Thursday, November 23, 2006

All Ting Go

Today, I have two choices. Be miserable. Or, be thankful. Like a cheesy Hallmark card, I am going to try to be thankful. There are thousands of other bloggers out there today writing the same kind of contrived crap, so at least I am in good company.

Iain and I are both really sick. I have no voice and my post-nasal drip is turning into bronchitis. Iain's perpetual runny nose has turned a love shade of chartreuse and he is intermittently whining and tugging on his ears. In a couple of hours, we are going to shoot over to the urgent care and get ahold of some pink bubblegum anitbiotics. In the meantime though, we are enjoying a lovely morning.

On mornings when I don't have to work, I'll cook up some eggs, slice some strawberries (or other seasonal fruit), and we'll sit at the table listening to music and "talking". This was a regular Saturday tradition that Dalton and I began many, many years and 4 houses ago. It's such a simple thing, but it was one of those consistent times when you knew you were going to get to be together. Iain and I make it a point to do it at least once a week. In the new era, I do most of the intelligible talking, but occasionally I am blessed with a two or three word sentence.
And I know that one day, in a couple of years, the balance will shift and I won't be able to get a word in edgewise.

I will always get to pick the music though.

Today's musical selection was Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise. It's a brilliant album that captures both the melacholy and simple pleasures of this life. I have played it quite a bit over the past three months, and Iain really likes it. To be honest, Iain really seems to like most music, the first thing for which I am really grateful. He will sit in his carseat and dance to whatever is on. And, when a song ends that he is particularly fond of he will exclaim, "More, please!" I don't play any kids music, although we certainly sing a lot of "Wheels on the Bus" and "Row Row Row". Iain sings the kids songs, but I've never heard him sing a grown-up song.

Until today.

When Chicago came on, Iain was playing with his cars and trucks, driving them over the couch and the coffee table and the dog. All of the sudden, I heard him saying, "All ting go. All ting go." At first I thought he was just talking to his trucks, but then I realized that he was singing, not talking. And, he was doing it along with the song that was playing.

you came to take us
all things go, all things go
to recreate us
all things grow, all things grow
we had our mindset
all things know, all things know
you had to find it
all things go, all things go

It's funny, because Sufjan Stevens is a secular indie artist. He is a Christian, but not a scary one. If you don't know what I mean by that, then you might be one of them and you should just forget I said that. So, he is a Christian, but he is realistic about faith and the struggles that we deal with. Most of his songs are about life, not religion. I would venture to guess that he is pretty unpopular with the more pious Christians because he gets pretty angry at God at some points. At the same time, there is an underlying current of hope in his songs that I really appreciate.

Apparently, so does Iain. Or at least he likes the tune.

Either way, listening to him bop about the house with his cars and trucks singing, "All ting go, all ting go" makes me really happy.

I am so thankful for many things. For the things I have now - really wonderful friends, Iain's loving and helpful grandparents, a great job, lovely house, etc. For the things I had in the past - my mom and the 30 years of love and friendship and support that she gave me, my husband and the ten years of faith, passion, friendship and partnership that we shared.

Most of all, though, today I am thankful for our son who likes to sing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stripped of Pride

I've heard women say that once they went through childbirth and exposed themselves to every doctor, nurse, and janitor who wanted to "take a look", modesty became a thing of the past. Having buried my mother, grandfather, and husband in the span of 18 months, I feel about the same regarding my smarts, or in this case a lack therof. To be fair, it isn't as if my IQ suddenly dropped 50 points simply because they all died. However, the mental manifestation of grief seems to be hitting me pretty hard these days.

There is a chapter in my Widow to Widow book (can't believe I am admitting to owning it), titled "Where Did I Put my Mind?" Some excerpts follow:

"A well shared symptom of "the crazies" experienced in early widowhood is the maddening amount of time spent looking for things you had in your hand only a moment ago, or had logically filed away for safe keeping...You are performing new and demanding tasks and making decisions, and on the other level you are trying to cope with your loss, your grief and the ever-growing realization of the full dimension of that loss...Expect, at least once, that in paying bills you will send the electric company check to the phone company and vice versa (been there, done that)."

Anyways, tonight's crazies might even top running over the tire spikes in the parking lot, but I'll let you be the judge.

I am spending Thanksgiving in North Carolina with the family of one of Dalton's closest friends. Iain and I are booked on a flight from Ontario to Raleigh that leaves at 10:40pm. Red eyes are good for him; he sleeps just fine on a plane. Larry is driving us to the airport.

I had hoped to leave my house by 8pm in order to allow plenty of time to check-in and settle down. It is, after all, Thanksgiving weekend. At 7:45, I was set. Iain was fed, bags were loaded, house was locked.

OH MY GOD!!!!!

I'd left my ID in the copy machine at Hollywood...30 miles in the opposite direction of the rush southern California. You can't fly without an ID, so I jumped in the car and prayed. And called my friend Matt (who lives closer to work) to see if he could grab it and meet me en route. And prayed. And prayed some more. Please let the traffic be light. Please let me get home before 8:50. Etc.

By some miracle, I managed to get to LA and back in less than an hour. This is a huge feat considering that it normally takes me an hour and a half to get to work. I pulled into the driveway at 8:42, and we were off to Ontario. At 9:10, we pulled up the curbside check-in, which was remarkably empty, and unloaded the luggage.

Skycap: Do you have your ID with you.

Me: Yes, and what a funny story that is...

Skycap: I can't find your reservation.

Me: What do you mean you can't find my reservation. I just looked at the e-ticket an hour ago.

Skycap: Do you have your confirmation number?

Me: No.

Skycap: I have a Mary and a Chris Harding. Are either of those you?

Me: No. Let me call my friend and have him check my email for the confirmation number.

(me dialing, waiting for an answer)

Skycap: What flight did you say you were on?

Me: The 10:40 to Raleigh.

Skycap: We don't have a 10:40 to Raleigh. We have an 11:55 to Raleigh, but you're not on it.

(me waiting for Matt to find the email)

Matt: Here it is. Delta flight 1103 from LAX to Raleigh leaving at 10:40.

(me taking a deep breath)

Me: Matt, did you say LAX?

Matt: umm. yes.

Me: Shit.

It was 9:20 and I was in Ontario. My flight was leaving LAX at 10:40.

We are not going to North Carolina for Thanksgiving.

And that, my dear friends, was my latest attack of the crazies. I may not have lost all sense of modesty following childbirth, but I have definitely been stripped of all pride by grief. The irony is stunning as well. I drove from West Covina to LA to pick up my ID, managed to somehow make it to Ontario, only to discover that I needed to be at LAX all along.

I will miss seeing my friend and meeting his family, but what can I do about it. Every flight is booked and overbooked. It is, after all, Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, November 20, 2006

How to Tie a Tie

If you met me
in the grocery store
or at a concert
or we chatted in front of the day care center
about cars
and school pictures
you'd think I was peppy and smily and cheery.
And I am.
If you knew me only from the blog I write,
you'd think I was miserable
and whiny
and, well, dull.
And I am.
Most mornings I wake up
to the sun shining through the bedroom window
and Iain crying
from his crib.
We sit in the armchair
reading books about
dump trucks
fire engines
He's all boy.
I cut up pears
and strawberries
and cantaloupe.
We always said we wanted him to eat heatlhy.
I get through this just fine.
Peppy, smily, cheery.
But then we drive to preschool.
And I remember Dallton getting dressed for work
tucking in his dress shirt,
spraying the Vera Wang,
telling Iain how some day
he'd show him how to tie a tie.
And I cry.
But not for long.
It's only 15 minutes to the school.
This is my day.
90% cheery, smiley, peppy.
10% sad.
I blog the sad
because it's not normal.
I don't know what to do with it.
I didn't blog when Dalton sprayed his Vera Wang
and tied his tie.
I had other things to do.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


One of the most profound moments I had on Tuesday while going through Dalton's closet involved a piece of clear plastic medical tape wrapped around a piece of cotton. It was shoved in the pocket of Dalton's heavy green wool jacket. I can imagine him peeling it off his arm and shoving it there after donating some more blood to USC Norris Cancer Center. What struck me is that this little ball of plastic and cotton still existed, and Dalton was gone. In fact, there are bags of clothing sitting on my patio that have obviously outlasted their owner. I can't say why I found this so interesting other than that it crystallized what I had been feeling for quite some time. Stuff has no meaning outside of people.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Oh well. So much for blogging every day this month. I have never been very good at plodding (some would say I have a hard time with routine, consistency, whatever). In fact, I was just away from a computer. I went up to meet the landlords this weekend, and the Motel 6 didn't have a laptop handy. Anyway, it was a good trip. The house is really perfect for what I need. It's tucked away in Mt. Tam, has a fabulous wood burning fireplace, a lovely wrap around deck, and glass across the entire back of the house. Plus, it's about a 10-minute drive across the Golden Gate to San Francisco.

I can already see that there will be some difficulties to overcome in this endeavor. Namely, finding the perfect mix of timing, entertainment, and Benadryl (I keed) to keep Iain occupied on our twice weekly airplane adventures. At the same time, I am more excited than ever to do this. In less than 24 hours, I met four people with whom I could easily become friends. And, it just so happens that my landlord is a flight instructor, so I will probably be exploring flight lessons sometime in the next few months.

Back to my issues with not finishing what I start, I have decided to drop my Anatomy class. To all of you who thought I was completely insane for starting back to school when i did, I issue a hearty, "You were right!" Too much, too soon. But I said that I woud offer myself a lot of grace in these months, so that is what I am doing. That panic attack test that I took a couple of weeks ago resulted in a 33%, and although I could probably work really, really hard and maybe still pass the class with a C, I spoke with the professor this morning and decided that it just doesn't matter that much at this point. There is a two year wait list for most nursing schools in California, so I'm going to have to embark on a different career in the meantime. Plus, I am beginning to wonder if the nursing thing is really as much of a calling as it was a knee jerk reaction to my all-consuming hobby of the previous two years. I know I want to help people who are facing similar circumstances, but maybe not full time. Besides, for those of you who know me, I am much more of a suit, stockings, and high heels kind of gal than I am a scrubs and clogs kind of girl.

Dalton would have really appreciated my saying that.

So, for now, I am free from school and focused on getting things in order for the next phase of my life. Tomorrow, my friend, Millie. is coming to help me start on the task of going through Dalton's stuff. Last week was rescheduled because of her work schedule. Fine by me. I'm not exactly an eager beaver about this one. In my "prep work" today to ensure that none of our more personal items were included in the pile, I came across a stack of cards that Dalton had given to me over the years. He was really an amazing writer and hopeless romantic. I wish I'd only kept more of them, but then you never know. You just never know.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Being OK with Waiting

It's just fine with me that I haven't a clue what next year looks like. Every time I try to think beyond February 28, I have an overwhelming sense of confusion. So, I have decided that I don't need to think beyond February 28th. In the meantime, I'll just try to enjoy each day as an independent story in the framework of my life.

February 28 is the last day of my lease agreement in Northern California.

For those of you that were confused, I have not decided to move permanently and will be traveling back and forth from Northern California to LA for the course of three months. Consider it respite and reconaissance.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


A BIG question for anyone whose spouse dies. Just check out the young widow forums. Rings and sex will get the most hits every time. When Dalton first died, I decided to wear his ring instead of mine; an easy choice since my engagement ring was stolen and my wedding ring hadn't fit since I was six weeks pregnant. Darned water weight.

Then, about two months ago, it started to slip and slide around my left ring finger, so I moved it to my right hand. Don't ask why, but that finger was "plumper" than the left one. It felt "right" on the right hand. I was technically not married, but I still loved having it with me.

This past week, it has fallen off of my right ring finger three times. The first, while giving Iain a bath. The second, while drying my hands after doing the dishes. The third, while desperately trying to rid my hands of dead cat smell in the anatomy lab sink. The thought of Dalton's wedding band getting washed down the drain with cat fat and formaldehyde was too much for me to bear. I had to do something.

I tried moving it to the middle finger, but that didn't feel "right". I thought of wearing it around my neck but still prefer the mother-child pendant he gave me on Mother's day 2005. So, after much debate, I have decided to take take it off and put it in the safe deposit box for Iain. My hands feel a bit bare right now. But also like a blank canvas. Maybe this week, I will buy myself a ring that fits. Something that celebrates Dalton and love and who I am because of who he was.

Actually, I'll be happy if I can just find something I like.

I guess the truth is that life moves on whether we want it to or not.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I was going to write about

not wanting to write about grief anymore. It's not all I am. It's not all I want to be. I love modern art and indy music and dinner parties and reading stories to Iain before bedtime. I love traveling and doing nothing touristy. I like driving with the top down, smiling at the other drivers and seeing how many of them smile back. I like intellectual banter, witty, funny people, and unrestrained optimism. I like to sit outside beside the fire and sip wine. I like it even better when there's someone to curl up next to. I like hearing Iain sing. I like solving problems, being efficient, and having a clean house. I even like grocery shopping and going to the gym. And finally, I love a really strong cup of coffee on a crisp cool winter morning.

So I was going to write about all these things and then I accidentally (really) reread my blogger posts from last April. Now, I just want to go to bed.

Someone please tell me that there will come a day when the first conversation I have with someone won't include the fact that my husband died. It scares people. It scares me. I just haven't figured out how to be me without him and I certainly haven't figured out how to answer the question, "Where is Iain's Dad?"

Uugh. I so want to be done with this.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A really special cat...

Today I failed an anatomy practicum. And let me tell you, when I do something like fail a test, I do it with style. I didn't just fail it, I will be lucky if I scored a 20/100.

To be fair, last week wasn't my best week. I have been more or less indifferent to school and remiss about my studies. However, I did spend about 8 hours reviewing the material and figured that I would at least be able to eek out a C.


I literally went blank. Normally, tests are easy for me. I don't get nervous. The answers flow easily onto the paper. But, today...NOPE, couldn't remember a single thing. Actually, I had to laugh at one point, because in my futile attempt to rack up points, I decided to give the same answer to five different questions, figuring that at least I would get one of the right. Did you know that there is a cat out there who according to Tricia has five biceps brachii? Hence the 20% goal.

Oh well, better luck next time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

You've heard it a million times before

Again, there really is nothing new under the sun.

Don't ever get too attached to your stuff, because when you die, the people you love the most will eventually pack up 95% of it and give it to Goodwill.

I think I will be able to get through most of the clothes. Some things will be especially difficult though; the Hugo Boss sport jacket that we bought when Dalton returned to Marsh, the black J Crew Coat that I bought for him because he refused to spend the money on himself, certain pairs of shoes. It's funny how many memories you can associate with clothing.

The things that will be toughest though are those things that are uniquely personal but not necessarily sentimental. For example, the classical guitar that he always intended but never got around to learning how to play. Or, the briefcase that he carried to work every day for the past
six years. Or, his everyday fountain pens (not the really special ones, I'll keep those for Iain), but the everyday ones that he used in lieu of "inferior writing instruments. Or, his sunglasses, the same style and brand that he wore since college. Or, his cologne (which I may not get rid of because on bad nights I still sometimes spray in on the pillow next to me). Or his IPOD.

For all of you who gasped, I have my own IPOD.

It all just seems like such a waste. I want someone else to appreciate these things, to get some use out of them, to play the guitar, carry the briefcase, write with the pens.

So, if you are a friend and would use any of these, please let me know before Friday. Otherwise, I will be packing up 95% of it and giving it to Goodwill.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Proof that God has a sense of humor...

Larry is my mom's husband, Iain's Grandpa (and an awesome one at that).

Larry is not my stepdad.

My mom and Larry met when I was 17, and for the first several years, Larry and I didn't like each other too much. He thought I was a selfish, arrogant brat. I thought he was creepy and boring. In fact, I can remember telling my mother that I saw him on America's Most Wanted and that she really should look into her boyfriends more carefully.

Likewise, Larry and Dalton didn't get along too well at first. Of course, that was due in part to the fact that things were a little crazy between Dalton and I in the very early years. One night in 1996 when we were living with my mom for a few months, Dalton and I had a bit too much to drink and ended up getting in a fight in the kitchen. It was 2am and Larry normally went to work at 4am. In a daze, Larry calmly walked into the kitchen and pointed out to Dalton that "He was a great cook, but a lousy house guest."

All the more amazing that the four of us eventually ended up really enjoying each other's company. I stopped being a spoiled brat, Dalton stopped being a drunk, and Larry stopped being so creepy. In fact, in some of Dalton's journaling, he references evenings spent laughing, playing cards, and drinking wine with my mom and Larry as some of his favorite memories. We always found that fact ironic.

But that's not the reason that God has a sense of humor. Today, while Iain napped, Larry and I spent the day doing real estate research and talking about potential cities to which each of us could relocate. Mom died two years ago this month and it is proving to be a hard time for Larry. Of course, if you read this blog, you already know that it has been a hard time for me. Anyway, and this is the funny part, amongst the things considered in our potential new diggs were opportunities for social connection. So where did we end up? On Yahoo personals entering in different criteria, different zip codes, and different locales. "Larry, look, she's pretty and likes dancing." "Hey Tricia, there are over 1000 men in the San Rafael area for you to date who claim to jobs."

You get my drift. We were laughing hysterically the whole time.

Of course, the truth is that I am only six months into grieving. Larry is nearly two years into it. And neither of us is really serious about dating. But who would have thought that an 18-year old brat and her mom's creepy boyfriend would one day have so much in common?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sarah's Blend

I realize that this is an odd post. It's just that I don't really have much to talk about in the way of grief today, and I subscribed to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and agreed to post every day for the month of November. So, instead, I am going to use my cyberspace to recommend a fabulous high-value wine. One of the things I decided after Dalton died was that life is too short for so-so wine. So, I've been ordering wines online starting with 90 pt. wines under $20. Marquis Philips 2004 Sarah's Blend Soutern Australia is the best I've found thus far. And, its running out. Complex, fruit forward, peppery, and deep. You can get it from for $8.99. Yes, I said $8.99. I've seen it up to $17.99, but still?

Anyway, if you like red wine, give it a shot. Can't beat it for the price.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Therapist Laughed at Me

And she's really not much of a laugher...

I went in today and calmly explained that I was having what I thought were panic attacks: difficulty breathing, dizziness, a racing heatbeat, and weakness. She nodded sympathetically at first, but when I explained that the second one happened right after signing the lease agreement on the house in Northern California, she began to laugh out loud and shake her head in disbelief. "I think you have hit your limit." she said.

It's not that she's opposed ot this decision or thinks it unwise. She just thinks that my body has finally had enough and needs a release. Her suggestion? Ask a friend to come over so that you can finally go through Dalton's stuff.


It's about time. It will be a good release for you. Besides, the longer you wait, the harder it is going to get.

About then, I started to feel my chest go tight.

What do I do about the panic attacks? Should I take a Xanax?

Nope. You just live through them.

She then read me a list of "Panic Attack Symptoms and Associated Thought Process."

1. Rapid Heartbeat, "I am going to have a heart attack."
- reality, your heart can beat at 200bpm for up to 2 weeks. You will not have a heart attack.

2. Difficulty Breathing, "I am going to pass out."
- reality, the stress is causing your lungs to expand and press against your chest. You are getting plenty of oxygen.

3. Dizziness, "I am going to faint."
- reality, the fight or flight response has dilated your blood vessels. You are getting more not less oxygen and will not faint.

4. Weakness, "I am going to collapse."
- reality, the blood is going to you largest muscles (legs), and you will certainly not collapse."

About then, I realized that I really was having panic attacks and began to feel even more pathetic.

As she pressed on about going through Dalton's stuff and how I could "keep one box", I lost it. I don't want one box. I want him. Then the rapid heartbeat, difficult breathing, dizziness, and weakness started to become evident. Her response? "We also should spend some time on your Dad, because this will inevitably raise the abandonment issues that you have as well."

I hate my therapist.

I love her too, because I need to cry. I need to get on with my life. And she gets that I am really good at bottling it up. And not very good at letting it out.

So now, I get to schedule a day with a friend so that I can "go through" (which really means get rid of) Dalton's stuff AND at the same time find something of my Dad's to bring into my next session. And this friend can't be someone who wants to fix it or make it better for me. They have to be comfortable with me being a mess. In fact, they have to encourage it.

Lucky friend.

In the meantime, I get to practice diaphramatic breathing six times a day as a way of minimizing the physical effects of a panic attack.

I swear, all I want to know is what the hell is wrong with Xanax?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On a Lighter Note...

My tires rock!

I am lame, but my tires rock!
Just another indication that I am losing my mind. Every Monday and Wednesday for the past eight weeks, I have been parking in the pay lot at Mt. Sac Community College. You pull in, park, and pay on your way out. Today, I decided that I'd skip the "pay" part of the equation and go out the well-marked entrance instead. As my front tires careened over the spikes that I thought no dumb ass ever crossed, a funny thought crossed my mind, "Why I am I going in the opposite direction of the painted arrow?"

Then I realized that the large bump I just felt were my tires rolling over vicious spikes and I was probably going to be stuck here like a dumb ass until AAA bailed me out.

Luckily, my tires survived. Go Audi! My ego is a little bruised, but what else is new these days? Just thought i'd share.

The Hardest to Fill

I'm not a nervous person. Anxiety, fear, and uncertainty are actually pretty foreign feelings. I've been called resilient, strong, self-sufficient, and any number of other adjectives that mean "You're going to be just fine." Even during the toughtest times these past few years, I've usually known that I would be ok. I'd get through it.

For that reason, this afternoon caught me a bit offguard.

I signed a contract to sublet a home in Northern California for the next three months. And after I signed the wire transfer for my security deposit, I was hit with an overwhelming sense of fear. It was a genuine awareness that my life was changing drastically, soon. And I was actually scared.

I'm sure that sounds wierd considering it's been five months since Dalton died and over a year since he was diagnosed. But I think this was the biggest decision I've made since May 26, 2006 and the first one I've made on my own for over ten years. I wanted to curl up next to Dalton on the couch, rest my head in his lap while he comfortingly wrapped his arm around my shoulder and assured me it would be fine.

In the ten years we were together, these moments might have happened five or six times. The night mom died and Dalton wrapped himself around me while I sobbed. The evening in the hospital when they told me I was having a miscarriage. The day I couldn't stop crying because I thought I would never be a decent mom. But, these were the moments that made our marriage intimate, real, vulnerable. when we were more than partners, more than friends, more than lovers. It was in these moments when I was really vulnerable, that Dalton was my husband, my flesh.

That hole seems the hardest to fill.