The Inadequacy of Words

There are things I need to write that I just have no idea how to write. There are emotions that are too vast, so far out of scale to the rest of life, that you are left bewildered, wondering what happened and what normal will mean now.

My ex-husband David died yesterday.

Looking over and over at those little words on the screen, they don’t seem real.

David came into my life when I was barely more than a girl. He was one of the best friends I have ever had. He walked beside me for a decade as my friend before we married, and he taught me priceless lessons about life, love, growth, change and courage. Our marriage lasted ten years, and contained some of the highest and brightest pinnacles of my life, and some of the deepest and darkest sorrows. In the almost six years since the divorce, we were able to remember and rely on our decades of friendship to forgive each other, to heal, and to place our children first.

There is a lot I want to say— a lot I need to say— stories I want to tell, things I want to preserve for my children about their first father.  More than anything, I am awash in sorrow and grief that my children will not know the man I knew and loved. He was so much more than they got to experience in their young lives, and there is nothing I can do to change the fact that life is hard, and unfair, and sometimes pain gets the better of us and the world loses what might have been.

I can’t believe he’s gone.

Blended Families


Family barbecue with my dad and my step-dad hanging out with Jeffrey.

My parents divorced when I was seventeen. Not that there’s ever an easy time to go through something like that, but seventeen is a rough time for your folks to spit. You’re on the verge of adulthood, so many things hang in the balance, you’re still a kid in so many ways, but you’re also figuring out how to transition into making some pretty important decisions about life. While that part of my life had the imagined turbulence, there’s one thing my parents did right, and for which I still commend them to this day—My parents never made their issues part of my or my siblings’ lives.

I’ve written a little about this before, but I’m reminded again of how vital this has been to the longterm health and happiness of me and my siblings. We are on vacation in California right now, at a lake near Yosemite. My entire family has come together- my mom and step-dad, my dad and step-mom, my siblings and half-sibling, all the wives and children. My mom and step-dad welcome my dad and my step-mom and their daughter into their home as openly and warmly as they welcome everyone. My dad rents a cabin down the lane from my mom. My aunt and cousins come up from the Bay Area, and there are scads of children, communal means, and summer birthdays to celebrate.

The thing is? It’s always been this way.

I’m absolutely certain, when I look back with adult-eyes, that there was tension and sorrow between my parents. However, both parents always celebrated our milestones together, my dad and step-dad coached my brothers in Little-League together, we share holidays, and it’s not at all unusual for my dad to walk into my mom’s place and just hang out, maybe have a beer with my step-dad, and shoot the breeze. This is the only model I know. This has made all the difference to me and my siblings. It’s the model I assumed  and tried to follow when Jon and I combined our families.

Alas, it takes two people to row the boat in the right direction. If only one person is will to row, the boat just goes in a circle. It’s really sad, because I know what’s possible and what a gift it is to the children for the parents to set aside their differences and get along. But we can’t do it alone.  I do know it’s not only possible, but is a beautiful thing with long-reaching ripples in everyone’s lives when forgiveness is practiced, and the children are truly put first. I’ve seen it in my own family, and I’ve seen it in my husband’s family. Love, without reservation.


At the lake the other day, there were more than twenty people in our family group. There are new marriages, old marriages, second marriages, adopted children, step-children, natural children, original families, and blended families. As far as the children are concerned, there is no difference. My kids have three grandpas. My children have two dads, and three grandmas. They have more aunts and uncles than I can count- and it doesn’t matter where they came from; I do not rank family. My children loving another person takes nothing away anyone else. The heart is not a limited resource. Family is family, and as far as I can see, no matter which way I look at it, having more people love my children is absolutely a net good. That love isn’t about me, or about my preferences or about me forcing my will on the world. That love is about me getting out of the way and allowing the goodness in others to grow between my children in their relationships with those who love them. And there is no such thing as too much love for a child— or for a family.


Also, here is a shot of Bean paddle surfing. He rocked it. Straight up. Even when he fell off and lost the paddle. My cousin and Jon were down at the shore, coaching him on how to get back up, and he did it. Abby took a turn, too- though she ended up riding the current into a mud bar and getting rescued by a kayaker. So she got a kayak ride, too. Always an upside…


What’s Goin’ On…


I loathe camping. I mean, I’ve camped a lot in my life- my dad is a hunter, and a campfire with sleeping bags in the back of the pickup truck are not foreign to me- I even set a sleeping bag on fire once when I put a too-hot towel-wrapped brick near our feet in a futile effort to keep warm during winter camping. If I have to, I can do it. But since having children, the desire to rough-it has utterly departed. The thought of camping with Bean when he was little was enough to make me nauseated. Can you even imagine…? I feel sick. So of course, I got asked by my church to help with the young women’s Girls’ Camp this year.

It was far more fun than I expected. I met some lovely new friends. Another woman and I were in charge of the Craft Cabin, and we had to come up with fun things for the girls to make during the week. I was able to head to the camp, spend the day, and then return back home to sleep in bug-free solid-walled glory. It was the best camping experience ever, and I totally fell in love with working with the teen girls. My tables were filled with honestly remarkable conversations floating in and out all day, peppered with clever observations, thoughtful ideas, and hard questions. I would join in at times, and at other times, I would sit back and just listen. I feel far more optimistic now about heading into the teen years with my own kids than I did a few days ago.

For my part, I taught a lesson on computer coding, put together by my friend Cynthia, which you can find full support for at BCC. The girls learned about binary code, and then made necklaces using the code they’d learned. As a nod to my hippie past, we also made prisms on beaded hangers. It went swimmingly, and I’m so glad I was called to help.

Our car has been kaput off and on for a couple of weeks now. The dealership finally gave us a loaner car while they farm out the beast and build it some new insides. Of course this happens at the worst possible time, with summer and five kids filtering in and out. We have to take two cars everywhere, and it’s a first world problem and I’m super glad for the loaner. I still want my car back. Soon.

For the first time in about a million years, my family is having something of a reunion this summer. We haven’t all been together in… well, maybe ever. The east coast contingent will be there, the northwest contingent will be there, the local contingent will be there, moms, dads, steps, cousins, siblings and all he grandkids. I’m pretty excited, and plan on spending the better part of the week dividing my time between my mom’s pool and the lake where she lives.


Bean’s got a new teacher for home-study this summer, and she has made all the difference. This teacher is patient, kind, thoughtful, specific and firm, and tremendously patient. Did I mention patient? He loves her, and she’s working on supporting him as we head towards middle school in the fall. Middle school is such a nightmare for any kid, but when you add in ASD… well, I’d do anything to help smooth the way for him. I’d even go camping, if it helped. Which it won’t.


This kid got an award from the POTUS for good grades. He also spent a week at Scout Camp, and while he initially thought he loved camping as much as I did, but it turns out he actually had a great time. He chopped wood, hauled food, swam, learned to make stuff, and earned five merit badges towards his Eagle Scout, which he’s decided he wants. He also starts (gulp!) football this summer. I’m not ready. And high school this fall. I’m REALLY not ready.


Abby spent all her birthday money buying rocks. Er, excuse me… MINERALS. (They’re MINERALS, Marie!) She’s planning on doing some geologic exploration this summer, and I think it will require her pickaxe, a brunton compass, and perhaps a USGS topographic quadrant map. Oh, and she got a perfect 4.0 for the entire year and is starting AP classes in the fall.

Things are going lovely at our new ward. People have been kind, thoughtful, friendly and considerate towards our family, and we’ve been made to feel welcome and even loved. What a nice change of pace, eh?

I’m beginning to warm up my mental facilities in preparation for heading back to grad school. I’m not ready to talk about it yet much beyond acknowledging I have unfinished business, and I want those extra letters after my name. The wheel goes round.


My heart was sweetly aching last week as I watched my Facebook feed fill with photos of my friends at the two California shows of the final five Grateful Dead shows ever. These was the reuniting of the four remaining members, more than two decades after Jerry Garcia died. It’s hard to believe it’s been 25 years since I found my way to my first Dead show in Sacramento. I don’t even know how many shows I saw in the ensuing five years, but it was a foundational segment of my life, and comprises a facet of who I am today. I tried to get tickets to any of the final three shows in Chicago this weekend, but it just wasn’t possible. See: five kids, a new transmission and grad school. Adulthood is hard. So I put on one of my early shows last night and watched film of the Mardi Gras shows at Oakland with my husband. Thankful the Dead always allowed taping, and every show ever is archived and at the tips of your Googling fingers.

I have a new book coming out this fall- it’s a volume of essays my dear friend and colleague Emily Jensen and I edited, and I’m thrilled about it. You can see it on Amazon here.

I think that brings me up to date, mostly. Maybe now I can get back to writing for reals.