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!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

my way?

At my stepsister's wedding reception a few years ago, the DJ asked everyone for requests from the dance floor. My then 17-year-old son quipped: "My Way." Haha … at a wedding! I love that boy.

He's always been a "my way or the highway" kind of kid. Yes, good manners, kindness, and respect have been prominently stressed in our home and all are very much a part of his character. But I love that he also owns who he is and stays pointed in that direction, give or take a couple of wrong turns that he's quickly corrected. I wish I were more that way. Most of my life decisions (as a mom, at least) have been centered around what's best for the boy and his sister — and the few times I've strayed from this ideal I've been met with devastating results ... i.e. moving all of us in with my less-than-kind boyfriend when the kids were in their adolescent years. Yeah, that didn't exactly work to anyone's advantage.

But I digress. Point is, do you ever feel that you only exist just to blow in whatever direction the wind takes you? There's a judge and jury inside me that's trying to decide if this is an acceptable way to live Kirsten's life. I am accommodating by nature, likely a coping mechanism from a somewhat dysfunctional childhood. Shouldn't I be more adamant about getting what I want instead of trying to please everyone else all of the time? Wouldn't a therapist tell me this would be healthy?

Fact is, the proverbial clock is ticking and it seems I've reached the chapter in my life's guidebook that proclaims: After the youngest child graduates high school — actually happening in a few months — Kirsten finds a nice guy, settles down, and lives happily ever after. Check the nice guy part and thank you, God. But there are so many uncertainties with my children and his children that we find ourselves putting aside our grand plans, temporarily, for their benefit. It's tough out there when you're approaching college, in college, or are a recent college graduate ... and we both believe it's our role as parents to provide them with the safety nets they need. Be that as it may, the 13-year-old rebel inside my head is screaming "that's not fair!!!" Most days I tell her to shut up and that's that, but others ... dammit if she's not the most self-righteous and convincing voice on the planet.

A good lawyer would make a solid argument that I have not regretted one sacrifice I've made for the sake of my children's wellbeing, nor will I regret further sacrifices I make for them down the road — which is totally true.

"I hate lawyers!" screams my teenage self.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Thanks, google. I might not have known it was the first day of spring! Or maybe I would, had I stopped for two seconds to observe my own surroundings. But Google, and the fact that I arose, wide awake, at 5:00 a.m. this morning, has forced that pause. Change is in the air, for sure, but instead of embracing all that is new and wonderful, I'm frankly, freaking out. Also, my rheumatoid arthritis is flaring up. Well, damn. The part of my being that thrives on order and routine is being shaken to its core and I fear I'm not up to the task — mentally or physically — to adapt to an unforeseeable future. Hell, I'm lucky if I remember to put the trash out on trash day. Thursday, right? Shoot. Add another task to my morning to-do list.

My daughter is graduating from high school in a few short months. I am so proud of the person she's become and I have no doubt that she'll go on to do amazing things with her life. Artistic and creative things. Brilliant things. Same with my boy, who's in the middle of his college career and has decided to become a writer — an apt career choice, being that he has so much to say and a way with words that's off the charts brilliant! There I go bragging about my kids again and overusing the word brilliant. Point is, this period — in which the kids are well on their paths to becoming adults —was to be the springboard (hey, pun!) for the next chapter in my life. Finally, the answer to the question "when is it MY turn?"

But, as usual, it seems things aren't going to go exactly as planned. You'd think I'd have learned by now that real change involves 25 percent disappointment, 25 percent graceful adaptation, and 50 percent faith in an all-knowing God. Or is it 100 percent in the God thing? Yes, probably. The most wonderful examples of this, for me, come with this season. Neurotic people like me fight it, but all one has to do is look outside — one day you're a bud on a stem and the next you're a rose in full bloom.  Then comes, summer, fall, winter ... and you get to do it all over again. Brilliant!

Photo by Melissa

Friday, January 3, 2014

by Krista Lukas

The stillness, the radio's news,
the scent of rain. My neighbor
bending to pick up his newspaper
in its orange plastic bag, tossed
on the step. The cars all
heading this way or that,
a fine spray beneath their wheels. Vapor
rising from sidewalks, and the light
of the eastern sun, slanting long, as if
there's all the time in the world.

"Morning" by Krista Lukas, from Fans of My Unconscious. © The Black Rock Press, 2013.