The Hopefulness and Sorrow of Forward Motion


We are five months out now.

Today, five months ago, we were in limbo. We did not know what Tim’s fate would be. We clung to hope and faith. We would find out the reality the following day.  Nothing would ever be the same.
At five months out I feel different. My head is clearer and my heart is harder. My own visions of the future come to me in fits in spurts. I’m able to think about what I would like for myself and my children in the coming weeks, months, years, as we move along together as a family of three.
In the weeks following Tim’s death I felt ripped open, my whole being exposed and raw for the world to see. Those wounds have begun to heal as pink, jagged, scars that cross-cross my mind, heart, and soul. I’m pulling myself together in the moments I can. I’m having more good days. The darkness sets in regularly, but I see beyond it.
In the past, I have likened my grief to a vast and dark ocean. It’s waves are unpredictable and unforgiving. In the first days I clung to a buoy. Then a raft. Now a small island, with shelter and simple comforts. Maybe a tree or two. The ocean is there and will always surround me, but my relationship with it is changing. I’m owning it and learning it. I’m working to gain back myself and the life I want to lead from here. I’m taking the steps to make it happen. I’m trying.
I’m working now. For a local non-profit. It’s a position that allows me to serve my community through work in my field that does not require me to use my clinical skills. I’m looking ahead towards a private practice in my future. Once the state approves reciprocity on my license. Once I start caring about other people’s feelings again. Not that I don’t, but the petty, trivial hurts that occur in daily life no longer move me. I’m hardened. I’m traumatized. I know that I am not ready to work with people the way I used to, not yet. But when I am ready, I will own a deeper and more profound understanding of pain, trauma, and transition.  And that will allow me to help others in meaningful ways. When I’m ready.
I’m house hunting. The process has been interesting and exciting. When Tim was alive we talked about buying a rambling farmhouse with land. We wanted a large garden, chickens, fields and forest for our kids to run free. Tim wanted a “mad scientist” workshop and I wanted an art studio. We wanted to see the stars at night. Now I’m looking for a home in a village, close to neighbors and amenities. Large enough to host friends and family but small enough for me to maintain on my own. A small yard. A vintage home with charm, but I’ll settle for a cape if it comes to that. A home that I can maintain as a single woman with young kids. A home to raise my kids with love and creativity and warmth. A home just for us.
Byron started pre-school. He adores it. Claira is weaned. Sooner then I had originally planned, but it was time. I don’t feel sentimental about these milestones anymore. I see the fathers at pre-school and wish Byron could hold his Papa’s hand. Hug him at pick up time.  Laugh at Claira’s awkward toddling and joyful cries.
I wish Tim could see how they have grown and changed in the past five months.
I wish Tim was here.
Two weeks ago I was driving the kids home from school and day-care. It was a warm, sunny autumn day with brilliant colors and blue skies. I felt light and peaceful with the windows open. A little voice appeared in my brain and peeped “Maybe Tim will come home and everything will be ok”. And it all crashed down around me. My eyes filled with tears. My heart choked into my throat. The dark haze clouded my eyes and, for a moment, I was washed back into the ocean.
Tim will never come home.

But.



Everything will be ok.

Revisiting Somerville

We moved to Cambridge in August of 2007.  The previous year we had lived in Northampton, MA with Tim’s brother and best friend.  Our move to Cambridge brought, to me, the beginning of graduate school.  Tim was to continue commuting to UConn to pursue his Ph.D, and work locally out of his office at the Harvard Smithsonion ITAMP.  We spent just over 6 years in the Somerville/Cambridge area and lived our young adulthoods out amongst the narrow streets and triple-deckers.  We became we in this place.  It was where we lived and grew through grad school, roommates, engagement, the start of my professional career, marriage, under-employment, financial struggles, loud concerts, friendships, late-night drunken adventures, youth.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to return to Somerville solo.  Since Tim’s death I had felt a deep pull to return to our city and revisit the years we spent there.  I felt there was unfinished business to address.  To needed to get back to this place of our young adulthood.  I spread some of his ashes over the Charles River from the Week’s Pedestrian Bridge.  Friends joined me.  I enjoyed the music at Honk! and the oysters at The Foundry. I stayed with a good friend in her new home and reconnected with loved ones.  It was a beautiful, joyful and deeply needed weekend.

In the 6 years we lived there, we lived in 4 apartments.  Four.  Every year we would move a half-mile north-east.  In pursuit of more room and less rent.  Learning our city.

61 Fayette St, Cambridge– We lived in the tiny one-bedroom in the back addition.  We had our own entrance and a tiny porch and that seemed like the best.  Our kitchen doubled as our front entrance.  The living and dining areas growing off the side, in one, small living space.  Our futon faced the bathroom door.  Our bedroom was a sheet rocked in area just large enough for the double bed.  We lived just around the corner to Inman Sq. and enjoyed many nights at Bukowskis’s Tavern and takeout from Punjabi.  We would walk to Central Sq. for the Red Line and Harvard for the experience.  We rode our bikes a lot until mine was stolen.  I found it weeks later, painted black and chained to a fence.

10 Loring St, Somerville–  We moved the second year to join new roommates near Union Sq.  We lived with Jared and Luke, two dear and deeply loved human beings.  We were two Atheists, a Jew and a Devout Christian from Texas.  We had countless meaningful conversations.  Fun evenings at home.  Passive aggressive stand-offs.  Nights out as a crew. We loved each other.  It really was a beautiful year.

The Ikea kitchen distracted us from the cracks in the windows.  The natural light was blissful.  There was literally no insulation.

One night I was sitting on our second floor porch, enjoying the beginning of summer, and heard a neighborhood couple loving on one-another with open windows.  I gleefully cheered and clapped with their climax.  I never heard them again.  Bummer.

Luke fell in love with his soul-mate, Mandy.  They married at the end of the year and Luke moved out.  Tim and I got engaged.  We moved north with Jared.

7 Richdale Ave, Somerville- The kitchen was big but the energy was weird.  The landlord had two too many padlocks on the basement door.  Tim was in the beginnings of an extsistential crisis.  I was getting my feet wet as a new professional.  We were planning our wedding and the new roommate dynamic lost it’s cohesiveness.  Sometimes we would have flash floods.  We would rush into the rising water to move our car uphill.  Our neighbor’s basement regularly flooded.  Sometimes you could see the rats float by.  It was a weird year.  We got through it.

442 Broadway, Somerville– This was our longest rental.  We lived on the second floor, at the top of Winter Hill, for 2 years and 8 months.  This was the home we returned to after our wedding.  This was the place we lived when Tim joined the Occupy movement, shook up his department through his pursuit of social justice, left his program and started anew.  This is where I rooted myself as a professional and grew as a person.  We were we here.

Our bedroom was painted meadow grass green and overlooked the canopy of the large maple tree outside the bay windows.  We watched the seasons change from our bed.

The kitchen was crap, but I painted it teal and added a chalkboard wall, which made it all worth it.

We had a lot of big discussions in that home. Some hard nights.  A few bad fights.  We loved each-other hard.  We learned.  We kept going.  We chose each-other.

We walked to Davis Sq. every weekend.  We walked everywhere.  The laundry mat up the street was clean and friendly.  The bus ran outside.  We had a little garden next to the trashcans outside.  And a free grill Tim had found on the side of the road.  We weren’t making it work financially, but we were having fun.

One day I came home from work.  Some random company from Wisconsin had contacted Tim to apply for a software job.

I sat on the bed and said “Hey, it’s at least worth a shot”.

 

 

 

Spirituality and Shit.

I never really believed in God.

Even as a child, the concept seemed unrealistic and odd.

I was raised in the Catholic faith, where my endless questions went unanswered.  I remember coming home from catechism on my 6th birthday and sobbing.  I had been told that I should love God more than anything else, even my parents.  I couldn’t imagine such a thing.  To love this mysterious, magical man in the sky more than my own parents, the people who raised me and loved me and tucked me into bed every night.

As I grew older my questions increased and grew more complicated.  How could we even know that Jesus was the son on God?  Why is Original Sin even a thing? What proof existed that there was a God at all?   Why did so many people believe such different things?  How could two people with the same beliefs believe such different things?  What purpose did this God have?  But what about multiple Gods?  Why was God a man?  Why did we need this concept in the first place?

I was confirmed at the age of 16 to appease the expectations of my family and community.  I never considered myself a Catholic again.

For years I explored different religious belief systems.  I took religion classes in college.  I read books.  I talked to people about their beliefs.  People told me what to believe.  They told me the Universe and God were interchangeable.  They told me God was a specific spiritual being that make decisions for us.  They told me God is everything and nothing.  They told me I would understand one day.

I still didn’t believe in God.

In time I began to believe that the Universe had a plan.  Not a specific being.  Not a male figurehead, but the collective energy of space and time and life would intersect to give me what I needed when I needed it.  I would put my energy into the Universe and trust that I would receive what I needed.  I believed everything would happen as it needed to.

I believed in Secular Humanism and the collective power of people helping people.  I believed in nature and science.  (I still do).

I believed in plans and certainties.

 

Then Tim had his heart attack, on my best friend’s couch.  On our family vacation.

 

And I started to pray.  To anything and anyone.  To  any force that may intervene.  I sat in the hospital through that first night, his sweater wrapped around my body.  I waited at the doors of the Trauma unit, hoping for any word.  Any improvement.  I saw him and rubbed his feet and sang to him.  I paced and prayed and hoped.

Tim didn’t wake up that night.  But he did stay alive, and I was thankful for that. So they transferred him to Tisch NYU in Manhattan, and I continued to pray.  They sent Hospital Chaplains to his room to be with all of us.  I told them over and over, “we are Secular Humanists, we believe in people and nature and science.  We don’t believe in God”.

I told them “I don’t believe in God, but if Tim wakes up believing in God, I will too”.

They were kind and understanding.  But then they would pray to God out loud.  And I would rage.  And I shouted “THERE IS NO GOD!” in the Tisch NYU Cardiac ICU, and the doctors gathered outside Tim’s door scattered.

But I still hoped, inside.  That maybe there was a God.  

And maybe Tim would come back to me.

But he didn’t.  His body would likely not survive.  His brain would never come back.  

And I knew that I needed to let him go.  And he died in my arms, surrounded by loving family and friends.

In the days and weeks and months following Tim’s death I have raged at a God I don’t even believe to be there.  At the Universe.  At these plans and assumptions and trust that we have that everything will work out.  At “Everything happens for a reason” and “He’s in Heaven now.”  At all the bullshit we tell ourselves to give us the illusion of safety and security.

Because it doesn’t always work out. And Tim isn’t in Heaven, because Heaven is HERE, with his loving wife and his beautiful babies and the beautiful, wonderful life we were so happy to be building together.

Sometimes young fathers die for no reason.  Sometimes flood and mudslides and hurricanes and earthquakes destroy cities and communities.  Sometimes angry men open fire on innocent people.  Sometimes people die.  And God, the Universe, whatever it is that’s supposed to be in charge doesn’t give a shit.  Because it’s not even there in the first place.

But I will tell you what is there, my friends.  PEOPLE ARE THERE. 

People have been there to help me through every step of this godless process.  People have been there to drive me and feed me and comfort me and draw me baths and take care of my children and help me pack and drive my moving truck and love me and support me and protect me in every imaginable way.  God isn’t there.  People are there.

 

And so I’ve slowly learned to have trust in people.  And the cycles of nature.  And the innate goodness of human beings.

I’ve learned not to plan too much.  Not to trust the Universe so much.  I’ve learned to take care of myself more.  I’ve learned to trust in the consistency of change.

I’ve learned that death is just as natural as any other part of life.  And life continues after death, for the survivors.  And that’s just something we have to be ok with.

I’ve learned that prayers don’t work, but the love and support of people can get you through anything.  And sometimes thats kind of the same thing.

I believe that Tim is still here.  He is everywhere.  His energy expands the Universe (that doesn’t have a plan).  He is in my thoughts and my heart and my memories.  He will always be here.  He will always be everywhere.  He is StarStuff.

And I believe I will be ok.  Because I have people.  And the cycles of Nature continue.

And as long as I am alive, I will live.  And that’s enough.

 

Apple Crisp from an Apple Crisp Snob


There are a few things in life that I am not willing to compromise on.

High quality sheets

Coffee

Sensible shoes

Apple Crisp 

Apple Crisp is an art form.  The apples must be subtly sweet and spiced evenly.  The ratio of crumble to apples must be so that the Crisp can crumble into the soft apples and balance the fruit with buttery crunch without being overly soggy or dry.  Apple Crisp must be simple and flavorful.  Martha Stewart’s apple crisp has nothing on mine. 

I don’t have any time in my life for shitty apple crisp.  Neither should you.

Apple Crisp for Apple Crisp Snobs

8-10 Apples picked out of your dad’s back yard. (Oh, you don’t have an apple tree?  Huh.)

3/4 cup brown sugar 

1 tsp Cinnamon 

1/2 tsp Ginger 

1/4 tsp Nutmeg 

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup All Purpose Flour 

(plus 2 Tablespoons)

1.5 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup salted butter 

Pinch salt

Take those apples and skin them.  Slice them up.   Yes, it’s work.  You will live.  (Don’t buy those pre-sliced apples in a bag.  It’s offensive.). Throw them in a bowl.  

Toss in 1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, and spices.  Mix it good.

Dump in a pie dish or 9×9 pan.

Put the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut the butter and toss it in there too.  Now, roll up your sleeves.  Shit is about to get serious.  Take that butter and smush it into that dry mixture.  Mmm. Yeah, like that.  Really work it in there.  You will know it’s done when everything is buttery and crumbly and your kids start shoving in their face in fistfuls.

Spread crumble over apples.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 min, until apples are soft, the crisp is browned, and caramelly stuff is bubbling around the edges.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.
Hi, Autumn.

On Not Enjoying Every Minute

(My darling children.  I understand fully the weight of publicly publishing my thoughts in the digital age.  One day you will find this blog and read my words.  So read this first- I love you.  I adore you.  You are magical little fountains of joy who have bettered my world in every imaginable way.  I am eternally thankful to be your mother.  My love for you is the Universe- vast, unending, filled with the energy of infinite time, bigger than myself.  You, Byron and Claira, are my world in all the best of ways.)

 

 

Sometimes having kids is really fucking hard.  

Amiright?

I have noticed a distinct trend on social media that, whenever an overwhelmed young mother posts vent or complaint about the challenges of raising young children, some well meaning 60 something with grown children will cheerfully chime in with those same 3 words…

“Enjoy every minute!”

Jesus.

I get it.  Childhood is fleeting.  Seeing your kids grow up and fly the nest is emotionally complex.  Young children are perfect little cherubs filled with nothing but love and goodness.

Except, little kids can also kind of suck sometimes.

Because being a good parent and raising your children is REALLY HARD WORK.

They cry.  They tantrum.  They get up at 4:30am every fucking day.  They throw their food on the floor instead of eating it even though they NEED TO EAT TO LIVE and they just don’t understand that.  They pinch and kick and bite.  They cling to you when you are desperate for a minute alone.  They poop only half-way into the toilet while you are trying to eat your dinner.  They take and demand and scream and throw themselves on the ground, ready to die for a cause you can’t even understand.  Little kids are A LOT.

They need everything.  They need every ounce of energy, attention and care we can muster.  Because they can’t HELP that they need so much.  It’s just part of the normal developmental process.  It is, yeah, a lot.

When we lived in Madison, when Tim was alive, I was mostly home with the kids.  I had a small private practice because I loved having clients to work with, but my focus was on my babies.  Tim worked long hours.  Too long, considering what a greedy dickweed his company turned out to be (yeah, I’m talking about you EPIC SYSTEMS).  Tim would go away on 4 day work trips and I would feel sorry for myself and talk about how hard it was to “single mom”.  As if I had any fucking clue.  It was a lot, being home with my babies all day.  I had the support of my friends, but they all had jobs and/or kids of their own.  We were all busy.  We were all overwhelmed.

Since Tim’s death, the weight of motherhood has increased ten-fold.  I now have the responsibility to raise these kids on my own.  Their loving father is not physically present to be my partner in this journey.  We are a family of three, and I’m the only adult.  This is an immense responsibility to carry, and I am overwhelmed.

Because they need so much.  They deserve so much.  And I worry that I will not have the physical, emotional, mental, and financial means to give them everything I dreamed I would.  I worry that I will not be enough.  I worry that I will not be the mother I want to be.  The mother they should have.  The mother I was before, when I was half of a whole.

So it’s hard for me to enjoy every minute.

It’s hard for any parent.

But I work to enjoy and embrace the moments that I can.

I focus on what I am capable of.  I try not to focus on what I am not.

More importantly, I have my human community.  The hundreds of friends and family members who have risen up to support my children and I through this process.  My parents.  My friends.  Tim’s family.  All of us will work together to bring these babies up in the world.  We will work together to give them the life they deserve, even if it can never be the life I planned for them.  It will be a life.  A good life.  And they will experience the joy, the love, the wonder, the adventure that they deserve.

Facing this world alone, my babies at my side, is a painful and challenging undertaking.  But I am SO. DEEPLY. THANKFUL.

Because Tim gave me these babies.  

And with our love, they are the greatest thing we could have ever created.  

 

Memories and Maine

In the years that Tim and I lived in Somerville, MA, we traveled to the ocean often.  Well, not as often as we should have, considering we lived just miles from the sea, but often enough.  Scratch that.

Sometimes we went to the ocean.  It was good.

Our favorite trip of the summer was camping in Maine.  In the beginning of August, we would pack up our car with the camping gear we used exclusively for this adventure, and drive to Georgetown Island.  We stayed in the same campsite, overlooking the bay, where we would spend the weekend with our dear friends, Hannah and Andy, and their children.

We would go to the bay at low tide and walk the tidal sands, past men clamming in the mist.  We would go to the beach and play with the kids in the sand.  On Saturday, we would order lobsters from a local fisherman, who would deliver them to our campsite, freshly steamed.  We would sit by the campfire every night, drink wine, listen to waves, and just enjoy the company of dear friends.

Then life started to shift, as it always does. Our friends announced their separation the same month we announced our relocation to Wisconsin.  We moved 1000 miles west.  The ocean was no longer a short drive away.  Our yearly trip no longer seemed a possibility with babies and airfare and work schedules.  We would sit and talk about our memories.  We would dream of those future days when it would be possible again to enjoy woodsmoke and seafood overlooking the bay.

___________________________________________

This weekend, the kids and I went to Maine.  This time for my cousin’s wedding, and a short stay with family friends.  We went with my parents.  It was refreshing, to smell the saline in the air, to watch my children play in the tidal sands, to eat lobster and enjoy the company of friends.

It hurt too.

It made me miss Tim and the memories we shared.  Because he was the only other keeper of many of those memories.  He was the one beside me on the long drive up the coast.  He was the one next to me in our chilly tent on dewy mornings.  He was the love I shared those moments of joy with.

He’s gone.

I’m the only one who remembers now.

It was painful to see my children playing in the water.  To see my son excitedly collecting stones and shells and to watch my daughter’s wonder at the vast sea.  To know how much happiness it would have given to him.  To want to see him explore along-side our babies.  To know that he will never share those memories.

Tim and I were master travelers with one another.  We balanced one another out and filled each other’s needs with our own presence.  We took turns handling logistics and stress.  We carried each other.  I don’t have my companion in the world any more.  My parents were massively helpful with my children, as they always are, but they are not Tim.

So I missed him.

I felt a lot of pain in the days I once would have felt joy.

And it’s not fair.  It will never be.

 

But I am grateful.  For the opportunity to return to Maine, and the opportunities ahead.  To hear my children’s laughter.  To smell the ocean air, and stand, fully feeling in the cold, misty mornings.  To celebrate the simple beauty of nature.  To taste lobster and drawn butter.

To still be alive.

I’ll keep living for you, Tim.  For our children.

We’ll make more memories.  And I’ll always carry yours.

 

 

 

The Awkward Conversations You Need To Have.

We don’t like to talk about death.  It’s gross.  It’s weird.  It makes everyone uncomfortable.  Shhhh…don’t make everyone uncomfortable, we’re trying to have a nice dinner here.  Besides, you’re not going to die, right?  I mean, by the time you get old, there will be SCIENCE to keep you alive FOREVER.  Yes,  you are sure of that.

I hate to tell you, my friend…you are wrong.  You are doing to die.  Your parents are going to die.  Your lover is going to die.  Your kids are going to die (maybe before you!).  Your friends are going to die.  Everyone you have ever known and loved will die.  Hope your morning is going well!  What a swell day!!!

Tim and I had the kind of relationship in which we could talk about ANYTHING.  We talked about it all: spirituality, our beliefs around death and dying and what happens after, politics, bodily functions, sex, emotions, random passing thoughts, boring mundane shit, everything.

We knew one another through and through.  And trust me, if you knew Tim you know we was a COMPLICATED man.  That brain.  Holy shit there was a lot in there.

So when we sat in that cramped conference room on the 15th floor of Tisch NYU and the Neurologist looked at me and asked “What are your and Tim’s spiritual beliefs?  What do you believe happens after death?” I KNEW the answer.  Because we had talked about it countless times in the 12 beautiful years we shared.  And because I knew HIM.

So on May 21st 2017, when he had his MRI, when we found out his cortex was damaged beyond repair, when we found out that he would only live in a vegetative state, I knew what he wanted.  He wanted to die.

At 33 years old.  I made the decision to take my beloved off of life support and watch him slowly die.  And I don’t regret it.  Because I knew him.

____________________________________________________

Losing Tim and navigating this messy, confusing, emotionally shattering walk of widowhood has taught me a lot about the logistics of death.  Tim didn’t have a Will because he wasn’t going to die young.  Other people do that.  And he didn’t have anyone listed as a beneficiary to any of his accounts because, again, 34 year olds don’t die of heart attacks.  That just doesn’t happen.  So in the weeks following Tim’s death, instead of curling up in a ball and letting my community care for me, I got to work.  Because it was my only choice.

Life Insurance:  Tim had it.  I have no fucking clue what I would be doing now without it.  He had his company policy as well as an additional policy he purchased on top of it.  It’s enough to ensure that my kids will always have food and their basic material needs met.  I wish we had more, but it’s more than many end up with, so I’ll take it.  If you don’t have life insurance GET IT.  NOW.  ESPECIALLY if you have kids.  Get more than you think you’ll need.  Just do it already.

Accounts: Several years ago I had taken over our finances.  Because I was just better at managing our money and Tim was better at making the money, so it worked out.  That meant that, after Tim died, I knew what accounts he had. I knew who we owed what and how to pay them.  I knew what accounts to close and what should remain open.  I knew the passwords and log-in information.  I would have been completely screwed without this knowledge.  Write down your account information, your passwords, the companies you owe money to every month and how much you pay them. Stick it in the back of your desk or safe and tell your partner/kids/parents/trusted friend where it is.

Medical and End of Life Care: As Tim’s wife, I was automatically responsible for making medical decisions for him.  He was unconscious (and basically brain dead, turns out) so he was not legally able to make decisions for himself.  Know your partner.  If you are not married, set up medical proxy so that they can make decisions for you if you want them too.  Get a Living Will if you do not wish to receive unnecessary medical care.  Most importantly- TALK TO YOUR LOVED ONES ABOUT YOUR WISHES.  Talk about what you want in the case of a medical emergency.  Talk to them about what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with.  Talk to them about organ and tissue donation.  Talk to them about what you want after death, look into your options and price them out.  If you live in a state with Right-To-Die laws, talk about that too.  Write down your desires and plans so that there will not be any question if your time comes to lie unconscious in a hospital bed.  You own your life.  You might be able to own your death.

Final Will and Testament: If you don’t have one already, get on that.  We thought we had time.  We didn’t feel like spending the money.  We were wrong.  You might be too.  Having a Will will make the death logistics all the easier for your loved ones.  And your wishes will be know.  You can get one online in about 30 minutes.  It’s well worth your time.

Funeral Arrangements: Tim and I never really talked about exactly what he wanted to be done with his body or how he wanted his life memorialized.  I did know that being embalmed was not something he was into, and that he favored creation or green burial.  I also knew that he wanted people to have a party, not a funeral, after he died.  So I had him cremated.  And we threw him a party.  A big one, with music and dancing and food and pictures and stories.  And then I had another party for him.  And I’m planning another.  Because that man LOVED A PARTY.  So he gets as many parties as I can manage.  Turns out, cremation and celebrations of life are a LOT less expensive then the traditional funeral route, so that’s nice too.  You don’t have to do what we did for Tim, you can do whatever you want.  But you need to tell people what you want.  In detail.  Write it down with everything listed above.

 

So I know what everyone is doing this weekend, right?  You are doing to invite your loved ones over for dinner, get the wine flowing, and drop a super heavy conversation about death on that.  Scratch that, it doesn’t have to be heavy.  You can have fun with it.  Have everyone share their thoughts, tell the whole group what you want.  You won’t regret it.

And if you do, hey, you’ll be dead.

Blueberry Muffins for Superior Mothers

Yesterday I received the preschool snack schedule and I was PSYCHED.  Because on Thursday, I get to bring in class snack.  Now, this may not seem exciting, but I have been looking forward to providing school snack since Byron was born.  Because I will be *That Mom*.  The mom that brings in healthy, homemade baked goods to be gleefully devoured by the hoards of children as I look on smugly and lovingly.

I would enter the classroom with a hand-turned wooden bowl, overflowing with fresh blueberry muffins, wrapped in an upcycled silk sari.  I would smooth my long, waving hair as I demurred “Oh, this?  My goodness, It’s my PLEASURE!  ANYTHING for the children.”.

THIS. IS. MY. TIME.

Now, I envisioned whole grain muffins sweetened exclusively with honey and dates, dotted with pumpkin seeds, sprinkled with flax meal and hemp.  A perfect, whole, nourishing snack for the little cherubs to savor before their free-play outside…

But these are the muffins I made.

They’re basically cake batter and blueberries.

Whatever…They’re good enough.

I’m good enough.  Right?  Right.

 

Blueberry Muffins for Superior Mothers

1 cup (2 sticks) softened salted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup maple syrup

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups All Purpose Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Cup Whole Milk

3 cups blueberries

Cream butter and sugar and maple syrup together while yelling at 3 year old to stop eating fistfuls of butter.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Lift crying baby from the floor and drop large dollop of batter on your dress.  You look beautiful.

Add in flour, baking powder and salt all at once and realize that the bowl is too small.  Make a mess because you really don’t even care anymore.  Add milk.  Stir as little as possible to bring mixture together.  Add blueberries.  Good.  You’re doing a great job.

Spoon mixture into muffin tins.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the same size spoonfuls, just get this over with already.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the tops brown slightly and a knife stabbed into the center comes out clean.

Cool.  Feed to children.  They like it.  You did great.  It’s going to be ok.

Resilience and the Creative Process

 

We, as human beings, are elastic. Our bodies stretch and change over moments and years.  We grow to accommodate fat, babies, tumors, muscle, liquid.  We change shape and size from our waking moments, over days and years, and through a lifetime.  We stretch and move to feel free, to feel healthy, to feel strong, to feel.  Our minds, our brains, are ever changing clusters of synaptic connection.  Firing, rewiring, dying with every thought that drifts through.  We are plastic and pliable, moldable in our physical presence, our feelings, and our thoughts.  We are incredible bendable beings.

Trauma affects us all differently.  While we may all may bare witness to the same unspeakable event, we will process our experience in our own unique ways.  We handle ourselves differently.  We make different choices.  Our brains create thoughts and sensations unlike any other person’s.  There are aspects of this that we can control and others that we cannot.

The expressive arts have been used by humans since the beginning our existence as means of communication and expression.  Throughout history, across cultures, we have used art, music, movement, writing and photography to show the human experience through varied lenses and platforms.  Through the arts we explore creativity, emotion, and thought in ways words may not be able to express.  As expressive arts therapists, we use these mediums as means of connection and communication between ourselves and our clients and our worlds.

As a Music Therapist and Mental Health Counselor, I have devoted my career to supporting people through their life experiences.  Through trauma and transition.  We work together with music and expression to create healing and change.  The day that Tim had his heart attack, my skills became not applicable to my clients, but to myself and my children.


 

The night that Tim had his heart attack, he died for the first time.  I held him as his eyes rolled back, his lips turned blue, his breathing ceased.  When I pulled him to the floor I heard my own breath rattling out of his lungs as I blew life into his mouth and pumped his still chest.  With time, work, and a team of first responders, his body came back to life.  I sat and watched from across the room, held in the arms of my best friend.

The week that followed was a surreal and seemingly endless balance between the worlds of the living and the dead.  Tim was in the care of some of the world’s best doctors.  All we could do was wait.

So I waited.

And I found ways to channel my confusing and painful experience in the process.

Dear friends brought me colored pencils and coloring books.  I spent hours creating colorful little worlds on neat and orderly paper pages as my beloved precariously clung to “life”.  I took scalding hot showers and listened to The Bahama’s “Lost in the Light” on repeat because it made me feel something in the numbness and haze.

When Tim finished his transition to the stars, when he died and I was left to continue our journey alone, I used my creativity to propel me forward.

I returned to the pottery studio after over a year away.  I began journaling every night.  I cooked and baked daily.  I filled our room with flower arrangements cut from my parent’s gardens.   I listened to new music obsessively.  I took photographs.  I sang in my car.  I found live shows and danced with my entire being.  I started this blog.

My son has followed me in this journey and creates art for his Papa.  At three, he paints, and draws, and glues feathers and googly eyes and plastic gems to cardboard boxes.  He works with focus and intent.  He stands proudly with his work and proclaims “I made it for my Dad!”.  We sing songs together.  His sister dances.  We find joy in each other.  We work to form our future with Elmers Glue and glitter and love.

Art gives life.

It has allowed me to feel at a time that I could not feel anything at all.

It gives me focus and energy and motivation to press forward in creating a worthy life from these smoking embers.

 

Roasted Tomato Sauce to Make You Feel Things.

If you have a garden this year, you have a lot of tomatoes.  Tons of tomatoes.  Truckloads of tomatoes.  Tomatoes coming our of your EARS.

Or, maybe not.  Maybe you don’t have a garden.  In which case, I feel bad for you (son).

I’m sorry for your loss.

I started making this tomato sauce several years ago when we were living in our triple decker apartment in Somerville.  The walls had little insulation, so I would make this sauce on cold days to save on heat.  It takes time.  It’s a Sunday afternoon kind of sauce.  It’s a person-from-high-school-you-always-had-a-crush-on but-seemed-unavailable-in-some-way-so-you-let-it-go-and-reconnected-10-years-later-and-got-married kind of sauce.

It’s worth it.

It’s thick and creamy.  Naturally sweet from the caramelized sugars that seep from the tomatoes.  It’s savory and rich.  It will make you feel things in places your lover has never touched.  Yes.  Yes, right there.  Mmmm.

Let’s do this, you and me.

Roasted Tomato Sauce To Make You Feel Things

All The Tomatoes.  (Like, 10 pounds)

2+ BULBS of garlic. (Not cloves, bulbs.  Don’t make me come in there.)

Liberal Sprinkling of Salt (Think Bernie Sanders)

Generous Drizzle of Olive Oil

Light Dusting of Hot Pepper Flakes (if you care)

 

Here’s the deal.  This is a really fucking easy sauce to make.  It just takes time.

Cut all those tomatoes in half.  Don’t bother cutting out the tops or seeds, it’s all going to the same place.  Lay them in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Peel the garlic and just plop it all in there with the tomatoes.  They are friends now.  Sprinkle on that Salt.  Drizzle on that Oil.  Yes. Just a bit more.  Good.  Time for those pepper flakes.  Excellent.

Put it in the oven at 250 degrees.

Ok, now go about your day.  For at least 4 hours.

I’m serious.

I said this will take time and I meant it.

Wait.

A little longer.

Ok.

When the tomatoes look shrunken and shriveled and glossy with oil, take it on out.  Put it in a food processor.  Make it look saucy.  Good.  It’s done.

Serve over pasta or “zoodles” or whatever it is that you eat.  Layer it into an Eggplant Parmesan.  Dollop it onto eggs.  Eat it from the container at 3am while you cry.  You do you.

Enjoy.