Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Growin' Up.

It dawned on me the other day as Lily,while brushing her teeth in the buff, said to me:

Mama. Go. I need my privacy.

That I am now truly sharing the bathroom with her.

She's nearing three, not 12.
She rifles through my make-up.
Insists on her outfits.
Comments on mine.

Mama. Stop singing.

Since when am I not cool anymore?
Isn't this supposed to come later?
Thankfully, I am allowed to sing on occasion. I am permitted to sing her to sleep, I am invited to join in on certain songs but typically I am interrupted, her hands dramatically gesturing, commanding -

No. Stop. Stop.

And with that, I am banished to parentland.

But as consumed as she is with growing up, she is still very much my little girl.
And I love her so.
Last night when I returned home (and found her out of bed)her caregiver declared,

She said she wanted to wait for her best friend to come home.

Yes, it was a ploy, but I'll take it.
This morning, sitting on my lap as I helped her wriggle into her ballet leotard,

We're good friends, Mama.

She is the best.
Mature and childlike in a beautiful, experimental way. She is exploring what it is to be self aware, she speaks of her feelings, she is sensitive.
She pecks me on the lips when she senses she's hurt me.
She is nurturing toward her older man, Jake.
And just the other night, while running and laughing, hand in hand, Jake looked at her and said

We have so much fun together, Lily!

I will never forget that. And I told her she must not either. Girls don't typically hear such effusive and honest declarations from boys.
Or perhaps they do.
Perhaps she will.
Go Lily.

But not too fast.

And last night as she went down to sleep,
I'm not tired Mama.
OK Pumpkin, just take it easy and I think you will fall asleep.
OK, I will just take a lot of easys and then you will come in on your bed and sing to me?
Yes Sweet Pea. I love you. Sweet dreams.
I love you, Mama.

And again, she is my babe.
To quote a friend's mother as she described her now grown child,

She is the daughter every woman wants.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter Blues.

I just took a look at Mt. Tam.
Couldn't help myself.
I woke up with touch of melancholy, feeling out of sorts, tired and yearning for change.
And then I found some pictures of that beautiful mountain and it helped.
A bit.
Its beauty is unparalleled - so much that photos look retouched.
But if you've been there, you know they have not been.

And it made me just want to be above the clouds.
Just for a few minutes, nature in all its glory, undulating hills that breathe with life in utter silence. A blanket of fog resting gently below.

I can't wait to take Lily there, to experience the expanse.
To dance and run along the mountaintop.
If only we could click our heels.
She'd love it. Good air. Dry brush. Smells perfect.
And you really feel above it all.
Nice to get away, even if only in my mind.

Lily was asking about her dad recently and I told her how I like to think of him as being in the nature all around us. That we don't get to see him like other kids see their dads but we can talk about him, look at pictures of him - and feel him in our hearts.
And in the wind and the rain.

We can dream about him! She said.
Yes, we can Pumpkin, we can.

Her "magination" is exploding, she tells me of her dreams, her illustrations are taking shape, her dress up is vibrant, her humor - a riot.
Just the other day after we battled all morning like mother and teen daughter, she followed me into the bathroom,
I want you to be happy, Mama.
I am, Pumpkin, but you need to listen more.
I don't want you to be upset anymore, Mama.
I won't be, Lily, but I'm tired and still a bit upset.
Can you do this, Mama?

I looked down, and there she was smiling at me.

My master manipulator.

Yes I can, Lily.
You happy mama?
She kisses my leg.
Yes Lily, I am.

Most times.
But days like today, I wish we were elsewhere.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hi My Love.

Today, in my heart, you are 48.
So tonight, as we have done for the past three years, the posse is gathering at Firehouse - to celebrate you. We'll have wings, beer.
Laugh and cheer.
Fries and grilled cheese will be added to the menu, for Lily and her friends.
Jake is mildly obsessed with the legacy of his Uncle Alan.
He and Lily are attached at the hip.
Most times.
They love and bicker like old people.
He will be in attendance, possibly with Stella.
Chris' son Jackson will be there, Raina and Gabe, Ruby and Olivia too.
Your favorites.

Black and Whites, of course, will circulate.

But everyday I celebrate you.
We all do.
You are with us always, yes?

I've snapped a few (OK, many) pictures of Lily recently and they're you at that age.
And she occasionally has an x-ray stare that brings you before us.

We went to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving and she brought a pound of pebbles from "The Wave Hill" for Jiji's garden. She played with her West Coast buddies, Madeleine, Henry, Baby Jacob and Simone and Addison.
She had a blast.
She fed, read and sang to the cat.
"He doesn't like Hello Everybody" she reported.
I assured her it couldn't have been her singing.

"When will I grow up Mom?" She asked me recently.
She is intent on becoming "a bigger girl".

Surprisingly, she was weepy to return home.
Usually she is glad to land in NYC, like her dad, most comfortable in her original surroundings. But this time, she had a bit of wanderlust, happy like her mom, to be on another shore, to breath in the fresh air - scented subtly with burning wood.

I had a great dinner with Gillian and Lois (while my mom succumbed to Lily's ultra-creative anti-sleep tactics) and it warmed my heart to be with them. On the way home I got to blast Over the Hills and Far Away followed by Landslide courtesy of the radio.
And I wept for our landslide and smiled and wept that we only got to walk a while but also because I have so much.
Both beautiful reminders of things past and present -

Yes I'm getting older too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It all comes back.

Saturday night I went with a good friend to see Gillian Welch at The Beacon and it was a beautiful, serene evening of sweet acoustic guitar and rich, angelic harmonies. A glorious evening to cap a brisk Autumn day. It felt so good to hear live music, adult music, gentle and soulful. I melted into my seat and took it all in. And as my eyes grazed the artfully restored theater I remembered that the last time I had been there was a few years ago. Alan wasn't well, and a friend called me with last minute back stage passes to see some blues rock performers. GO Alan insisted, he was frequently urging me to get out, be social - to divert my attention elsewhere. So I went. Flew twenty blocks South and spent an evening in the wings, being recharged by driving guitars - loud, insistent,encouraging. I felt guilty and invigorated, couldn't believe that I got to enjoy an evening that he couldn't make. The second the show ended I raced home. He was fine, and probably enjoyed the absence of my hovering shadow. Nurse Snoosie he'd call me. I took my role of friend, lover, wife, caregiver oh so seriously. Alan found my Florence Nightingale tendencies amusing.

I loved every time I got a smile or a chuckle out of him.
He helped me laugh at myself too.

So this time around I welled up during the first set, marveling, yet again, at what time had delivered. Loss, birth and rebirth. But this time it was Lily who was at home with her beloved Tio and though I felt the guilt of leaving her there (she loves a "music show"), I was able to smile inside, knowing she was just fine - and perhaps she too was relieved to have me out of the house. She had her uncle there to love, direct, and play with. She loves him so.

Alan loved October.
It was his favorite month.
I think it was the seasonal change, the crisp air, the colors.
I like it too.
The trees shed their leaves in preparation for rest.

For reawakening.

I guess that's where I am too right now.

At my mother-in-law's wedding as Lily and her cousin plucked aging leaves from some low and vulnerable branches, her cousin said "Let's let the wind take them! Let's let the wind take them" - a good plan, I reflected.

Some things are best ushered away by the wind.
It'll all come back with Spring, redressed and refreshed.

To be seen in a new light.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Wedding (and a funeral)

Lily went to her first wedding this weekend, for her beloved Granny.
It was a beautiful, blustery, grey to sunny day.
A child of the new millennium, she witnessed a commemoration only recently legal.
She looked forward to it for weeks, walked flittingly down the garden path, flower basket in the crook of her arm, was all smiles for her family and friends, and was in Puck-like motion throughout the entire ceremony.
She did finally sit.
At the end of the ceremony - that is, after the glass was crushed, as everyone clapped and stood and proceeded to the grass, Lily perched on the edge of her chair.

Still exhausting, my girl.
Forever in motion.
And I missed much of it.

As a consolation, I told myself that if Alan had been there, since it was his mother, I would have offered to do the chasing anyway. But I would have also told him - this is why I wanted to bring a sitter.

Ah me. Still two hands and one heart short.

To think he missed such an important, love filled and monumental occasion.
And his grandfather just passed as well.
At 102.
Where did those genes go?
Alan should have been here.
For both.

Instead, I imagine him up above, in the air somewhere - greeting his Pop, with his dad and Gram at his side.
What a surprise he must have been.
For all of them.
Surely they all sat together and watched approvingly from above.

In that "otherworld" where I envision them all to be, I always imagine their spirits can only feel great happiness and joy. Sadness and disappointment are felt but not to any great depth - they are fleetingly felt and then shed; a brief grey wash and then the warmer colors take over. Pain is no longer a burden, they only see the positive side of things. It helps me to temper my own sadness, to keep a level perspective.

Must have been the palette on Saturday.
Whitewash giving way to golden glow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

There She Goes.

For some time Lily has been saying
"I'm going to school in September."

And after a fun school picnic a week ago, staged outside a beautiful and imposing church, she's now been inside.
There was much anticipation, discussion, a bit of apprehension and outfit changing. She refused hair clips and ponytails, in favor of her let-it-flow shag, finally paired a shirt with leggings, insisted on bringing a purse, a ladybug backpack with additional purses, a few music shakers and other important items inside.

They all remained in her cubby.

She spent the morning in somewhat of a quiet, observational mode.

Just like her dad, taking it all in.

But some of her energetic spark broke through - she cooked in the kitchen, took care of six babies, washed her hands three times at the perfect height sink, found and hoarded scarves and shakers, did a few puzzles. I was able to step outside the room a couple of times, to minimal protest, and when class finished she rushed to the door, poked her head out and excitedly told me "Mama! School's over!". She made it through a transitional hour just fine, and even exclaimed "that was fun!". She later recounted to her Granny that her favorite part of the morning was snack.

Just like her mama, Alan would surely have joked.

Big day.
For us both.
Moving forward separately, together.

She has an insatiable curiosity and days are loaded with questions, which are getting harder to answer. I'm hoping her teachers will help me out.

Why did Humpty Dumpty fall? Why couldn't they put him back together?

Did his body break? (Loaded? Or straight-forward question?)

Why was the baby/cradle in the tree?
Who put it there? (Irresponsible lyrics.)

And as of last night, Why is Bonnie in the Ocean?

How does one explain to a two and a half year old that Bonnie means pretty, should really be paired with Lass which is another name for a girl and that she lies over the ocean, not in it, which means she's really on the other side of it, and that the sea is kind of like an ocean?

Please, Raved-About-Lauded-WidelyPraised-Wonderful-School,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Addendum to yesterday.

Despite my gripes about NYC, it is embedded with texture that is beautifully unique. When I saw this commercial last night on the crest of a loaded week, it made me cry.

And smile.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Forever Remembered.

It is hard to believe that this day, ten years ago, loss happened over and over and over again. I did little in commemoration today, but I can't say it takes a day like this to remember and honor every life that was so senselessly taken. I doubt anyone that lived in this city or it's boroughs will ever forget the all consuming grief, shock and despair. The spontaneous comraderie and the feeling of helplessness. It all resonates with me. I have wondered how all of the children, unborn at the time, are faring - having lost a beloved parent they never met. It's my greatest point of reference, a tragic source of kids who are living and learning about the parent they never knew.
Eight years ahead of Lily.

I think they must be shining.
And they must know that they carry beautiful spirits within them.

I remember during one of Alan's hospital stays, he had a roommate that was either a policeman or a firefighter and we were fairly confident from visitors and overheard conversations he had been a 9/11 responder. He was married with kids and he'd be angry if his wife was home with them or working. There was a moment when he really needed something and I went to the other side of the curtain to help. When his wife showed up he was angry, vulnerable and scared.
You just lost your man, he said.
I'll never forget it.
Nor will she.
But what do you do when you're financially tapped and you're torn between watching over your kids or your husband? She was tormented and I could hear the desperation in both of their voices. I prayed that wouldn't be us. And to hear tonight that still, cancer patients that were there, working amid such toxic dust are not yet compensated for their treatment disgusts me. The selflessness of everyone that put their lives on the line and are now, consequently losing their own, was remarkable. Healthcare coverage in this country, or lack thereof, is discriminating enough and the torment of wondering if you can afford to try to save a life as you struggle to save it is torture enough. So to see this country we live in, deny its greatest heros of well earned assistance, is ... is... shameful.

They deserve more than thanks.

Lily and I visited a fire station and I'm sure many firefighters today have survivor guilt.
Not fun.
But they were quietly kind, inviting and gracious and it was sweet to hear my girl, prompted, say
Thank you for helping to keep us safe.
Too early for a lesson about 9/11 but never too young to understand the kindness and generosity of New York's Finest.

Yesterday, flitting in the sprinklers with her closest buddy, he asked her where her daddy was. Without skipping a beat, wiping water from her face she said, "He died".

They went on playing.

She is learning to cope, and comprehending in her own way what she can. When I saw some of the 9/11 in utero babes (now pre-teens) today, standing courageously and proudly next to their surviving parent - honoring those who cannot be with them, I felt sure that Lily will be OK.

There will be a life long void. But she has Alan's strength, our combined resilience,a thoughtful soul, and role models in these surviving kids.

I hope from them she will draw strength and inspiration.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Today is our anniversary.
Four years. (Would have been.)
But we never made it to one.
Together that is.
Still miss him and love him like crazy, and it's hard to believe so much has happened since then.
I had our girl.
And she's growing up.
It is easier to measure my life, post Alan, in Lily minutes - because it is mostly she who has kept me afloat and helped me to find my sea legs in the past two and a half years.

But I am here, and grateful for it.

This time four years ago we were on the eve of newly wedded bliss.
We got a taste of it. Buzzing on a moped in the Aeolian islands, on ocean roads in Sicily, wandering the streets of Florence. But even at the end of our honeymoon, Alan's hand often rested on his chest. I can forever see him posed that way. His ribs were hurting, we knew something was up. We had coasted since a major surgery in July, so, I guess, we were due for a reality check.

Got it.
Still wildly happy in love, and achingly saddened by what hung in the balance.

New tumors, cracked ribs.

Italy at least still lingered, fresh in our minds.
And the love and excitement that floated us through an amazing, family and friend filled celebration, had left our hearts near bursting with happiness and the kind of joy that always feels good to remember.

It still is hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that Lily is aware of none of it/this. She knows her dad and will continue to do so through me and her extended family. I just wish she could have a moment with Alan. To experience his humor, to climb into his lap, sit on his shoulders, taste his Bananas Foster.

Mmmmmmmm... Yummyyyy!! She'd say. That's GOOD. She'd exclaim.
I love hearing her satisfaction.

September now marks the eve of pre-school.
Lily is ready.
Dressing herself with regular wardrobe changes, testing the boundaries, challenging my decisions, picking my outfits, riding her tricycle and scooter with ease, doing everything herself.

And she continues to fill the air with song.
I used to love hearing Alan hum. It filled me with happiness to hear him momentarily unfettered by dark thoughts.
And now Lily buzzes around gleefully (most of the time) and I savor the repeat performances.

Recently while we were playing together, with her back to me, she said -
You happy mama?
Yes Pumpkin I am.
Because you're here and you make me soooo happy. Are you happy Lily?
Yes, she says quietly, focused on her beads.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Comes With Age. (I guess?)

Two and a half this month and although Lily has always been a particularly independent child, she has become even more so. Tantrums fill the air after Cybil style comments like this:
I want them
I don't want them
No I want THEM!!!
No I don't want them
Mama I waaaaaaannnnnnttt them
NO I don't want them.

OK. Whew. Cold pancakes now going in garbage after sitting untouched for an hour, igniting tantrum #1 for the day at 9:15am.

Exhausting. I think this is about being 2.5? Control of ones actions and the need to assert oneself? I will hope that this ends in six months if not sooner. But it ominously reeks of adolescence and I'm definitely not accepting that it's beginning now.

No thanks.

Oh. And does taking a little chair over to the front door and undoing two Medeco locks and letting oneself out into the hall fall under the same assert-my-independence category?

Not.... cool.

I also clearly recollect my mom laying out my outfits the night before school. Can still see the the plaid dress with white turtleneck there on the rocker, its outline bathed in moonlight. But Lily, not yet in school now picks out her own outfits most days. And I am not to help her.

Go in da other room.

OK Pumpkin, just call me if you'd like some help.

OK. She says definitively, with distracted excitement, focused determination.

She's pretty good. Color matching a bit off, things sometimes inside out, but generally, maybe I should regard this as my teen toddler making mornings easier? Lies them out on the floor first, after multiple selections are reviewed and makes her selection.

Perhaps Alan is trying to assist from above. To lighten the load? Maybe that's why she briefly went for the heavy knit Yankee sweater this morning with the outside air already in the mid to high 70s... We were successful in diverting her attention and she then came out with a perfect, slightly large, woven hand-me-down shift dress (for a four year old, but we're looking ahead, right?)and she donned it skillfully with only distanced supervision from her Granny who subtly assisted with a mis-routed arm.

The dressing I can take, the front door exits and tantrums I can do without.
But maybe those are next on Alan's list.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

City Mouse/Country Mouse.

We got out of town.
Lily, James (invisible friend) and I.
The plane ride to Ca. is a long one, and Lily, as only Lily seems to be able to do, remained amped and awake the entire flight until the pilot announced the descent. Then she crashed hard, as though sleeping potion induced, to my relieved but frustrated consternation at this travel pattern she has mastered.

5.5 hours.

My mother and mother-in-law have now witnessed this "flying style" first hand.
They think it's amusing.

But touch down had me elated and Northern Ca. immediately restores my spirit.
Was sooo nice.
Too quick, ever busy, but we got some fresh air.
More hand-me-downs.
And love.
From cousins and grandparents and aunties and a loving uncle and friends. Her NY Granny and BebeO came with us for part of the time so Lily got to show them around her garden, and we were able to share with them some Left Coast Family Hang Time. Was very, very nice. Lily, very much like her Grandpa, enjoys having the entire family together. So she was ecstatic to have so many friends and family join us for a kick-off dinner.

We also relished in lots of outdoor quiet.
So nice to relax under the stillness of the sun, warm rays, no noise but distant leaf blowers or rustling leaves. The sounds of birds taking flight from their perches. Barking dogs. Pool sweep random spouts of water.
Ahhh, suburbs....

We breakfasted outside and Lily unintentionally shared her waffle with a Blue-Jay.
It was a bit unsettling for her but we thought maybe it was a Mama Bird who flew off to her nest to share with her family so then Lily didn't feel so violated.
She was finished anyway. She-who-has-entered-a-hopefully-short-term-era-of-tantrums is protective of her belongings, even if not using them - but she took the waffle abduction in stride, and busied herself with watering the patio and it's plants instead.

We also had sleepovers with her cousins and that was the icing on the cake. We drove with her Uncle Dave (Unca Dave!! Unca Dave!!) to pick them up at camp - so Lily toured their classrooms and delighted in their playgrounds. Pre-school begins next month so it was a taste of the New World for her to see a school up close. Addison and Simone scaled structures and swung from monkey bars while Lily scrambled up and down curly slides, lounged on "the moon" (a tunnel), washed her hands and opened/closed doors in multiple playhouses.

She trailed them with excitement and awe.

We also ventured to Santa Cruz for some beach and rides and fries, and perhaps the best part, for me, was turning around in the front see to see them all asleep in their car seats. Family frozen in rest mode, as we curved past redwoods, and cruised alongside dry, brown, rolling hills crowned with stately oaks.
Beautiful in so many ways.

When we returned to NYC, Lily greeted the closets and crib and made sure our apartment was in order. Like her dad, she doesn't like to be far from home for too long.

Trying to balance a California/New York state of mind.

Will channel husband and daughter.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Some days. (All I Want)

Some days are much better than others.
Today is not one of THOSE.
In fact this week, this month, feels pretty shitty much of the time.
Just does.
I am lonelier than I have ever been.
I am finding it hard to breathe in such a small space for me and my two and a half year old. And the options seem... in far away places with no job prospects.


The hope has been, post Alan,to move to Brooklyn - mainly for a few more trees, quieter streets, and a family community that isn't suburbs but isn't city either. But the neighborhoods that are established are exhorbitently priced and I'm not sure I like the choices so much anymore.
I grew up in the suburbs.
And while I don't want that necessarily for Lily, nor myself, I would like a happy medium. Some more trees on the streets, a bit more breathing room, fewer car alarms, less trash, exhaust, and did I say breathing room?

Breathing Room.

Feels good just to look at the words.
I don't want an apartment with amazing city views. Honestly? That image makes me contract (OK, I'd take Central Park). I would like green branches outside our windows. I don't want a roof deck with a view of an industrial waterfront, I don't want to have to march up four floors, I don't want windows looking onto brick walls and stairwells, the thought of a massive apartment complex gives me claustrophobia.

I want neighborhood. A garden. Sunlight. Space. A non closet size room for Lily. Love for myself. A stimulating job. Closet space. A breeze through the window. A kitchen with a large counter-top.
And a washer & dryer.

I can dream.

When Alan and I were planning together we contemplated life in towns on the Hudson River. And Brooklyn. And Jersey. With him - we could have afforded a home in those areas and as a family,as a FAMILY of three or perhaps more, we might have been more isolated but we'd have neighborhood friends and the comfort of our own company. We wouldn't have needed so much at our doorstep. But as an only parent with a toddler I think those areas wouldn't be a wise move.
More isolation. More loneliness.

So the world seems to be shrinking, rather than expanding. And I'm not happy about it. Today, at least.
Though two friends just lifted my spirits up tremendously in different ways.
I need a neighborhood of sorts that we can immerse ourselves in, so there is contact with other life - sounds extreme, but that's how I feel.
That's what I need.
What I'd like.
What I crave.
I have always been OK with doing things on my own, that, I actually enjoy. But because I am a "lone" parent I need human contact.
Not colonnades in suburbia.

And there is SO much I do love about NYC. It is wildly stimulating and gushes with life - even with the grime and AC drips. There is a clip in a Sesame Street episode where an artist constructs an animal out of plastic bags, attaches it limply to a subway sidewalk vent and it comes alive with hot air (click to see) as the underworld passes by.
That is what I do love about this place.

Unexpected beauty, unconventional creativity.

Maybe it's not all so bad. Just had to vent. Get it out.
Yell from the mountain top. Sometimes I feel like that deflated bear.

So then I think of Lily.
The quickest fix of all.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Lily is almost two and a half and has taken to offering her fashion opinions when I get dressed.
And I listen.
Something is wrong with that picture, I think.
And she takes great care with her own outfits as well.
Things MUST match.
We have had morning meltdowns due to pairings she deems do not go together.
"They don't maaaaaaaaatch!!!!!!!!!" and then she collapses into a frog position on the floor, with dramatic Duse-style whimpering.
She regularly insists on dressing herself and is not bad at it. Often pants are on backward but generally she's quite good at it. I must confess that occasionally things are backwards on me as well, such as this morning when I discovered I had my pajama lounge pants on in reverse.
Can I pass it off as "One Tired Mama Syndrome"?
Maybe it wouldn't do any harm to heed her advice after all.
She loves swimsuits and insisted on wearing a favorite over her pjs one recent evening.

And she can be insistent about donning unseasonal clothing - which, in 90 degree heat can be considered negligent on my part.
It is not easy convincing a fashion "determined" toddler that a lined ultrasuede Fall coat isn't appropriate for late July - or that mittens aren't great for dense, steamy days - yet I do manage to redirect her interests with multiple reasons and other options.
Why? She says.
And then I offer an answer.
Why? She says again.
And another.
Because. I say. And that is how I emphatically leave it.
I now find that I am frequently fresh out of answers. Bad Mama.
I cannot wait for her pre-school mornings to begin so that I may learn too.
I am also looking forward to her having to respond to authority and to being reminded how to follow directions. She is so ready.
As am I.
She has become a very nice little helper - enjoys cleanup(on good days), likes to clear her plates, carry dirty paintbrush water in a saucer over white shag rug to Mama in kitchen.
Here Mama. She says, black water dripping down arm onto floor.
Also likes to wash things. Even if not dirty.

What I love most about Lily at this age is that we can communicate on so many levels and she can expertly converse, manipulate or be helpful. Overall, she is
And I think that's what took my breath away in a recent music class. As I watched her sing, dance thoughtfully and drum, I was caught in a moment of near misty-eyed disbelief that this little girl is indeed

A Little Girl.

Our Little Girl.

We do trips without the stroller. Do art projects. Make phone calls.
We have regular music jam and dance sessions.
She showed me which clothes she liked in a catalogue.
Opinions pronounced.
Rainbows, stripes. Flowers.
Good taste that girl has.

Oh. And I caught her singing "You Can Close Your Eyes" so sweetly.
Just like her dad did.

Growing growing growing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


3 years.
Three years.

Three years.
Have passed.

This time I know where the time went. It went into watering and feeding and loving and growing a two year old who's first line in the mornings is often, "I'm a bigger girl now!".

She is.
Must be the sun.
And the multitude of hugs and kisses she is showered with hourly.
Her dad's spirit is definitely giving her a boost of energy (not that she needs it) and I sense he's on damage control as well.
I hope so.
Recently she called me at work and after her caregiver briefed me on a fall from a ladder in the playground, assured me she was fine, Lily came on the line.

Hi Mama! I falled down!
Are you OK Pumpkin?
Yeah! Had a lollipop.

All is well with my stunt-girl.

Later that day I came home to another accident story. This time a spill off the scooter. She was fine.
Helmet was on.
Good Girl.

Apparently a butterfly landed TWICE on her leg and was reluctant to leave as she rode home in her stroller.
That was Alan. Her princely escort.
I know it.

And the following week I returned home from work, Lily already off to bed, and her nanny brought out a picture that Lily had crafted earlier that day.

I thought you should see this... She said, somewhat breathlessly. I was cooking dinner when she brought it in...

It left me beyond breathless too.
Trembling, in fact.
It was Alan.
Not only that, it was Alan as Alan once doodled himself.
As an adult.
I was shaking.

He felt so close.

It's impact so... immediate.

And the wave through my body wasn't about our two year old Picasso-esque Prodigy Child (I leave that to the grandparents), it was as though...
Alan was speaking to me, through our child.
Our messenger, a medium.
Our shared heart.
A conduit.
No idea if Lily had intended to draw a face, but the next morning as we drew she was intent on drawing eyes, ears, and limbs.

Heart still skips when I look at it.
To me, it is the most direct message from Alan.
He's very much with us, and very much within Lily.

Yes, three years apart, but he's really not so far.
And while I ached for him dearly this past month, I did feel like

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mama's Day Off. (There IS a downtown.)

Lily had her first sleep over, ever, last weekend and I think it was a remarkable experience for us both. I was so overwhelmed with the prospect of an unscheduled day I was almost paralyzed with the freedom it promised. And nervous about how it would go. For both of us. But we prepped gently during the weeks before, and then...
Off she went.
It didn't help that she was beyond sweet and well behaved and awesome on Saturday morning before her pickup. But it did feel good to hand her off in good form.

My first day/night without my girl, and while I was needy for updates, ever wondering how she was doing, I did manage to indulge myself with some alone time.

Did I say remarkable?

I read, in the sun, and slowly sipped ice coffee while doing so.
I headed down to a favorite neighborhood and revisited it like a tourist just returning to NYC after a long hiatus. I treated myself to a long, hedonistic lunch and cold beer with lime at an old haunt from my pre-parenting days - and leisurely read and ate and drank to the vibes of soul and Latin beats - a NYC soundtrack that I hadn't enjoyed in a very, very long time.

I wandered streets aimlessly, visited a crafty bazaar, treated myself to funky jewelry and never glanced at a clock.

I did think of Lily throughout, and checked my phone regularly for updates and emergency calls. But I love to think about her, she is an instant upper even when not physically by my side. The calls never came and the updates told me she was fine at her Granny's so I did manage to


It was almost indescribable.
An afternoon with no constraints or obligations.

I comforted myself with the thought that this could be considered Alan's shift. He would have given me some afternoons off to regroup and recharge - so that's what I tried to do and it eased the guilt tremendously.

Lily could never be a burden. She is my greatest joy.
But I now understand even more fully what a parent means when they say "I need to take care of myself so I can be a better parent".

I am now a better parent.
But I'll take more sleep-overs too.

I want to be even better.

I went to a movie.
I watched TV in bed.
I awoke automatically at 6:44am but was able to get myself back to sleep until 8:59.
Not bad for a novice.
And when I was up I had my morning coffee on the roof again, and recharged some more in the sun.

And my girl? She visited her Granny's nail salon (no polish yet), went swimming with BebeO, dined outdoors, climbed out of her travel crib numerous times, fell asleep in bed alongside her Granny, played in her tent, scratched her ankle, went successfully (when she was in the mood) on the potty, went to their playground and

I guess some things are a tradeoff...

Fair enough.

And as my friend told me in anticipation of this event, "she will never look so delicious as when she returns".


I couldn't get enough of her.

I hugged her and kissed her and hugged her and kissed her and off we went to swimming class where she clung to me a bit more fiercely than usual.
Felt good.

So so good.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Love This Child.

The weekend came and left us, relatively unscathed. Lily happily marched through the days to her usual independent drum and I was, as always, relieved to see her living with abandon with no visible remorse for what she doesn't have. It is comforting and difficult, for me, to observe. I am overjoyed that her sunny disposition, thus far, shows no mark of loss - and while she recognizes the difference in our family composition - she doesn't yet seem pained and envious of what many other children have.
But she loves the dads.
Talks about them frequently.
Casually, as if we might meet them for a beer.
And though I brace myself for a deeper recognition to pierce her daily life more pointedly, for now, I find solace in her contentment.

But this weekend I was grateful, sad, and resentful.
Saturday morning she expertly clambered out of her crib, as I watched, eyes half open - with curiosity and concern. She did it very skillfully, teetering a bit on the rail before landing on the other side. And later we went to a barbecue where I sat for all of six minutes and spent the rest of the time ( I mean, all of it)chasing her around and pleading with her to leave the kids' rooms inside, so I could be outside with grownups. At one point I left her for a few minutes under what I thought was the watchful eyes of a friend only to hear her yelling for me gleefully from an undisclosed location. After a brief Marco Polo exchange I traced her to the neighbors yard.

Hi Mama!!!

There she was.
On her own.

Heart in mouth.
All was fine.

But those are the moments when I am insensitively reminded - shit.
I am really

And -

Can't get a moment of mind-at-rest.
Not sure why I bothered with the party.
I was hardly able to talk to anyone except an ex.

And Rapture.
What's with that?!!

Come onnnnnnnn.
Please Alan, can you do something about that?!
I finally get to a few social engagements and they're who I'm stuck exchanging niceties with?

Twice now that's happened.

It's annoying.

In retrospect I guess... thank God for Lily and her wanderlust.

The car rides were nice.

But Lily the Exploradora is a handful. Life with her is exciting and draining and it would have been nice to say
Babe. Can you watch her for a few minutes?
And then on Sunday in swimming class when one mom turned to me amid splashes and water songs to tell me how proud her daughter's dad was watching from the edge, I wished I could have said the same.
And then we would have turned to wave.

Instead, I smiled.
Focused on our mermaid, who had just gone underwater TWICE.

Look at meeee!!!
She would have shouted.

And Alan would have waved and gotten a towel ready for her.

Monday, June 13, 2011

And Again...

Last fall I wrote a post, Live Through This (you can click on it for a refresher) and did a follow up as well Live Through This Part II and after reading the Sunday Times (at least part of it...) I thought it might be a helpful revisit for some. Regardless, there was an article "What To Say To Someone Who's Sick" in the Fashion and Style section.


That is, that it was in the Fashion and Style section.

But it reiterates the reality of what it's like to be on the receiving end in grim situations, and offers helpful perspective on what words and actions prove to be the most genuine and helpful. Worth reading, as it could be/will be useful to all of us, now or sometime later in life. Since Alan passed away I have met others enduring similar challenges, and I too, still struggle with what to say and how to say it. Difficult situations will always be awkward, sad and challenging - but I feel a lot better when I acknowledge the current reality of the situation and acknowledge the reality of the circumstances. You don't have to be a downer, nor doom and gloom prophet, but if you can just be there with them and follow their lead on whatever seems to brighten their moment, you'll do just fine. Always remember that however hard it is for you, it's a hundred times more difficult for them. Remember that before this person was ill and perhaps throughout it, they had and still have other interests, a job, passions, aspirations. So conversation along those lines - whatever inspirations once filled their hours - that diverts from the seriousness of one's situation is welcome.
Yes, even gossip, as the article's author shared.
Good stuff.

It brings them back.
Illuminates that they're very much alive.

I will never forget someone very very very dear to me, while fighting cancer, saying (with humor that I'll always admire) "People look at me like I'm a dead man!".
And I got it.
Because when we hear such grave diagnosis, we can't help but imagine the worst outcome and we fast forward unnecessarily to the end we fear most.
Doesn't help the afflicted.
So do your best, while avoiding lies and phoney platitudes, to remain in the present and to focus on where one is in the moment. There are happy outcomes, miraculous recoveries, returns to good health. It is a delicate balance, I know, but yesterday's article and others' experiences can act as helpful guides to get you through very difficult times.

Lastly, the author's section on "What Can I Do to Help", couldn't be more true. So take some cues and pass the info on. If you really want to help,and can follow through with it, start a blog or online calendar with family and friends and sign them up to do everything we usually take for granted. And insist that they do just those tasks; ie., don't linger for coffee or tea or a meal with whomever you're helping as they'll end up feeling pressured to be company and host. And they'll end up with dishes and more fatigue. And unnecessary feelings of guilt or embarrassment or vulnerability.

A tall order, yes.
But you'll be appreciated for your support, attentiveness and strength.
And most importantly, love.

And everyone will be emotionally stronger because of it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Momentary Escape Needed.

I love my daughter but tonight I do not like her.
I came home with a headache and my sweet child came home happily high from her music class only to come crashing down in temperament ten minutes later. Oh, said her awesome nanny... By the way she didn't nap today.
Warning One.
Then she whips out a bag of new hand-me-down trinkets from bigger girls she knows.
Warning Two.
It is filled with easy to break and lose toys and did contain a barbie which I hid the second I discovered she had left it behind before heading off to music class.
No barbies for many years for my girl. And now I have the challenge of somehow extracting the clothes that remain for barbie in precious new hand-me-down bag.
Lily forgets nothing so the clothes will never escape our lives even if there is no buxom plastic long legged creature to model them. And missing barbie will haunt us too no doubt.
And her Big Girl Panties are off.
Warning Three.
No interest in the potty this evening, nor diapers or anything else.
Headache more prominent.
Battle to get her into the tub. Three negotiations to get her to sit. One concession to get out of the tub to use the little potty, no big potty, no little potty, no big potty.
She went.
Fleeting moment of happy-joy -feelin-alright-whoopin-it-up for mother and child.
Wondering if I have any Tylenol. Or anti-kryptonite antidote.
Back in tub, good groove going in the water, mom feelin ok.
Out of the tub and bedtime story go nicely. I thought we were OK.
Crib proved to be unwanted. Screams, moans, tears, I want chewy (frozen teething thingy), I don't want chewy, no blankettttt, yes blanketttt... More tears.
I closed the door and turned on kitchen sink to drown out noise.
Dishes never so much fun.
Sink off, I hear chewy hurled out of crib. Then cries - I want chewwwwwwy!!!!!
More cries.
Crying stops, transition to singing and clapping.
Then a few conversational yells - Mom! MOM!
Oops. Jinx. More singing.
She is cute.
But I am tired. Mono style tired. It is still light out and all I want to do is sleep.
Sleeping Beauty Style Sleep.
I'll take the prince wake up too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Summer is here.
There is so much about it that I love and look forward to, though its arrival seems to have converged with so much other...

Steamy heat in NYC brings everyone out of hibernation. Back we go the the parks, to scurry under sprinklers, shed our layers, relish in the outdoors, sneeze among the trees. All good things. But this weekend, as the indoor isolation thawed, families were everywhere - all on their outings together. Granted, I saw a lot of dad's on the periphery of the sandbox, glued to their cell phones, wishing they were golfing (as one friend aptly put it) but none the less, they were there.
And it's hard to see.
And Father's Day is fast approaching.
And we had a picnic with dear friends where Lily couldn't get enough of her courtesy Uncle Miles - chasing him up and down hills, watching him throw a frisbee, "Miiiiiillllles!! Miiiiiiiiiiles!!", holding onto his finger in the stroller - just like she'd do with her dad.
And this time almost three years ago we were in the hospital desperate for answers, and when one finally came, it was the one no one ever ever ever wants to hear.
And we scattered Alan's dad's ashes this weekend. In a beautiful place.
Alan wasn't there.
And Lily is wearing "big girl panties". Day three.
And learning how to pump her legs on the swings.
And she just climbed the round metal ladder arch all by herself at the playground.
And I just attended her soon-to-be pre-school, her first real school, at a meet and greet.
I think everyone was married. One man asked me if my husband was there. I cheerily chirped "No, I'm widowed". I tried to keep it light. So light that I'm not even sure the words registered to him. Without skipping a beat he told me where his wife was in the room.
Good to know.
There were lots of single parents there, but I think their spouses were all at work.

That's how the world looks to me.

The island of Lily and Sus.

And yet we spent many lovely moments this weekend with our own family and dear friends. But as my therapist reminded me, it doesn't take the loss away.

It's always there.

Thank god for beautiful and loving distraction. Our most caring friends and family.

And sunny days.

While dining at a friend's house on Monday - as Lily and I hung out at the potty - I could hear them put some music on. Seconds later, strains of Mona Lisa and Madhatters, an Alan favorite, wafted into the bathroom. And there we were, me and our girl, smiling at each other, marveling at Lily's "achievements".
And happy we had new good friends in the other room.
The words rang true.

I thank the Lord for the people I have found.

Grateful for such people.
And Lily is just like the mandolin.

Sprinkles beauty over the sadness.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Glory Days.

Somehow this morning I found myself reading the early email exchanges that Alan and I exchanged the month that we met. A dangerous foray, a beautiful rediscovery, love so new, hearts on the line. And I think what brought the tears to my eyes was the happiness and humor and honesty and assertiveness that so blatantly radiated from Alan's words. So odd that I'll never have love letters to share with Lily - to be pulled out of crisp, yellowed envelopes, stuck together and foxing - but I could, if I dared, print them in one of those self-designed books to share with her one day.
(Suuuuuuuusss...... He's saying.....)

I will. I must.
For the babe, Babe.

Her dad was hilarious, engaging, witty. A most unintentionally, stunning writer. I'm not sure he ever noticed that in himself but this morning I was taken in again by his words. The life which flowed from his messages was electric.

It is good - so good - to be reminded that we found such happiness in each other. I could hear it in his voice, see it in his stride. We both spent a long time looking. And once we found one another we felt as though we were home. We met in September of 2003, and were in love by October.
Yes, Alan endured a lot of unfairness.
Life's most undeserved slap. But.


I just needed to hear it again. Be reminded of the excitement that carried us through all of the amazing and difficult times. Be reminded that Alan's life had beauty and richness throughout it.

Life is much easier these days, I am more positively focused on the present and future, but I still walk unknowingly into walls of memory and often the sting takes me right back. Yesterday. Today. I am always caught off guard but the hurt is old hat. And that's how it will always be, I think.

Nearing three years, without my man. But feeling alright.
Before all the clouds there was wonderful sun.
Note to self, wonderful sun.
And now I share my life with an eternal optimist who just called me to see if I could "bring home cookies and lollipops".

She, too, shines through her words.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Love from Above.

There is so much I miss about living with my other half. I will always long for Alan, but the hollowness that once was unbearable, is much more "manageable" now. Still present, but not crippling, freshly filled up with love for our girl. Holidays are especially hard because of the hype, but really, everyday has monumental challenges. I wish we could parent together.

The days leading up to Mother's Day, usually filled with uneasy yet hopeful anticipation, this time around, were joyful. I love hearing Lily's upbeat chatter as I near the front door and her elated footsteps as she sprints to greet me. This week, numerous freshly crafted cards awaited me. She opened them for me, excitement not to be contained, my favorite envelope decorated with band-aids.
Her artistic choices never fail to charm me.

The best came Saturday night as I was closing the door at bedtime.

Thank you Mama. Happy Mother's Day.

Did she really just say that?!

I love being a mom.
Even if the thank you came after two attempts to avoid sleep - one "potty ploy" and the other "Mama, wanna talk to you."

I will always wish Alan could spend days with us, special or otherwise. I think this year they would have gotten bagels for the occasion, and banged away in the kitchen together concocting some sort of fruit smoothie. Alan was a noisy cook and proud of his culinary inventions. Gratefully, friends included us in their Sunday plans and we both had a beautiful morning. I got many flowers and messages from friends and family.

I was reminded that Alan has tremendous back-up covering for him.
He manages to take care of us from all around.

He must have been trailing Lily in the park as she gleefully ran in every direction except our destination, keeping an eye on her when she repeatedly abandoned her scooter to chase squirrels and birds with spontaneous delight. I was the mother, barely keeping up - juggling stroller and scooter as I chased after her, calling her by her first and middle names for impact, an homage to my parents.

I love her name and to hear her dad's aloud as part of it.

Alas, no response from my escape artist. My free bird.
She was retrieved by friends.

But that is the nature of childhood, and this Mother's Day the best gift was seeing how happy she is.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Root and Rise.

Sometimes I'm afraid to stop. Really stop. But this morning I treated myself to my first yoga class in three years (not counting the ones with Lily within).

I managed.

I was graced with some peaceful prep in Jamaica just last week. Lily, my mom and I spent a week on the beach. Digging in the sand, resting in the sun, and swaying to "real" music as Lily called it. Live music. Music that floated weightlessly through the air heavy with heat.

It sounded good.
And it didn't hurt... so much.
Only when Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" was piped into the bar.
But that was on day one, and I know it was Alan joining us, to watch his girl flit among the candles and plantain chips, stopping only for the occasional sip of sparkle water.

And in the downtime, as Lily drifted through four hour naps with a sitter watching over her, I sat in the shade, dipped in the ocean, and cleared my mind of most things. I felt quiet within and peace all around me.

It was a relief.

Alone time with no distraction can be daunting, but this time the sadness didn't prevail. Melancholy still hovers and the sadness is always there, but last week I didn't feel so... broken. Perhaps it's that I felt a bit more rested, maybe it's because I heard news that two books I've written for Lily (and others in her shoes) have found a home with a publisher. Whatever it was, I actually felt good.

Feels good to feel good.

So today as I breathed in and breathed out to the theme of "harmonious expansion" I felt like I was finding a place for myself in this world again. Taking a bit of space back - filling in my own footprints again. I keep seeing Lily with her watering can, recklessly pouring the ocean into her beach molds and sandprints and that's how it felt.

Filling up again.

I was never not here, but over the last few years I have been lover, caregiver and now nurturer. I resent none of it, but you have to take the back seat when other lives are leaning on you.
You just do.
And I know I have the love and strength to do so.

I will always be that tree, deeply rooted and there for those who need an extra stronghold - but today it felt nice to reach up into the air and to reclaim some space around me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Giant Step.

Confronted regularly now, and consumed by Lily's persistent inquiries after her dad I summoned up the emotional strength to meet with a professional who has extensive experience with children who have endured loss. It was a challenging yet empowering moment - I have been anticipating these conversations with Lily for some time and thus far, have handled them thoughtfully; but I wanted to make sure the language, and concepts, were appropriate for a two year old.

A precocious two year old with a huge heart, and insatiable curiosity.

The therapist's thoughts were comforting and blunt, truthful and bold.
Honesty, she said was the best, even at an early age.

I just say he died? I asked.
Dada died. He got very very sick, not a sickness like what you or I get when we go to the doctor, but a different kind of sickness. One where medicine doesn't work, and his body stopped working.

His body stopped working - the note I wrote down.

His body stopped working.

Note to self, his body stopped working.

Deep breath.

Okaaaay... So that's what I say? Just like that?

Yes. This will be a long process for her and over the years she'll begin to understand more and more and you can elaborate appropriately. For now she'll take in only what she can handle and she may ask over and over again. She won't understand much of it, but it's a beginning. Some day you'll say he had a disease called cancer, but you'll reassure her that most people die when they're very, very old.

A beginning.
I created her dad for her and now I must take him away.
And her Papi too, who passed away last summer.
Who she knew and paints for frequently.
I have never misled her and always told her we can't and won't see them, but "died" took it to a whole new level. Perhaps more so, for me.

I wonder if I should have mailed Lily's valentine to Alan.
She made him one, I mailed it.
I did.
The address just said Dada.
And I put it in the box on my way to work.

Sure enough, 6:34 the next morning, from the crib, she asked.
Wanna see Dada.
Wanna see Dada on Sunday. (Weekdays now a large part of our vocabulary, in no particular order)

Sitting up in bed, with a cheery voice I said, He died, Pumpkin.
Dada died.
And I gave her the scripted explanation.
She gazed toward the window, processing the information.
Dada died, she said.
And then she asked again.
I repeated myself.
She asked about Papi.
Same thing.

Two deaths, one morning.

But it went OK. I said we can look at pictures of them and talk about them.
That is always a nice idea to her. We do that a lot. A comfort to me too.

And it was OK.

On to talk about the day ahead.

I had told the therapist re. heaven that I believe in a more Buddhist approach - that Alan is everywhere - in our hearts, in the nature all around us, in the fiber of her being.

That his spirit is everywhere.
Can I say that?

Sure she said.
Dada's spirit is still with us. Within us. Around us.
She'll take in what she can.

And so she did.
One large step forward, with Alan by our sides.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wait. What? (for real?)

Confession. After watching an episode of Downton Abbey, I stumbled on a reality show about a woman who I think guides soon-to-be-parents through pregnancy prep. All I caught was one couple who felt as though the arrival of their child was doomsday and were in denial of the the wife's largess and then another couple who HAD A FOCUS GROUP to evaluate names for their child.

Come ON.

OK. Yes, it's a reality show (in NYC) and as "real" as they are they're scripted and staged to the nines so perhaps the couple was roped into this idea.
I hope they were.
I hope they were horrified by the idea but wanted to help a desperate producer/friend out. Because it was... Appalling.

Perhaps I'm bitter.
No... No. No. Not over that.
Who leaves a name, that will carry one through life, up to strangers? The last thing I wanted to know was how strangers might feel about our names. One bad association and it's engrained in you forever. Then you can't use it.


Alan and I chose names from a hospital bed. And the best ones had been mulled over for years. We had options for a girl, a boy, two girls, two boys, a girl and a boy, and triplets.

The twins, Alan decided, George and Gracie.
The triplets? Larry, Curly, Mo.
And no, it wasn't the Fentanyl, or morphine talking.
Lily Alan's dad at his finest.

But I am envious of partners who got to plan their entrance into parenthood together. My pregnancy was pretty dark, with dashes of sunlight. There were family members and friends that wanted to be a part of it - wanted to share it with me - and they did. To an extent. But I didn't want anyone but Alan.
I wanted my husband. I wanted the father. I wanted him.
And I had a minor complication with the pregnancy so nothing seemed like a done deal. I just wanted to get to the finish during what should have been a joyful sabbatical from everyday life. Deep down I was overjoyed at the prospect of our child but it was hard to balance the tangible, death, with the intangible - life-on-the-way.

Life Saver on the way.

Lily was my lighthouse and all I wanted was a healthy child.

So the bitterness? It's more about fortunate people who don't know how good they have it.
Buck up, you got yourself there.
With ease.
And you probably had fun too.
No needles, hormones, ice-packs. Chemo.
So don't whine about how you can't deal with baby-proofing, where your "you time" is going, or the over-tanned man who doesn't like the name... Bowen. Jesus.


(See? Good thing they don't know me.)
Is this really what some lose sleep over?

Lucky people. Lucky kids.
You get a life out of this.

Rant... Over.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Alan Around.

Lily turned two at the end of February and I recently found myself thinking about how her actual birthday celebration didn't break me down emotionally as it might have. And I marveled at how I pulled through it with such joy. And then I remembered a moment during the party in which I did find myself in a bubble - looking out at the families around us - moms and dads doting on their kids - feeding them pizza and cupcakes - snapshots of what the two of us are but also what we might have been.

Had we been three.

It was then as I was kneeling next to Lily, perched at the head of her long long table, that I whispered my gratitude for her in her ear and told her how much she is loved by me and her dad and everyone that was there. It was a fleeting moment but one that the two of us shared.

I am grateful that she is such a happy little person, and that our lives are graced by so many old and new friends and family members. It is beautiful to watch her forge friendships - I love hearing her yell to a friend across a room or playground to come swing with her, to come jump with her - I love to hear her exclaim to her teacher "look at me!!" when she and I are dancing together in a class, or to a neighbor as we gallop down our hallway, to her Tio and Tia as they enter a room or to her Granny when she has something to show her. "Do it!!" she'll say to a friend if she wants them to experience the joy of a party blower, or if she wants you to repeat something you've done that she finds hilarious.

She lives life with the transparency of a two year old.
Confident, shy, ebullient, skeptical.

I hope Alan can see how she's evolving into a little girl. No matter how she and I go about our daily lives together, not an hour goes by that he isn't in my thoughts. In our thoughts, as Lily mentions him too. Often.
I want to ride a bus with Dada.
Dada come to Lily's house.
I wanna go there with Mama and Dada (pointing to a picture of me and Alan in Yankees Stadium).

I never want anyone to forget Alan. In snippets I introduce Lily to him every day. Yet every day as she grows closer to him in knowledge, his physical presence here, is one day further away.

But within the last month I was reminded by two different people - how Alan is remembered. And those moments were the best gifts I could ever receive. One acquaintance who had only mingled with Alan at occasional parties commented to me how she remembered his quiet, ever observational presence, his sweet unassuming demeanor; and a dearer friend mentioned to me that Alan had been on his mind a lot last week and proceeded to reflect on Alan's character in so many nice ways.
Then he launched into his disdain for the overly commercial new Yankee Stadium.
And another friend joined in about the scoreboard crowded with logos, & barely visible scores.
Alan was chiming in from above. Nodding his head.
Spitting out sunflower shells as he did.
I know it.

I heard him. I could see him.

Unexpected, heart-stopping, gifts.
I love to talk and to hear about Alan.
Moments like those help to reassure me that his presence is very much alive.

Yes, he's gone, but he's still here.
And Lily will know him.
Through herself, through me, and through the eyes of others.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Word Girl. (Conversations)

Lily has her mama's gift of gab.
Chatty Cathy her dad would have called her.
She has a good ear. And mind.
Her language is colored with imagination, her observations wonderfully specific.
A recent snippet overheard with her animals and dolls went like this:
No. No. Listen. Listen. So ummmm... You have a jacket? Go to museum? See butterflies and dinosaurs? OK. Let's go. Let's go.

Recent responses/interactions with her include:
Oh, just playing.
No thank you, I'm just fine with my water.
C'mon Sister, let's go to the airport. (OK pumpkin,where is it?)
On Broadway.
I have my wallet to go to Whole Foods.

And on a recent sunny daytrip to the park, as she gazed up at the sky:
The moon is smiling.

A recent phone conversation:
Hi Mama! How are you?
I'm fine pumpkin! How are you? Are you having fun?
Yes. Had a lollipop!!!!
Oh! Was it yummy?
Yeah. We need playdough.
OK, I'll get some more.
Jake and Jojo coming over!
Oh great! Are you going to share toys with Jake?
Yeah. Lily's toys...

Favorite expressions that emerged before her second birthday: "I just love it." "I'll be right back!" "Just one minute" "Just two seconds" "Just ONE second".
"Hmmm. Where could it be?". "It's lost. It's lost. It's lost."

And at her two year check-up with the doctor:
C'mon Mama, let's go.

At a party this weekend, which was probably my first in about three years, conversation was amusing on a... different level.
The best of the best coming from a guy I once dated.

So... How's married life treating you?

My friend Sam and I had a good laugh later as only dear friends and fellow widows/widowers can do with me. We contemplated responses.

Hmmmmmm. Not so good... Not so good.

Even Alan would have laughed.

Maybe he did. Somewhere.

Sitting on the bright yellow larger-than-life moon that night.

Instead, surprised but not taken aback by his not knowing,I responded,
"Actually I'm widowed."
Oh... Sorry... He says fumbling awkwardly. Actually, pathetically.
"Yes. He passed away almost three years ago. Well, two and a half years ago."
He's still stuttering feebly, looking at his feet. (How old are we now?)
Helping him out, "But I have an awesome two year old girl, and she's the best."
STILL mumbling and shuffling, staring at his drink muttering Oh. Wow....

I had to walk off. I couldn't bare his uneasiness. I felt bad for him.
What's wrong with that picture... I gave him a break.
Went to the food table. Couldn't handle his not being able to handle.
Baba ghanoush was good.

Wow is right.
I did get to a party. And I spoke to adults.
Grown-ups we call them.
A challenging first but I think I did just fine.

But nothing beats talking with my two year old.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mama Lost?

A fellow widowed blogger is plotting a move to a foreign country - now that the future she had planned with her man has ... dissolved.
And I am envious.
How I long for a new beginning.
A fresh start.
A chance to re-channel the rest of my, hopefully long, life. Find myself again.

Lily is by no means holding me in place. She is my anchor and my dreamgirl. She helps me to take flight during the hours of a day. Visit imaginary places. Gives me a glimpse at the wondrous future that she will experience. She is a delightful dance partner. And gives me tickets to every place she's visiting. Last night we went on a picnic, to the airport, to Central Park, we sat on a bench. Sometimes we just sit and wait, or watch the images in our minds float by. I follow her lead when it's time to move on. She is a wonderful companion.

The most beautiful reason to live.

Most of me says, "It's her turn now."

It is.

But a tiny part of me says "I'd like another turn too." Turn at what? Not so sure. I'd like a new home, with more space and a chance to cook and entertain with the wedding gifts we never got to enjoy. Sounds unfair and selfish in light of Alan not being here ~ to mix drinks or to torch his excellent Bananas Foster for all to enjoy.
To live.

But what else can I do?

I'd love to love again but that's just a dream. Not sure how to do it anymore. Not sure if I'm capable of it anymore, except for that which I shower on Lily. My love for her knows no bounds. But I am lonely for adult companionship. I am envious of others who go on family vacations, weekend getaways. I am envious of the co-parenters who share responsibility and can let one finish a meal while the other tends to the child. One who can stay home while the other goes out - without watching the clock as the tab runs for a sitter. One who can take the kid to breakfast while the other sleeps in. I know dual parent households have their own constraints with work and multiple kids and infinite exhaustion - but there's still that ability for one to get rest, or alone time sometime. Sometime.

Lily and I could go on a vacation but I am exhausted, so trips that just the two of us embark on are never restful because I don't... rest. I rarely get out at night and if I do, my next morning begins anywhere from 6:15 - 7am. No break. Ever.
Wouldn't use that lounge chair much.
To think I'm finally up early enough to snag the good one with an umbrella on the beach and yet, I'd never use it. Good for drying towels. Diaper changes.

I relish in our time together. But mama needs some breathing room.
A teensy weensy bit of space. Just a little bit.
And one 8am wake-up. "Just One", as Lily says when she lobbies for a lollipop.

Ahh me. How pathetic this all sounds. But it is how I feel,some of the time.
Much of the time.
Bad mama me.
The guilt that comes with that confession. Whew.

And yet, I cannot imagine a Lily-less world. It's an impossibility.
She is my world. She charms the universe.

She hangs the moon for me just like her dad did.

I only know myself through her these days.
But somewhere in there is Susan, Susie, Sus.
I just need to find her again.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ready to Play.

Our girl is almost two. She mentions it to passers by and is perfecting the peace sign with her fingers to indicate her age. To commemorate her milestone she climbed out of her crib last night. Twice. She is a wild child.

A wild flower, rather.

Full of energy and light.
With actions of delicacy and moments of speed.
Just the other night I sighed exhaustedly as I watched my mother chase her through a Vietnamese restaurant.
"Want to say 'Hi'" she says.
"You can say hi to everyone after dinner, Lily".
She then reached for her third pair of chopsticks, which she handles expertly.
Just like her mama.
Except when she's running around restaurants.
Then she's her dada.

A few days ago Lily walked into the livingroom with a baseball card of Don Mattingly.
"Here Mama, Dada."
She had found in one of Alan's drawers a few pages of baseball cards that had been a gift to him during one of his hospital stays. Alan was not Donnie Baseball but he would have ben honored by the comparison. He had many great catches and hits of his own in the playing fields of Central Park. Somehow, Lily managed to pull out the card of his all-time favorite Yankee.

Hi Babe. We miss you. Thanks for the message.

It had to have been a hello from above.

We love you. And Lily has now filled up her purses with the entire collection. She will need a tutorial on all of the players, so when the time is right we will have Uncle Ron, Auntie Jill and Uncle Steve (all longtime friends of ours) come over to give her the details she'll need to follow her dad's footsteps right into the stadium.

I will be on hotdog duty. And sunflower seeds if need be.

Oh to be almost two. So much life ahead of her.

And boy could she run the bases.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


My birthday came and went quietly, celebrated with a few friends and family. I was, as usual, beyond exhausted, and also blue. What can I say, loss lingers.


My favorite part of the day was in the morning when Lily climbed into a plastic container and said, "Lily sailing with Dada. Lily sailing with Dada and Mama! Come on Mama, come in boat?" So in I climbed. And off we went. For a couple of beautiful minutes we rode the waves on our yellow carpet and I imagined wind on our faces, all three of us, looking ahead, with nothing but the sound of waves lapping up against our boat.

It felt good, the quiet togetherness.

Lily is very into birthdays these days so she sang to me and other people whose birthdays had passed or were to come. She is very excited for hers which she reminds me, everyday, is "coming up". She also likes to say that presents she sometimes gets are "from Dada". Sigh.

And again, sigh.

I used to tell Alan about how I always loathed February as it was a cold and dreary month and when I was little I had to postpone my party due to pneumonia. I sulked inside my tee-pee on a hand-me-down beanbag chair. He loved that anecdote. When we learned our babe would be due in February he said "Sus, now it'll be a good month!".

He was right. (Yessssss, Alannnnnn. You were right...)

This very cold month has been laced with pretty snowfall and with me resides the prettiest snowflake of all. Lily can brighten any blue period. And her influence is instant. Although this month has had it's struggles - I think we're sailing through just fine.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Comes With Love. A Fairly Easy Lesson.

If you do love someone, with every fiber of your being - whether it be a child or partner - there are things you owe yourself, and them, to do. Alan and I were somewhat prepared, yet many of the crucial issues we addressed in the 11th hour. I am grateful we did, but it was an uncomfortable, sobering scramble and not something you want to deal with when you're savoring a life.

This what I'm talking about:
Reconciling bank accounts.
Locating the life insurance policy / finding out if there's one through work - you never know.
Clarifying instructions regarding a DNR/DNI end of life care.
Consulting a lawyer if there will be remaining sperm/eggs/embryos if you did assisted reproduction.
Organ donation.
What you'd like for yourself re. burial/cremation.

Much to contemplate, all of it of dire importance.
Bottom line? Do it. You can handle it.

If you have a spouse, especially if you have a child, if you are employed - or not, get life insurance NOW. Do it. It is painless, you call an insurance broker, they do a brief review of your medical history, send someone to your home to do bloodwork and then they issue you a policy. It is easily implemented and takes less time than the usual procrastination.

Do your DNR/DNI form NOW. You can find basic ones on line, but they are state specific so make sure you find one for where you live (here). Spell out how you want your end of life care whether you're in an accident or struck ill or live until you're 102 like Lily's great grandfather. You owe it to your loved ones who will also be your caregivers to tell them whether or not you want to be on breathing tubes, kept alive if brain-dead, given enough pain-killer to be pain free, put in a hospice facility, taken care of - if possible - at home. Yes, these are heavy, terrifying issues to contemplate but trust me, you will be grateful there is no second guessing/hoping praying you're honoring someones wishes when you cannot communicate with them.

Wills also can be found on line and will need to be notarized. If there will be multiple beneficiaries or if it is going to be complicated, get a lawyer.

List - somewhere safe - all of your bank account numbers, passwords, policy numbers etc... in an place that a loved one knows about. If you find yourself in an untimely, dire situation, try as best you can to transfer or empty all cash bank accounts into the soon to be survivor's name. Name your beneficiaries on ALL of your accounts. Now. Here's the deal. When someone passes on, their accounts technically should be inaccessible and will become what's known as part of "the estate". It may be frozen if there is debt to pay, bills to negotiate, etc... If your loved one's finances are already in your name it allows you to protect some assets or at least have them readily available for immediate needs. Estates can be frozen for MONTHS. There will be bills to pay, funeral expenses, post-mortem taxes to prepare for your loved one, and you may not be psychologically/spiritually able to return to work. I wasn't.
And I was pregnant.
You may need all the financial help you can get.

Do it by February 14th. Is it a Hallmark card? No.
A deep way to show your love? Yes. (And you can do both. Woo hoo!)

When I look at Lily she is the embodiment of all of Alan's love and mine, combined. And everyday I consider her Alan's valentine to me.
She is well worth all of the planning above.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy Dreamer

Dada come down.

She says waving Isadora Duncan style in the air above her. Not sure who or what gave her the idea he was up there. She often refers to people, alive, in the sky so perhaps it's her imagination at work.

Oh Lily, Dada can't come down.

Dada come visit.

Oh Lily, Dada can't come visit.

Dada come visit, soon!

Oh Lily, that's a very nice idea but he can't come visit Lily. Not soon.
Not ever.
I'm sorry my love. But Dada loves you soooo much.

And then I wonder if I should have said loved and I rephrase with the latter.
I have never said ever to her. It doesn't make sense at this age. But the questions and ideas are repeated often and I need to lay the groundwork for deeper conversations that sadly are not far off. I don't want to mislead my dreamer.
For that she is.
She has more and more wonderful thoughts and her imagination is wild at play. Yesterday she cooked and served me eight playdough pies in about five minutes. I was also fed rice (a rock), served multiple cups of tea and also cake.

Thankfully she moved on to other topics as she ate dinner and she remained all smiles. Her hands, greasy with pasta, are Alan's hands. Someday when she's a bit older I'll share that with her. She may not get to hold them in hers, but she'll know exactly what they looked like. Her fingers are tapered in the very same way. Narrow at the top, wide at the bottom.
Just like her dad's.

What is most beautiful about life with Lily is that she lives for the moment. She has recently begun to grasp the word "soon" (she also enjoys the expression "right n o w " - and she uses it often with requests for anything), but in general her world is up and down. In place. She lingers in the moment. She lives for the present and has no concerns or thoughts of the future. "We're in a rush" has no bearing on her, and I say that thankfully even though getting a jacket and shoes on and moving out the door can sometimes take seemingly forever. But she is so everpresent. And that is a gift for me as well. I worry constantly about the future and ruminate heavily on the past, so Lily is my anchor in the beauty of a day.

Such a difference she makes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To Sleep...

Must be the time change. And teething. And travelling. The CA to NY transition. And congestion. This was a first but I am tired and my daughter-formerly-known-as-Lily must be overtired.

Last night's 90 minute Avoidance of Sleep Concerto:

Big Babyyyyyyyy! Big Babyyyyy!
Little Babyyyy! Little Babyyyyyy!
After 15 minutes, Mama concedes, tucks in babies.
Sleep Mama's Bedddddddddddddd!!!!
Mama's Bedddddddddd!
Pour glass of wine. 15 more minutes of drink and no peace.
Nose Runninggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg! Nose Running!!!!!!!
Enter Mama. Wipe Nose, remind sobbing babe how to do it herself. Convince her to lie down, round three.
Sit on couch. Drained. Tantrum eruption continues.
Mouse Painttttttttt!!! Mouse Paintttttttt! (new book) Read Mouse Painttttttt!
Bunny Honeyyyyyyyyyy (another book)
Sob. Hyperventilate. Another 15 minutes. Mama frozen on couch. Shell shocked.
Sleep on Mama's elbooooooooowwwwwwwww! Sleep On Mama's elbow!!!!!!!
Nightgown offffffffffff! 20 minutes of this.
Blood pressure rising.
Must be.
Re-enter mama. Unwind Lily t-shirt sleeve that that has somehow turned tourniquet. Plea. Come on sweet pea, please go to sleep Lily. Calm down. Everyone's sleeping.

Rattle off list of 40 friends and relatives and dogs who are sleeping.

Sobbing, hiccuping, shaking ensues.
Little baggggggggg... pointing to new mini mermaid just like her cousin's in mesh bag.
Mama caves in, gives it to her.

Mama exits. Furious. Exhausted. Fantasizes about going to the neighbor's or around the block for a few minutes. Gets cookies.
Ponders parenthood induced obesity while watching TV on mute.

End of rope. Desire to shake baby creeps in but is warded off. Another 15 of screaming, tears and reckless jumping trampoline style.

Mother-formerly-known-as-Mama steams back into room. Takes toys out of crib. Turns out nightlight. Tells daughter that she HAS TO SLEEP and that MAMA IS MAD AND SAD (quoting one of her newer books) AND VERY TIRED. Lily lies down, mama calms down, covers her with big blanket, sweeps her hair out of tears on cheeks, tells her she loves her soooo much. Kisses her, strokes back.

Mama Go. She says.

After all that.

Exit mama.

All is quiet. Wait 20 minutes. Creep in, climb into bed. Pray for sleep. Ask Alan for help. Pray for sleep for the night and all other nights.

Got it, at least last night.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year.

Lily and I just returned from our holiday pilgrimage to the Bay Area and though it wasn't restful I'm resigned to the non-restfulness until she waves me out of her dorm room in approximately 17 years.

But it was a sweet trip where we spent time with her beloved cousins who don't mind her touching their Bayblades and Zhou Zhou pets (and if they do they tell her gently), love to sit next to her during meals, enjoy brushing her hair even if she is running away simultaneously and trampling their artfully arranged train tracks while doing so. They share mermaids and squirt toys with her in the tub and give her a good dose of sibling love.

We wish they lived closer.

Lily also had quality time with her next door bud, Madeleine (Mad Dog), who is as gentle and demure as a kitten except when she is risk taking in reckless outbursts that lead to injury in unsuspecting moments. She also hung out with favorite doggies, jumped her way through puddles, enjoyed time with grandparents over dim sum and Blue Jay feedings and hung out with some big girls who have handed down an awesome baby with handy accouterments.

I got to hear live music (adult music that is) for the first time in close to three years. The anticipation of doing so has had me on edge - one of those hurdles in widow country that I was reticent to attempt. Thankfully it was Bluegrass so despite the often tragic themes and lonesome sounds, the upbeat strings kept me ... feelin' OK. It helped to have a dear friend by my side. And it felt good to be in an element that reminded me of times when things were alright.

Alan was with us in every raindrop, and twilight winter sky. Lily even looked up one day and said "Dada come down". The guilt still lingers, and my anxieties about being her only parent had unwelcome flare-ups at night. Another aspect of widowhood - when you're relishing in life you can't help but worry it will be snatched away. I'm sure it was heart wrenching for Alan as well, in fact I know so. He too had a hard time embracing happiness.

Quite a challenge these days.
Especially with Lily by my side.
The happiest of sun beams.

Last night in her sleep, "Cheers Jiji, Cheers Mama".

Lily is the perfect affirmation of life.
As were our happy family meals.
As was music with a good friend by my side.
And dinners with childhood and college friends who may as well be family.
As were the brisk days, and winter leaves lingering in fresh puddles.

Entering 2011 and it feels alright.