I have a theory. When a woman gives birth for the first time, she should become super human. She will never get sick and she will only die after a long and happy life. We are expected to be super human already. To do a million and one things well and to never rest even when we get sick. So why can we get sick? And more importantly, why can a mom die before her time? I know too many motherless daughters and kids who are growing up without their moms. Cancer is a big one. But then there are the out of the blue losses - car accidents, a sudden health incident. I just heard yesterday of an immense loss to a family that we know in Marin. We don't see them as often because we live a few towns away now, but to hear of the loss that they are experiencing shook me to the core. Moms should never die. We mean too much. Our kids need us through the twists and turns of life. We need to be there when our daughters give birth and have sleepless nights and nursing issues. We need to be there to love our grandkids and take some of the pressure off our kids. We need to be here.
I was lucky in the big scheme of things I got 26 years with my mom. But it wasn't enough. And knowing how much that hurts, when I try and stand in the shoes of a 10 year old or a 15 year old, my heart aches. And I want to yell to the heavens - moms should never die!!! Every fairy tale that became a Disney movie starts with the mom is gone and then...it's never good. Never.
Reading about other daughter's loss on Mother's Day is truly what inspired me to move forward with a crowdsource campaign to print my memory book. As I step forward with this project into the world I keep feeling pulled to do something more. It is such a SMALL drop in the bucket, but I am creating a workbook to go with the book. It will be a way for anyone to record their own memories of their loved one. It could be just for yourself or to share with your kids or the kids you someday hope to have. There will be prompts to help you remember some of your favorite things and there will be an A to Z list so you can plan and brainstorm before you start creating. If you like to draw - great! - if not, then it could be collage or photos and a little or a lot of writing to go with the images.
I deeply hope that it can bring a tiny bit of comfort to those who have lost too much, too soon. I hope. Because this loss makes no sense and it never will. We live with waves of grief and we ride them thru the highs and lows of our lives that we wish we could share with our mom.
I’ve been crowdsourcing since before it was a “thing”. I was lucky to have friends in the fundraising department at Art Center - especially Shoko Takada. When I imagined going to the National Stationary Show in 2004 she helped me believe it was possible. She had me write letters to everyone I knew - friends and family - and I mailed them! Yes, mail. Real mail. I told my story, listed my goals and asked for help. I got so much support, enough to start my company Block Party Cards and go to New York City with an 11 month old baby in my arms. I was even able to pay for my mother in law to fly out and meet me so that she could take care of Jasper while I worked at the show. Someone in my mom's group in LA had a cousin in Brooklyn who offered her apartment - for free! It was amazing. I was WAY out of my league but the experience was priceless. I met Amy Mason who I'm still in touch with, she was a few booths down and fell in love with Jasper who would walk his "travel stroller", up and down the aisles. He was just learning to walk and he was super cute. Sometimes I feel like I "failed" at my goal of having a successful stationary line. But in the process of creating that line, I learned how to design and maintain my own website. That skill has grown into what I do today for my "day job". And it has created the flexible work that has always been my dream so that I could work from home and be here to raise my kids.
I haven’t “made it” like I imagined I would. Jasper was about to turn one when I went to the Stationary Show. He’ll be 16 on June 12th four days before this campaign ends. I’ve done some great things in these 15 years. I've been raising three children , volunteering at their wonderful schools, building community, working for the Town of Fairfax - building a recreation department and then focusing on design & marketing and now running communications for the whole town. I've been practical, I've gotten things done but the thing is my dream hasn’t changed. I still want drawing and painting - illustrations, surface pattern design and more - to be my main source of income. It may take me another 15 years to get there. But I'm not going to give up.
I have not had the launching pad that some have had, or the safety net. My parents gave me a lot of love but couldn't give me much else. I've been working since I was 14 and I grew up too fast as a result of the life I lived with my mom. I moved out and had more expenses than most at my age and I didn't finish college because it was too much to juggle work and school. I often start to feel sorry for myself, thinking of all the things I could have done with more support. But then I remember that I am strong and compassionate and I have amazing friends - the girl who ate her lunch in the bathroom alone in elementary school - has built a community of wonderful friends. And I have family I've collected in some round about ways in addition to my interesting family tree. And here is what I have learned from crowdsourcing - as hard as it is to ask for help, it feels so good to know that something that I'm imagining can actually come true with a little bit of help from a lot of amazing people.
I doubt sometimes if this book has appeal beyond my friends and family. I don't know yet. But I feel like it's the beginning of something. The idea came to me from the universal creative source it doesn't feel like it was "my idea" it feels like a call to action. It feels like the loss I have experienced thru my mom can help others find a way to some peace. It feels like I'm honoring all the good things about my mom's life even though when she died, things were not good and had not been good for a long, long time. I watched a movie tonight and the main character got to make amends with his dad who was abusive to him growing up. It was hard to watch. The work I'm doing to forgive my mom is one sided, I'll never get to hear her say that she is sorry. Many of us will never get to hear that. We have to carry our grief and our pain and our anger and then we have to let go. So we can lives full of joy and creativity instead of pain and fear. The movie was about a song he wrote after loosing his dad. It went on to touch millions of people. When we share our journey, when we are honest, we can be part of something greater than ourselves.
So to all the amazing people who have helped me so far and for those who might still be jumping on the campaign, thank you for helping me to keep dreaming, to keep doing and keep believing. This is not how I thought it would look but maybe it's better than anything I could have imagined.
I keep hearing that 2020 is the beginning of the end. I agree, but it started in late 2019 for me. I had spent months planning a screening of Motherload - an amazing documentary about the Cargo Bike movement and it's potential to be a force of change for our environment and our culture. We were planning to screen it in mid October. But then the planned power outages started to help curtail what we all felt was another inevitable fire season. The community center cancelled the screening because they were deemed an emergency center for charging and cooling (it was a super hot fall season, as has become "normal" now.) and then a huge fire swept thru our area for the third year in a row and by the following week we were all wearing masks the smoke was thick, again.
We got thru the holidays and started 2020 optimistic that things were going to be good. I planned to launch a kickstarter campaign to fund a small run of the book I finished in the fall. But Valentine's weekend we went on a short road trip to Monterey to see a friend. My daughter had a cold and didn't feel great but we figured, she'll be fine, we can still have a fun weekend. We arrived in Monterey and she was spiking a fever, the next day I got the same fever. The rest of our family was sick by Sunday. We stayed in bed for days, barely seeing the friends that we went to see. Finally, we drove home, delirious but a little bit better. It still lingered all week and we all missed school and work. It moved from fever to lungs, creating a painful, long lasting cough. By early March, we still could not breath clearly and we started to hear about the Coronavirus. By mid March we were all sheltering in place.
The kickstarter I had put off to March had to wait. My "day job" is in communications for the Town of Fairfax and I had been busy ever since the fall with power outages and fires but it really ramped up with the shelter in place orders. Working from home was crazy with three kids home from school. By May it had been months of lockdown and not much creative time. I finally took a deep breath and said "I have to keep going" so I launched the kickstarter and I have gotten a long way towards my goal.
Now the world is on fire again, this time in protest to the deep racial injustice that is ingrained in our county. The divide that has been nurtured for generations and ignited by our current leadership. We are literally burning it down so that we may find a new way forward. And here I am with my tiny book, thinking, is this the right time to push forward? It may not be, the campaign may not be funded and I will have to let it go, for now. But there is a little voice inside that says "it's ok, keep going" because this project is about looking at loss and finding the pieces that we want to keep so we can move forward, stronger. I think we all need a bit of that right now.
I am working on a companion workbook to go with the A-Z memory book so that anyone can document their memories of a loved one - either lost or present - to learn from the past, capture the moment and heal the future. I just added a $15 pledge to the campaign and the thank you will be the workbook to download and create your own book. Below are some sketches for the letters. If 100 people put in $15 the project will be funded. Just a little bit adds up, it always does, because there is power in coming together.
If you feel inspired to contribute to the kickstarter, please check it out here:
I have no idea what the rest of 2020 holds. We really can't plan anything right now. But I do hope that I keep drawing and connecting to the creative source. Because creativity is not cancelled. In fact we need it now, more than ever. So we can create a reality we can only imagine.
Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the right time... I long for a bygone era and yet I dream of a future that holds the best of technology mixed with the “old ways” that are so much gentler on us and the earth.