Wildflower

It pleases me to see her zest for learning, her desire to master her world. I think she will not be easily daunted by disappointment, rather it will simply drive her to try even harder.

Advertisements

My daughter has been asking me so many beautiful questions lately about being multiracial. She’s very vocal about it, much more so than her brothers were at her age. “I’m a mix of you and daddy right? I have cream skin like daddy but you are on my inside right?”

“Yep that’s right little one.” I smile because she is so confident with this. She does not yet want herself to change. I wonder how long this will last.

My daughter is a confident child. She is quick to point out her strengths and if there is something she cannot do she simply says she “hasn’t learned that yet.” She is my child who is always saying “let ME try, I can do it!” Sometimes it’s horribly inconvenient and I have to grit my teeth while the cookie dough splatters all over the kitchen or the macaroni and cheese takes twelve years to stir. But I know how important it is for this particular child to be allowed to “do it herself.”

Alice has a need to be able to physically manipulate her world the way adults do. She sees how we deftly open cans, pour glasses of milk, slice apples. For her this is fascinating. I see how kinesthetic she is in the way she will touch everything as she moves through life, her fingers brushing objects, picking them up and putting them down or just shifting them slightly. I wonder if I was this way. It pleases me to see her zest for learning, her desire to master her world. I think she will not be easily daunted by disappointment, rather it will simply drive her to try even harder.

For the past six months Alice has been asking for another Hello Kitty birthday party. Her fourth birthday had this theme and she has been quite clear and insistent that her fifth birthday also be Hello Kitty. Until this morning.

“I want a dinosaur birthday!” (I of course have already bought Hello Kitty balloons to be filled with helium later in anticipation of what I thought we had already figured out.) I hear her say this brightly to my husband, both of them downstairs as he is about to leave for work.

“You’re having a Hello Kitty birthday party.” My husband says this kindly and matter of factly expecting that a simple reminder will be enough to squash this deviation from the plan she had already set in motion, Of course with Alice nothing is ever that easy. She immediately starts crying.

“I want a dinosaur party! Whaaaa!!!” This is her whine-cry. the most annoying sound on the planet. I sometimes think this sound could be used as a torture device to elicit confessions from the most hardened criminals.

“Alice, you’ve been saying you wanted a Hello Kitty party for months and mommy already bought balloons!” My poor husband tries to rationalize with what once was a little girl and is now “The Beast.” 

“Daddy, you’re mean! Whaaa-aaaa-aaa!” She is inconsolable.

“Alice you have to talk to mommy about a dinosaur party. I love you very much, I have to go to work.” My husband has given up, he knows as well as I do that once The Beast has reared its ugly head, there can be no winning. He begins making his way out the door.

“I’m never gonna love you again!” Alice yells this as the door is closing. The door stops short of closing shut.

“Don’t say that, not as I’m leaving!” My husband is audibly agitated and hurt. Alice is already stomping up the stairs crying. My husband sighs. “I love you very much Alice.” He shuts the door. My daughter can be such an asshole. Ah, the effortless cruelty of children!

“Daddy is mean!” Alice is crying as reaches the top of the stairs.

“Daddy loves you, he’s not mean.” I’m firm with her, deciding how best to handle The Beast. I can tell how tired she is. I wonder why, she wasn’t up that late.

“Daddy says I can’t have a dinosaur birthday party!” I can’t tell if this is a passing desire of hers or if she’s actually serious. I do know someone with an awesome air powered tyrannosaurus rex costume.

“Daddy didn’t say that, you can have a dinosaur at your party. Now you need to eat your cheerios.” Still crying Alice shoves a bite of cheerios into her mouth. I quickly start Reading Rainbow on grandma’s laptop silently thanking God for technology and walk over to the counter to get my tea. I make a mental note to text my husband later and make sure he’s ok after this morning’s encounter with The Beast.

As I’m drinking my tea I notice the tulips on the dining room table. They are a mix of white, pink, and lavender, The white ones have opened fully, the pink are open but not as widely and the lavender are just beginning to open. They are poking out at different angles giving the impression of flowers leaping willy-nilly from the vase. This image makes me smile. I decide I love tulips and wonder how long the blooms will actually last. I look at Alice grumpily eating her cheerios. Her hair is as wild as the tulips. The thought makes me giggle. I head to the bathroom to get the brush. Alice starts to whine-cry as soon as she sees the brush. This has become routine for us. “Alice,  now I know it doesn’t hurt because I haven’t even touched you yet! Enough of that noise or I’m turing off Reading Rainbow!” This is something of an empty threat because we both love watching Levar Burton teach us about harvesting cranberries or mixing clay for native american pottery. Alice quiets down and lets me brush her hair into a bouncy ponytail. I think to myself how she has no idea how lucky she is. My hair took three times as long to do and hurt a hell of a lot more when I was her age. My mother had to learn how to deal with my unruly mass of curls. They have better products for mixed race hair now. My children are lucky.

After Alice and grandma left for school and work I was typing at the counter and looked back over to the table to get a glimpse of the cheerful tulips and noticed something Alice had left on the table. Then I remembered she had something clutched in her hand when she stomped up the steps and kept it with her through breakfast. Ironically, the entire time she was throwing a fit she was holding a hello kitty party hat from her fourth birthday. It’s the same little hat she has been carrying around with her talking about her Hello Kitty fifth birthday she is going to have since Christmas. I think about how perplexing that must have been for my husband. I wonder if any other moms have ever done a Hello Kitty dinosaur birthday party before. I realize I will have to check the internet for ideas. I decide my daughter is awesome. Perhaps it is fitting for my mixed race child to have a mixed character birthday party. It could be like subliminal messaging for the single race people who attend. Not that anyone is actually single race anyways and now it’s being argued that it’s merely a social construct but that’s a whole other post. I’m laughing now as I go back to typing on my laptop. I think about how my mother exclaimed yesterday that she hopes I don’t run out of things to write about. Oh no, I told her, there is always something, Especially when you’re raising one of Alaska’s purest wildflowers.

 

 

Garden of Memories

Every morning I check my clematis to see if it has grown. I see its tender green shoots and they seem frozen in time, although I know they are making their gentle way up and out, curving and winding around the trellis. I watch my peonies just now opening, the fat pink blooms ripe and fragrant.

Every morning I check my clematis to see if it has grown. I see its tender green shoots and they seem frozen in time, although I know they are making their gentle way up and out, curving and winding around the trellis. I watch my peonies just now opening, the fat pink blooms ripe and fragrant. These particular flowering plants are especially dear to me because at my old house in Anchorage I had loved these perennials to a place where I could count on a swath of pinkish purple flowers from my clematis covering the trellis up past my head and multiple fat pink peony blooms that I would cut and make into bouquets for my table.

I have beautiful yellow cala lilies surrounded by bright pink and orange celosia right outside my door which is downstairs of our house. They greet me as I step outside onto the deck. Our greenhouse brims with vegetable plants, which my mother is steadily planting in rows in our raised beds. We have five pots of roses, two of which I’m going to plant in front of the house. We chose ombre blooms this year. I’m filled with anticipation, imagining the gradient colored blooms in a marvelous display. The roses in front will be a gorgeous deep yellow in the center fading to a pale white. The other one is the only solid color, a deep blood red. A rose of love.

We have two lilac bushes out back and I just planted a lilac tree in the front. As a child I had a beautiful purple lilac tree in my yard and I’m excited for this to exist in Alice’s world. My husband just mowed the weeds and thick grasses at the edge of the deck (we have an acre of land) and put up Alice’s play-set. Watching her swing and go down the slide is wonderful. I watch her play among the flowers and behind this beautiful house surrounded by her family and I literally cry tears of joy. It’s by chance this all came together. It’s by love this all happened the way that it did.

When I was digging the plot for the clematis I had to dig out several boulders. There is nothing more satisfying than digging out boulders! You stand on your shovel. You jump up and down. You grab the spade and jab and stab all around it. You hop back up on your shovel. You think about giving up. You’re so tired. And then suddenly there’s a shift. And then another, and another. You’re suddenly filled with energy and you jump up and down on the edges of the shovel and pop! Out comes the boulder. Reaching down and lifting it out is exhilarating. It’s a fantastic feeling. There’s so much wonder in the act of gardening that you don’t realize until you try it. So many things that are actually exciting and difficult and complicated and beautiful.

When my mom first set the seedlings out on tables in the great room under grow lights, she asked me to repot them when they first poked their gentle green heads through the moist earth. I was definitely nervous. Here was new life and I was responsible for ensuring its continued existence. I gathered each tiny green sprout and surrounded it with soil, water and replaced it under the grow lights. They seemed so fragile. To think of them then in comparison to now, they don’t even seem like the same plants. Now they are strong, green and tall, bold. They remind me of children. They start out so fragile and they need so much care. Eventually they become strong and hardy. They still need you though, even if not as much.

As I wander along the deck looking at the flowers I think of my father and how he built the very deck I stand on. I dreamt of him last night. How he loved a good steak but at the end of his life he couldn’t have it, his remaining kidney was unable to process that much protein. In my dream he could have all the meat he wanted but instead he chose to spend time with us. One of my most cherished memories of him is sitting in our sunny living room with my daughter on his lap, reading to her. Now if you know my daughter you know that she doesn’t sit for anyone and especially not at two years old. But my dad had a way with her. She would curl up in his lap and he would read her story after story. Even I couldn’t get her to do that. On that particular afternoon my dad looked up at me while reading and smiled. He had these big white teeth and that smile just beamed. I’ll never forget it. Like the rarest of flowers that blooms for only a little while my daughter had her grandfather in her life before he, like all flowers must, passed away.

I think this is why I love perennials so much. You can keep them alive in your mind and heart until the growing season returns and they once again show their blooms. I have faith in my clematis and my peonies that they will return to me every spring as they did at the Anchorage house. I also keep my father alive as well. His blooms are in my memories of him, the lessons he taught me like how to turn burgers on a grill. The musicality of my children, the brilliant arrogance of my oldest son, the tenacity of my youngest son. And of course, my daughter’s love of books. Most especially Hop on Pop.

My Life Is My Own

I suppose, in a way, she has the ideal exposure because the person who birthed her, loves her unconditionally, is raising her, caring for her and teaching her is a person of color.

So I live in Wasilla, which is basically 99% white. I don’t love this, I wish my daughter could grow up with more diversity. She’s at the perfect age to really fall in love with all different cultures and we are living in such a homogenous part of Alaska it’s depressing. Her only regular exposure to someone of color is me. I have to wonder what does this mean? I suppose, in a way, she has the ideal exposure because the person who birthed her, loves her unconditionally, is raising her, caring for her and teaching her is a person of color. I am this multiracial, multicultural human who is definitively unique, artistic and compassionate towards those who are different. I’m an advocate for persons with mental  illness and am committed to fighting the stigma. So who cares if she is surrounded by the same white faces on a daily basis. Her home is not that way and never will be. Her brothers, especially her oldest brother, don’t look white at all so summers spent with them enhance her world view and round out this homogenous little world we’re raising her in.

My last blog was intense. I dug deep and talked about some pretty tough subjects. I’m glad I did, there are so many women who have been through the same things and are ashamed to admit they were abused. They just hold it inside and it literally tears them apart. I need to share something that happened to me after I posted my blog. My ex-girlfriend contacted me and tried to manipulate exactly the way she used to. She accused me of lying and airing her dirty laundry which is a contradiction in terms and interspersed it with compliments about my daughter and my advocacy work. She tried to rope me into a dialogue which I resisted and accused me of cyberbullying her by telling my story, while at the same time apologizing for traumatizing me all those years ago. She then started bullying me the way she always did, telling me what I could and could not write about in my blog- basically I could not write about her. Honestly my first reaction was fear. All these years have passed and I still reacted like a terrified child. Then I was angry at myself for feeling afraid and agreeing not to write about her, because it’s not my fault she was abusive. It’s not my fault she’s as sick as she is and refuses to take responsibility for it. I know plenty of borderlines who admit they are skilled manipulators. That they often find themselves doing it without even trying. I know borderlines who are actively seeking help even though success rates are low, they are there, trying. Fighting their illness. Taking ownership.

Was I perfect in that relationship?  No…but I don’t even call it a “relationship.” She used to make me lay there with my legs spread and conduct what she called “examinations” to make sure everything was “ok down there.” You’re probably wondering how in the hell did I let someone do that to me? Well I had just come from a sheltered cultish belief system and I was only a child when I joined it so I was an easy target. I tried to get away from her in so many ways. I mentioned the first time my poor oldest son from whom I kept all of this loved her and didn’t want me to leave and so I stayed for him. I also knew in my heart I needed a man. In the way a gay person is born that way and cannot change, so is a straight person, so is a bisexual and so on. I needed a husband. I would tell her this and she would tell me over and over I was wrong, I was a lesbian, I didn’t know what I was talking about. At the end I would literally have dreams about men, about being the straight woman with bisexual leanings that I was and how badly I needed my man. I thought maybe if I slept with a man I would know for sure and it would be enough for her to finally leave me alone. So I did just that and it confirmed it for me. So I immediately told Janine exactly what I did hoping she’d understand and finally let me go, but not only did it not work she told me she realized she was transgendered and wanted to get a sex change operation and would I stay with her until she had the sexual reassignment surgery and then we could be a traditional couple which was what I said I needed. My God. I thought. She’ll never let me go. I mentioned in my last post that she threw a bicycle at me. That was her last act of violence towards me and the most obviously violent act. That was the turning point. As soon as the bike hit my legs my mind snapped. I knew things would go in only one direction. It was then that I finally called my parents and told them the truth about what was going on. They had suspected but had no idea how bad things had gotten. I was so desperate to legitimize this nightmare I went through a commitment ceremony with her. Somehow I thought this would make things better. The ceremony itself was beautiful. The truth behind it was tragic.

The reason I’m sharing all of this is for all of the women who have been through this. Who have made these same seemingly crazy choices. When you are in an abusive relationship you forget who you were before your abuser began filling your mind with negativity. Before your abuser began stealing your independence of mind. You forget you once stood on your own two feet. You forget you were noble, beautiful and worthy of love all in your own right. I was so paralyzed by my own victimization that after leaving her I tried to go back to her. I thought I could not live without her. I had forgotten how. Thank God she only wanted to sleep with me. Thank God I was only temporarily under the delusion I needed to keep being abused. Thank God she found someone else to debase. I was forced to heal and heal I did. Day by day. Week by week. Month by Month. A Year passed. Then a miracle. I was working, going to school, running several days a week and I started to fall in love with my life. I started to fall in love with myself. I was staying with my parents when I had my sons, with a girlfriend I had known since we were nine years old so basically my sister when my boys were with Ian and I was having fun. Living the life I never got to live in my twenties. It was one particularly beautiful day and I was running along the coastal trail and I decided to message a guy I worked with at a television station as an intern. KTVA. His name was Nick. And he became my husband.

Of course there’s MUCH more to that story, but the most important part is that he also helped me heal. The parts of me I didn’t realize were still broken. Anyways, before we had gotten married, when our daughter was almost a year old. I invited my ex-husband over to the house to help the boys with their homework. It was a landmark moment. I reached across the divide that was our fighting and extended an olive branch. That was the beginning of what can only be described as a miracle. Now his new wife is my sister and he is my brother. I’ll be taking my daughter to stay with them next summer so I can spend time with my sons and Jaden can work a summer job. If you consider where we began, and where we are now it’s almost unbelievable. This entire story deserves its own post but I’ll at least say, it’s due in no small part to my husband and his wife. Nick and Nicole.

I’ll end this post by saying it doesn’t matter how lonely, crazy, stupid or hopeless you think your situation is you are not alone. Someone else is going through the very same thing. Listen to your friends when they tell you to get out. Let them help you…and above all, love yourself. My daughter may be living in one of the whitest, typical, homogenous cities in America but her family is anything but white, typical or homogenous. Of this I am proud.

Queen

I looked for you in the darkest of places
Where the people had the whitest of faces
Your hands were in the dirt
Your back was bent
I couldn’t see you clearly
But you smelled like victory
You didn’t notice me
I thought
But in truth I stopped your heart
A year later we were running from the grotesque, swords in our hands
Dripping animal blood
Our daughter ferocious asking when can we stop and fight
When can we destroy them?
Soon love. Soon.
I could see their hulking beast-like shoulders just over the hill and above them the white faces of their soulless guides
I suddenly saw heaven:
The entire world was in your pale blue eyes
The warmth of your Scottish beard
Against my cheek reminded me of grace
Our hands tightly wound. My dark one with your light one.
Our middling princess with her fire hair and all the power of heaven and earth at her feet.
I found the last white man who was not a ghost.
And you gave me back my royalty.

Kimkoa 2018

 

Honest Words

When you are a young parent it’s easy to forget your child is not your possession. That you do not own them. You are entitled to their raising and responsible for their safety but eventually they will individuate from you, they will crave their independence, their own lives.

These days I wonder where my words go. I wonder what direction they travel, whether straight like an arrow, or curving in a downward spiral to reach the most desperate of us at the bottom of a bipolar sea. Perhaps my words are a flower, each petal a fragrant, delicate wisdom blown by the wind either into someone’s waiting palm or to the ground, forgotten under dirt and other rubble. Even I don’t know which of my words to treat with extreme tenderness and which to forget. Of course I vainly hope my words are works of art delighting the senses of those who read them. Honestly these posts I write are my way to reach out across the void to a world I’ll only see pictures of. Reaching people who would otherwise never have known I existed.

Tonight my sons are on my mind. It was not so long ago I held them in my arms and felt the greatest love any woman can feel. I’ve had so many women tell me “Well, I don’t know how you do it, I could never let my sons live somewhere else for the entire school year.” They say it with an air of possession and just enough judgment. In the beginning I wasted my breath and my time explaining the legal aspects of it and my my promises to my sons not to attack their father legally over them. I waxed eloquent about how boys need their fathers and both of my sons had unresolved issues with their father that needed to be dealt with that I couldn’t help them with. I tried to explain that we are one big family not two competing but I would get these blank stares, more judgment, pity, and even anger. Yes anger that somehow I was failing at motherhood. I tried to explain that it wasn’t my choice to make. But it all fell on deaf ears. So now I don’t offer any explanation to anyone. If someone asks me about my sons I just say they live in Oregon with their father for the school year and with me for holidays and summers. And I leave it at that. Of course it’s so much more than that but I don’t owe those details to every drama desperate woman plaguing me with questions so she can feel better about her life. It’s sad, but we do that to each other. Women. Many women, not all women. We compare and contrast our lives trying to one up each other. Why do we do this? I truly have no clue. Life would be so much simpler if we didn’t.

It takes a mighty heart to love a child enough to let them spread their wings. To let them use their voices and really listen to what they need. My son Jaden was yelling as loudly as he could with his behavior. He had no intention of moving to Oregon. We sent him there because he was doing so poorly in Alaska. People hear that and they think “What?! You sent your child AWAY?!” Yes, yes I did. Because I would rather have a child I only see on holidays than a dead one. Elliott went to Oregon one summer and never came back. I railed against it at first and then I tapped into my mighty mother’s heart and loved him. I understood he needed his father. I understood he wanted his brother. And his behavior had been tanking too. I’d be lying if I said it isn’t hard. That it doesn’t ache that I’m missing so much of their lives. But I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that the moments I do have with them are so poignant, so precious and full of meaning that I can’t feel anything but grateful for the way things are. My sons are physically far away, but emotionally we are so close. We love each other with an intensity brought on only by distance. The four of us, their parents and stepparents have committed wholly to being a family. A real family. I’m actually taking my daughter next summer to Oregon and spending the summer with them. Because their stepmother is not only the best stepmother in the world she is my friend, confidant, cheerleader, mentor and most of all sister of the heart. We have worked very hard on this relationship of ours and it is built solely on trust. If I had one piece of advice I could whisper on a petal and blow into someone’s palm it would be that you cannot build anything beautiful with someone you don’t trust.

When you are a young parent it’s easy to forget your child is not your possession. That you do not own them. You are entitled to their raising and responsible for their safety but eventually they will individuate from you, they will crave their independence, their own lives. This is an inevitability. To rob them of this would be the greatest crime. My sons have taught and are teaching me how very true this is. Raising their little sister is a different experience because I know what it’s like to have teenagers. I know how a child stretches out, develops, unveils their adult selves in their responses, glances, the way they carry themselves. I know all too clearly how they remember what you say and use it against you as the case may be. When my daughter says she hates something with all her might I kneel down, I look in her eyes, I make sure she’s not just being difficult. I believe her. I let her know I’m listening to her, I can hear her. I do the same with my sons. They know I hear them, I believe them, I think what they have to say matters. And as tempting as it may be I don’t lie to my children.

My husband’s parents and his sister refused to come to our wedding. The reasons are obvious, I lack the right skin color, bank account and ability to play along in a sick family system. It was incredibly painful for both myself and my husband. In fact the pain they caused him raised a rage in me I didn’t know I had. Apparently they told my husband or he assumed they didn’t consider weddings important since they had a courthouse wedding without much ceremony. I always knew that wasn’t the reason but I chose to let it be. Fast forward almost three years and they’re flying up from Nevada for his sister’s wedding. In a sitcom it would be hilarious. In real life it’s disgustingly cruel. My husband is caught between feeling a duty to them as his family to attend and standing firm that since I’m not welcome and they refused to attend ours he will not go. And he certainly won’t bring our daughter while I stay home seeing red.

So often the families we are given are not the families we would choose. I have to let my husband make his own decision. They are his parents. She is his sister. But I will protect my daughter. A very long time ago I was in the same situation my daughter is in now, My mother’s family did not accept my father and although they allowed my mother to bring me to visit them, my father was not welcome. In an effort to protect me I was not told any of this until I was fourteen. I’ll never forget it. I was so angry I never spoke to my grandparents again. I don’t want my daughter blindsided and feeling lied to. I told her that her grandma and grandpa and Aunt didn’t come to her Mommy and Daddy’s wedding because they didn’t want Daddy to marry Mommy. But that we’ve worked out a lot of the angry feelings. I explained that she doesn’t know her Aunt because her Aunt doesn’t like mommy’s skin color and doesn’t think she’s good enough for Daddy. My daughter in her beautiful innocence said she has fire hands and she will fire her. I laughed and told her that wouldn’t be necessary. I said sometimes adults make silly choices and it takes them a long time to learn to make better ones. But we can be an example of love and not hate. Upon hearing that she cried out “I love you Mommy!” and gave me the biggest squeezingest hug that warmed my heart from the inside out.

I know this is not the end of the questions. Or even the end of the drama. But in my house we are safe, in my house we tell each other the truth and in my house we love our differences. When my daughter is fourteen she’ll already know the story. She’ll be free to make her own choices about who she wants a relationship with. All through her life, even when my husband’s parents’ said I was not allowed to set foot on their property I let him take our infant daughter to visit them. It crushed me every time. When she’s a little older and better able to understand I’ll tell her that too. I want her to know that I never came between her father’s family and her, even though they tried to make me into that kind of person.

I know not everyone would agree with my way of handling the situation but the beauty of it is I don’t care. I went through it and I know how it felt and what I wished someone would have told me as a child because I always knew something was wrong I just had no name for it. If anyone is reading this dealing with their own family drama I would urge you to be as honest as possible with your children because they see more than you think they see, they hear more than you think they hear and they know much more than you realize. Of all the mistakes I’ve made in my life I’ve never regretted telling my children the truth. Being honest with your children plants seeds inside them so that when they are adults and talking with others their words can become beautiful blossoms with petals of wisdom able to change the course of the world.

The Color Of Love

My father made a decision after that encounter. He would never again leave the house unless he was dressed well enough to attend a business meeting. He knew what all black men know. What you wear matters. because white people unconsciously see the derelict crack dealer on the corner.

One of the hardest things about being bipolar is your every emotion being blamed on it. People tiptoe around you like you’re in a mine field and you might be an explosive device. You show a hint of irritation and suddenly people think you’re sliding down a slippery slope and they start mentally taking notes. How much as she been sleeping? Too little? Too much? Did she eat lunch yesterday? Was she wearing a little too much blush?  It’s nothing short of infuriating. Sometimes I get angry. Not because of my bipolar but because I’m angry about a situation, or I’m grumpy from my period, or I have a headache and my daughter is acting up or a million and one other reasons that are NOT related to my bipolar. But it’s so hard for those closest to me not to immediately jump to thinking it’s a manic episode and I can tell they’re evaluating me as opposed to actually just listening and it drives me nuts and makes me even angrier.

[‘ve learned to swallow my words. Not all of them, because they still get me in trouble but a good amount of what I want to say never makes it out of my mouth. I have to be careful you see. I have to be mindful that everything I say holds more weight than it did before the diagnosis. Everything I say is a potential land mine.

It must be nice to have people. To have a group you belong to. I always wanted that. Rather than this hodgepodge mixture of racial identities that belongs to no category and has no name other than multiracial. I suppose in some ways it makes me superior, it takes me out of the battle between the races and I view it from afar like a concerned spectator. In other ways it makes my life hell because people call me names like “mulatto” and “high-yellow” both ancient slave terms for children born of the master-slave relationship if you can even call it that. I’ve also been called a “house nigger” a term I hope my daughter is never ever called in her life, it’s so ugly. People see my face and it’s as if every insecurity the’ve ever had comes boiling to the surface, and racism comes tumbling out of their mouths in a mighty gush. I’m so used to it I hardly bat an eyelash. It’s as if I’ve forgiven them before they’ve even said anything. I know how stupid the human condition is when it comes to anything outside the box. What I find so strange is these derogatory terms have to do with looking part black. The less black I look the less negativity I get. When my hair is straight people think I’m Asian or Polynesian. Or Spanish. I have to wonder why that is. Why there is so much hatred of the African American.

I remember an incident that happened to my father who was the new principal of an elementary school and was rightfully very proud of his accomplishment. He had some shopping to do, and rather than dress up as he usually did he opted for sweats and a t-shirt as he was in the middle of a home project. After he had gotten what he needed and was heading to his car he ran into a colleague- someone who also worked in the school district. They chatted for a few minutes and then the man asked my father what school he was working at. My father told him he had just changed schools. The man then said “Oh, that’s great! Are you the new janitor?” My father was quiet for a moment. He felt a thousand things at once, most of all the sad truth that nothing had really changed. “No, I’m the principal” my father said. The other man was of course speechless for a time then offered a jumbled pathetic apology. My father just shook his head and headed for his car.

My father made a decision after that encounter. He would never again leave the house unless he was dressed well enough to attend a business meeting. He knew what all black men know. What you wear matters. because white people unconsciously see the derelict crack dealer on the corner. The gangster with a gun in his pants. The predator on the news. The lazy drunk living off the government. Really, they can’t help it. They’ve been conditioned to fear what is different and to hate what they fear.

Then there are the white people like my mother. The ones who truly don’t see color. Or my dearest and most beloved friend Amy and her mother Bea. My wonderful husband. The select few who are truly lovers of humanity and don’t care a whit what your racial make up is. I only wish there were more of them.

Just like race, bipolar doesn’t play favorites. You’re born with it. Bipolar doesn’t say Oh, she’s got a lot on her plate already so I won’t manifest in her, I’ll choose someone with a fairly easy life. Oh no, bipolar doesn’t care about your circumstances. It doesn’t care if you have kids, money, no money, if you’re the head of a company, if you’re newly married trying to be the perfect housewife. If you’re mixed race and dealing with being bullied and misunderstood and just trying to survive. Bipolar stretches across race, sex, financial status, age…it plays no favorites and has no mercy.

People will laugh at bipolar jokes as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. People who don’t have bipolar. Who don’t know how deadly it is. How soul-crushing it can be. Bipolar is cruel but fair. It is an equal opportunity disorder. In order for people to take this disorder seriously, it helps to understand something about what causes bipolar and why it isn’t something to laugh at. How it’s not just “somebody else’s kid who has it.” Scientists are actively researching this condition in the hopes that new medicines can be found, new treatments can be discovered, or even permanent actions could be taken resulting in what could be considered a cure. According to WebMD Experts believe bipolar disorder is potentially caused by an underlying issue with specific brain circuits and the functions of the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Three brain chemicals are involved in both brain and bodily functions: noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine.

Noradrenaline and serotonin have been linked over and over to psychiatric mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and other forms of depressive disorders. Nerve pathways that regulate pleasure and emotional reward are regulated by dopamine. When circuits are disrupted that communicate using dopamine in other areas of the brain there is a connection to psychosis (a symptom of Bipolar 1) and schizophrenia.

Serotonin is connected to sleep, wakefulness, eating, sexual activity, impulsivity, learning and memory. Researchers believe abnormal functioning of brain circuits that involve serotonin as a chemical messenger contribute to mood disorders: both depression and bipolar disorder

In a nutshell, bipolar has nothing to do with someone just being “moody” or “difficult” or “flaky.” Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain with serious and sometimes deadly symptoms. I’d be lying if I said people’s ignorance of this disorder doesn’t make me crazy but it fuels me to keep talking about it, keep educating others so eventually the stigma is eradicated for good.

In the same way I talk about bipolar and consider myself an activist in my own right, for bipolar disorder and mental health awareness, I also talk about being multiracial. Being more than one race is as misunderstood as bipolar disorder. We are our own culture, a culture of people who don’t identify with any specific racial group. Instead we exist on the outskirts of a polarized society, craving acceptance, looking for understanding- even within ourselves.

There are so many reasons for me to be angry that have nothing to do with my bipolar. I’m tired of being made fun of. I’m tired of being misunderstood. I’m tired of being called black when I’m multiracial which is so very different. I’m tired of having to fight to be seen. I’m tired of my friends ignoring me when I’m in the hospital because they don’t want to go to the mental health wing. I’m sick of the bipolar jokes, the stupidity of others, I could go on. But I can’t surrender to that anger. Because there is no bottom. I would rather take that energy and educate those around me. I would rather write about my life honestly. I want to make people laugh, cry, and most of all think. I want to share the real parts of my life. Not just the few and far between breakdowns. Here’s one example:

My daughter pooped in the bathtub yesterday. My husband cleaned it up. I saw a text on my phone: Don’t go in the bathroom until I clean it! My daughter poops like a man. The other day she pooped and it was the biggest poop I have ever seen come out of someone so tiny. I went and found my husband and told him “You have to see this”

“No way.” He had no interest in looking at poop.

“No seriously you HAVE to see this.” I wasn’t giving up. He relented and came in the bathroom.

“OH MY GOD!” He was definitely shocked and somewhat impressed.

“See? I told you! I don’t know how she does that! It’s like a superpower.” We both almost collapsed in laughter.

“I made a BIG poop!” Alice was pleased with herself.

“Alice, life with you is never boring.” I told her as I was helping her get cleaned up. She just smiled.

So that’s what you get. A multiracial family, getting through the days, mom has bipolar disorder so I have to take care to manage it. We have a wild, wonderful daughter and two sons who spend the school year in Oregon. We live with Grandma who at sixty-eight has more energy than all of us put together. We have a crazy but loving dog and the world’s best cat. We fight, we make up, we work hard to make our lives work. We love each other with a ferocity unmatched. As much as I hate it, I’d rather have people who care about me enough to pay attention to my behavior and make sure I’m not heading toward a manic episode, rather than a family who couldn’t care less. When I think about my daughter and her box of crayons matching them to people’s skin tone, I realize what color I am. I’m the color of love.

Rain Dance

We cannot live our lives in fear of missing moments, of moments ending, of failing to extract every meaningful drop out of our children’s existence as though they were dishrags to be wrung out, to be twisted.

This is the time to remember
Cause it will not last forever
These are the days
To hold on to
Cause we won’t
Although we’ll want to…

–Billy Joel

Truer words were never written. As much as we try to hold onto those precious moments they end up slipping away from us like the soft cotton of a dandelion head. And all we have left are our memories.

When Jaden was a baby (he’s sixteen now) I remember one afternoon willing myself to commit him to memory. This won’t last I told myself. The way he smells, his little, chubby hands and feet. His big, wide, innocent eyes. Remember this! I willed myself. As if it were possible. As if time, the great thief that it is, were not lying in wait to steal that and so many more moments from my mind like an ever empty and waiting void.

A poem by Langston Hughes reads

“Life is for the living.

Death is for the dead.

Let life be like music.

And death a note unsaid.” 

The beauty of these words is that they speak to our deepest fears and then tell us how we  should handle them. Life is indeed for the living. I could spend the rest of my life trying to memorize each moment with my children, or I could simply surrender to the joy those moments with my children bring me. It is a choice. I could not have known this at twenty-four. I barely know this at forty-one. Another aspect of this philosophy and a truly important one is that it relieves us of guilt. Here’s an example; my daughter is playing and I’m writing and she calls for me. Does she absolutely need me? No. Does she want time with me and is that important? Of course it is and I will give her that time. It just doesn’t have to be RIGHT NOW. Life is for the living and that means my life is for me as well as hers is for her. If I want to really play with her, I mean really be engaged I need to give to myself first so I’m not this empty vessel. Will I miss out on time with her? Of course I will. Will the sky fall? No. Assuredly it will not.

We cannot live our lives in fear of missing moments, of moments ending, of failing to extract every meaningful drop out of our children’s existence as though they were dishrags to be wrung out, to be twisted. It is simply impossible to stop the hands of the clock of time. The earth will spin regardless of what we do and our children will grow older as painful a process as it may be. Why not enjoy the ride? One thing all children need to learn is how to entertain themselves. It’s a shocker I know. In this age of immediate gratification it seems an almost foreign concept. It’s important to remember that by catering to her every need I am in a sense robbing her of her ability to live her life to its fullest. I don’t want her running back to me every time the rain begins to fall. Rather I want her to dance in it.

I want her to dance in the rain and think nothing of the thrilling splash of the puddles, the gentle spray of droplets on her face. Because that as well as anything else is part of the human experience. Whether the rain trickles down lightly so we have an afternoon of damp cavorting, or in great sheets so we are soaked to the bone in a matter of minutes, the rain wakes us up, pulls us from our complacency and drowns out the sameness of our otherwise predictable lives.

Life is for the living. That means each moment is a gift for us to do with as we please. There is no guidebook. There is no test with a looming answer sheet lying in wait to point out all of our mistakes. On the contrary. Our life is ours. To jump up and down in the rain, to wrap ourselves in a blanket and binge watch Orange is The New Black, to change careers ten times, to drop out of college. To teach our children to swear in preschool. To lose at poker, to win at poker. To get pulled over five miles from home after drinking one too many glasses of wine at dinner. To run out of gas in the middle of the intersection and laugh hysterically about it. To fart in church. To be gracelessly, embarrassingly, unabashedly imperfect. To live. Because life is for the living. So my darling…LIVE.

Destiny

She kept fucking up.

She kept swallowing the goldfish, running over butterflies before they had a chance to flutter past gorgeously.

Who could love a died-in-the-wool screw up like her? Not even the cat who eyed her warily.

She was too fat for her best dress. Too thin for her mother to worry about her. “You have control over that girl! And it’s that sour attitude of yours driving them away, not your ass.

She hated her name. Grace meant all the things she wasn’t. Her name should have been Selena or Georgiana. Or even Tia. The last of those evoking a kind of reluctant sympathy. But no. Her name was Grace and she had yet to live up to it.

It was long after everyone was asleep and the clocks smiled 3:15 that Grace became Rita. Armed with only a braided satchel containing lipgloss, a passport, some valium and one ticket to Brazil scattered with greasy fingerprints she disappeared into the night.

She was never heard from again after that rainsoaked, changeling evening and her mother was satisfied.

Kimkoa 2018

An Ocean of Raindrops

Like a rainbow reflected in water, or the pattern of clouds across the sky, life as it is now is our gift. That there is nothing more beautiful for us to find.

My husband is an atheist. I asked him once, how can that be, that all we have are these moments? That holding our breath and waiting for true beauty to reveal itself wastes our only chance to experience the truly beautiful? He remarked without hesitation, “That’s what makes it so beautiful. It is just these moments.” I was stunned by his revelation and immediately the tears began to flow. In that brief second of time I could see the beauty of the world through my husband’s lens. Like a rainbow reflected in water, or the pattern of clouds across the sky, life as it is now is our gift. That there is nothing more beautiful for us to find. I also saw my husband’s true beauty. That here is a man who is good for the sake of goodness, not out of fear of some looming punishment.  A man who refuses to take any part of the great tapestry of life for granted. Because of that, he sees what God sees. He appreciates the hum of the elements coming together as one unending symphony of life, wherein Heaven and Hell exist only in the mind, as does our creator.

One can easily understand this philosophy. That rather than God, it is WE who choose how the brush strokes meet the paper to create the masterpiece that is LIFE, that we are as Godtruly choosing our own destinies, inventing our own realities, deciding how the masterpiece of the world will appear.

It is not a choice to love each individual raindrop of the ocean of creation. But what we do with that love IS a choice. Do we run from it? Do we throw it away by assigning responsibility for its care to some unseen deity? Or do we surrender to our love of the world and its many precious creatures? I agree with my husband wherein loving a collection of raindrops that when gathered together equal the water of life is an indescribably beautiful thing- A thing granted only those souls profound enough to accept it.

In this life, we choose our reality. We label our moments as either worthy or that which must be thrown away. But what if? What if we are throwing away the good stuff? What then? I’ve heard therapists and doctors talk about mindfulness as an antidote to depression and at first I felt confused by the idea. I didn’t understand how to be mindful on a level that would change anything about how I felt. But to view mindfulness though the lens of imagining that my raindrop and its role in the great art of the world is of the same importance as the ocean of drops surrounding it, I can then surrender my inner critic and experience each breath of life the way life is meant to be experienced. Without the constant editorial presence we develop along the road to adulthood. Great works of art are made up of elements. Artists realize this. That the individual brush strokes are what create the final image. That without each connection of the brush to the page, the image would be a different thing. Distinctly and irreversibly changed. We are each of us a brush stroke, creating the masterpiece of our world. We choose what our art becomes. The painting only God can see. God being the greatest artist and alive only if we choose Him to be for ourselves.

My daughter is sick. She has the flu and pneumonia. When my children are sick I always focus in on each tender moment with them, terrified of losing them to their illnesses. I watch the rise and fall of their chests when they breathe, I feel the dampness of their foreheads, the heat of their cheeks when they are flushed with fever. I listen to their coughing, analyzing the sound in case they don’t cough in the doctor’s office. I am completely aware of them, mindful of their existence. Their beauty becomes even more poignant because I am aware of how precious they are, and how vulnerable. I am not afraid to love them, even though to do so is to surrender myself to the possibility of loss.

Religion teaches us not to love the world, that there is a greater beauty beyond its borders. In the bible John 2:15 states:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

This is not the only example. When I was a bahai I was taught the same thing. The Bahai writings state:

O friend, the heart is the dwelling of eternal mysteries, make it not the home of fleeting fancies; waste not the treasure of Thy precious life in employment with this swiftly passing world. Thy comest from the world of holiness- bind not thine heart to the earth; thou art a dweller in the court of nearness- choose not the homeland of the dust.

-Baha’u’llah

In both of these messages there is a great emphasis on detachment as a means of coping with potential loss. It’s as if we are told to resist falling in love. A wonderful movie called Jack and The Cuckoo Clock Heart is almost an ode to this idea. Anyone who hasn’t seen it needs to. The protagonist Jack is born with a heart of ice and it is replaced with a cuckoo clock. He is told it will work only if he never falls in love. The moment he falls in love his life is over. The clock stops when he gives into his heart’s desire. He basically has power over his own life and yet he doesn’t because how do you control falling in love?  Again I think of my children. The fact that I could never accept that losing them would do anything other than rip a gaping hole in the world’s tapestry. That for me, the world would not be as beautiful without them. The image would be dramatically and irreversibly changed. I admit my love of them and of the world. I admit loving the details that comprise my reality in all of its diverse glory. I love them and the world because quite simply they are worth loving. I will forever rage against and mourn for their loss if they were to be torn away from the great work of art that is life. It is my right.

Esteemed architect Miles van der Rohe famously coined the phrase “God is in the details.” I love this saying because it attributes meaning to the small parts that make up the whole. It highlights the beauty of the elements that would otherwise be lost in the grand scheme. van der Rohe knew what atheists know, what other lovers of perfect situations and circumstances know. That beauty is what we say it is. That each moment is precious, but it is up to us to claim it. To emphasize the beauty of each individual piece of wood, metal or glass that fits together to create a building so beautiful it catches one’s breath. To fight for the recognition and protection of such beautiful things simply for the reason they are there, for us to love. It is up to me whether or not  to fight for my right to be thoroughly attached to the raindrop that is my child. To fight for the right to love the image of the world that is created with my child in it, knowing I will forever mourn the loss of it should that image change.  It is still worth taking that leap. Falling in love with your child, with your lover, with the world. Even though all things change and all things die, what we know of them will still exist if only in what they left the world and the memories they left the ones who loved them. It is up to us to be grateful that although the moments did not last, their memories will always echo through the chambers of our minds. That although the image was temporary, I was there and witnessed the harmony of the elements of the world through the lens of my experience. And the beauty of it did bring my to my knees and I felt blessed.