Monday, October 24, 2016

Now you've grown so fine and come so far

My dear sweet Ezekiel,

I realized today, when thinking about you turning nine years old, that we have essentially reached the halfway point in the time that I get to claim you as fully mine, before you spread your wings and fly out into the world as a quasi-adult.

Obviously, you will always be my baby, my first born, my best boy.  But then you will go to college or off to fulfill some dream of adventure and start your own journey. Maybe, as my brothers and I have done, you will settle somewhere away from your parents. Thinking about that possibility - of not being able to see you whenever I want - makes my heart ache and my eyes fill with tears.

I'm getting ahead of myself, I know. But it goes so fast. It's such a cliche to say it, but it goes so, so fast.

I look back on pictures of you as a baby. You were so beautiful, with your dimples and your twinkly blue eyes and your wonky right ear that sticks out a little bit at the top - your dad dubbed it the "wingnut," which always made us giggle.

You have lost all of your babyish qualities. You are lean and strong. Your feet keep growing and stick out from the ends of your legs like paddles. You work on your six-pack abs.  There are no soft, baby-fat-ish curves in your face. You still have the outrageous dimples and the strikingly blue eyes, the freckles on your straight nose, the open grin. Setting aside any bias I have as your mother, objectively you an incredibly handsome kid.

From the beginning, you were strong and agile and coordinated and fearless.  You love hearing the story about the doctor was checking you out when you were first born, and marveling at how powerfully you kicked back when he pushed on the bottom of your foot. That strength and agility and athleticism has never abated.

This year, your interest in soccer has become particularly pronounced. On my weekends with you, one of our favorite activities is to go to the park and play soccer. Usually it involves me being permanent goalie while you try to score, or we'll run up and down the field doing passing drills.

You keep me young and healthy.

You have always been smart and interesting to talk to, but I'm seeing that intelligence and curiosity intensify. You're at the age I was when I was tested to be placed in a gifted program, and you're exhibiting some of the frustrations that I had at that age - being a bit bored in school, feeling like everything is a little too easy. Wanting to absorb as much knowledge as you can. You're doing gifted testing next month - I'll be curious to see how it goes.

Sometimes when you're lying in bed and we're talking, you'll ask me about history. Who fought in World War II? What were they fighting about? What's an ally? What's this song from the Hamilton soundtrack about? Who's singing? Who was that? Who are they talking about on the news? Who's the guy that has the disease but knows everything about black holes?

One day we were thinking about what to do on a beautiful Saturday.  "What do you guys want to do?" I asked. "Let's go for a hike in Boulder and then go to the science museum," you responded.

I love that.

We read together. We watch football together. We talk about life together. We have conversations about Greek mythology and poetry.  You're interested in everything.

Recently you and Josie and I were watching Project Runway together. Josie was looking at one of the designs and said, "that looks like a Valentino."

I gave her a skeptical look. "What you you know about Valentino?"

You said, "is he Italian?"

"Yes," I responded. "He's a famous Italian designer."

"How come so many great artists and designers are Italian?" you asked.

"Who else are you thinking of?"


"Yes, he was a great Italian artist and inventor."

"And Michelangelo...."

"Yep," I said.

"And who's that other guy? Starts with a "d".... Dona-something?"

"Donatello. How do you know Donatello and these other guys?"

"Ninja turtles!" you responded.

I cracked up. And then you cracked up. We both started to laugh and laugh.

"You goofball," I giggled.

We laughed some more.

It's been an incredible nine years. I don't ever want to let you go, even thought I know someday I'll have to.

You fill my heart and make it sing.  Happy birthday, sweet gorgeous boy.

All my love,


Sunday, October 23, 2016


Nine years ago tonight, I was walking the halls of Kapi'olani Medical Center, trying to power my way through what would end up a 25 hour effort to get my cervix dilated to 10 centimeters so that I could meet my son - a big, strong, healthy boy who just about broke me in two.

I was living in a strange place where I didn't really know many people at all. My family and friends were halfway around the world and I felt very isolated and alone. I worked from home and didn't have a chance to interact with other people much, outside of some of the neighbors, none of whom I felt any particular kinship with.  Hawaii is a beautiful place, but without any family or real friends or sense of community, I found it to be very provincial and an unpleasant place to live. I honestly don't have any desire to ever go back.

Now I am in Denver, on the eve of my wonderful son's 9th birthday. And as much I truly enjoy living here - as much as Denver, as a place, is the best place I've ever lived - I'm once again finding myself feeling very isolated and alone.

I've mentioned in the past how extremely compartmentalized my life feels. Half the time, I am a single mother, with everything that that entails. My children are vibrant and beautiful and energetic and busy and difficult and all-consuming. We fill our days. I try to establish routines but also to infuse them with as much of my essence and love as I can before they have to leave and be without me again. I often feel like I am failing and flailing. I do the best that I can, but deep down, I don't believe that it's enough.

I see them struggle emotionally sometimes, especially Zeke. I wonder if it's just them being them, dealing with the trials of growing up as they normally would. Or maybe the divorce messed them up - maybe I messed them up. I feel guilty, like I have failed them. Like I am unworthy of them and of no good to them. (Add to this all the other reasons I regularly feel like I'm an abject failure at life, and you've got a real recipe for me in a laugh-a-minute mood).

And then they're gone for a time, and my life utterly changes. I don't have lunches to make in the morning, I don't have to get them up and out the door and to school. I can leave work late and go get a massage or meet friends out.

But mostly I'm alone.

I have friends and a little bit of family here.  But people are busy with their own lives and families, and trying to coordinate everyone's schedules to get together means we're having to plan weeks or even months out. My mom and I talk and lament that if we were closer, we'd see each other all the time. But we don't, and we can't.

Thought it doesn't often seem like it, I am self-conscious and naturally a bit introverted, so I feel awkward and unwelcome trying to include myself into other peoples' lives and events. It's easier to be alone because the emotional effort it takes to not be alone is so exhausting.

And sometimes I don't mind being alone. But lately, I've felt crushingly lonely.

The birthday month - the month including and in between the kids' birthdays (which fall exactly a month apart) - has been hard.  Both weekends, the kids have been with their dad and had birthday parties there that I have not been allowed to attend.

It has been overwhelmingly hurtful to me, far more than I could have anticipated. Partly because it's so hurtful to them - they repeatedly told me they wanted me there and asked why I wouldn't be, and all I could say was, "because I'm not invited." But it's also hurtful to me. And it's bewildering, because it's a course of action that I would never take in a million years.

It's just two days out of the year. People try to comfort me and tell me that I have to let it go. That I shouldn't let it bother me. That there's nothing I can do about it, so I need to get over it.

I know that they are right. That everything they are saying is true. That if I let it get to me, I will be allowing myself to be consumed by something that I can't control.

But the pain has been intense. I thought that as time went on and the reality of the divorce and the split custody situation became the norm, that I would get more used to it. But rather than getting easier to deal with, it has gotten harder, particularly on their birthdays. My birth days.

I try to think and reason and write my way out of it. Or go on long, grueling hikes like the one I did yesterday (I got lost and ended up tacking on an extra mile and a half, so by the time I got home I was toast).  The exertion pushes the bad feeling away, if only for a little while.

But then the feeling comes back. And I realize that the advice people try to give - don't let it get to you, don't take it personally - isn't what I need. I don't need to be told to let it go, at least not initially. I need to allow myself to feel shitty until I don't feel so shitty anymore.  I need someone I trust to envelop me in a hug or just hold my hand and say, "I know you feel awful, and I'm so sorry that you do. It sucks."

I will write Zeke his birthday post tomorrow, celebrating all of the reasons he continues to delight me and fill me with love and pride. For now, I will allow myself to feel hurt, because I am.