Maddy getting married in Boca Grande

Boca Grande, Florida. It’s a place most people have never heard of but that I consider a second home. On the Gulf Coast, it’s seven miles long with one long road running the length of it. I want to tell you how awesome it is but I also want to keep it a secret…to bob in the Gulf of Mexico…

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to walk on the beach…

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to watch the sun set

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to grab an iced coffee in the morning and then shuffle around town…to eat only seafood and yellow rice and beans… and watch for sharks and dolphins and manatees and pelicans…DSCF1199  to fish with these silly boys.DSCF1201My sister got married. My little sister! DSCF1391It’s surreal how time goes by. Maybe that is why we take pictures, to try to grab onto the moment. DSCF1374

There was champagne and there were toasts…and there were all the in between moments. My beautiful momma and dapper dad:

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I had been looking forward to this trip for so long. I can’t believe it’s over. I can’t believe my sister is married. There’s all this bittersweet-ness wrapped up it in all that I can’t quite explain. There’s more that I want to say. About beginnings, about time, about being with the people that you love the very most in one place, about love and marriage, about the places that hold your story. But sometimes, a picture is enough.

DSCF1473Congratulations Maddy and Laurent! I love you two so much.

Spoken Word Festival, my new girl crush, and Spring. Sweet Lovely Spring.

Hi Friends!  I spent all last week volunteering for the Calgary Spoken Word Festival and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I’ll say straight away that I’m not a usual attender of Spoken Word events. I’ve seen a few artists and always thought it was kind of cool but I’ve never sought them out.

I love all aspects of this poster but I think my favorite part is the little red polka dotted shirt. 
The hat is also pretty great.

Well, I’ve got time on my hands and I saw a call for volunteers so I thought, Why the heck not?  I signed up for four events and the volunteer manager practically gave me a kiss she was so grateful. But as is usual when you give something of yourself away, you usually get it back in spades.

For those of you who don’t know Spoken Word is essentially poetry spoken aloud. But that’s just the simple explanation. There are infinite takes on the art form. I heard poems about Sasquatches and pudding, poems about activism and femininity and growing up as a gay poet in a Catholic Filipino household. I saw poets recite while standing on their heads, while twirling like a whirling dervish, in French and English. There were some who used keyboards, some who used guitars, some who sang, who beat-boxed, who looped their hypnotic voice as a foundation for their poetry. I attended a total of five events and I never got tired of it.

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A poem by Chris Gilpin about the Sasquatch. One of my favorites.

Two of the events I attended were for groups of middle and high school kids. I gotta say it super neat to see teenagers engage with poetry.  They were hooting and hollering and laughing at dirty jokes. Spoken Word can be edgy or silly; it’s always thought provoking, and it spoke to the kids as adults. Yes, poetry is cool!

It was at one of these school events that I saw Rachna Vohra perform “Cover Girl.” There are a thousand lines I could quote from this, but I’ll let you see it for yourselves.

This poem made me want to jump up and down and scream “Yes!” The fact that it was performed before 12, 13, 14, and 15 year old girls made me want to run up to Rachna, hug her, and somehow time machine the performance back to my own insecure awkward dying to be skinny-and-pretty teenage self.  Rachna’s not only talented and stunningly beautiful, she’s also incredibly nice, and my new girl crush.

In the midst of these Spoken Word happenings, spring suddenly arrived. The sun–a warm sun–came out, I slipped into a tank top, and Dan and I are both sporting tiny sunburns this week.  We strolled aimlessly through the city, had noontime beers and lunch on a patio, a marching band passed us by in full Scottish regalia replete with bagpipes and swords. We walked by an accordion player and street string ensemble, cello, guitar and banjo.

It’s been years since I lived in a place with real seasons. The Bay Area does have seasons, but they’re slighter. This is so dramatic. The way the gulls are suddenly in sky, bird songs lilting over a warm breeze, the once desolate parks now packed with children screeching and laughing on the playground, dogs bouncing after balls, runners, bikers, people sprawled out on blankets.

Somewhere between the tiny green buds on the trees, the inspiring poets, and the unhurried time with my husband, contentment settled over me. I’ve been so worried about Life and Big Things happening, that I sort of forgot that the Little Things are just as good. A Saturday morning walk with a cup of coffee when the world is still quiet. A garden ready for seeds. A day with no plans. An unexpected instrument. Holding hands in the sun.

Another one of my new favorite Spoken Word artists, 
Brendan McCleod, is a member of this band, The Fugitives.

I promise not to forget. The little things. The big things. And everything in between.

Welcome Sweet Lovely Spring.

Some thoughts about Moms and Love

The day after I bought Wild I discovered that the dearly loved indie bookstore of Wayzata, The Bookcase, would be hosting Cheryl Strayed. Strayed is from Minnesota, so I suppose it made sense, but it excited me that one of my writer-heroes would be visiting my hometown bookstore—a place I can picture perfectly in my mind, next door to Caribou. Mom, Dad, Maddy, Charlie, and I would boat over in the summer, pick up a coffee and then I’d wander the bookstore and Mom would always offer to buy me a book.

Our little clan

I immediately emailed the readers I know MN, but my mom was the only one to buy the book and go. Knowing my mom read all those words that meant so much to me, made me feel close to her. Knowing that she went out of her way to see Cheryl Strayed, and even had her copy of Wild signed to me (!) almost made me cry.

I know I’m being sentimental. But Wild has a lot to do with mothers. Because her mom died when Cheryl was 22, “I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I wished she’s done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again…[her death] had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance.”

My beautiful Momma holding my baby sister Maddy.

Well I did get to grow up and realize my mom had done pretty damn good. In fact, she did better than that. She was spectacular! amazing!…as good as humanly possible. Sure, sometimes she forced my siblings and I to wear matching outfits beyond the point I thought it was ‘cute,’ but she loved me, and she gave me everything. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be loved like that until my late twenties. To have my mom tell me every year how the day I was born was the best day of her life because I made her a mother. A mom who woke up at 5:30 AM every day for years to drive me figure skating lessons even though I was only mediocre and had no future in the sport. A mom who never reprimanded me for my crappy grades my first two years in college (a clear result of too much partying) when she and my dad were paying my tuition, having faith that I would learn and grow on my own. And she was right. I did. She let me make mistakes. She encouraged me, supported me, she let me be stubborn and think she was wrong, when, in retrospect, she was almost always right.

Yep. She was right. These are cute.

I wrote her a letter after I finished Wild to try and tell her how grateful I was. How I was sorry for ever letting her down, for my own youthful arrogance. But it felt like a paltry effort. How could I ever tell her in words how grateful I am? How much I love her. It’s one of those things that’s just too big. Big like the universe.

Cheryl writes,“I had plenty of friends who had moms who would never give them the all-encompassing love my mother had given me. My mother considered it her greatest achievement… She’d come at us with maximum maternal velocity. She hadn’t held back a thing, not a single lick of her love.”

My mom is the same. I know she considers her love for us her greatest achievement.

I think it’s hard for kids to think of love as an achievement. Achievement is measured in grades, sports talent, extra curricular activities, then what college they get into, how they do there, what job they get and so on. But as I round the bend into my thirties, into the second year of my marriage, I am humbled by love.

Me and Mom on my wedding day

Love isn’t easy. It’s not a given; love is complicated. It requires work and a strain of generosity I am only beginning to understand, the kind where you hold another person in your heart with every breath. There is sacrifice involved. It is also our lifeblood, what heals us. Love is what gives all of this meaning.

I told my mom that if anything had prepared me for being a mother, it was her example. My greatest dream, and hopefully my greatest achievement will indeed be to pass on what she gave me. In the end, I know it will be love that made it count.

Someone once asked Sugar (Strayed) What’s it all about? Her answer was simple:

It’s all about Love.

Update:

Chris Marshall, a friend of Dan’s from Vancouver made a wonderful comment and attached this video. It’s so good and beautiful and tear-jerking that I’m posting it here. I love how it gets at the universality of motherhood. I love pretty much everything about it actually. Enjoy dear reader.