Mother's Day 2015

I wake, and I hear my son stirring in his room down the hall. Recently he stopped sleeping in my bed, but I feel like I just noticed it.

He comes down the hall toward my room and appears in the doorway. He’s six, skinny and golden brown in his tiny white underwear, blonde hair sticking out in all directions. I say, Hi, Honeypie, Good morning.

He just looks at me blankly and shakes his head and turns into the living room. From the other room he starts calling me, whining, asking me where the iPad is because he wants to watch a video about how to build a helicopter in Minecraft. And I kind of lose it. I say: No. This is not happening. No iPad right now. Not first thing in the morning.

And he starts to whine and cry about it and I say: At ten o’clock you can get on the computer. But not until then.

And he’s furious, he protests and accuses me and he’s being a complete jerk. The way he talks to me is shocking. So disdainful, I wonder where he’s learned to talk like that. I tell him he needs to speak to me respectfully, and that he can stay in his room until he can do that. So he goes into his room and gets back in bed, and buries himself under the covers.


I get up and make some tea and it’s Mother’s Day. I put out the yoga mat in my studio facing the sunlight coming in through the open doors that lead to the yard, and I sit on the mat with my tea. I’m breathing feeling my muscles stretch and it feels good.

And then Sully comes in.

“Hi,” I say. “How are you? Hey, it’s Mother’s Day. Did your dad talk to you about this day at all?” He says, “not really.” I tell him that it’s a day when we do nice things for our mothers. He says, “what about kid’s day? How come it’s not kid’s day?” I say the typical thing: that every day is kid’s day- which is predictably unsatisfying for everyone. He says he wants breakfast and I say, “Well, it’s Mother’s Day, and I’d like for you to do something nice for me. I’m hungry, would you make me some toast? “ He says no, and that I need to make him breakfast Now. That he’ll only make me cereal, but I have to make him breakfast. And that he wants me to stop stretching. I say I don’t want cereal, I’d like toast. And he lays on the ground near me and cries that he’s too hungry and I need to make him breakfast now. Now.

Nope, I say. Not until you do something nice for me. And I stretch. And he whines.

I suggest that he can pick some flowers for me from the yard if he wants to, and I’ll make breakfast while he does that, and finally he agrees. He comes inside after a minute and asks for a vase, and I give him the garden clippers too. He comes in again looking for a ziplock bag to put seeds in because he’s collecting them. We meet outside at the table, with breakfast and flowers and seeds. It’s seeding season, he tells me. The flowers are beautiful in the vase, different than I would have done it. And I appreciate that.

After breakfast, he disappears to his room and comes running back to ask for an envelope, and then again for some tape. And to tell me to stay out of his room.

Finally, he comes out with a bowl covered with a napkin, and an envelope taped to the napkin with lots and lots of clear tape.

He had made me a card that said Happe Muthrs Day sully!  and filled it with coins, and taped it to a bowl from breakfast, filled with apple slices. After I opened and looked at it all, he re-enacted the making of the card: from inspiration to execution, complete with visits to the site of construction and demonstrations of how fast he ran to get the things he needed.

I feel sorry for Sully sometimes because he doesn’t have anyone to teach him how to be good to his mother. How to buy me a Christmas gift, how to celebrate my birthday, how to treat me well. 

But if it wasn’t just he and I, this morning would have been different. He seemed to really understand what it meant to do something special for me, by doing it. It gave him ideas. He got it. There was a feeling between us when he did something for me, and he wanted to explore that more.

He had an authentic experience of how it feels to give, instead of just doing what he was told to do or imitating someone else. And I can appreciate that too.


Character: my mother

My mother grew up in Hawaii, in Honolulu. She’s third generation Japanese in Hawaii, a ballet dancer and a farmer. She grew up surfing, and let me swim before I could walk.

I grew up in Hawaii too, and I’m back there on a break from art school in San Francisco. Being away has changed my relationship with the place I grew up. It seems almost exotic to me now, and the contrast to grime of San Francisco interests me.

My mother is calling me into the water at Makaha beach, the mass of the ocean pushing the water onto the shore. There are no waves breaking, just rising and falling swells that race up the incline of the pristine beach. I stand at the edge of the water with my arms crossed, feet sinking into the wet sand. All I can see is the power of all that water. The force of an entire ocean, the moon’s pull. She calls me in: she’s floating, rising and falling with the swells, held gently, moving her hands a little to stay afloat.

I had recently almost drowned at a nearby beach, am afraid. I am afraid and try to reconcile what she is telling me: to come in, that it’s wonderful- with a terrible fear, of my own judgement, of the ocean.

I want to trust her, to believe her, but it’s hard and I feel panicked.

I'm pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about. But I also think she would probably be alright with being swept out to sea forever, if it came to that.

Come in, Susan. It’s ok, she tells me.


what and why



Harken is a conversation about our experiences as a fully valid, sometimes messy and complex, wonderful and difficult process. Harken is a way to support each other as we navigate through a constantly changing world of ideas and experiences.  

The idea for Harken came from my own experience of having a child in Brooklyn.

It was not at all what I expected. I found being at home with my baby to be much more challenging than I thought it would be.

It was difficult for me to reconcile the isolation I felt and the needs of my child with my own needs. It was physically and emotionally extremely taxing for me. My family was far away, and my friends were busy living their own lives, taking care of their families and working. I had my child at 40, after living in NYC for 13 years and having a career as a designer and an artist. My self-image changed with the loss of my career and identity as an artist. I was constantly concerned with the responsibility and sudden narrowing of my life to meet the needs of my baby.

My husband lost respect for me because of my struggle. Not because I didn’t show up or couldn’t do it, but because I struggled. He could not understand why it was so hard for me to take care of our child.

The struggle, the questions, the finding your way is everything.