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July 2016
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September 2016

August 2016

Lessons Do Sink In

IMG_3360Very proud of Harper.

We went to the Aquarium of the Pacific and I told her she could have a new toy from the gift shop. I also told her that meant when we got home, she had to pick one of her old toys to give away. (We say "to give to babies" for all things that she's outgrown.) It was a long drive home after the Aquarium and lunch but the minute she got in the house, she went straight to the toy box and picked out a toy for me to give to babies.

I had forgotten about in the hustle of getting home and emptying back-packs, etc. So when she went right to her room, it took me a minute to figure out what she was doing, digging through her toy box. Then she pulled a toy and said that one could go, but I had to convince her otherwise as it was the Totoro given to her by her cousin Jamie! Then she pulled out an old baby doll. Perfect. She then found the accompanying diaper and shirt and it was done.

Welcome new toy! Bon Voyage old toy!

Yay Harper.


Roller Skating Life Lessons - Lesson #2

Lesson #2 - Moonlight Rollerway (August 25 is Michael Jackson Skate Night!)

July 2, 2016

Ready! Better socks and slightly more relaxed, now that I know what it's like.

Once I warm up, I don't hold onto Jeff as much and I feel smoother, less tentative. But let's be real - still shaky. The two girls who are practicing with their coaches sail by, lovely, artistic. They stop on a dime, effortless on skates. I try to keep to a clear line so they know where I'm going and don't annoy them. I imagine them wondering who the fat old lady with pink hair is. But then I think: they aren't thinking about you at all, they are thinking ahead to nationals.

Did you know there are roller skating nationals? Like Ice Skating, but on wheels? I had no idea. Lincoln, Nebraska is home to the Roller Sports National Championships. Lincoln is also home to the National Museum of Roller Skating. Road trip! I have half a fantasy of making a documentary about Roller Skating Nationals. But that will have to wait.

I felt great in this lesson. I didn't fall and could see a future of just skating with ease and grace. No tricks, no fancy footwork, just confident fun skating. Jeff did try to start me on backward skating, but I was not ready. I couldn't get the opposite-balance thing going in my mind/body and that's okay, only second lesson, let's not rush. But I desperately need to work on my cross training.

The reason I started this to begin with is that I suddenly got plantar fasciitis in my right foot and can't walk or run for exercise - incredibly frustrating. I needed an alternative form of exercise to get into shape. Swimming I can do (I started to, then got a sinus infection, then my work schedule changed) and biking also (though I need to get a new bike as I only have a beach cruiser) - both are non impacting and good for me. But oh swimming. I did it for years through elementary and high school and it's not my favorite thing. Nothing to see except the bottom of the pool, lap after lap. I'll get back to it once this job is done, swim once or twice a week for variety, but it will never be my main source of exercise.

Somehow roller skating popped up in my brain and taking lessons made the most sense. Build some confidence, learn some skills, then apply that to skating on my own time, up and down the bike path near our house. Improve my fitness, increase my lung capacity, keep up with Harper, all that good stuff.

After this excellent lesson, I was feeling confident and got home and took Harper out on scooters. I used her Bigger Girl one, she used her old one. We scooted along well, having some fun, then on our way home, I hit a bump in the sidewalk and DOWN I WENT! Skinned up my left knee REAL good. Oh man. But thankfully, I only skinned my knee. Nothing else got hurt at all - miracle. Harper and I walked home. I felt like the fat old lady with pink hair. Confidence gone.

At least I didn't fall down in my lesson.


Geysers And Minefields Of Grief.

Grief is a constant companion.

Once Grief comes into your life, it is always with you. Not always in the forefront, but always there. There are daily (hourly) reminders of what you've lost. Sometimes the reminders are sweet and funny - memories of experiences you had, pictures of younger selves. And you can smile, feel nostalgic and sad, but mostly warmed by a good memory. Some reminders are bastards that come at you with force, knocking the wind out of you, making you wonder how on earth you've gotten this far, for this long without the person who died.

Fucking Grief.

Many things have brought Grief up lately. Our neighbor's mom died recently. She was 98 and her end was comfortable and good. As good as any unwanted end could be. I also had a conversation with Grace around that time about Jen and thinking about what we've all lost - we lost a mom, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a good friend, a kind person. My neighbor, whose grief is raw and new, talked with me about how it feels like a roller coaster, a minefield, a geyser. If only it were a geyser like Old Faithful, when you can anticipate the blasts of emotions and schedule around them. It's really more like a minefield.

When someone is ripped from your life, not only are they gone, but you get sent to Griefland without your consent. It's an alternate universe that looks exactly like this one but is full of mines. You pick your way through - sometimes you are blown apart, sometimes only mildly bruised. Though admittedly the "mildly bruised" part comes a long way after the initial arrival in Griefland. When you first arrive, you are simply blown apart the whole time. It takes a while but eventually you can put pieces of yourself back together long enough to withstand the next blasts.

Patton Oswalt is an actor and comedian I admire. His wife died a few months ago, unexpectedly and way too young. They have a seven year old daughter. He's in the desperately-trying-to-breathe-there's-not-enough-air-in-here phase of grief and he wrote an essay that starts with "Thanks Grief." (Read the full piece here.)

If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get 'em to love you back.

But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel "wiser." You will not have "closure." You will not have "perspective" or "resilience" or "a new sense of self."  You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. 

There is no "closure" when it comes to someone you love dying. They are gone and there is no coming back and you have to live with it. How can you close that loop when a giant piece of it is missing?

I'm obsessed with the Broadway show Hamilton. In the second act, there is an unexpected death and in the aftermath of it is a song called "It's Quiet Uptown" with these opening lyrics:

There are moments that the words don't reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you're in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

"It feels easier to just swim down." Lin-Manuel Miranda knows things.

When I first heard this song I was still reeling from the previous song in which the death takes place, so I didn't really hear this one. After a few more listens I just lovehate this opening verse. It's so beautifulawful. (I can't listen to this song unless I'm alone and not expecting to see anyone for a while so my eyes can recover from all the crying.)

The best advice I got about grief was "the only way out is through." Grief is pain and suffocating. Grief knocks you down, literally. Grief is confusing and messy.


You have to feel it all, experience it all, every day, one foot in front of the other. You can't suppress the feelings because they will wait and fester. You can't push them away and expect them to be gone. Those brutal feelings are never gone. It does get easier less hard. Later, eventually. In your own time. 

It's been eight years since Jen died, 10 since my dad died and 23 since my GrandmaJane died. Even now I still have pieces of grief I express about my grandma that are leftover from 1993 because I would not let myself feel those shocking horrible feelings. They are like pieces of shrapnel that work their way to the surface of my skin and finally come out.

The grief I have been working with lately is about not making any new memories. My analogy is that we are all in our own boats, sailing along together and at some point those who have died drop anchor. You can still see their colorful sails, but they get farther away. The memories will always be there, but without the person you shared them with, there is not a constant refreshing of those experiences, the laughter, the anger, whatever. You know what? I don't know what the hell the sailboat analogy is about. Except it's about desperately trying to make sense of something that you can't makes sense of. And I'm startled, sometimes daily, to realize my memories of Jen will fade more quickly then they should over time because she's not here to help me remember.

I'm still learning to live with the unimaginable. I'll never stop having to learn.

I wish for all of you that you don't get a ticket to Griefland for a long long time. If you are already there, walk carefully, but keep walking.


Roller Skating Life Lessons - Lesson #1

Lesson #1 - Moonlight Rollerway (Since 1950!)

June 25, 2016. 

Holy crap what am I doing here? I'm so nervous. There is a 17 year old girl out in the rink doing amazing things on 8 wheels and I wore the wrong socks. The teacher better get here soon or I'm going to bolt in a panic.

Up on skates, Jeff, the skating instructor, is very gracious, his voice and manner calm and soothing. He holds my hands and/or my arms. He's like a dance instructor, leading without making you feel incompetent. And what I am is incompetent.

I tell Jeff to treat me like any of his five year old students. I have no ego about being an almost 50 year old woman getting back on skates. (Or so I think-more on that in another lesson.) I get my feet under me after a few shaky circuits, I can propel myself in the most basic of skating ways, after a bit I can scooter push and do scissors. This is good.

SneakerskatesWhen was the last time I skated? Early 80's?* I'd coast mom's car backward out of the garage to make room, then sweep the pebbles out, lace the skates, turn music on, then go around and around and around in a tight little two-carport-garage-circle. My skates were blue sneaker style with white trim and laces. When we lived on Oahu, I had white boot style skates with metal wheels which must have been hand-me-downs from one of my sisters. My quick google search led me to these pictured at right - no toe stoppers? Amazing. I do have memories of skating into grassy lawns to slow down/stop or grabbing trees. But maybe I had skills enough to stop without any of that?MetalSkates

God, being a kid is great for physical stuff. No fear, low center of gravity and, most importantly, the joy of ignorant self confidence because at seven you haven't collected decades of self-doubt and -loathing to get in the way of trying new things. Or a good skate.

I remember Dor coming to visit once from the Big Island. I was nine or ten. Not sure how long she'd been staying but on her last night she was making lasagna (her specialty) and while she cooked, I skated. The window over the sink looked into the garage and we would talk. Details of the actual conversation are gone, but I recall Dor laughing and saying something about "Nini is ready for me to go home!" How could she read my mind? We'd had a fun visit, but I wanted to have my regular routine back. I tried to deny it to not make Dor feel bad. Looking back, I love that Dor (at 17 or so) had the insight to read me so well. I know now that I worked so hard to hide those kinds of feelings. I wonder if I was simply unable keep hiding them at the end of her visit or if the physical act of skating pushed those feelings out of my body and made it obvious.

I didn't fall in my first lesson with Jeff, a huge achievement. The muscles in my feet were tired as were my thighs, but otherwise I felt great. I would get the hang of this again in no time!

I'd had a wacky idea: Roller Skating lessons! And I didn't back out of it. Feel the fear, do it anyway.

But I didn't really know what there was to fear yet.




*The couple of times I roller bladed in the mid-90's didn't stick.