Crows

There’s little time for personal blogs anymore.  Everything is angle, niche, educational. There’s nothing about a Mom blog that can be optimized for a more kale-infused life.

Mom bloggers have moved on: to podcasts and social media positions and gondola rides with their teenagers.  They’ve had divorces and promotions, run-ins with the bottle and enough with blogging Conferences.  Or, they’ve just moved along, quietly and purposefully.  Life’s urgencies and random judgments have quelled the need to share the minutae, or at least the type that can’t be reasonably extracted into a thirty-second attention span.

It’s 2016, and that means YouTube lipstick tutorials and Instagram filtered selfies with #likeittoknowit, strategic blue white light slicing  errant pimples.

I haven’t missed personal blogging like I thought I would because I’ve been sorting out lunchboxes and plotting sales plans, snoring on redeyes and feeling guilty about all of the things I’ve swept under my bed.  I write in my head and in paragraphs under Instagram captions, sometimes on linkedin.  I have a secret book started but it’s not urgent anymore: it’s unraveling at its leisure because I’m finally learning to be softer with myself.

It’s been a year since my Dad died and it’s not coincidental that I’m writing here again, now.  He always liked reading the things I wrote and I can picture him holding one of my pre-pubescent manuscripts grinning: “You’re such a hoot, Kristin.  You’re such a hoot.”

Death is something that gets in your bones and jolts out of them at strangely designated moments: holidays, birthdays, first times.  As the calendar approaches April 11, I can’t stop thinking about him.

His legs, how thin he was on that hospital bed.  His words in the wheelchair outside the hospital, I love you dad, I said, and it wasn’t weird. Finally.  In the morning sun, when it’s just Summer and I in the kitchen and the rest of the family is sleeping, I can feel something oddly familiar, like his shoulder and his Old Spice and his deep gravel voice – entrenched in the mountains across the water.

“Hi Dad,” I whisper,”We are good.  Mom is strong and the kids build forts with her on Sunday nights.  Dave sent me a text today.  Jude says you are dancing in his heart.”

I don’t know why but I often think of him whenever a crow soars overhead, lands on our balcony, eyes us curiously from a forest branch perch. Spirit animals, energy transfer, our continual march toward frailty and what really matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aftermath

After my Dad died, a numb patch surfaced in my brain.

I’d be buckling Summer into her car seat,  her sticky fingers flailing, rain drops splattering on my back as I bent over the car to pull straps and quell flailing limbs, as I’ve done so many times and then it would hit, like a sudden train.  My dad is dead.

Or, walking down the dock to the kayaks, Jude’s small hand enveloped in mine and the green-blue ripple of the Arm in May and the crumpled coconut Lara bar wrapper moving in my pocket as I walked.  An everyday, mindless moment and then, my Dad’s threadbare running shoes, suddenly in my peripheral by the base of the dock.  All stepped on and streaked in mud and debris.  A reminder of all the years he was here and the fact that now that he’s not.  And sudden tears, silent, because it’s still so confusing to Jude, who still sees him.

“Gradat’s right here, Mommy.  He plays with me.  He’s not sick anymore.”

***

I think a lot about the people surrounding my Dad’s death, because the numb patch occupies his actual presence.  I think about the man in the bedroom next to his in palliative care, with the age-spotted face and huge grin, his shuffling feet.  I think of the skinny Indian woman who sat silently in her bed, alone.  I think of the swarm of nurses in emergency and the blinking buttons and the crystal sharp clarity that comes in every moment in death’s immediate vicinity.  I think about what it all means, and what it takes to live a life mostly devoid of regret.  I think about the things I can do that would make my Dad proud, if he can see me.  I long ago gave up on God and the inherent meaning of life and all of that bullshit, but there is something deep and powerful in me that believes that somehow, in some inexplicable format, he’s still around.  In Jude’s hand, in Summer’s flailing, hopeful fingers,

Dad

In the summer, my dad’s uniform consisted of shredded denim shorts, hanging frayed over berry brown, sinewy legs, scratched up from thorns on bush treks to fix various water lines, pathways, inconveniently located tree stumps.

He had a stogie behind his ear, and one hanging, burning precariously low, out of his mouth.  He was perpetually bleeding and missing fingernails and dropping his phone in the ocean while tinkering with crab traps, bolts, the kayaks so his grandchildren could float in the water and enjoy the sun glinting on the crystal blue water just as much as he did.

He liked Spam, fried donuts, strong coffee and the fact that he had a (dubuous) six pack at the age of 69.  You couldn’t visit him at the cabin without a long discussion with him about his waterfall, the beauty of the mountains, the fact that this, Deep Cove, was the prettiest place on the planet, as well as being the southernmost glacial fjord, did you know?

There was nothing soft about any of his edges.  He was obstinate to the point of insanity, and he insisted that my leftist politics were a product of my uninformed youth, even as I became a full-on adult.  Especially then. Even with my own stubbornness, I could not convince him of anything he did not already believe.  He pushed his kids hard, believing fully that we were capable of being the very best at whatever we tried.  He bought my Mom trashy magazines and peppermint chocolate and he hurt for days about the broken owl he found on the road.  He and my brother built ice rinks and talked in ehs about fast boats and their summer excursions to remote bays: nothing but coffee mugs and bloody fingers and fishing.

My dad loved his grandchildren with a suddenly soft, blinkingly tender love that came out of left field and stunned me with its power.

When I think of my childhood, I think of my dad beside me, coaching me in my burgeoning track and field hobby. I remember him too-long on my small ten speed bike, pedaling furiously beside me, his smoke billowing in the wind.

“Faster Kristin, faster,” he’d growl and my skinny legs would fly around in front of him, pushing harder, digging deeper, because it was impossible to slack off in front of a man who never understood that anyone was capable of anything less than the power of his own sheer, unstoppable force of will.

He was politically incorrect, smart as fuck, uncommonly fair, unfailingly generous and possessing one of the largest hearts of any human I have ever known.

***

My dad passed away last night.  He fought for every last second, stubborn and determined and defying expectations, right to the bitter end.

I don’t believe in heaven Dad.  I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe that we all go to the pearly gates if we’ve been virtuous.  What I do believe is that I can see you up there, right now, in the sunshine that’s slanting particularly determinedly through some pretty black clouds right there in front of my window, on the Arm of Water you loved so deeply.

And I can hear your familiar mantra: push deeper Kristin, don’t quit, you guys, dig deeper.  You can do everything you want to do.  And so we will Dad. I promise we will.

letter from nolan

Polarize

2014 was the best year of my life. It was also the worst.

I stopped writing very personal things on the Internet around the time that Corey came into my life in 2009, perhaps a little after.  I wrote stuff for magazines here and there, and I leveraged the relationships I’d built through my blog for a lot of career and personal gain, but I learned (slowly, over ten years, because I’m often a little thick) that there is almost no long term benefit in laying your goosebumped-plucked-raw heart onto the Internet for examination.  There are people who circle your shitty experiences, of course, and modify them for good in their own lives. But there are also vultures who circle and dive and gorge themselves on your vulnearable bloody innards and those people – together with Facebook – killed the deeply personal blog.

In 2014, I posted pictures on Instagram of our happy family, I incredulously, tearily welcomed the wise-old-soul eyes of my daughter.  I enjoyed a sunny warm maternity leave with my small humans and discovered the deepness of my friendships and the comfort of handholding through shared tears.  I started a blazing new career with the coolest company in the country.  I moved into a new house on the ocean with the people I love the best, crossing off a major life goal that at one point had seemed absurd.

There was an undercurrent of blackness in the background, though, that pervaded through the year.  You’d never know.  It’s OK.  The blackness is hovering in the wings of every stable thing you think you know.  It dissipates and recedes and paves way for hope , though, if you believe hard enough.  That’s what mattered most about 2014.  We all believed hard enough. And so fuck you, blackness on the side.  I believe we won’t see you again for a very long time.

Happy 2015 everyone, 17 days late and a dollar short and filled with good intentions and intense belief for you and yours as well.

The Power of the Sharpie Scrawl

Seven years ago it was just me and my toddler.  Silence pounded the windows at night while I sat at my computer, my surrogate lover.  I sometimes observed, I sometimes forced humour, I sometimes wrote what spilled out without any foresight or wisdom and without a lick of skill.  Always the reward for the late night tapping was a temperance of the loneliness that flooded in with comments, bringing tinned camaraderie, which I consumed with a wild  hunger.

My son was two, he was sweet and wise beyond his years and my hope in a family was shattered.  I wondered just how much I’d messed up his life with my bad decisions, wondered how dislodged he felt with just me leading his tiny life.

I kept a jar of caramel in the fridge and a bottle of wine in the cabinet and I’d eat nothing during the day and fill myself with sugar at night.  I don’t remember which of the rain splattered nights it was, or what spurred me on, but one blog post was just a series of fragmented hope that I’d already lost, of scenes I’d once conjured as a possibility, deep back there, but never uttered because the pinpoint possibility of fruition seemed a bit ridiculous.

But still, I wrote it like it was real:

a husband, a smart one, with a giant heart

a daughter, with wise eyes

a house on the ocean, in front of the calm

I remember thinking about my husband’s face, about what an imagined daughter might look like.  I imagined a father figure for my tow-headed boy, and someone who might love me despite all the fuckedupness.  I remember the house, because it was the biggest stretch of all.  It had a view that looked something like this:

 

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I’ve always believed in writing things down, to willing the Universe slightly in your favour by scrawling things in thick black Sharpie and willing a path to the things that your soul craves the most deeply. Cancer and war and addiction and horror will still swirl around and inside, of course, but the things that might make your heart sparkle might lie somewhere in the transfer of desire from your head to your hand and on to paper, maybe?

I think so.  I don’t know why else I could possibly be here today, 7 years after flying here with a broken heart and a two year old, in my tiny house with my husband and my boys – my daughter and an ocean out my window.

Motivation, Tinyness

Today the sun was gleaming and strong and sweat-provoking in the same way as the late July sun: clinging to black tank tops, searing.  The weekends are the syrup on the week: I have Corey as my Copilot of The Crazy and he can wrangle one child while I stuff the other one under my shirt, he can point out the scuttling rock crabs while I point my phone at them, collecting shards of late summer for wistful remembrance later.

In the afternoon we dropped Jude and his mini-bike with my Mom, Nolan at his Dad’s, and we took Summer to the gym to sleep/hangout while we garnered a sweat.

I’m employing the slash in the previous sentence because if Summer doesn’t sleep at the gym, she just hangs out there wide-eyed in her car seat, regarding all the maniacs with scab shins and knee socks with a calm tolerance.  She watches us grunt and strain and hammer out our bottled angst,  for an hour if we want, no problem.  Corey and I look at her and we look at each other and we are appalled by the fact that we made a human that is so completely opposite from her older brother.  She’s so completely different from us too, with a mellow sweetness that doesn’t match the frenetic stubborn firecracker-ness of all of her immediate family members.

She smiling these days, and making crazily adorable cooing noises, and she is the most laid back human being I have ever encountered.  People regard me with concern sometimes, ask about the insanity of three children and whether I feel compelled to toss myself into a meat grinder sometimes but honestly, my 2.5 month old has not in any way made my life more challenging.  She sleeps through the night, she naps well, she doesn’t get upset.  She has these eyes that know things, but she also possesses a push-button smile that lights up her face with a dwarfish glee and it is so innocent and possibility-filled that it very often makes me want to cry.  More so lately. Because here’s the thing: I return to work in three weeks.

I say that, and people look at me, and etched in their frown lines is a mixture of pity and sympathy and next usually comes “Oh wow, so soon?”

It wasn’t all that soon before Summer existed on the outside, I could easily envision going back to work because work is what I do best.  It’s what I love.  I am a better career woman than I am a Mom, and I actually think that’s saying something because I know I am not a bad Mother.  I love to strategize and create and bring in money and summon friends out of prospects who were once annoyed by my persistence. I like to feel I’m contributing to something outside my household and I thrive on conquering goals someone else has set for me, particularly the ones that seem absurd.  I’m a nicer woman when I’m learning new things and soaking up brand new technology, sharing it with others.  I went back to work a few months after Jude was born and I didn’t have much of a problem with it.

But Summer.  Her giant eyes and soft tiny fingers and the way she smiles from the crook of my arm.  Her tolerant allowance of Nolan’s constant face in her face, of Jude’s insistence that she have Doggie on her forehead.  Her total trust that I will be there, that I’m going nowhere. The fact that she is my last baby, my tiny and unforseen girl.  My perfect, perfect girl.

It makes me a bit crazy, the welling over of this guilt, the pervasiveness of the pit in my stomach because Corey went back to work a few days after Summer was born and I know it’s different, he doesn’t have milk and he didn’t brew her in his abdomen etc. but why the hell is it just so easy for him to balance the work and the home?  To be our co pilot in the evenings and the weekends and for that to be OK and fine.  I want to have his confidence in his priorities and decisions.  And I can’t.  Because I’m a woman and because that guilt is built in, either way. I know. I know.

It doesn’t make it suck any less.

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The Fault in My Abs

 

If I lie on my back first thing in the morning, there’s a large crater discernible in the middle of my body.  It’s basically a pit, a hole created by my babies, widened and deepened by pregnancies in 2011 and 2013.  You can stick a whole index finger in there, or a carrot stick if you wanted to.  It’s not pretty, and by the end of the day the crater fills with food, and it looks like I’m 6 months pregnant again.  That’s because my ab muscles have thinned with all the babies, and there’s nothing keeping my innards from protruding outwards.  This is diastisis recti, and I’ve written about it before, here, here and here. 

I still get emails from women who struggle with coming to grips that their bodies have inexorably changed after baby and reject the whole too bad, so sad, you’ve had a baby suck up your war wounds  mantra that seems to be pervasive in popular culture.  They kind of seem to know that they don’t have to just live with a flabby protruding stomach because they’ve given birth, and I’ve done my best to respond to every message but just today at the gym I talked to a lady who did not know that the giant hole in her midsection was not something she just needed to sigh about and accept.

I knew my abs would separate further after I repaired them post Jude:  I am close to 40, after all, and I’m tall, and I had some pretty tight muscles in there that were bound to get strained again with all the back-to-back pressure.  But I also know I can close that shit up again, and even though it’s vain and stupid and a propos of nothing of real value in my life…dammit I loved my 6 pack.  And I’ll get it back.

For women who land here by googling “what the hell can I do about my giant post partum ab seperation” and “exercises for fixing diastisis”, here’s the thing.

1) Give yourself 5 months post partum to return to normal.

2) Healing the gap requires patient, unexciting exercises that include kegels and knee slides.  It’s not exciting, at all. But you need to do them every goddamned day, for at least 15 minutes.  If you can do them for 60 days in a row, I promise your abs will start to come together again.  This video does a good job of showing you what you need to do.

3) Avoid situps of any kind immediately post partum.  They will make your gap wider and worse.

4) Situps are actually really not good for you at all.  Plank or do kegels instead.

I am now 8 weeks postpartum and will be posting pics every second week to monitor my progress toward rectified abs.