Monthly Archives: March 2012

The learning curve of grief

Where do we learn how to grieve? That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. I know we learn about grief through loss. But the how part, I’m still not sure. Do we learn from our family and friends? From what we see on tv or read about in books?

Once upon a time, my Will and I got married in the middle of the California wine country. The sun was hot. The hills were golden. We were surrounded by loved ones. A few days after the ceremony we flew down to San Jose del Cabo to spend our honeymoon at a rustic inn that was truly off the beaten path. We had to rent a roll bar Jeep because getting there involved four-wheeling across a dry arroyo bed and shuddering up into the dusty foothills on the outskirts of town. We were the inn’s only guests.

One of our first mornings in Mexico, I woke with the sunrise, laced up my running shoes, and headed down the empty riverbed with the innkeeper’s four dogs tagging along for company. A mile or so into our run, the dog pack suddenly bolted. They sprinted past me, barking like mad and honed in on something hidden in a tangle of overgrown bushes. Then came a terrible squeal. I ran faster. I thought the dogs had pinned a rabbit, but when I got there, I found them tearing at a tiny puppy. So I did what everyone would do: I shooed the dogs off, picked the puppy up, and took him home with me. All the way back to California! Will and I named him Milagro. We call him Milo. Our honeymoon surprise.

Almost 13 years, 4 moves, and 3 children later, Milo has become an old man dog. Well, he’s been old for a while now. He has arthritis and thyroid problems. Cataracts, too. But lately he’s gotten even slower. It’s harder for him to eat and drink. He still loves lying in the sun and having his ears stroked, but his own sunset is near. We know this.

Our children are lucky. They haven’t lost anyone close to them. Yes, death has touched their worlda playmate’s mother, my friend’s dear baby, a great grandmother I wish they’d known betterbut they haven’t yet lost a person that they loved and who loved them back. So Milo, in his doggy passing, will be their first painful loss. It will also be practice for greater losses to come. Although that’s knowledge I havethey don’tso it feels sad to qualify or reduce their loss just because Milo isn’t a person. Milo’s a person to them, even though he’s an animal too.


Good dog, Milo.

Thoughts on Trayvon Martin: Continuing the discussion of race and YA covers

tmYA author Ellen Oh wrote a thoughtful and thought-provoking post a couple of weeks ago about the prevalence of pretty white girls on the cover of young adult novels. Her post suggested that these covers are a reflection of the idealized standard of beauty in our culture, and her personal anecdotes relayed the emotional pain of not fitting into that standard and how it feels to always be seen as “other.”
This is something I’ve thought about a great deal. Of course, everyone is free to value whatever standard of beauty they like—that’s the great thing about free will and choice. But the collective impact when only one standard is revered over and over and over again undeniably takes its toll. And when we use the argument that people won’t buy books with people of color on the covers, what we’re really saying is that those images have no value in our society. Unfortunately, nowhere has that sad dynamic been more evident lately than in the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin—because when certain images and looks are not only seen as non-ideal, but are actually considered dangerous and foreign, the consequences can be deadly.
I understand Ellen’s call to have fewer faces on the covers of books, I do. But in some ways I’d like to see more faces, but more diverse ones, in addition to the lovely ones we already see. I think that if we don’t see young people of color on the covers of YA books—diverse young people who wear fancy ball gowns and hold hands and kiss and go to school—then what images will we have to challenge the stereotype that all young black boys in hoodies are looking to steal things?
I’m not saying I have the answer to complicated issues like race and beauty and privilege and responsibility. In fact, I definitely don’t. But I do hope that posts like Ellen’s and this one can keep the conversation going about the ways in which art imitates life, and what that means for the way we live. Or, in the case of Trayvon, the way we don’t.


So this week’s Road Trip Wednesday topic is: 

In honor of the release of Kirsten Hubbard’s WANDERLOVE yesterday–which is amazing, by the way; get yourselves to a bookstore if you haven’t!–we bring you a travel-themed RTW prompt today! If you could wander anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
Well, while I’m not the most travel-inclined, I do love the mountains; I love the altitude, the lakes, the snow, the hidden ponds, the dramatic landscapes, the flowing rivers, all of it. Luckily here in California there’s no shortage of high-peaked beauty, and one of my all-time favorite family trips was to Lassen Volcanic Park, up near Mt. Shasta (the pictures below are from Lassen). 
However, someday I would really love to travel to Patagonia. My husband has been to South America before (I have not) and I would relish the chance to experience that region with him. So that would be my Wanderlove dream destination.