Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We've moved!

As of February 1, 2012, come read us at our new, very own url:  So exciting, so pretty, so grown-up!

this is what i'm talking about

This, right here, is what I'm talking about.

An article about some Sausalito school children recording an album of world music in a studio owned by former member of [i refuse to use their name] is front-page news over here.  An album made by children gets more space than rail, an issue that affects not just Marin but also Sonoma Counties.

An album of world music, for heaven's sake.  Seriously?

Of course it doesn't surprise me one bit, having lived here for as long as I have.

But still, sheesh. So far in the 31 days of January, the Marin IJ managed only a 5-day consecutive run of no mention of the gd GD.  That was their record.  They'd sometimes get to 2 days, or maybe 3 or 4.  Five was truly exceptional.

And now, natch, they're back to zero as of yesterday's paper.  


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

free books: sign me up!

Turning the package over and over in my hands, I wondered what it was I'd ordered from Amazon that had just shown up, leaned against the front gate, left for me to discover upon my return from work.  I'm pretty good about ordering judiciously, keeping my huge book appetite in check so that I've only got a small To Read stack waiting for me here at home, while the mental stack remains miles high.  And since I just did re-stock my To Read stack thanks to Booksmith in San Anselmo, where I wiped out my trade-credit and then some, what on earth could this be?  I have been making a concerted effort to buy books in real stores, instead of just online, so what's in the package?

Delightfully, it wasn't a title I'd forgotten I'd ordered from Amazon, sitting at my laptop in my usual home-costume of bathrobe and slippers.  Which would seriously mean my mind was slipping, because if there's one area where I don't lose a detail, it's book-shopping.  Every moment between online order and receipt is spent in a state of almost-Christmas anticipation -- oh when when will I get to unwrap it, touch it, feast my eyes upon it?

Nope, not losing it. It was, instead, book #2 of my membership in the From Left to Write online blogger book club --  not an as-yet-unpublished book in galley form, but still a title I am interested in and 100% FREE.

That right there just makes me want to jump around!  Free books & the task of reading them and writing about them!  Seriously: my dream job, but I do this one for love not money.  And the free books.

I jumped right into the book last night, after an episode of Downton Abbey after an exhausting puppy class -- the television viewing being an essential part of my recovery from what was a truly stressful hour of Mr Burns not listening at all, being the worst dog in class.  For a Hermione like me, that's just the most awful situation.  I know it was just last night, that really he is such a good boy, but last night, honestly, he was such a jerk.  So anyway, post-Downton, I dove into the book.

So far, so good.  And I'm not just saying that because it was free.  I'm really looking forward to the entire process -- the reading, the annotating, the blogging.  While I'm doing it, honestly, I am perfectly true to what I am.  I'm doing exactly what I should be, what I'm designed for: words in, words out, stories in, stories out.

Just like breathing.  And also free.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Be awesome when your friend has cancer

"Don't Be a Jerk When Your Friend has Cancer," recently posted on Elephant Journal and re-shared by my friend and writing teacher, Susanna Harwood Rubin, provides 6 practical tips for friends of cancer patients, 6 tips to avoid jerkdom.  Danielle Foushee, the writer, is an artist and yoga teacher who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in November 2011.  Look at her art on her website.  She's seriously awesome.

But her friends are assholes.

While I really appreciated her post, it also made me a little uncomfortable and sad --  because it brought up unhappy memories and also because I wished less anger for Danielle and more comfort.  And much better friends.  From the sounds of it, her friends suck.

Her six tips are (and please don't use this as your excuse not to read the original piece.  Click through the link above and Like -- give her some support, pretty please.  After all, as above, her friends are jerks):

1. Never say "If there's anything I can to help..." and leave it open-ended.
2. Don't make empty promises.
3. Don't run for the hills.
4. Don't disappear.
5. Don't dwell on the negative.
6. It isn't all about you.

As my husband's caregiver when he went through the horrifying process of diagnosis with lymphoma, followed by chemo, I learned a ton about friendship and love.  The diagnosis rocked us to the core, exploded the life we thought we had and put us on a totally unexpected path, one we never, ever would have imagined ourselves on.  He is the healthiest, strongest, fittest person around (ok, except maybe for other guys on his cycling team, Iron Data Thirsty Bear).  WTF, right?  It took some getting used to.  It took some adaptation.  But we figured it out.

And here's the deal: our friends were AWESOME through the whole process.  Sure, not everyone knew what to do, and once I got the hang of it, it got a lot easier.

Cancer is code for death.  That freaks most people out.  So they may want to help but they also don't quite know what to do, how to react, how to be of service.  They need structured guidance.

It really helps to be specific about what you want.  It helps even more to have someone do that for you.  Someone like me, obvy, but that's a whole other topic.  I can't imagine how anyone gets through a serious illness, let alone cancer, without a clear-eyed advocate on the sidelines.  But even I had moments of making it about me.  

The problem with cancer though is that it doesn't color in the lines.  If you're near it, it gets on you.  It IS about you, even if you're not the one with the tumor, but you have to keep that in perspective. It's challenging.

Here's my list.

Be Awesome when Your Friend has Cancer

1.  Don't Wait to be Asked.  If you have an idea for something you want to do, no matter what it is, Do it.  If it's making an advent calendar marking every last day remaining til the end of treatment, like our sweet friend Nancy did for Joe, cutting out pictures from magazines to cheer him, finding words to inspire him, then do it. Handmade things are super meaningful all the time, but especially precious when someone is suffering and can see that you worked for weeks on your project, holding him or her in your heart in the entire time.  This was super awesome when Nancy did it because she had probably met Joe all of once, if at all, before she came over to deliver this beautiful gift.  Awesome, right?  But if you're handier with a credit card than scissors, go for it.  We were so grateful for certificates for catered meals or packages of the world's best mac and cheese from Seattle (props, Sheri and Hilary).  Don't hesitate. Do!

2. Offer to Set Up and Manage a Meal Calendar.  Bringing food is an essential expression of caring, something most people are capable of doing.  But a person who is undergoing chemo shouldn't have to coordinate the comings and goings.  There are plenty of websites that make it easy, so Google it and go.  Not only does this take pressure off the caregiver to shop and cook and fill the fridge, but it's just a really great thing for the patient to look forward to, plenty of variety to keep things a lot more interesting than they might otherwise be.

3.  Keep Your Stories to a Minimum.  It's human nature, as a way of empathizing, to tell your stories of cancer to the patient, to talk about all of your brushes with death, all of your hospitalizations and illnesses.  But check that impulse and keep your stories to a minimum.  Talk about other subjects, not just illness, and try to keep the focus on entertaining your sick friend, making him or her laugh or light up about something, a shared experience, a future plan.  Try not to talk excessively about yourself.  After all, right now you're not the one with no hair, with the sallow face and sunken eyes or the chemo hiccups.  Ask questions.  Listen.

4.  Pick Up the Phone.  Some people told us after the treatment, when Joe was up and back to his usual self, that they hesitated to phone while he was sick, having heard about his illness through mutual friends, because they didn't want to invade privacy or presume.  Just pick up the phone.  It means the world to know that people are in your corner, regardless of how they heard you were sick.  Those expressions of caring go a long way to buoy a person's spirits.

5.  Visit but Not Forever.  People who are sick are just that: sick.  Their stamina is less than yours.  Plan a visit that lasts 60 minutes, for example, and then LEAVE.  Don't hang around forever.  That becomes exhausting.  Really, it's better to have two shorter visits than one really long one.  Come back again!

6.  Do Your Crying At Home.  This is key, something Danielle is talking about under her #5, Don't Dwell on the Negative.  Cancer is super-scary and super-sad, but please try to come over with a happy face on, having cried your eyes out at home.  It is really hard for the patient to have to comfort others over his or her current state.  Please bring joy with you when you come.  There's enough darkness and fear as it is.

It's so crazy for me to think that it really was two whole years ago.  Behind me, in the office, Joe is doing his interminable exercises right now, part of his PT for a cycling accident last March when a car turned in front of him, leaving Joe with a totalled bike, 4 broken ribs, a broken scapula, a broken clavicle and a punctured lung.  It's hard to remember that it wasn't so long ago really that he was so wan in color, always with a hat on to cover his cold bald head, always nauseous.

But not totally miserable. Because he had friends around (and family, naturally, I'm not leaving you out).  Good friends who found ways to show their caring at a time when it was most essential.  Friends who were awesome.

Don't be a jerk.  Be awesome.  It's so easy!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 17,912: Pretty kick-ass so far

What's crazy is that it's never too late to change things, never too late to make new habits, never too late to look around and say, hot damn, this is really great and let's make it even better.  After a night playing cards and laughing with friends, waking up in my own cozy bed with puppy and husband was never sweeter.  And then getting up, having lemon water, then coffee (with milk in it!) and now, finally, hours later, a smoothie in lieu of toast, I'm sitting pretty in the middle of my own life and just marveling at how good I feel today, how gorgeous it is outside, how great it is to be here.

Good to be here.  Click on the below and leave it playing in the background, then you'll hear the very same Digable Planets song that's running through my head on repeat this morning, running behind and under everything I see and think and hear.  It's good to be here.

Where I'm From

So, here on Day 17,912 of my existence, I'm feeling great.  I'm not eating toast for breakfast and I'm feeling great. 

It's totally possible to shift your habits, to make a break with the past, to start fresh, no matter what day you're on, #9 or #17,192.  We forget, heads down, just getting through day to day, working toward the weekend, toward vacation, toward freedom, but we have it all all the time, in every moment, this potential to shake off that false sense of bondage and revel in the kick-ass gift of being here, right here, right now.

It's good to be here.  Good to be here.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

So long Paramount, hello Del Rio

This must qualify as a rite of passage in a woman's life, that day when you realize that you can't rock the same super-intense shade of lipstick you've worn for almost sixteen years.  When you realize that that beloved shade that you've worn out and replaced countless times over the years, is no longer doing you any favors -- is making the lines around your lips a little more pronounced, making your teeth look dull.  If you're lucky or paying attention, then you can spare yourself the unattractive Havisham, by which really I mean scary old lady mouth -- wrong color, outside the lines and on the teeth.  Ay.

I like to think I've done so.

As a reward for completing my 7-day detox cleanse yesterday, sticking with it even when I was craving toast, and also just because I'm awesome, I decided to pay a visit to the Mac outlet at my nearby mall this morning.  I'd also just had a mammogram and then an eyebrow waxing, so it really felt like a treat was in order.

First, I feel I should say a few words about Paramount, out of respect.  It really, really has been about 16 years.  The first time I remember wearing this color was just before my youngest sister Carla's first wedding, which means it was 1996.  For whatever reason, maybe because Carla herself or maybe Martine was wearing that color that day and that's the day I fell in love with it, I can't not think of playing croquet in Golden Gate Park on a cold day, my sister's bridal shower.  I am not yet wearing the Paramount in the photo below, but Carla (center) clearly DOES have it on.  That day, August 17th, 1996, was the start of my long relationship with Paramount.

Paramount, center, on Carla,
Martine and I looking on

This morning, with the help of the sales girl, I tried on several shades, finally settling on Del Rio, which still pops but is a bit less on the red side than my former love.  Yes, Paramount, you're coming out of my purse and back into the drawer.  I just think I've gotten too old for your particular charms, and that my aged features need something softer, can't really do your intense dark reddish-brownness anymore.  You're beautiful, but I've changed. It's not you, it's me.  You're still the same shade, it's just that now you hag me so I've got to move on.

So, Del Rio it is.  For the foreseeable future, maybe for the next 16 years, until I turn another corner and have to switch it up again, working it at every age, always always looking good.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 7: almost there

Smoothie 7? Check!
OK, so as I mentioned elsewhere, this was a tough morning, one on which I nearly caved and made myself a delectable slice of toast.  Which would be completely absurd considering that I'm almost done, have almost completed this 7-day body cleanse de-tox that I embarked on last Saturday with the wonderful Dr. Kate Tenney, ND.  How silly would that be, to bail when the finish line is in sight?  It's really amazing how many rationalizations my little brain came up with, one after another, reasons why it really doesn't matter one way or the other which day it is, etc., etc., and you know you're just going back to the wheat-teat anyway, just get it over with.

Reminded me of this, by Peter Bregman, on why it's hard to keep resolutions.  It's not the motivation.  We generally have that in spades.  It's follow-through.  It's not letting our brains derail us.  Like mine almost did this morning.

I'm not going to lie. With the end so near, the oh-fuck-it voice was the loudest.  But instead of reaching for my beloved Dave's Killer Bread when I opened the freezer, instead it was the frozen mixed berries, of which I had just enough left for this morning's smoothie.  And because, honestly, at this point the taste of the so-called Medical Food is something I'm so over, yes, I threw a banana in there.  And then wondered, while drinking down its deliciousness, whether that was really so different after all than caving in to the bread.

Look, the list of things I've learned from this 7-day experience is long.  I think finally the whole food pH thing has really sunk in to a bone-level with me, something I've been resisting ever since Crazy Loretta (my former eyebrow technician) became its chief apostle about 10 years ago.  [Come to think of it, Crazy Loretta has been on the cusp on a lot of health issues, not just the pH, but she was the first person I ever heard talk about green juice, loaned me books years and years ago on the subject.   Hmmmm, crazy but prescient? Interesting.  But still crazy.]  Also, I have a new and deep appreciation for how sweet actual food can be, like aforementioned banana.  An apple?  Completely candy sweet.  So good.  And of all the things I've been craving -- toast, steak, toast, butter, cream in my  coffee -- note that sugar hasn't come up once.  No chocolate?  That's nuts!  I thought I couldn't live without it and now look at me, doing just fine.

I'm not sure what I will do tomorrow, how I will return to the Land of the Eating.  I do not, DO NOT, want to have become a fussy eater who says No to everything and has to bring her own food everywhere and is on some stringent impossible plan.  But I do want more greens on my plate and I want to stay plugged in to this awareness of how my food feels once I've eaten it.  That's just so precious.  And hard-won.

Oh, and I want some chicken.  Let's be clear about that.