Some random thoughts on turning 53!

I think frequently about the fact that I’m just one year away from the age at which my mother died.

I know this doesn’t have more than emotional power. Facing life threatening illness with my friends in my 20s taught me none of us can take a day of life for granted. My grandfather lived to be 99, despite (because of?) a lifetime of smoking, whiskey, and quite a way with cussing. We do not know what’s coming.

Still, I’ve had almost as much time here as she did, seen all the stages of life that she did. That’s a weird thought. Sobering.

The last couple years have brought some painful realizations. Growing up white and safe, respecting and trusting the police, I’ve been rocked by the overwhelming evidence that black people weren’t exaggerating one tiny bit about police misconduct. And I’ve been stunned by how many women in the last year have come out to me about sexual harassment or violence they’ve faced. I knew all this happened, but somehow I never fully felt it or believed it.

It’s hard to know what to do with so much grief.

But the shortness of life also turns up the dial on how sweet it is. I must not lose sight of my blessings.

I snagged a husband who agreed to have kids with me! Like a procrastinator running into Target at 11pm Christmas Eve, it was perhaps the last possible moment for me. We made it, and the kids made us a family.

The kids make birthdays and every day an adventure. I had no idea what I was in for. No sense of the hairpin turns from sobbing to joy and back around again that would be part of my everyday life.

I did not know that the birthday present I wanted most was a karaoke machine the kids could use for their lounge act. Yet like every inevitably true thing, as soon as I saw it this morning, I knew it was exactly what I’d been hoping for, dreaming of, my whole life.

On Sunday we dragged the kids to “Hands-around-the-lake,” a peaceful protest and community event in Oakland. They did not want to go. They begged. They tried to negotiate a different deal, but we held firm, I don’t even know why. As the crowds gathered on the edge of Lake Merritt, Jaden refused to leave the swings.

Standing there at the playground, a boy of maybe 10, waiting for a swing, said “I’ve only been here one minute and I’m soooo bored.”

I asked him if he was here for Hands Around the Lake. “Yes, but I didn’t want to come.”

“There’s someone you need to meet,” I told him.

He had a soccer ball, and the kids spent the next hour playing in the grass, Soccer and chase and monkey in the middle, despite the goose poop. The adults milled around. We saw friends, chatted. There were people standing as far as I could see, and further.  Circling the lake, circling the world. There are so many good people everywhere: my family back home, our school community, our friends in life and on Facebook. So many people I love and who love me.

I’m blessed to be here in the middle of them all.