The Beach Painting


The Beach Painting (circa 1998) by Jō Mikals Adachi. Find more of his work here.

The Beach Painting (circa 1998) by Jō Mikals Adachi. Find more of his work here.


Me: (walking, seemingly aimless around the house, holding up signs)

Hank: (finding me in the hallway) Mom, are you okay?

Me: Yup.

Hank: (curiosity peeked) What are you doing?

Me: Trying to find a place to hang these signs.

Hank: Why?

Me: Because I want them in plain view, in a place to be seen often and I’m walking around the house looking to find just the right spot.

Hank: What about here in the hallway, under The Beach Painting?

Me: No one spends time in the hallway. It is a thoroughfare.

Hank: (admiring the painting) I do. I love this painting.

Me: You do? Tell me why you love it.

Hank: Because it reminds me of me, but I know it isn’t me because it has always been here and I have not always been this big.


Hank: And the boy in the painting is doing my favorite thing in the world.

Me: Is that right?

Hank: Yes, he’s climbing on these rocks by the sea and I love to climb on rocks by the sea.

Me: You do. The person in that painting isn’t a boy, though.

Hank: It could be anyone. That is why I like it.

Me: Could it?

Hank: You could hang your sign here, right under the painting and I would see it.

Me: Huh.

Hank: Who is the person in the painting, mom?

Me: Jeni, Iris and Bill’s daughter.

Hank: Oh, your best friend when you were young.

Me: Yes. Your uncle Jō painted this for me from a photograph I took of her. He literally stole the photo from my apartment to paint the painting then he gave them both back to me. This was a very special day and how I always like to think of her.

Hank: I love this painting.

Me: I will tell your uncle Jō.

Hank: Are you going to hang your sign here?

Me: No, I don’t think so.

Hank: You will find the right place.

Me: (wistful) Thanks, buddy.

Hank: (leaving then turning back) You miss her?

Me: (still standing in front of the painting, lost in thought) Yes.

Hank: Good thing you have the painting and you always carry her in your heart.

Me: I do.

Hank: She died, didn’t she mom.

Me: She did, yes.

Hank: I love the painting more now.

Me: Do you?

Hank: Before I made the painting about me, but now it’s like I’ve met her and I know we both like to climb on rocks by the sea.

Me: That’s a lovely thought.

Hank: Do you want help with your signs, mom?

Me: (having forgotten all about my silly motivational signs) Um…

Hank: Hang one in your office where we all work accept Molly since she’s only two and hang one… here on the bookshelf door by the kitchen. We all pass by here everyday. I promise I will see it. Did you make these signs for me?

Me: Yes, I thought these ten things were a good anchor to keep you grounded as you’re growing up so fast. When I was young whenever I left my mother’s side she would always remind me to be kind.

Hank: And you are kind. Everyone says that.

Me: Well, her wish for me stuck.

Hank: I’ll go get you some tape to hang your signs, okay?

Me: Sure, thanks buddy. (still standing in front of The Beach Painting realizing it has been 22 years since we stood on that beach and 22 years since she left us)

Hank: (calling from the kitchen, breaking the spell) Mom, I can’t reach the tape plus papa’s exercise machine is in front of the shelf and you told me not to mess with the machine so I can’t help you unless you help me first. (literally saying the word “hashtag” before each phrase) #imtooshort #timeforagymmembershippapa

Me: (side smile, walking away from the past and into the present) #momlife

conversations with hank


Grieving, Obsessions and Tears

How they spend every morning and evening beating the heat.

How they spend every morning and evening beating the heat.


Me: Dinner! Ding-ga Ding-ga Ding-ga Ding!

Molly: (already eating) TUMBA TUMBA TUMBA TUMBA!

Hank: Mama’s ringing a bell and Molly is…

Me: Knocking on the door of a Dragon’s lair, of course.

Molly: YAH! (giggling, mouth full, humidity curls bouncing) Dragon door. (nodding)

Pai: Smells evil good.

Hank: What is this?

Me: Fair warning, I am incrediably emotional. This is emotional cooking. I am on the verge of tears at any moment. This was my favorite food when I was a kid before I stopped eating meat all together. Meatball subs with melty, melty cheese. Made possible by papa.

Pai: What did I do?

Me: You bought me a crock pot and you bought a bag of frozen meat balls and American hot dog buns while we were sick with the flu. These are things I would have never done.

Hank: Are you sad about the fire?

Me: So sad about the fire. I was on social media for all of twelve seconds today and there were a flood of photos of (voice cracking) families with small children who were on ferias (vacation) in the area who are still missing. Then the news started reporting… (shaking off a wave of grief)

Pai: (hand on my back in comfort and support) Portugal has declared three days of national mourning.

Hank: The fires are all we talked about at school. I told my class about the time we drove through an incêndio (wild fire) on the highway once.

Me: (tilting my head back trying to get the tears to flow back inside my broken heart)

Pai: (rubbing my back) Let’s listen to music.

Hank: Yes. Mama, knows the song I want to hear.

Pai: (joking) A song from Eurovison I assume.

Me Nope, a classic. (queueing up The Weather Girls, It’s Raining Men)

Hank: I am totally addicted to Eurovision.

Me: You aren’t addicted. You are obsessed. There is a clear difference.

Pai: An addiction is something that you emotionally and often times physically can’t live without. You start out only needing manageable doses but rather quickly with an addiction you need more and more and it is never enough. If you were addicted to Eurovision you would start with one hour, but then you would find you weren’t satisfied so then you would find yourself watching two hours, then three, then four but you still wouldn’t be satisfied. This is why an addiction is so damaging. You need so much of a thing that you would go to any length to get your fix of the addiction.

Me: You have obsessions, Hank. You always have. Your first obsession was Elmo, then cars…

Pai: Cars was a long obsession.

Hank: I still love cars.

Me: Then it was stop animation and Play Mobil, then…

Pai: Minecraft.

Me: YES! I almost forgot about Minecraft. And then it was YouTube in general and now it is Eurovision.

Hank: I didn’t know I was like that. Is it bad?

Pai: Not at all.

Me: It just shows you are passionately interested in things. There is nothing wrong with that.

Pai: And maybe with Eurovision and your love of The Weather Girls we can help you become passionately interested in Music from the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Me: OH fun! I bet Hank would like Roxy Music and maybe Donna Summers and my favorite…

Pai: Chaka Kahn.

Me: YAS! You know me so well.

Hank: WAIT a minute. Hold on. I like this song. This one. I am not saying I am going to like all the old songs in the world. Calm down.

Me: But Chaka Kahn was like the Adele of my life. And Prince! If you like Conchita Wurst from Eurovision 2015…

Hank: Eurovision 2014.

Pai: Or maybe Aretha Franklin or Keely Smith.  Ballad makers.

Me: Whatever, then you would love Prince. And Simone de Oliveira!

Pai: She was in Eurovision.

Me: Really?

Hank: Yah, like the first ever one.

Me: So doesn’t that fit the criteria?

Hank: I like the pop music Eurovision not the old school formal, like, first shows.

Me: I have already reconciled that we have completely contradictory music tastes but your killing me, Smalls.

Pai: Face it, no matter what we suggest he listen to he will hate it because we are lame old parents.

Hank: You’re not lame… you’re just not my style.

Me: WHITNEY HUSTON! Who doesn’t love Whitney. You have to love Whitney if you love pop music and you don’t have to choose her early albums.  Some of her later songs are fantastic, too.

Hank: She died of addictions of drugs, didn’t she? A lot of musicians do that.

Me: Creative, sensitive, artistic people so often get swallowed up by addiction.

Pai: All addictions begin seemingly harmless until they reach the point where more and more is needed and then they become dangerous and isolating and all consuming.

Hank: I’m never doing drugs.

Pai: You can become addicted to more than just drugs.

Hank: You can become addicted to the internet.

Pai: True.

Me: Let’s become addicted to THIS. (pushing play on Chaka Khan I’m Every Woman) Chaka could have totally won Eurovision. Hands down.

Pai: Your mother wanted to be Chaka Kahn when she was little.

Me: I wanted to be Diana Ross first and then Chaka Khan with a dash of Tina Turner with the soul of Laura Nyro. I Didn’t really jive with the New Kids On The Block generation.

Hank: (shaking his head) I have no idea who any of those people are.

Pai: Your mother was always a contrarian.

Me: And this was all before the 90’s when I full shifted to the Riot Grrrl scene.

Hank: I don’t hate this song, but it still isn’t my thing.

Pai: You were also obsessed with ABBA!

Hank: I like ABBA.

Me: I TOTALLY FORGET! YES! ABBA was the bridge between Elmo and cars.

Pai: ABBA it is.

Molly: YAH! (dancing in her chair to Dancing Queen, mouth stuffed, happy with our choice)

Me: (looking around at my happy, funny tribe and I just can’t hold back the tears any longer)

Pai: (hand on my back)

Hank: (focused on his meal, humming along)

Molly: (wiggling, giggling, curls bouncing)

Me: (crying into my napkin, so grateful for the safety of my beautiful family, extremely aware of what has been lost, holding the families not sitting down to dinner tonight heavy in my heart)


Hearing About Manchester

A photo of Molly watering our veranda plants to soften the blow of the conversation below.

A photo of Molly watering our veranda plants to soften the blow of the conversation below.


Me: (writing emails early this morning)

Hank: Hi mama.

Me: Hi Hank.

Hank: Whatcha doin’?

Me: (with the tone of someone off to the dentist for a root canal) Writing emails.

Hank: To who?

Me: You mean to whom? If you would say he or she you would use who. If you mean him or her you use the word whom. Unless it is formal and the recipient is undeclaired then it is whom.

Hank: English is hard.

Me: Truth.

Hank: So yah…

Me: To whom are you writing emails?

Hank: Sure. That.

Me: I am writing an elevator pitch to a literary agent.

Hank: What is a… Huh? I have too many questions about that one sentence.

Me: A literary agent sells books. A literary agent is a person who works for a writer and represents them to publishers as well as other agencies that would like to buy the rights to use a writer’s work. An elevator pitch is a phrase used to describe why you would buy, invest, support something said in the briefest and most direct language possible in the length of time it takes you to enter and exit an elevator.

Hank: So you have to read this email in an elevator?

Me: (grinning) The elevator part is metaphorical. It represents the length of time you have to sell your idea or in this case my latest book project.

Hank: Ooooooooookay. I understand. Wait, that must be hard for you. You talk a lot.

Me: (raised eyebrow)


Me: (loudly slurp coffee, eyebrow still raised)

Hank: I mean in a good way. It takes you time to tell your whole ideas. This is why you are a good writer.

Me: Nice save.

Hank: (relieved) Thanks. I was worried. You know what I mean though.

Me: I do. Trust me. I hate these query emails. I hate writing press releases for the blog. I hate promotion. I feel so slimy. Like I am standing in front of a group of people I respect and shouting, “Hey! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! Aren’t I great? I am soooooo great. Oh, you think I’m great? (death metal growl) GOOD THEN PAY ME.”

Hank: (giggling)

Me: But I have to start using my creative writing to pay me more so I can freelance less or else the blog and my book projects have become very expensive hobbies that I can’t continue to devote so much time to.

(news on in the background announcing a bombing at a concert in Manchester. 22 dead including children, 50+ injured)

Me: (shock, horror) My god.

Hank: Where is Manchester? Is it in London?

Me: No, it is in the north of England.

Pai: (stopping to listen)

(News: Pop singer Ariana Grande concert…)

Pai: Children and Teens are terrifying to some people. They represent the future where their ideas will no longer be powerful. They are taught to love and accept all people and that education is the real power not fear. That makes them a target.

Hank: Children were there at night? This happened at 10:30pm, right? Why were there children there?

Me: (large lump in my throat) A child is any person under the age of thirteen.

Pai: They were your age, Hank.

Me: That could have been you.

Pai: And you, Joy. I would have bailed rather than sitting through a pop concert.

Me: More likely Hank, you and one of your Tias or Primas (aunts or cousins).

Hank: (devastated)

Pai: It would be like walking into school and the majority of your class wouldn’t be there today.






Hank: This feels normal. This feeling I have. This feeling is becoming normal now.

Me: That is what the sick and sad people of the world want.

Pai: They want you to be afraid and angry.

Hank: I am not afraid or angry. I am so sad that there are no word and no tears. I can’t even cry. I just want to find a person who is thinking about hurting people this way and be their friend and love them enough that they know they don’t need to hurt people.

Me: (nodding, rubbing Hank’s back) Hurt people hurt people.

Hank: I just want to love people.

Pai: That is probably the right answer, Hank.

Me: We need reconciliation.

Hank: What does that mean?

Me: It means the restoration of friendship.

Hank: That is exactly what the world needs.

Me: It starts with us.

Hank: (nodding, numb)