Updates From A Covid-19 Isolation: “In An Instant”

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I’ve thought a lot about how the world changed… in what seems like an instant. Do you remember where you were when you realized this was real? That there was a something out there that could change our everything? That could kill millions, in only a few months; that could demand that we all wash and wash and wash, and cover our faces, and stay away? That would leave us aground and unable to go, go, go, and make us stand at a distance as we get married, as we get sick, as we graduate, have birthdays, and as we die. That whether you believe one side or the other, your life, our lives, would be so very altered. Do you remember what you did that last day, when things were normal?”

I do.

I was with two dear friends and my husband. We were celebrating one’s birthday that night, and wanted to seize this beautiful day. We hiked up and up a very steep and long hill, and into the woods, to a clearing that looks out to the islands, where we live. We all paused and felt so grateful, that we were giddy. For a few moments. Two of our group are doctors, and so we talked about this virus thad had come to our neck of the woods, and hit hard, one hour south. We all knew enough to know that it would come here, too. To this pristine, magical place. I’ve mentioned here before: I had been watching it in China. I saw that it was not to be toyed with. It was not to be dodged. I knew it would come. And while my husband and friends chided me in January and into February, by February 29th, as we sat looking at the shimmering Salish Sea, we all knew it was real.

Literally that day. As we hiked back down into cell range, all of our phones pinged. A message from our Governor. We would all need to take precautions. A nursing home near Seattle was under siege, and the virus had made its way to the community. We all paused, right there and looked at each other. We hugged. We knew what was coming, though no one really knew. We knew that two of us would be on what was soon called “the front line.” We knew that this wouldn’t be simple or quick. We knew that this was that last day, before it all was changing.

So, we went to our favorite oyster farm and we ate outside, side by side with the briny sea that shared her bounty with us. We watched paragliders sailing above us, and the Doug firs leaning toward the shore. And we clinked glasses, counted our blessing… And, each of us stored that memory, because, we knew.

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Since that day, the four of us have leaned on that day, remembering how special it was, and how we all felt something else coming, as our phones pinged, and the day receded to reality. How we seized those moments, and understood that they would matter. That we would remind each other, and tell our kids, and maybe our grandkids, about how we watched life change, In An Instant.

Now, I read a lot more. And I’m tying book reviews into my marking of time, and my documenting of this strange time in history. The title In An Instant is what grabbed me. I think it spoke to my lingering sense that everything changed so fast, that we have all been left dizzy. The book was what I needed, though dark and challenging at times. It grabbed me and held on for a little while.

I wanted a pager turner. I wanted a book that would take me away; one that I could dive right into. In An Instant does all of that. Suzanne Redfearn has written a story that is riveting and thought provoking throughout.

I will avoid spoilers––read the back cover and you’ll get the gist––but this is a story that every parent has imagined, to some extent or another. Redfearn examines a family tragedy with wonderful compassion and insight. She does a great job of building characters, and 16 year old Finn is a memorable one. (**spoiler, on the book jacket) Killed in a tragic accident, Finn is the narrator, as she watches over her family and comes to terms with life without her. At times, this story reminded me of The Lovely Bones, minus the very dark elements of that book. Redfearn does a good job of fleshing out this young girl, and allowing the reader to experience her life, after her life.

There are parts of the book that were less engaging for me. Again, no spoilers, but some of the melodrama pulled me out. I didn’t always connect with the mother’s motivation and behavior, and there are times in the story that I was disappointed in the build up and then fizzle of some story threads. Finn’s sister Aubrey seems to float in and out of the story, but the author never fully explains why she is so peripheral, when the book opens with planning her wedding. These kinds of details pulled me out and confused me. The sense of time doesn’t always add up, and (as a Hospice worker) I found myself frustrated by the story’s portrayal of grief and loss, which felt rushed and unrealistic. Redfearn uses some cliché language and character/place details at times as well. (see my Kindle notes)

Despite these small issues, I enjoyed this story and got what I was looking for; I was swept away and lost for a little while, in someone else’s tragedy. I was swept up in hope and renewal. The story occupied my thoughts for the week that I was reading it, before bed each night––it was was sweet, touching, and hopeful. And right now, that is what I need in a book. Take me away from this crazy world that has turned upside down!

Where were you when the world turned upside down? Have you read this book? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love the company. I’m physically distancing and socially connecting; join me!

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KAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

©2011-2020 All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Updates From a Covid-19 Isolation: Mrs. Everything

 

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I mentioned in my last post, that I am going to try and parlay my efforts to write Goodread book reviews, into regular blog post. My goal, for now, is once a week. Given my propensity to prattle on, I’ll be grateful if folks are willing to tune in and read, that often… for now. (Hard to believe I once posted 3x per week, regularly!)

This is an ironic one, given the times. I think many of us are trying to be Mrs. Everything right now. Homeschooling kids; working to stand up for social justice and equality for all, getting out the vote (yeah, you can help with that! I ordered 1,500 to write by October); becoming medical and science experts, as we navigate the crazy-ass pandemic; pseudo-therapists––talking family and friends off the ledge, as we all go a little insane; chefs (I’ve cooked more in the past 5 months, than in the previous 5 years, it seems!), and ever-endeavoring to work on self-care.

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cards I’m writing to get out the vote!

Um, right. If it wasn’t already hard to be a woman in 2020, frankly, I believe it’s gotten much harder since Covid-19 came to town. I haven’t spoken to a single woman who isn’t feeling emotionally and physically stretched. And yes, men are feeling it, too. Women don’t own the market on suffering or challenge, but as caregivers, and more often the emotional captains of the ship, it’s been an especially rough five months.

All the more “interesting” a time to pick up a book that leads readers down many paths, of being female in the United States. I’m sure there’s a way to slip from 5 stars to 4, but Jennifer Weiner just makes me so happy. Her previous books have been funny, entertaining, fun chick lit treats. Mrs. Everything goes in very different directions, and I loved it.

Following the lives of Bethie and Jo, two Jewish sisters who grow up in the 1950s, and who we follow to the present (in ten year increments), Weiner does a delicious job of reminding us that there is no one size fits all, when it comes to the lives of women. We are defined by our experiences; by the people we love and those who love us, and by the history we live in. Nature vs nurture? It’s an interesting backdrop to this story.

No spoilers here, but following two sisters who experience life so very differently, thru’ the filter of decades, allows the reader to grow with each character. So many things resonated for me, even though my life has been very different from both women. There are inherent ties that bind, and Weiner delves beautifully into those uniquely female experiences.

Beyond the two main characters, Weiner peppers this book with women from varied head spaces, backgrounds and experiences; it’s inevitable that readers will recognize themselves and connect with experiences in the story. I believe that Weiner intended you to. Are we the product of our upbringing, our role models, etc, or are we, as women, limited by the options the world provides women. Do we come out fully fledged, and our lives simply clip or free our wings? I found the female characters in this book so interesting, for their strengths and their vulnerabilities. And the rich (Jewish) cultural back drop made it that much easier to get lost in this wonderful story of personal journey, searching and hoping… to be our authentic selves. Loved Mrs. Everything!

Have you read this book? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I am physically distancing and socially connecting; join me!

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KAPOW! We could all use a little sparkle! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

 

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Loving A Girl, A Sort Of Book Review

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I’ve been hiking a lot. I’ve been eating a lot. I’ve been stuffing down feelings and feeling shell shocked a lot. I’ve been avoiding the news, but sneaking peaks––that inevitably make me wish I’d avoided it. I’ve been trying not to get my hopes up, but hoping I can. I’ve been working on my novel… for like ten years. Or more. I’ve been missing my kids. A lot. And I’ve been reading. I’m reading books and listening to books, and reading some more. It’s life for me, in this distorted, surreal Covid bubble.

Last week, I finally logged on to Goodreads, my source for all book reviews. I rarely pick up a book without at least checking their star system. I read whatever our book group selects, but when I’m picking a book outside of group, I stop by Goodreads to see what others recommend. Over time, there are a few Goodread readers I’ve come to trust. I know their taste; if they hate a book, chances are, I will too. I hate to waste my time on a bad book.

I’m not that person who leaves a movie easily, and I rarely abandon books. So, once I’m in, I stick with it. For the most part. If I put a book down, it generally means things when very awry. If I leave a movie… well, aside from Something About Mary, it just doesn’t happen. (I know, I know; you all love that movie. Take it up in my comment section, but don’t think for a minute that I’ll be giving it another chance, any time soon). I’m careful in the selection process, so I don’t have to agonize over whether to jump ship later.

I logged on to Goodreads because I’m very committed to writing my own book reviews. If I rely on other readers, maybe someone relies on me. I’ve buried my nose in reading over the past few months, trying to hit my target of 25 books for 2020, but hadn’t written any reviews yet. I make lots of notes on my kindle, as I read, which helps later. I go back and read my notes, and that helps me plug back into what resonated for me, in any book I’ve read. I make my highlights/comments public as soon as I write a review. As I caught up on writing reviews, I realized that this might be a reasonable way to ease back into blogging. I can share my reviews here, and add some back ground and other thoughts. Win-win.

I miss blogging. I miss you all. I’ve said many times, that I write to put words to thoughts, but I don’t do it in a vacuum. I like that others read my words, because I love the connection that comes from that exchange. Some of you have graciously stayed around for a long time. A decade. And I don’t take that lightly, even if it seems like I do. I know I’ve been MIA. I know I’ve said that before. I know it’s a two-way street. And I’m doing my best––at least, the best I can do, in this moment. A moment that has stretched on for much of two years.

It’s not about you, it’s all on me. I haven’t stuck to my Friday Fictioneer stories; something I love. I’ve come back and written posts, and so many of you send wonderful comments and boost me up… and I drop the ball again. It’s me. I’m sorry. I really am. Because each time I see your memes and faces and names, and then read your comments, I get a charge. And I promise myself that I’ll keep it up. I’ll get back in this saddle I love. But it’s hard, and all I can do is keep trying.

I’m going to blog the hell out of these  book reviews. I’m going to try harder to hold up my end of this relationship. I seriously believe that with all this physical distancing, we need the social connection more than ever. All of us. We need to hold each other up, as we combat the trauma that we are universally experiencing. Words do that for me. They connect me to others. Here are my words. Here I am, trying harder.

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My first book review is Kelly Corrigan’s memoir: Glitter and Glue. Beyond the fact that I’m a sucker for titles, and I love this one, the subject matter had me from the start. Kelly Corrigan tells a poignant story of coming of age, and the mother-daughter struggle. Corrigan takes the reader back in time, when she was briefly a nanny for two Australian children, who lost their mother to cancer. As “Keely” learns to love and nurture this little girl and boy, who are grieving and lost, with their father, who has built up walls, Corrigan begins to reflect on her relationship with her own mother, who she has not had a close relationship with.

What pulled me in and under and down into my own injured places, and my own hopes and wishes, were Corrigan’s countless beautiful observations. Her words are so eloquent and powerful. I highlighted so many lines and passages, and would have highlighted more, but I was too absorbed and swept me away by the words. Beautiful writing! Having spent an extended time in Australia at the same age, her story really resonated with me, on so many levels. I laughed, and I cried often, for the intersections in my own life. I think there are so many universal themes here, woven into a wonderful coming of age story––with leaving home, falling in love, loss, and self awareness that we all some day experience.

I believe mothers and daughters inevitably “struggle––” even if they are close. As the mother of one daughter and two sons, it’s always struck me that the relationship I’ve built, and continue to work on, with my daughter, is so very different than what I’ve built with each of my “boys.” It’s not just the obvious gender roles–– boys become men, and women (mothers) and men often fall into the spots that women and men have always juggled. Each of my sons is unique, and my relationship with each of them is very different. Raising a daughter is immeasurably different.

I was fortunate to enjoy a relatively close, and loving relationship with my daughter, from early childhood through mid-college. And then we shifted. We drifted for a variety of reasons, which I’ve written about in my blog, but it was painful and challenging for both of us. Glitter and Glue beautifully, and honestly, delves into the many ways that we as women–– who are mothers and daughters––don’t alway “see” each other. We use filters of our own creations, or created via the scarring that so many of us have, often preventing mothers and daughters from valuing each others’ strengths, insights, and challenges, until our mothers are gone.

Corrigan’s story examines this relationship as she tells the story of her own leaving home journey: feeling independent for the first time, living in a foreign place, caring for young children, all bring Corrigan around to looking at her own mother’s role in her life. And it’s Corrigan’s sensitive examination of her relationship with her mother, that really touched me most deeply, reading this book. Over and over, I paused. I re-read the words. I highlighted them, and digested them. I thought about my own mother, and then my daughter. I loved this book for its beauty, vulnerability, humor and so many truths. Glitter and Glue gets to the heart of so many things, that it was a moving escape from the crazy that was setting in, as we all went into isolation. What a time to dive deep!

Check out my Goodreads review to read the highlights, and the gorgeous words Corrigan put out there.

Now it’s your turn. Have you read this book, too? Share your words in the comments.  Tell me what you think… about mother-daughter relationships, isolation, reading, your favorite ice-cream. I’m all about ice-cream these days, but that is another post.

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KAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

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The World On Fire

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Where I sit, and watch this unfold. I know; I am lucky.

Like most of the world, my life took a sharp left turn in March, 2020. I saw Covid coming, long before it locked us down. Long before it isolated us, or made us look out the window and wonder. Before we looked at others and judged whether they masked or didn’t, whether they distanced enough, or washed hands long enough, or wiped down groceries and counters and door knobs and shopping bags. I saw it before I was grieving, like millions of us are, for so many people dead, so much apathy and so many heroic efforts.

I was watching the news and for some reason (cue the woo-woo music), I took this seriously, when it was happening in China. We live in the Pacific Northwest. Just thirty minutes away, in British Columbia, is one of the largest Chinese communities in the world, outside of mainland China. It seemed inevitable, only a matter of time, that what I was seeing there, would be here. I’m not a worrier, when it comes to things like pandemics, or health things. But this was something I noticed, and worried about.

I said it to my husband daily, starting in late January. He laughed at my anxiety, when we traveled to NYC and then to FL to see his father. He poo-poo’ed my worries that we were riding subways, going to shows, and touch, touch, touching so many things, and not washing our hands enough. It wasn’t here yet, he told me, and he wasn’t sure it would come at all.

We live in the Pacific NW, an hour north of Seattle. We live an hour north of what would quickly become “Ground Zero.” In fact, as we headed to the airport in Fort Lauderdale, to return home from FL, the first case in WA was identified. This was just before several nursing home patients would die, when nurses, aids and health care workers, ignored warnings. It was an instant before it all went sideways. Right before the place where I live became the US focal point for something we all started to watch.

I have severe immune issues. There isn’t a firm diagnosis, but a cluster of medical challenges that leave me needing monthly IV infusions, to maintain energy and not get too many infections. Paper cuts are always an infection for me. That’s the small stuff; but, bigger infections and health problems are a constant issue. So, a pandemic that is highly contagious, and impacts the very systems that I am constantly working to keep strong, is something I have to take very seriously. I went into “isolation” about two weeks before our Governor asked us to, and before the whole world began to lock themselves in. I was wary. I was watchful. I wasn’t paranoid, but I took this seriously from the start.

But, none of us could see what was really coming. The daily death counts. The horror of watching factions fight over whether this was real or not, as people die. The watching and wondering, where will this all go. Watching Italy implode, and fight so heart-breakingly to combat Covid-19. Singing out their windows and holding on to their commitment to community. We watched them, and their beautifully heroic efforts, their hope… and then the focus switched to NYC, where my son and many friends live.

 

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Sometimes the message gets lost: it’s not about me, it’s about we.

I have thought so many times: how many of us remember where we were when this all changed. Do you remember that last day, before your life changed? Has your life changed? Mine has. I’ve been home. I’ve been on my own, since March 9th. I go hiking. A lot. I hike with one, sometimes two friends. I didn’t go to a grocery store for 14 weeks. My husband went. It was hilarious! It would take two hours for him to do what I did in thirty minutes. In the first few weeks, I called him once, to see what was taking so long. He said: “this isn’t easy, you know! It takes a while to find everything––and it changes all the time!” Um, no, I haven’t done that for thirty years… with kids. I had to laugh, even as I managed my own anxiety at not doing something that’s such a normal part of my life. It was good to laugh.

Eventually, I cried. I bottled it up for weeks, that rolled into months, and then it all came down one day, and I really began to see that this thing––this Covid thing––is not going away soon. For people like me, and so many others, this will continue. We will worry about spending time with the wrong person. We’ll worry about people who cough near us, or lean in to say something. We’ll have to avoid hugging people we love, because we don’t know if they’ve been distancing, too.

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A few months ago… when humor was easier.

I’m eating too much. I’m drinking too much. Ice-cream and wine, became my vices early on––two things I’ve never been addicted to. I drank every single night for three months. I added ice-cream, and fell down a whole with Haagen Dazs’ Whiskey Hazelnut Latte is my poison. Even my ice-cream is boozy. I’m not really a drinker, so this was really something new, something potentially concerning, coming from a family where alcohol has been a problem. But I’m not alone. All you have to do is take a walk on recycling day, to see that a lot of people are drinking more. I’m not alone in my tub of ice cream either; studies have shown that ice-cream sales are up, deodorant sales are down. I’m ahead of the curve on that one; I smell good.

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I have no shame.

I’m giving myself credit for the positive things that have come from this. I’m reading more (watch for book reviews); I’m hiking a lot; I’m socially connecting, while physically distancing; I’m giving myself permission to cry when I need to, and snap once in a while. There are plenty of gifts, they’re just wrapped differently. Summer makes outside dining possible––and walks with friends, and gathering at a distance for drinks––I can exhale a little. I live in an incredibly beautiful place, and this time of year, that is a luxury. It’s rarely too hot, or too cold. The ocean and the mountains sparkle in the sun. I can venture out of isolation a little. I can get stronger, hiking and walking and pushing myself. I can connect with friends, without masks, because we are outside and sitting eight feet apart. I get to enjoy weekly deliveries of fresh produce and fresh flowers, from our local farm. It’s a burst of sunshine each week. I’m looking for creative ways to see my sister and brother, and other family, so we aren’t as isolated as we might be. I’m grateful for the connections I have and make and nurture. I’m pushing myself to write… to start putting this down. I’m late, but there’s a lot to say.

I’m grieving. We’re all grieving. Even if you don’t believe this is real, and that masks don’t work (you’re wrong), then you’re still grieving the fact that none of us can enjoy eating out, the way we did five moths ago. We can’t go to sporting events, or back to school, or out to bars and clubs. Regardless of what you believe in, our lives have changed completely.

And this post hasn’t even touched on the Black Lives Matter explosion, that happened just as we’re all collectively grieving, and raging, and isolating. It’s been a long time coming, and has to happen. Black lives should always matter, it’s time we all unite in this. But in the face of all of this other collective grief and isolation, we have zeroed in on it, in a way that is long, long, overdue. But that’s another post; it has to be. It’s too important to lump into my self-indulgent vent about isolation and anxiety. This thing that has the world by the neck.

The whole world is on fire, but like the forests where I live after a fire, we will all come out on the other side, ready to see new growth and most importantly… change.

How are you coping? What makes you smile right now? What do you really  miss? Share your thoughts in the comment section; let’s share some dialogue.

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KAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

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I LOST MY FATHER YESTERDAY

June 9th is always a bump in the road for me. Sometimes the bump is a gentle reminder; it passes with quiet acknowledgement and private thoughts. Other times it throws me akimbo––my arms invisibly flailing, my legs shaky, my thoughts tangled and unpredictable. But June 9th never goes unnoticed.

My father was killed in a car accident on June 9th, 1973. I was ten and half years old. Ask me where I was, when it happened and I can tell you in absolute detail, though I would only later circle back in time and know where I stood, when the person I loved most died. Ask me the moment I was told, and that is forever seared in my memory. It changed me forever; it changed my life––the trajectory, the narrative, the outcome. I am who I am, for better or worse, because of June 9th.

I think that most people feel the same way when it comes to traumatic loss. None of us get out unscathed. Some are “luckier,” and experience loss in a timely, natural way. But at Hospice I’ve seen seventy-year-old “children” sit beside ninety-year-old parents, bereft. There’s no age limit on loss.

But, children process loss so very differently than adults––I got my Masters in Social Work, and studied childhood grief, to validate my experience. To make sense of my wiring. I excelled in graduate school to dig deeper and understand how one day, June 9th, could so enormously change me. I studied hard, not always realizing how much of my determination was to save my own life. It wasn’t just that trauma, I’ve written about this before, so I won’t today, but it was big enough to be the predominant life event that my internal compass turns toward. Again, for better or worse.

I’m working on a novel. True to cliché, this first book (if it becomes one) will be recognizable to some. It’s not a memoir. But it’s not entirely fiction either. There will be those who nod and say “I remember this…” This is my friend’s story. This is Dawn’s story. It is and it isn’t. In reality, there are so many things I will never really know. There are very few people who knew my father, who are willing to dig in and fill in blanks that every child searches for.

As children, we are predestined to make sense of our parents and our families. We leave. We fly out of the metaphorical nest, realer than any metaphor I know, and we seek ourselves. We strive to be like or different from our parents. To repeat or avoid. We see our mother’s eyes, our father’s smile, in the mirror. We hear his anger, her scorn, her laugh, his compassion. We seek to figure out who we are, by examining from whence we came.

To lose a parent at an early age, that opportunity is changed forever. But like the salmon returning to the stream where it was born, we still seek answers. I don’t really know what kind of jokes my dad liked. Would I chide him for Dad Jokes? I don’t know if he was short-tempered or patient. I don’t know if sang along to songs. Would he protest in the streets, or would we be at odds over politics? Is my laughter like his? Do my eyes echo his expression? I have only a few photos to examine––I have studied them all: his hand is on my leg here; my hand is on his. He is happy in this one; pensive in this other. There are no more than ten photos; he died before we recorded every moment. He is frozen as a young teenager, skiing; as a high school graduate; a young man in the military; a young man getting married; a young father; a daddy with three small children. He is frozen as a thirty-three year old man, who was killed on June 9th.

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Someone who loves me told me that they believe we should focus on how someone lived, not how they died. We should celebrate their birthday, not fixate on the day they died. It stuck with me. Honestly, it stung, not the intention. I can move beyond the words, well, because I know they love me. I could argue that I didn’t have enough birthdays to remember those moments of celebration. As children, we are reminded to make cards and say happy birthday. I notice my father’s birthday each year, but June 9th comes back vividly, because it shook my insides and forced me to walk differently, talk differently, laugh, cry, and answer differently. As a child, that stays with you.

I am struck by people who really don’t get it. Childhood trauma changes wiring. What I understood then, is not what I know now. Of course, we heal. I believe that above all else. I believe in healing. I would not be as strong and resilient if I hadn’t lost my father the way I did. I believe that. I might not be as insecure and anxious either. I might not worry so much about saying the wrong thing, or losing affections. I get it. I have a Masters in this. I have worked at hospice and connected with others, because grief is something I understand on a molecular level.

On June 9th, each year, I lose my father again. If the bump is gentle, I say a quiet I love you, still––and go about my day. If it’s a tougher year––hello, 2020––I might find myself crying, very suddenly. I don’t sit and wallow. I don’t will myself to remember. My father is ever-present. He is here with me. I know this, regardless of what others believe. But sometimes, on June 9th, I look in the mirror and feel a sharper pang that there is so much I don’t know. That the face that stares back at me may or may not be like his. I lost my father forty-seven years ago.
I lost my father, again, yesterday.

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KAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

©2011-2020 All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

 

 

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Some Words of Grief and Hope

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Hope shines through, on my walk, no filters or edits

 

This morning a song (isn’t it always a song?) brought a tsunami of walled up grief down on me, and I sat in my kitchen and cried, and cried, and cried. Me, the queen of tears, hasn’t cried in weeks. Not once. Until this morning. It all washed over me, and as I watched the birds at my feeder, and the water in the bay, I just felt such a deep sadness.

I cried because I thought of my eldest son first, this song, and that he and his girlfriend, who live in NYC and are surrounded by this invisible threat. I cried because they are wise and careful, but the numbers make me shudder, and I’m a mother first, and so, I cried.

I cried for my daughter in Israel, who is trying to care for two little boys. I cried because she has found strengths she forgot she had. I cried because my grandson made the cutest picture of peppers, which his ema, mommy, taught him about. Peter Piper Picked A Peck of Pickled Peppers. I cried because she is shining, but exhausted and stretched, as she and my son-in-law try to live in 900 square feet of confinement and nourish little people.

I cried because my youngest son, Man Cub, is 23 and that’s a strange space––just exiting childhood, but not quite adulthood. That’s different depending on where you live, but I know that 23 is not supposed to be the time when everyone you love throws statistics and warning at you–– when you just want to be with your girlfriend, and go camping, and work, and play, and do it some more. I cried because that is lost right now in all of the statistics and warnings. And I am sorry.

I cried for all the high school seniors and college seniors who are missing this special time in their lives, that doesn’t come again. I cried for all the kids at home, missing their friends. I cried because I know that seems small, but to them it’s the world, and we should all remember that.

I cried for all my friends who are stuck at home, and who feel isolated and anxious. I cried for the world-wide trauma that so many people are experiencing.

I cried for the beauty of so many of those people sewing masks for medical staff. I am so moved and grateful.

I cried because the generosity of so many is so beautiful it fills me with hope and love.

I cried for my husband and his colleagues, who are on the front line and worry daily about paying their staff, caring for people in this crisis, while telling others that they will need to wait, because their pain is not “essential” right now. I cried because the toll of asking people in pain to wait, weighs on my husband’s shoulders every day. I cried because he and all of his colleagues are risking their health for all of us–– and it’s horrifying.

I cried because each time my husband walks in the door, at the end of his essential day, I worry that he may be bringing in something that could literally kill me, and we both dance around that every single evening that he comes home from the hospital. And I cried because each morning he leaves, I worry about stats and N95 masks.

I cried because I’m high risk, and so many others people are, too. This will not go away for people like me, until there’s a vaccine or cure. When others breathe a sigh of relief, and go back to their lives, many of us will have to continue to worry about something we can’t see, that we must somehow avoid––we will have to avoid your collective sighs. I cried for these huge unknowns.

I cried because when I warned the manager of Regal theaters that they had NO wipes and all of the staff was touching everything, when I went to my last movie weeks ago, he actually laughed at me. And when I called the manager of our local Haggens, he told me that corporate made the policies, and he was sorry, but cashiers can’t use sanitizer all the time, it ruins the machines.

I cried because all of those folks working in the grocery stores are taking such big risks for us all, and while I can’t go there right now, I’m grateful they continue to be there for us.

I cried because I wonder when (if) I’ll ever feel safe in the grocery store, or the theater, or a restaurant again. I know it will take a while, and that awkward phase will feel uncertain and strange. I cried because normal is gone, and maybe that’s a good thing.

I cried because whether we get along or we don’t, whether I know you, or you’re a stranger, I believe our tears mix together and we are all in this together. That humbles me to the core. And it makes me cry.

I cried because I can’t bear to hear the news, and I can’t turn it off.

I cried because the last time I posted I was focused on gratitude and I really thought this year was going to be “my year.” And then it all went up in a puff of dark smoke when: my car was totaled; I got a concussion and whiplash; I started following a story out of China, the story started to move; shit got real, and well, I cried.

I cried because I miss my weekly lunch with one of my closest friends. I cried because tomorrow is her birthday and the flowers I ordered won’t be delivered, and we won’t sit and laugh together, like we do each week.

I cried because watching Anne With An E each day, as I walk on my treadmill, brings me such joy and healing. That spirited, redheaded girl reminds me so much of me when I was little, and I feel compassion for her trauma and resilience––and that has allowed me to maybe have some compassion for the hurt girl inside, who is still trying to be nurtured and healed. This series is so filled with magic and beauty, everyone should watch it. It’s what we need to see and know right now: that our relationships matter most.

I cried because when I brought dinner to a dear friend last night, because she needs help, I couldn’t hug her, or see her. I had to let her husband take the food from my trunk. I just wanted to hug her and tell her this will all be okay. Even if I don’t know when or what that will look like. I cried because her pain is not essential right now, and she is one of the strongest people I know, who is in non-essential pain.

I cried because every day feels different and strange–– in ways that are scary and in ways that bring me joy. I am writing more. I haven’t been blogging until now, but working on my novel, but this week I wrote a chapter, this blog post, and  a children’s book that I feel proud of and excited about.

I cried because when I read that children’s book to my 4.5 year old grandson, he was totally absorbed in it, and smiled when he should smile, and frowned when he should, and told me “I love that story, Mima,” when I was done. I cried because my writing landed where and how it was meant to land.

I cried because I haven’t written so much in months. And I’ve missed it, even though I am the only thing holding me back. I cried because I’ve missed this space, and then I started writing again. I cried with trepidation and with conviction.

I cried because I miss my usual routine, even as I embrace one that has been more productive and centered.

I cried because I love this solitude and I hate that there’s no choice.

I cried because I desperately miss my work at Hospice, and I know that they are struggling to do the sacred work they do, without volunteers who do so much to help the team be strong. I know those nurses and staff are working so much harder to take care of people in their last days, and trying to keep everyone safe. I cried because I miss the people I love there, and the people I can’t sit with, and the joy that work brings me.

I cried for fractured and broken ties that still hurt, that this solitude shines a light on. And I cry for the bonds that sustain me.

I cried because more than ever I hate our president, and how carelessly he handles all of this––this, being the people I love, and the people I don’t know. I cried because science and facts are not something he embraces, in a time when we need them more than ever. I feel sick every time he speaks, and shows a complete lack of concern for MY BOY and every other son, daughter, mother, father, aunt, uncle, niece and nephew, grandmother and grandfather, dear friend, who are at risk, if we don’t take this seriously and put lives above dollars. And this ongoing anger with him just eats me up, and I have to work harder to move beyond it.

I cried because I know that the dollars matter so much, too. I worry about a fellow writer and fisherwoman who is literally trying to keep her boat afloat, as she also donates salmon to those in need. I worry about so many people who work so hard, and don’t know how they’ll make it. Which is more important: lives or economy? These questions wash over me, and I feel stricken.

I cried because my children are all so far from me, and even if I know they are smart and competent and as safe as they can be, they are not near us. I can’t go to them. I can’t hold my grandsons or my children, at a time when I just want to sweep them up in my arms and remind them that they are everything. Everything.

I cried because Italians are singing, and cheering for healthcare workers, as they are surrounded by loss. I cried because we’re all confined, doing our best or our worst.

I cried because my (exchange student) son in China is worried about me, having survived 2 months of strict quarantine, when friends and so many died. “Mum,” he says, “please take this seriously, this is the most horrible thing I ever imagined.” I cried because he’s worried about me, and that is so beautiful. I cried because he’s mailed me masks. His sweet concern fills me with bittersweet joy.

I cried because during my last “public” walk, a week ago, along the boardwalk that I love so much, I heard someone on the phone, saying that the Chinese did this on purpose and that this Chinese Virus is a hoax, even as he told that person that the Chinese are trying to kill us all. And in that moment, thinking of my son, China, who I love, I wanted to push that ignorant man in the water, and not throw him a line. I cried because I thought that.

I cried because each time my sweet grandson talks to me on skype, he asks when I will come, and I have no answer. Not this week, when I would have been arriving. Not next week, when I would have been past my jetlag, and we would be watching the parrots and exploring the parks and streets where he lives. Not now, when I would be drinking a latte at my favorite local café in Israel, while my dearest boy eats a bakery treat next to me, and the café owner welcomes me back in Hebrew and I answer in English, and we smile and connect again. Not now when I would be getting to know my newest grandson, and helping him to walk. Not getting to hold that baby, before he is fully a toddler–– because time is rushing by, and I am stuck here. In this kitchen. Without them.

I cried because the Avett Brother’s If I Get Murdered In the City, brings me to tears, every single time. “He said I love you, and I’m proud of you both, in so many different way.” “Always remember there was nothing worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name.”

I cried because this song reminds me of my children in faraway places. And that reminds me of all the other things I love and miss, and all the feelings I’ve tried to push down for weeks. I felt this wall of saved-up grief come rushing in, even as I sit here feeling solid as a rock and ready for the long road ahead.

I cried because the birds at my feeder and the music is so soothing, that today I cried.

We are all in this. We are all coping in different ways, no doubt. Some people cry, and some pull up their boots. Today I am writing. But the birds still come to my feeder, and the water still moves toward the shore. We still love, and miss, and laugh, and hope this will all bring us closer, and leave us stronger. This will not go away quickly, and we will all see numbers that represent people who have been hit so much harder by this. We will read the numbers and say a quiet thank you––to God or the Universe, or Allah, or Adonai, or whoever we speak to when we are silent and seeking––that that number is not someone we love.

I cried because, well, social distancing.

From the start, my motto has been physical distancing, social connections. I am writing this and sharing my tears this morning, to connect. I hope you are out there. I hope you are reading this. I hope that we can all grab a life line and float together, on hope that is fragile but more important than ever before. Tell me you’re here.

I am writing again, and I would love to think that one of the silver linings is that I find my way back to this blog, and the readers I’ve missed. I hope that there is silver in any of these linings.

I cried just now because a song reminded me that this is worth some tears, even as I set my sights on hope. I cried for about five minutes, but those tears held weeks of anxiety and concern. They held hours of wondering and even more hours of hoping. These tears held prayers and emotions I’ve held down and finally let fly. I cried for gratitude. This morning, I cried.

Thank you for stopping by. Thank you for reading my words. It means more than you can know. Thanks for leaving a comment; please do. If you want to read more, check out the links I’ve provided, or take a look at the archives on the right of this page.

If you need a good cry, as you dance, this song will always be one of my favorites. Peter Gabriel wrote it right after the 9/11 attacks. It rings true, now and always.

 

 

 

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KAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

©2011-2020 All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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2019 Attitude of Gratitude Challenge–– Bloggers Flood The Internet With Positivity––JOIN US!

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I’m still out here, despite a pathetic year of blogging–– wherein I’ve abandoned my own love of this space, and worse, missed out on so many posts from bloggers I truly admire and respect. Trust me, I think of it most days… and have continued to struggle with my effort to get back to this sacred space. And, it is sacred. Recently I read a gorgeous post from Gunmetal Geisha, that speaks to so many things I feel and some of what has held me back. It was on my list to write this post, but her writing nudged me hard. And here I am.

This annual “Blog Hop” if you will, means a lot to me. I love reading every single post and connecting annually with so many great writers. I hope you’ll stick with me and read this entire post–– brief I’m not, but heartfelt for sure––then, I hope you’ll decide to join me this year. I know the holidays are hard for some people, and it’s a busy time of year, but pause for a moment and share the good things from 2019.

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Now, on with the details:

It’s the 6th annual Attitude of Gratitude! In the past I’ve called it 50 Happy Things, but the goal is the same: to see bloggers unite to flood the internet with gratitude. Happy-Gratitude, it all = Good stuff! For the past few years I’ve opted out on New Year’s resolutions and decided to go with intention. I decided to focus on gratitude; it’s always timely. In the past, many of you have found it hard to participate in December, so I put it off until January… and now I’m a week late––but better late than never! The (InLinkz) Link-up is effective from today until January 31st at 11:55pm. Share this with your blogging friends; join us in spreading gratitude!

The holiday season has a way of rushing in every year, making it hard to remember that throughout the year there are blessings. There are so many things that bring joy, so many happy things; yet it’s easy to lose sight of this fact, as we manage busy lives. For the sixth year in a row, this is an opportunity to hit pause and focus on all the good things that each of us has in our lives.

In 2014 I followed in the footsteps of Jen over at Jenny’s Lark, and wrote a list of 50 things (in 10 minutes) that I was grateful for in 2014. The list actually became 60 things, because I still had time, and a lot to be grateful for. The exercise was originally a spin off a Daily Prompt challenge. Those Daily Prompts are something to be happy/grateful about, if you haven’t checked them out yet, do it now! Jen’s an incredibly talented woman, artistically and articulately. She works to help others at work, and then comes home and creates beautiful artwork and gorgeous writing. Check out her blog for a dose of true magic. Jen and I had so much fun with it in 2014, that we added links to each other’s blogs, and other bloggers followed suit.

In 2015, happy-gratitude exploded as I invited a few bloggers and suggested we all come together and share gratitude. Bloggers begat more bloggers, in a blog hop of sorts and it grew… and grew… and grew! And once again, Jen had another great idea: focus on happy and be grateful. It’s about choosing happy, choosing positive, over the negative things that we could focus on. Gratitude or Happiness–– Chicken or egg?

The 2015 project–– something I thought would be small and easy–– turned into something huge, with 74 bloggers joining in. I met so many cool new bloggers, and my happiness and gratitude grew exponentially.

In 2016 a lot of bloggers bowed-out. As the inauguration loomed, many said they just weren’t up for it. That year, I needed all of this positivity more than ever! There were 30 bloggers who shared their happy thoughts and gratitude.

2017 and 2018 brought lots of wonderful new bloggers to the challenge, as well as several who have contributed year after year. For 2019, I hope more of you will join us to

FLOOD THE INTERNET WITH POSITIVITY

This year: 

1) Please read my post/list and leave a like and a comment. I’ve worked hard on this, and it feels good to be appreciated. I’ll do the same. What’s not to like; it’s gratitude!

2) Add a link to this/my post in your post, so your readers come back to read mine; I can add their link to the collection, and enjoy the fruits of my labor. It’s a bigger tidal wave of positivity if we’re all linked. It’s more fun! In addition, I love reading all of the posts, and once they link to me, I’ll add their link at the bottom of mine.

3) Set a timer for 15 minutes. Really; do it (it’s in red, clearly I mean it). This isn’t your usual post. It’s meant to be as spontaneous as you can be. It’s not supposed to be finessed, but from the heart. You’re not explaining every thing you put on your list, you are just listing as many things as you can, in 15 minutes. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write things that make you happy, or things you’re grateful for. Don’t think too hard; just write what comes to mind in the time allotted. If you use the numbered mode and just type what comes to mind, it’s easy. I fix typos after. When the timer’s done, finish whatever sentence you’re on and stop writing. If you’d like to add links or photos, do it after the timer; but keep your list short and spontaneous.

4) Be sure to click on the blue link at the bottom of my post, and add your info to the inlinkz, so that folks can find all of us in one place. I will also add each of you to the bottom of my post. I update it daily.

5) Include instructions in your piece, or better yet: provide a link to mine, and ask your readers to join us.

6) When you tag your piece, or share it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media, use these hashtags #AttitudeOfGratitude #BloggersUnite so our impact is collective.

7) Finally, IF you add a blog post that is not related to gratitude or this challenge, I will remove it. Sorry, but them’s the rules. 

Each year I read every post. Those places where we meet, and where we are unique, are a beautiful thing and a great way to start the year. how Admittedly, it’s hard not to go back and edit my list, each time I find something wonderful on your lists… but it gives me things to focus on next year. When I express gratitude, I find myself feeling happy, and if I list happy things, I inevitably feel grateful–– either way, it’s win/win! I guarantee, you’ll find yourself smiling, feeling grateful and happy, if you spend 15 minutes reflecting on positivity. Couldn’t we all use more of that? Think of this as a blog party, to share happy, grateful thoughts. 

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Here’s  my 2019 Gratitude list (not in order of preference):

  1. My family
  2. My 4-year-old grandson, Amitai
  3. My gorgeous new grandson Avinoam. January 29, 2019 was very special!!
  4. My kids­- building adult relationships with them. Loving them so much.
  5. My husband- 33 years (plus 5 more) of laughing, fighting, loving.
  6. Popcorn with brewers yeast
  7. Frozen dark chocolate covered bananas, nightly.
  8. Boats on still water.
  9. The view of the bay and San Juan islands, EVERY day
  10. Amitai- each and every chance I get to chat with or see him.
  11. Going to the movies
  12. My husband putting the toilet paper on tp holder.
  13.  Whistler, Port Townsend, Home–– my happy places
  14. Water, to drink, to bath & swim in, to look at.
  15. Driving in my car, with the radio. Road trips!
  16. Music, EVERY day!
  17. Personal growth, therapy
  18.  Sleep— I need a lot more of it
  19. Orgasms
  20. Puzzles
  21. My dogs Gracie and Luna
  22. Air flight, any travel
  23. Fresh flowers
  24. Time on the bike
  25. Gary Chapman: The 5 Love Languages
  26. First snow of the year
  27. Christmas ornaments & my tree
  28. Birds, birds, and more birds
  29. Girl’s night out
  30. Hiking solo & with friends/family
  31. Alexa, and the music she provides so I can dance in my kitchen daily.
  32. Dental floss
  33. WA state ferries
  34. My writing group.
  35. Good books. My book group.
  36. The blogging community- you guys rock!!
  37. Sun on the water; clouds on the water.
  38. My laptop
  39. The Internet–– it’s magic! Google is my friend.
  40. The Oscars & annual party (this year #25)
  41. Green moss on trees
  42. Mountains & ocean
  43. The Pacific NW- it’s a magical place
  44. Regular dinner parties with friends
  45. My work at Hospice- The people I serve, the people I work with.
  46. Sunsets
  47. GREECE. What an amazing trip with my family!
  48. Sushi, sushi, sushi! Every Friday, and any other day.
  49. My cell phone—a computer in my hands
  50. Fresh sheets on my bed, and a cool pillow
  51. Fresh seafood
  52. Fall colors
  53. Great food!
  54. Old growth forest
  55. Designing and working on our new forever home
  56. Views from our new property
  57. Museums–– art and more art. Always art.
  58. Hummingbirds at my window every day
  59. My sea glass collection
  60. Yellow post-it notes, and now the little colored one for editing my novel.
  61.  Love.
  62. Kindness.
  63. Friends who fill my life with joy. I am so grateful for each of you.
  64. Shoes. I might have a problem.
  65. THIS. Take a minute and be reminded that despite all this cray-cray, there is a lot of good! I’m grateful.

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section; I’d love to hear from you!

YOUR TURN!

Check out these bloggers’ lists:

Rochelle, Lish, Na’ama, Dawn, Plaridel, Jackie, Francine, April, 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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KAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, no spam.

©2011-2020 All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Remembering.

It’s been 8 years today, since my mother died. Eight years ago today, at this very minute, I was at a bat mitzvah, and my mother had been dead for six hours. A lot’s happened since then. My impressions of my mother, of that time, of all that came before and after have changed. You can dig through and find those posts, but trust me, it’s been a wild ride. The most meaningful thing that’s changed since then is that I now work at Hospice. I go into the room where she died, all of the time. I sit beside other people as they die. I comfort families, talk to patients, and I help make this process a little gentler. When I was there, I didn’t understand that others could help me. I’m go grateful for the amazing people who work beside me each week, now.

This is what it looked like when it happened: https://talesfromthemotherland.me/2011/12/31/peace/

But here’s where I was just after my mother died, New Year’s Eve day 2011.

 

What Comes After? A “Stop, drop and Roll” approach to a New Year.

There is only one thing for me to write about right now, but I’m not really sure what I think about that. I’m not sure what I feel, yet.  Mainly, because I don’t actually know, what comes after. After years of watching my mother change and then deteriorate. After months of seeing things accelerate faster than we could adjust to or comprehend. After weeks of daily falls, many of which led to hospital visits, bruises, breaks and finally the broken elbow that led to the end.  After nearly three months of Hospice Care in which we knew what was coming, but could never seem to grasp when or how. After, after, after… so many things that I tried to prepare for, but inherently knew I couldn’t be ready for.  Stop, drop and roll. Prepare for a disaster and you hopefully will know what to do, when it comes. Not this time.

My mother died almost four days ago and it is still sinking in. The day she died was by far the most surreal day of my life. If you’ve been following, then you know (from What Doesn’t Kill You… and Peace) that I was sitting with my Mom, holding her hand and trying to ease the very profound fear she seemed to experience, in the thirty minutes leading up to her death. I know that I did, calm her, help her. But in the end, when the room went silent and I felt her finally leave me, I just went a little numb. Ok, maybe a lot numb. And, I’ve stayed like that for four days now… The sounds from that night, those last minutes, play back in my head at odd times. As I lay in my own silent bed at night, I hear that rattled, difficult breaths she took.  As I close my eyes to sleep, I picture how smooth and calm her face was a few hours before she died, and how young she looked again. I see the smile, the very slightest smile, that she made when I told her that I knew she loved me and that I was grateful for her love, and then (right then) watched her take her last breath. But mostly, I just feel outside myself and numb, as all these things, mix with the daily hum, and wash over me… hour by hour.

Friends and family have called. I have spoken to some and not to others. Not playing favorites, but unable to speak, depending on the moment. The gratitude I feel for all the kindness and love that dear friends have shown in these past weeks is overwhelming, an shakes me almost as much as the loss itself. The friends who came to my mother’s room, just to see her and say goodbye. Humbling. The friends who wrapped me in blankets of warm meals, hugs and sweet words.  They were my family, my shelter and I am so very thankful. But now, it is hard to face anyone with ease. It’s hard to think beyond where I am right now. Writing, feeds me and helps me process, but speaking strangles me.

I’ve ventured outside for only two things and both times I felt so exposed. Having come out of the strange cocoon that I was in for four days, I don’t feel like a butterfly. I feel raw and exposed. Part of me wants to say to each person who says: “So, did you have a nice holiday?” or “How are you?”… My mother died, she’s gone!  The part of me that wins stays quiet, smiles and says, “Ok, thanks.”  I know the grief is bubbling to the surface and I know this is normal. This is what happens and it will pass… I believe that, even if I don’t know what comes after that. For now, I am sitting Shiva… alone.  I don’t know how else to do it right now, but I’m listening to myself and doing what I think I need. Solitude. Surrounded by beautiful flowers people have sent, my Christmas tree that still sparkles (despite its dry, sinking branches), and the security of my house for the few hours it is silent. (Thank goodness school started today; thank goodness my husband returns to work; thank goodness for silence.)

The day I left Hospice, I went home, and I wrote the post Peace in my car, in the dark. I didn’t proofread it, or check it; I just hit send and then felt ready to go inside. It was the first “letting go.” I knew that once I left my dark car, and went inside my house, it would all be different.  It was. From the minute I came in, it all just amped up. I had to shower and go directly to a Bat Mitzvah, for a 13 yr old girl who I adore. She is such a sparkle in my life that I would not have missed her big day for almost anything.  My mother had asked us (my sister and I), repeatedly, not to leave her; and the night before she died, I told her:  “at 8:00 A.M. I need to leave you, Mom. to go to M’s Bat Mitzvah. I don’t want to leave you, but I’m at peace with this decision. IF you don’t want me to leave you, you will need to leave me first… before I go at 8.”  Those were my very words. My mom really liked the family whose Bat Mitzvah it was, and I will always believe, that despite her fears, she let go and left me, just in time for me to go and be with them. Call it dreamy, call it whatever; I believe it was a gift.

The Bat Mitzvah was amazing, beautiful, and yet so strange to be in a huge room full of people, when my mind kept going back to the fact that my mother had just died. “It’s been four hours… five… six,” my brain kept registering. Such a shock to hear the Rabbi say her name out loud for Yahrzeit , as having died that morning. The party, after,was a blur: of wonderful people; fun music; silly, delightful 13 yr old girls imitating Justin Bieber and dancing; meaningful conversations with people I care about… bold color, sound and movement. Ten hours, eleven, twelve.

After that I went home for about three hours and knew that if I stopped, I’d pass out. I had slept less than 6 hrs in four full days. I hadn’t even tried that in college, let alone at this age!  My husband had had surgery while I was gone (on him, not him working) and was not really able to provide any support, nor I for him. “In sickness and in health,” bah. I had been surviving mostly on Ritz crackers and Kool Coffee creams (decaf). I hadn’t left the building, except to get something from the car, once.  So, it would have made huge sense, to just get into bed and pass out.

Instead, I had decided to go to a Bikers and Babes New Year’s Eve party that other friends had been pushing for me to attend. I know: what the hell was I thinking?  Well, I was thinking this:  In a 24 hour period, I had “finished” and submitted my novel to a publishing company (the biggest goal I’ve had in many, many years– BRAVO!); I’d sat with my mother as she died; I’d attended and done a reading at a Bat Mitzvah (a very meaningful and important life event for a young girl I love); and now I wanted to just kick the shit out of 2011 and really send it packing. I dressed up like a biker chick, flannel shirt and bra showing (why the hell not, I figured by then) and went out to laugh, dance, wear glow sticks and see 2012 come in. While I did not drink (it might have killed me) and I was slurring my speech from exhaustion; it was so amazing to be with friends and so many crazy ass people, the same day I’d washed my mother’s body and said goodbye to her. How prophetic, I believe, that my Mom did not linger one day more. She died before 2012 could come, and in doing so, she allowed me to walk away from all that this very hard year has symbolized, and be open for a new one. She didn’t drag all of that pain into the New Year, nor did she herself enter one more year with all of that suffering. It was a beautiful thing. I am so grateful to her.

2011 was a wicked bitch of a year. Can’t sugar coat this one folks. It wasn’t all about my Mom, not by a long shot. There were lots of other demons I dealt with and sent packing. It was a lot of struggle with some sublime, life changing experiences as well. Writing my novel and seeing it to completion, brings me so much satisfaction and pride, whatever come of it. Truly. Being in Yellowstone, for two weeks alone, still sustains me and brings tears of sheer joy to my eyes, at moments that just jump up and slap me.  I will always remember those days of finding myself again and knowing that I would, in fact, make it. I am grateful for finding a wise, old friend in Siyo Yona, a wonderful man, who found me on a mountain top, and has stayed beside me since. I will never hear Eddie Vedder sing Society or No Ceiling and not be transported to a place of solitude, clarity and peace.  In my mother’s last few weeks, she too came to love those songs and we listened to them together many times. Music, my life long friend, who never fails me.

I’m going into this New Year with a perspective I’ve never had: total wonder. The world is wide open right now. I am letting go of so many years of holding on. I’m ready to be honest in all things important, wherever that takes me. I’m excited to write, write, and write some more… regardless of whether it gets me anywhere other than where it’s taken me so far. I’m ready to let old pain go and move on to whatever comes next. I feel entitled and free to really reach for what I want, what I need… not just what I think I should do.  There are so many amazing things that have presented themselves that I’m excited to finally explore. I’m so grateful to be free of my mother’s suffering and the suffering I felt in watching her, even as I dread really accepting that she is gone.

I go into a New Year with no regrets in how this all came to an end. The day after my mother died, I told my children this:     “There is one really important lesson I hope you all learn from me. There are ways in which your father and I differ, and this is one of them. I am not always practical, he is. I did not eat well this week; I didn’t sleep for days; I got virtually no exercise for the past many weeks… and I didn’t do this mindlessly. I didn’t do it without thought. But, central to who I am is my belief that there are precious moments in life that we can’t miss. You skip meals, you stay awake, you are present and real. The simple ones are the ones when a good friend, who you rarely see (this will come later in life) is in town for one night, and you stay up until 2, knowing that work will be really tough the next day. You do it to reconnect and share a moment with someone who has meaning in your life. That one is easy. Then there are the hard ones: when you sit with someone you love, when they are dying (or truly suffering) and you let go of your own discomfort.  You might miss some meals, or not get enough sleep, but you are there with them in their most vulnerable moment, and you try to show some grace, some compassion and love.  Perhaps you will do it for me, or someone else who you don’t know yet, but who you will love deeply. You are present and real. There is always time to eat, sleep and get exercise… later.”

I hope my children remember, as they go through life, that this is central to who their mother is and what she believes. Who I am, and who I want to be remembered as.

For now, I’m stuck in this specific moment, and there are no real short cuts, I think.  Stop, Drop and Roll…  No matter how much or how little warning you have,  no matter how many times we think about the things in life that we need to face, and silently practice who you will face them, they can still just blow you away. All those years of fearing my mother’s death, that I would be an orphan: well here it is. It came in the dark stillness of a hospice room. It came to the sound of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. It came despite the fact that it terrified me, even as I prayed for it. My mother left me, and now I will begin to live without her, and without all she has meant, for so very long. In the end, it didn’t matter if I visualized it hundreds of times; or if I imagined what I would feel, or do, or think. Stop, drop and roll only takes you so far;  for now, I still feel the burn.

Happy New Year folks, and thanks for sharing the journey… so far.

Stop! Really. Read this.  Please note:  If you enjoy these posts hit “Like” and make me smile. It also helps my blog grow and that is the point. Go back and hit Like.  Thanks. Then, be nice and “Share” them with others; ’tis the season. Better yet Like them; Share them and then do something nice for yourself: “Subscribe.” You won’t get any spam, you can sign up with an anonymous name (I won’t know who you are, unless you tell me),  and you will get an email each time I post.  Think of it as a Holiday gift to yourself.  You know you want to. Go ahead, make my day (sorry about the gun, but this is serious business).

 

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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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The Middle Of the Road, With John Pavlovitz

I’ve been traveling, and editing my novel, and not blogging a whole lot. But, I read this amazing post by John Pavlovitz, who often thinks things I think too. So I’m sharing it. I sit right in the middle of the road with him. This quote hits on a truth I feel daily: “

Feel free to leave a comment; let’s start a conversation.

Here’s John’s Blog post:

WomanRoad






















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GIPYKAPOW! Have you stopped by Tales From the Motherland Facebook page to spread some fairy dust? I’m grateful for each Like. Follow me on Twitter, LeBron James does (for real… well, he did. But he may have dropped me recently)! Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. Honest, constructive feedback is always appreciated. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email,  no spam.

©2011-2019  All content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, I’m grateful, but please give proper credit and Link back to my work; plagiarism sucks!

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Summer Reads: The Overstory

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THE OVERSTORY, by Richard Powers

This book swept me away. I mean, lost deep in the forest, and not wanting out, swept away. At 512 pages, this was not a short or easy read, and it shouldn’t be. This is the story of our planet’s most important living creatures: trees. The fact that Richard Powers wrote a book about trees and their magical mystery and made it both compelling and personal, is why (in my opinion) his masterpiece won the 2019 Pulitzer prize for fiction. The way Powers weaves history (hence my shelf placement), nature and science, and fictional lives is compelling and seamless. This is a book that I feel I’ve been waiting my whole life for.

Okay, that’s a big statement, so let me tell you why. I am the product of a father who loved nature and the forest. He lived to be lost in the woods, and he shared that with me and my siblings. I lost him when I was only ten, but have always felt the pull to nature and the mystery of forest. I NEED to be around big trees and quiet woods, the way other people need to ski, read, or sing–– all things, I also love. From the first pages, Powers pulls the reader into a world where trees feel; reach out to us; speak a silent, mysterious language; fight for survival, and are ultimately rely on man, when man uses them carelessly and without understanding their importance on this planet.

Richard Powers weaves several stories over time and the history of people and the trees around them. These stories, different and compelling individually, all come together in the age of environmental activism and the fight to save some of the biggest trees on Earth. This tapestry of story telling is compelling and beautifully done. They meet in ways that might be missed, due to some of the nuances and clever storytelling. This book kept me spellbound through most of the book. Each story had its own fascinating arc, within the arc of the overall book. I looked up so many facts, and found myself looking at trees differently, even though I’ve always been a tree hugger.

There was a line in the book that has haunted me: “What you make from a tree should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.” A neighbor recently cut down several massive (HUGE) evergreens in our neighborhood, and I burst into tears, having just finished this book–– I swear, I felt them crying. They were removed to get more sun on their yard. Those trees were at least 100 years old; they housed humming birds, and countless other species. They survived the sprawl of our town. And they were cut to expand lawn.

The Overstory has many of the stereotypical elements of Pulitzer winners: it’s verbose at times; it’s heady and intellectual, while telling a good story; it’s longer than it needs to be. But it won this elite honor because it’s that good. This book demands your attention. It’s not a book to read for fun. The subject is too important, and the stories are too detailed to read for distraction.

Since I finished, this book has continued to spin in my head. The characters in this book are living in my head. I’m hugging more trees; I’m thinking more about my impact in the natural world. The history here is on my mind. As we build a new home, I want to believe that what we are making something as miraculous as the trees that were cut down for the lumber. However, I’m not sure that’s possible. A tree can’t really be replaced. The Overstory is that rare book that I will read again… a long time from now, when the spell has finally worn off.

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