Archive for September, 2012

Conversations with Warriors


“Damn it, Deb. If we’re going to get married, you need to tell me these things.”

“But why?” I asked my fiancee, Ba.D. “Telling you things doesn’t change them. So why? Why belabor them?”

“Because,” he told me, “Then we are in it together. Like married people should be.”


“It feels miserable being so vulnerable, Rache,” I told my sister. “Like really, really, really miserable. Just terrible.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Rache told me. “Of course it does. When you’re used to the people you love hurting you, it is really hard to stop expecting that. Even years later. But with practice, you get better. It gets easier to see that even when they say the wrong thing, it’s not because they mean to hurt you.”



An open thank you for casting Sigourney Weaver

In between bites of dinner last night, my fiancee, Ba.D., spoke a rare sentence that blew my mind.

In the recent movie Salt, Angelina Jolie’s role was originally written for a man. Ba.D. explained that this has happened several times in cinematic history. He threw out a few more examples before adding as an afterthought, “Ellen Ripley wasn’t written as a woman.”

After watching me flap my jaw wordlessly a few times while trying to come up with a coherent response, he added, “The character was written to work as a man or a woman. It was just written as ‘Ripley.’”

Ba.D. and I were busy last night, but as our bodies moved around, my mind remained locked on the fact that, in an alternate universe somewhere, Sigourney Weaver is not the badass protagonist of Alien and Aliens.

I feel sad for the girls of that alternative universe, because in this one, Weaver’s Ripley played a powerful role in my believing I could be anything–anything–I dared dream. I didn’t have to want to be a princess or a cheerleader or a housewife. I could grow up and be like Ripley, not only defensively but offensively taking on and taking over some seriously hostile situations. Read more…

Dream, reach, explore, Endeavour

Space research: fascinating, but not an especially good use of money with our own world full of hunger and unresolved needs. That’s how I would have characterized my take on space research early last year, before I read a couple of compelling posts on its merits.

Thanks to changes in thought and heart rippling out from my reading those posts, I knew enough to stand atop a roof and watch for the space shuttle Endeavour as it passed over my office today.

That shuttle was not so very long ago among the stars. It was among the stars because we have minds great enough to dream up, create and send not only technology but life into space. With minds out there great enough to accomplish these things, I cannot help but have faith that time will see many more wonders worked both in the sky and on our own home planet.

To do things, we must first dream them. As I stood and watched the shuttle fly by, I was heartened by the vastness of human dreams, and by the amazing impacts of our drive to see them come true.

And let us hope that all the other leaders in all the other fields look up into the night sky and ask, “What do I want?  Would I be happiest to see the stars from here on Earth, or to fly amongst them?”
— Kristina, “Want Versus Need…Stuff and Space

FTIAT: Mothers and Daughters

Katy (I Want A Dumpster Baby) caught me with her name, but kept me with her heart. I once tried to explain her to my godmother, saying that I loved all of the things about her that are like my mom while also loving her for who she is even apart from that. When I met her in March, I could feel her before I even saw her. And when I saw her, the love just radiated from her as if it were literally a light.

Katy is, as she says, an alcoholic who doesn’t drink and a smoker who doesn’t smoke. I say she is a lover who loves and loves and loves, sometimes with funniness, often with glitter guns and others with don’t-you-dare-try-that-on-me firmness, but always in a way that makes me think, “Man, is the world better for you being in it.”

Recommended post: It Just Gets Better and Better

Mothers and Daughters

Here’s the thing about Mothers and Daughters.  It’s a tricky relationship.  One that ebbs and flows and, ultimately, one that teaches a girl how to get along in the world as a girl and then as a woman.  The mother does her best to teach her daughter what she has learned and then does her best to let her go.  No matter how many wrong turns the daughter makes, the mother is just there letting her know that she is loved.  The mother will do anything for her daughter, and yet, the one thing she will not do is love her to death.  There is a point where the mother does the one thing that she never thought she would have to do and that is say, “enough.”  From this tiny little woman who is my mom comes this powerhouse of strength, faith and commitment.  My mom is the strongest woman I’ve ever known.  She has the strength and conviction of an army of men.

I may not have always agreed with her. I still don’t.  But I respect her.  And the best thing is that today, I’ve earned her respect.  I make living amends to my mom each day I am clean and sober.  It’s the best gift I could give her.  I want so desperately to give her a grandchild.  I am working my best on that effort and my mom has been my angel while I’ve been going though this fertility struggle.  With little notes every other day, just saying “HIYA” or “How you doing Honey” or stories of my niece and nephews she knows will make me smile.

She also takes the time to write long, beautiful notes to me since they moved across the country and I am so appreciative.  She knows I don’t like to talk on the phone and she has adapted.  My mom is the best audience a comedienne like me could ever want.  She laughs at EVERYTHING I say, all the while saying, “You are so funny, Kitten.”

I’ve been given the gift of watching my mom explore and open her mind and world to new ideas and to not see things as so black and white.  I hope I have had a hand in that.  It’s made me less judgmental.    I’ve been sober for 10 years and when I got sober, I started smoking cigarettes and continued for 10 years.  My dear sweet mom never said one word about that.  The whole time, and I know she hated it.  Always has.  But it was the lesser of two evils and if she could have her daughter sober and smoking, that was the better option for her.  NO JUDGEMENT.  I find that incredible.  She would even come outside with me when I visit while I smoked because she just wanted to be with me. We weren’t very touchy feely while I was growing up, but I tell my mom every chance I get how much I love her and respect her.  I watched her wish she could have had a more open relationship with her mother, and I’ll be damned if I let that happen with us.  I wrap my arms around her tiny little frame and I almost cry every time because I love that woman so much it hurts.

I’m so thankful I’ve had the gift of time and sobriety to grow with my mom.  I think about our relationship today and it is strong.  It is blooming.  We like each other today.  So very much.

We’ve grown, we’ve changed, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve challenged, we’ve accepted, we’ve forgiven, we’ve healed.  And now, we just love.   For this I am thankful.

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9/11: Remember, and use the remembering well

I flew a year ago today. As I shuffled my son from Eugene to Portland and onto our plane, I thought only briefly of the events of September 11, 2001. I thought of them more a couple of days later, when I learned a handful of other airline passengers that day had been detained on the basis of their apparent ethnicity.

This morning, my son’s early and loud awakening has left me a couple of hours to reflect quietly, both on the bygone day itself and how loud its memory resounds online this morning. I have watched the stream of “never forget” messages on my phone and remembered my own discovery of the news as a first year law student at the University of California Los Angeles. I sat rapt, disbelieving and heartbroken on my scavenged bed, watching the news on my scavenged TV.

As we implore each other to “never forget” and proclaim that we never will, I wonder what exactly it is that we will never forget. The horror of realizing we’d overestimated our safety? The lives lost? The dangers of hating others–be they “Western” or be they other-looking–and letting that hatred grow? The goodness of those who ran not away but toward, risking their own lives in the hopes of saving others?

It is impossible not to remember. The good in remembering is that remembering helps us avoid repeating. It’s thus that instead of saying “never forget,” I say instead: Let the memory of what transpired inspire us to be better, love better and live better today.

Photo © Mary Kushman

Photo © Mary Kushman

On September 11, 2001, my mom urged me to move back to Eugene. She was concerned about my living in an urban hub. I told her matter of factly, “I’d rather die in Los Angeles than live in Eugene.”

Eleven years later, I think mostly that I would rather live, and be inspired to live well by the memory of those who no longer can.

I remember. And I will do my best to use that remembering well.

What are you remembering today?

This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
Reposted 9/11/16

Fewer goodbyes to childhood cancer, or “My sunshine, my David”

I love many people, and I love many people greatly, but there is no one I love more intensely or completely than one little boy named David. If you read my blog, you have come to know David as “Li’l D.” He is my son, and—although I once dreaded the prospect of parenthood—my life has been a million times brighter since he entered it three years ago.

For this one blog, I cannot call David “Li’l D.” Because, you see, this is a post about the loss of children, and “the loss of children” translates in my mind to “the loss of David.” Not “Li’l D.” David.

David: my exuberant, bossy, compassionate chatterbox of a son. My David.


With my mom, a few months before she died

Last September, I learned that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I ignored most of the posts I saw on the matter, because paying attention to them meant paying attention to the fact my own son could someday be among them.

I will cross that bridge if I get there, I told myself.

It was January before I steeled myself to read Donna’s Cancer Story, a series documenting one brave, beautiful girl’s battle with cancer. As I read it and for days afterward, I bawled, I cursed the universe, and ultimately held David tighter as I imagined what it would be like to say goodbye to him having barely just said “hello, my sunshine.”

As this September rolled around, I thought about what it would mean to me. I knew I’d read Donna’s Cancer Story again, and share it for those like me who couldn’t bear the thought of reading it the first time around.

I didn’t know I’d find myself also reading Aidan’s Cancer Story, and compelled by the memory of both Donna Quirke Hornik and Aidan Manning to look more deeply into why pediatric cancer awareness is important not only on a personal, empathy-building level but on an extremely practical one.

Read more…

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