Sunday, July 17, 2016

praying again

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris, by Melissa Mathieson

It's been awhile since I've prayed. Why? The most honest answer I can come up with is that I just plain haven't felt like it. I'm still angry with my maker for allowing such a tragic end to my sister's life. Of all people ... She was a Jesus follower to the core! How can anyone even begin to make sense of something like that?

Almost every day I'm hearing stories of evil in the world — each one seemingly more horrible than the last — and there's an extra pang in my heart for the victims of these atrocities and their loved ones. But here's the thing ...  in spite of the evil and madness, there continues to be love, laughter, and beauty in the world, and in my life. How it all can exist simultaneously is hard to get my head around, but darned if it does.

So, yes, I'm praying again, but my soliloquies have got to be sounding a bit different to their recipient. Instead of literally coming to Jesus in my "prayer spot" overlooking the ocean near my former home in the Pines by the Sea (hey, it was nice while it lasted!), I find myself coming to my maker in random moments during my day simply to say Thank You. I'm feeling compelled to do this more and more, in spite of the fact that a madman recently plowed down hundreds of people with his truck on Bastille Day evening in Nice, France, killing 85 of them. All of this while my daughter, studying abroad, was not far from the scene that very night enjoying fireworks by the Eiffel tower. While I must throw up my hands and say, "What the hell, God?" I must also thank him for protecting my girl, and providing her with opportunities to enjoy her life to the fullest in a wonderful foreign land. I just got a text from her ... she has a free day on her agenda and is shopping on the streets of Paris at this very moment. (:

Perhaps prayer is acknowledging the good and simply omitting the bad ... coming before God in sheer appreciation and gratitude, while thoroughly admitting I don't understand the roots of evil, madness, bigotry, selfishness, sickness, pain, natural disasters or why people I love have to die. Prayers for peace and comfort? I suppose, but if he has the power to grant these things, wouldn't he also have the power to stamp out evil, etc.,  altogether? I am clearly not going to figure this out at my computer on a Sunday morning.

Truth is, my God has plopped me right here in the middle of the Garden of Eden surrounded by love and light. Doesn't he deserve to be acknowledged and praised for this?

For now, the Thank You prayer is all I've got. Maybe it's all I need?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

transitional time

It's been a while since I've checked into this blog. Just haven't felt like my creative self in, oh, the past couple of years, really. I'm no longer a "single" mom — moved in with my partner Lloyd a little over a year ago. I now reside in beautiful Santa Barbara, a whole different kind of Paradise than foresty Cambria ... palm trees and all! I imagined a picture-perfect existence in SB ... I'd finally be with my man 24/7 while making a decent paycheck (for a change) at a job I landed before I moved south. But the job turned out to be not so great and I found myself desperately looking for a way out. Worst of all, I lost my dear sister/best friend — a victim of a tragic circumstance (see previous blog entry). To say her death was the most horrifying shock of my life would be a huge understatement.

I needed to take a breather and simplify my life. I somehow landed a part-time job as an administrative assistant to the marketing director of our local community college — the same school my daughter attends. The position is perfect for me! (My sister would've called this a "God thing.") So my recent days have consisted of work in the morning, walking the dog (I forgot to tell you we got the cutest Pug puppy!), napping, and cooking for my man. With my part time schedule, I'd have lots of time to write, I told myself ... which of course, I haven't done! But that's OK.

Apparently, when you go though large doses of life changes and tragedies, you need a good amount of veg time to let it all sink in — at least I do. I'm thankful for afternoon naps, a rambunctious puppy, and a supportive man in my life. Oh, and great new friends and coworkers! Because of their healing powers I find myself crying less, smiling more, and better able to see myself as a competent, creative soul. Or maybe I'm just hearing my sister's voice telling me I am!

I've been offered a full-time position at work and I've decided to take it. I am ready.

Friday, January 30, 2015



Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people
do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the
same town as the lilies of the field,
 and the still waters.

Spring, and all through the neighborhood now there are
strong men tending flowers.

Beauty without purpose is beauty without virtue. But
all beautiful things, inherently, have this function -
to excite the viewers toward sublime thought. 
Glory to the world, that good teacher.

Among the swans there is none called the least,
 or the greatest.

I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. 
Also in singing, 
especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.

As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.

~ Mary Oliver

Sunday, December 28, 2014

an incomprehensible truth

Kathy 1961-2014

On my ongoing list of impossible-to-grasp life concepts I plan to bring to my maker upon my own demise, GRIEF gets its own subtitle. Why is it that post tragedy, some days we are perfectly fine — as if nothing bad ever happened — and can just as easily work, shop, watch TV, even laugh ... in total denial of the gaping holes in our hearts? And why, when we have already endured and valiantly recovered from the pain of past losses and tragedies, well deserving of our sweet happy endings, does it get heaped on us again in full force?

If you are thinking, God, that we are supposed to deal any better this time, I am afraid you are sorely mistaken. 

My sister Kathy, a well-loved home school choir director in Austin, Texas, was brutally murdered in her home in the early morning hours of December 6, just 22 days ago. Her body was discovered by her son, my nephew, later that afternoon. (Kathy's son is 23; her daughter, 22 ... both recent college graduates launching their adult lives.) The police initially said the killer was someone she knew — there was no sign of a break in. After more than three weeks, no arrest has been made. We are still in shock, devastated, sad, angry, and frustrated, and in dire need of progress on the part of the part of the police. Something about this has to make sense. They have to get this guy.

Being that the investigation is still underway, I am not going to get into who we think was the perpetrator. But our family has its theory, and is praying the detectives find concrete evidence to book this deranged person. When he did this his only intent was to hurt my sister; he was too selfish to realize the many other lives he damaged through his unimaginable act of violence, most notably my mother, who has now lost two of her three children (my brother to AIDS in 2003), in addition to her husband and mother, in a just over a decade. 

I miss my sister and will miss our long phone conversations in which we updated each other on our kids' lives and helped each other through the perils of toxic men in our lives. Kathy was going through Al-anon and had made great headway into loving herself and understanding the root of her unhealthy choices with manipulative partners. Our most recent conversations centered around our childhood home — the good and the not-so-good of it. Important discoveries on both our parts in those talks, coupled with lots of laughs at stories and situations only the two of us would understand. 

Did I mention I miss her?

Monday, September 1, 2014

what women want (from their men)

Women want to be heard, appreciated, and desired.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

in an instant

Back in the day: Dad with my (now 18-year-old) girl, who starts college next week.

My daughter moved down south to attend college two days ago and I gotta admit, it's hitting me hard — this is my baby girl we're talking about! Lucky for me, I'll be relocating to the same city in a matter of weeks, moving in with my man, and starting a new job there. My last day working at the magazine was yesterday and, although I'm moving on to bigger and better things, it was more than heartbreaking to say goodbye to my family of coworkers. I'll miss them dearly! Oh, and leaving my son and many, many good friends and family members too ... losses upon losses!

So why am I so consumed with thoughts of my dad lately? Is there really room in my brain for this? He left us 10 years ago (this month) and I find myself reliving the day I learned of his death. We'd just experienced the death of my brother and months later, my marriage ended (rather abruptly ... see other blog entries) — and now this. I was running a home preschool then, it was midday, and I had only one little girl in my care. She was sitting at the dining table and I was fixing her a snack. My phone rang and the man on the other end introduced himself as the coroner. "Is this Kirsten, the daughter of Tim? We are calling to tell you we've found your father and he is deceased" ... or something to that effect. The words I heard were so massive I couldn't begin to process them. And in a way, I still haven't. How is it possible that in one day, with one phone call, one's world can change so completely? It appeared my dad experienced a massive heart attack, they told me. The business of informing my mom and sister, and cleaning up the room he'd died in (he'd been there for days) needed to be attended to. I kicked it gear and decided I'd deal with the emotions later.

I'd just spoken to dad days before receiving the phone call from the coroner. Later I realized that we talked on very night he died. He was giddy with excitement — he and my mom had just sold the house they were living in and he'd met with a realtor that day to see a new home doors down from the home of his childhood friend. He couldn't wait to show the place to mom, who was visiting her sister in Michigan. Normally, and especially then, our phone conversations centered around my life and my news, and he was never short of a listening ear and great fatherly advice, which I always desperately needed. But that night he was simply calling to share HIS good news. After all he and my mom had been through (would take numerous blog entries to adequately explain), they were finally going to have their happy ending — I couldn't be more thrilled for him!

Later, when my mom, sister, and I went to my parents house, there were telltale signs he was eating ice cream that evening. It is a comfort to know that my father, who was a deep thinker and prone to depression, was not only truly happy, but also eating ice cream the night he died.

Anyhoo, during what turned out to be our last phone conversation ever, I neglected to tell dad I'd  scheduled a job interview at the office of a horse magazine near my home. Would he have thought it was a good idea to work there?  I'll never know, but I ended up taking the job— the first big life decision I made without his guidance. Since then, I often wonder, "What would dad think of me doing this?" or, "I have no clue what do do here!" I guess when I think about it, dad's still speaking to me along the way, but instead of guidance, he offers only encouragement. "Well done," he says.

Funny how these yearly anniversaries broadside you, even though you swear there's nothing to the theory. Now, almost ten years after that fateful day, more "instant" changes: You wake up one day and that's the day your daughter no longer lives in your house. You wake up two days later and you are no longer working at your job of 10 years. More losses to grieve, yes, but also many new wonderful experiences and possibilities ahead. And your father's comforting voice ringing in your ear: "Well done!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

i heart you

A few weekends ago my girlfriend and I met for our Saturday morning hike along the Bill Kerr Trail; one of those excursions where you start off walking and talking and before you know it an hour has passed and it seems like you just began. Along the path we came to a clearing and noticed someone had fashioned a huge heart from fresh roses — likely the site of a lovely little wedding ceremony in the woods. You don't see this every day. I wanted to take a picture, but, of course, didn't bring my camera. Without hesitation, my peach of a hiking companion whipped out her smart phone and proceeded to climb the spectacular oak tree that stood above the makeshift heart. (Legendary, she informed me. The Chumash indians believed this very oak was sacred and held secrets to the afterlife.) What are you doing?" I asked, incredulously. "You can't really get a good picture unless you take it from above," she said.

I returned home and checked my email — she'd already sent me the photo. What a treasure! When I look it now, I think of my friend — heroically wobbling on a branch for me, lending an open ear when I have infinities to pour out, reinforcing the idea that I have great worth as a person on this planet  — and conclude: THIS is love! Who's to say one's connection with — and admiration for — a good girlfriend (and vice-versa) isn't every bit as valuable as a the love of a woman for her man on her wedding day? Dare I say, maybe even more so!