found out: a friend from high school called with news about her family and a crisis they are suddenly going through. Somehow I wasn’t surprised to finish off the week with a bang.

So now I am packing my suitcase so Boy and I can get on a plane in the morning and head back to Illinois. There will be a wake on Sunday, and a funeral on Monday – which also just happens to be my birthday.

It all seems so surreal. I’ve never called 911 for a medical emergency before. I’ve never before waited at the end of a driveway, knowing the sirens I could hear from a distance were coming for me. I’ve never before stood in an emergency room and watched a doctor come out to tell me that he’s sorry, but they did everything they could. I’m still having trouble believing it’s all real.

One of the executives at my company on Thursday, after I had gotten the news about my now non-existent job, asked me what I was feeling. I just started laughing and looked at her and said, “I have no idea what I’m feeling!”

That’s still true, to an extent. It’s been a helluva week, and it’s too much to wrap my head around all at once. I think that underneath it all, I’m ok, and I believe that I will be ok. But from here on out, I’m just taking one day at a time until I come out the other side.

I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for one unexpected good surprise, that I get to spend my birthday with them. I’m grateful for my supportive and compassionate friends. I’m grateful for the way LeeLoo wiggles her butt so hard whenever I walk through the door. I’m especially grateful for Boy and for the way that he loves me.

So now I’m going to go be with my family, and remember Nana, and eat some Chicago pizza. The rest of it I’ll deal with when I come back.

Anyway, that was my week. How was yours?

-Lo, breathing in, breathing out.