Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Today has been a hard day for me as a mother. The fact of the matter is, today started with last night, and last night was awful. I could rattle off all the various crazy behaviors that were flying at me at high speed over the last eighteen hours, but really what I want to talk about is this: I don't want today to be about all the different behavior that drove me crazy and made me feel like I was inadequate and scary and mean. I want to talk about how I want to be as a mother and how that affects me when I fail to be the mother that I want to be.
I often look at my children and see just how amazing and wonderful and completely unique they are, but I also feel tight, like there just isn't enough room for all the different emotions that having children brings up.
I had a son twelve years ago when I was a junior in high school. I was seventeen years old and my mom had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, we had never personally known anyone that had survived breast cancer, at least that we knew of. I learned that I was pregnant a month after my ex-boyfriend had moved to Southern California to go to college. Looking at that strange little stick, I was scared and in shock. None of it really sunk in and despite all logic, I felt like it would go away on its own. But it didn't and a few days after I found out, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Everyone was watching. Everyone was scared. No one seemed to know what was happening or when it would stop. I went home from school numb and silent. I walked into the house and saw my dad sitting on the couch, watching the news. We exchanged a few words; something along the lines of “Have you seen this? Do you know what's going on?” and then I went into my room and didn't come out until dinner. I don't remember any of the rest of that day. The next day I went to school and I made my usual stop, which was the classroom of my favorite teacher. Being an English teacher it seemed perfectly natural that he had always known quite a bit more about me than almost anyone else through our class journals and essays. In the end, I classically self-destructed and destroyed our friendship, but on that morning so many years ago, when I saw his face I burst into tears and told him my secret. At that point, I was only a couple months pregnant and I'm sure he didn't know what I was planning to do. I don't remember if he asked me. All I remember is him letting me sleep in his classroom during lunch and the way he made me feel safe and guarded, sometimes quite literally. Honestly that was something I had never and would never feel again in my teenage life.
Somehow I managed to keep my secret for another two months and then told my closest friends. At that point, I was beginning to show and I had decided not to have an abortion and up until I was seven months pregnant I really thought I was going to keep my baby. But in February of that year I woke up to a wail and my mom's footsteps pounding down the hallway to the kitchen. I could hear her sobbing and my dad trying to understand what she was saying to him. I came out of my room and saw them hugging each other, both of them crying. My dad looked up at me and said, "Your mom found a lump.”
Around that time, one of my friends told my parents that I was pregnant. Unable to take the opportunity to come clean and help myself and my baby, I vehemently denied it. I don't know why. I think my brain just shut down. When I was seven months pregnant, I was nauseous and feeling faint. My parents brought me home from church, I went to my room and a few minutes later my mom came in.
"Kristine, are you pregnant?”
I started to cry.
There was a flurry of activity after that. My mom and my oldest sister both helped me to get to the doctor and do tests and consider my options. I spoke with church leaders and eventually I spoke to my ex. I hated that part. In the end, I gave my son up for adoption. I've talked about this before. That experience left a pit in my chest. It made me desperate.
When I finally became a mother again, I knew I had made a mistake I could never reconcile with my first child. For me, it was a mistake. I'm not sure I'll ever know if it was a mistake for him or not. I suspect that it can't be either because it just is. He didn't have a choice. He was so small. Now that boy is twelve years old. There's no real point in trying to guess what life would have been like or what I would have been if I had kept my son. I do know that I am a good mother now even when I make heartbreaking mistakes with my children. I want to be the kind of mother that can see her children; really see them. I want to be the kind of mother that sustains them and makes them want Life. I want them to experience life and understand how beautiful it is and how horrible it is, too. I want them to know that they can make the world a brighter, more beautiful place or a more desperate and sad place, depending on their own outlook and actions. I hope they don't make the same mistakes that I did, but I know that they will make mistakes. I know that they'll regret parts of their lives and that some of their lives will be painful. I know that I will be a source of pain in their lives and that they'll go through their memories and pinpoint all those little moments with me that led to some of their insecurities about themselves. For that, I am so sorry. I hope that I can be a strong mother and provide both my children ample reasons to love themselves and be proud of who they are.
Today I feel like I failed. Hard. I could only see them as behavior, as things that needed to be corralled.
Today I am grateful for the man I married. He is so unlike any man I've have ever known before. Sometimes it almost feels like a fluke that we’re even married. I'm not really sure how it happened, it was so fast. It's strange to think that such an important decision can be made so quickly and have such positive results. The man I married came home from work today saw my face, saw how drained I was and without hesitation rallied the kids, redressed them and took them to the park. I married a man that is giving, kind, persevering, intelligent, calm, adventurous, and patient. On a day when I know I have not been a good mother I am so grateful to know that my children have a good father. I am so grateful to him for being there for me like no one else ever has been, for helping me to become a mother again, for helping me be the mother I want to be, and for being my most loyal friend and partner. There are so many moments in my life that did not end well and left me scarred and heartbroken, but I am grateful for him, my husband, and that little part of me that somehow knew to say "Yes."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

a quick note to daisy

Because when one of your best friends exhibits such bravery to put her whole heart in the open, you respond. Even if that response is feeble and weak in comparison. You respond. I may never be the writer she has become and I may never be so brave, but I can do a better job of trying. In her heart there is an arrow that flies true. "Nothing dormant." So in that moment when it hit and hurt the most, I wrote what was first there. Highly imperfect:

a quick note to daisy

if i had a wish
a well
a bridge
a lamp

if I had a wish
my mind would go instantly blank
a pool of black ooze would move slowly
glubbing forward
blocking the holes
no escape

if I had a wish
no eyes would flash
no noses wiggle
no snaps of fingers

if I had a wish
that pool of black ooze would move slowly
gulping forward
blocking the holes
every escape
would go eventually black

and there in the black
sweet daisy
you would tease

there in the dark
sweet daisy
you have teased

if I had a wish
a well
a bridge
a lamp
sweet daisy you would be there
no pool of black could obscure your teasing finger
and no escape I’d need

if I had a wish
sweet daisy

Monday, May 19, 2014

Your Mind is Not the Only Part of You

A week ago, I was in the depths, but when I was confronted by another even further down than I, I was struck with a sudden clarity that pulled me out of it. My complete empathy with this woman I only knew through social media thoroughly turned me over. Seeing her words in front of me saddened me and I had to speak out for her and to her. So I did and in that moment, my own depression snuck out without a word and so far hasn't been back. So far. It will, of course. It always comes back. That is what depression is and it will most likely remain so unchangeable until it is no longer treated like something to be ashamed of. In my experience, there are a handful of people that take another's depression seriously as well as realizing that is a lifelong affliction, not something that is conquered forever. It is a transient. Though there is no doubt in my mind that others love me just as much as those that fully understand, it is always painful to meet with the callousness of willful misunderstanding. For now, I will let that matter go and focus on the afflicted. If there is a wider audience that might be touched into feeling just a bit better by the words I shared on Instagram, I would write these to them. My hopes are always with you. 

It is too much to see the thoughts in my own head written out as the thoughts of another. To see my own pain in another. It gives me sudden vision and desperation to say to you and myself that this sinking heart that aches and spikes can do wondrous things as well. It can bathe in delight even if it can never stay there. Happiness is not a lasting experience but something to be felt again and again, over and over, as if it were merely a reminder of the beauty. Each changing moment so different and new that it both hurts and delights--that is life, not a lasting happiness or a lasting sorrow, but everlasting change. I have stopped looking to be continuously happy. Now I yearn to feel those quick moments as often as I am able. I trick my mind into seeing beauty. Photography helps me to do that: to see the beauty even when it is not in my heart. When my mind is heavy and weighs me down the whole world still, frustratingly, looks exactly the same. It's unwillingness to morph to fit me angers me and soothes me. I remind myself that my mind is never in full control of my life. It should hold no more power than anything else. I look at the children and husband I thought would heal me and though my mind is drowning, to imagine them drowning in the sorrow of losing me is the true pain. I must be here if I can control it. So must you. Your mind is not the only part of you. It doesn't make the rules and it shouldn't be your puppeteer. Let the sorrow be. Feel it. Then feel something else until its inevitable return. Then feel something else again. Know you are not the only one with this ailment and that there is strength in a depressed mind. I hope we can both feel healed and feel all that life has to offer and then give love to those around us. My love to you. You can conquer your mind.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Spring Garden

For now, I'm not going to explain why I haven't written in this space or what we've been up to this last seven months because it I just want to write and write about now. I'll save explanations for another time.

We are now living with my parents in Palo Alto, California. Despite no snow and mild temperatures all through the winter, the plants still do us the favor of abiding by seasons and there is now a renewed liveliness in the garden as flowers bloom and reach for the sun and the bees, artichokes are already being cut from their stalks, raspberry canes grow and buds form, and we release ladybugs to conquer the aphids and set out praying mantis egg cases to eventually hatch and capture the ants and grasshoppers taking over the lettuce beds. Finding the occasional grub makes us all long for the farm life we've temporarily left behind as we miss our flock of chickens. Despite the pang of country life, we're making the best of the garden we have and it feels good.

Tomatos are in, raspberries are budding, artichokes and lettuces are producing, the radishes are petering out, the green plums are getting bigger, the citrus trees are done, and the blueberry bushes were choked out by the borage plants. It's time to put plant pumpkin, squash, and cucumbers and build an arch for the raspberries to climb. The roses and wildflowers need fertilizer. The painted lady chrysalides need another week before they emerge and dry themselves then venture out into the garden. Rufous hummingbirds are searching out the fuchsias and salvia.

Keats and Frida spend most of their days naked playing with water, finding bugs, riding tricycles, watering plants, digging in the dirt, and practicing using the toilet. Arguments feel less common outside. Realistically, they fight just as much, but their attention is easier to both distract and grab. In general, they are easier to talk to and much more attentive, but they still have tantrums, fight, and misbehave. Honestly, so do I. Being outside and keeping busy does wonders for each of us in our own ways. And for now, the spring garden is protecting each of us from wanting what we don't have and helping me to realize the perfection of Now.