Thursday, December 30, 2010

done, done, and DONE!

Oh yes, the day of emancipation has come at last.  So glad about that, and waiting for a ride from my now-former office to my parents' house for our belated Christmas, a sure-to-be delicious dinner and some celebratory champagne.  Yes!!

It's been a great day, all in all, challenging and long, but how can the day go wrong when it starts with a post on Bay Shakti by yours truly?  That was a great way to mark the transition, and I'm so grateful to Ginger for the opportunity to share my jubilation. 

I'd be lying if I didn't mention that I'm completely fried right now.  This transition has been intense, but leaving here on a positive note has been really high on my list of priorities, and I'm confident that I managed it as well as possible and left a clear trail for my successor.  I do feel like I'm coming down with something -- hopefully not that disgusting stomach flu that our Arizona relatives brought with them for the holidays, and which grabbed first Joe, then LT.  Pretty please, none of that for me: I have big plans for my three-day weekend before the new gig begins.

Slightly subdued Snoopy Dance underway over here, but Snoopy Dance just the same!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Final Countdown: 2 freakin' days!

Liberation is so close at hand!

It's so crazy that I am at the end of this job FINALLY, after what feels like -- and actually, really is -- years of trying to get out there.  I have 12 hours to go, 8 today and 4 tomorrow, and then I'll hand off my keys and parking pass and be done, once and for all, with commuting across the Golden Gate.  Oh hurray for only crossing that body of water when I want to, when I am going to visit family or my beloved Academy of Sciences or something else fun.

This 6-week period of transition has not been easy, to say the least.  Leaving gracefully -- a 2010 intention -- was off-the-mat yoga of the hardest kind.  Grace was sometimes the opposite of what I felt.  But I did it.

Pretty soon, no more 44 miles of pollution per day.  And no more internal pollution either: no more feeling pissed off about this particular set of entrenched dysfunctions, the wide range of unprofessional behavior, the madness at the top.  Done, and on to 2011.

12 hours.

That's it.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wolverines, as in Currently Obsessed With

Ever since we watched Chasing the Phantom on Nature a few weeks ago, I've been more and more obsessed with the gorgeous, fierce wolverine, my new favorite animal, surpassing even Badger and *that* is saying something. Oh, what remarkable creatures!  Look at those big snow-show feet, those enormous claws, that fur!  Members of the mustelid family of carnivores (along with weasels, otters, and beloved darling badgers), they are unusual for their relatively long legs and their habit of traversing insane distances up and over glaciers and mountain peaks, hundreds of miles, patrolling their territories and searching for food.

And their teeth, wow!  These animals eat bones, able to scavenge from whatever's left on the ground.  Bones!  These teeth and the wolverine's ferocity help them to chase grizzlies (grizzlies!) off their prey and defend their own from same.  All of max forty pounds, wolverines stand their ground against much, much larger animals.

In the words of Douglas Chadwick, whose wonderful The Wolverine Way I'm crunching up like a wolverine,

Wolverines don't unnecessarily complicate their lives.  They won't equivocate or trade in partial truths; I call this the wolverine pledge.  Would that it were a policy more widely followed.  More than that, wolverines are the ultimate role models for not taking crap from anybody or anything.
For wolverine researchers, and now me, these fierce little beasts are the ultimate symbol of wildness.And there are only probably 300 of them in the US.  Sadly, even though wolverines are, they say, the land-based equivalent of polar bears when it comes to global warming, the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided earlier this month that they're not quite endangered enough.  Full lame story.  
The Wolverine WaySo beautiful!  How can we not protect them?  If you want to learn more, I am highly recommending Chadwick's book (published by Patagonia, hmmm).  It's so very interesting -- natural history of wolverines and tremendous stories of the researchers who are working so hard to learn about Gulo gulo before it's too late.   I'm thinking hard about a year-end contribution to The Wolverine Foundation.  This research needs to be supported, the public educated and this bold creature protected.  Get on board!
The Wolverine Way - by Douglas H. Chadwick from Wild Collective on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sure, Christmas is about stuff, and also so much more...

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.
Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, 1957
I have always loved Christmas.  We were so lucky as children that our parents made it so magnificent for us.  I remember sitting at the top of the staircase with my sisters, packed across the top step in our bathrobes and slippers, waiting for our parents to finish their interminable ablutions so that we could finally, finally, descend the 20 stairs and see what Santa had done.  The swinging doors to the living room would be, uncharacteristically, closed, so that when we pushed them open and beheld the Christmas morning bounty, it always took our breath away.  Bursting Christmas stockings, colorful packages, sometimes bicycles.  Magnificent.

And so much work!

But really all that mattered was how much LOVE went into that labor, into that creation, and into the sustenance of the illusion of Santa Claus.  I mean, really, think about it: how amazing for parents to do all the work and give all the credit to a mythical bearded being, a god who gets all the glory and none of the planning, shopping or wrapping, not to mention none of the actual parenting?  The selflessness of Santa-giving fills me with optimism about human beings.  The gift, even without Santa, has the potential to be a supreme expression of love.

This year I was so aware of how Tantric Christmas really can be, how it resists the either/or and remains firmly, at least for me, a both/and.  I don't agree with the people who complain that it's just consumerism gone wild.  I'm sure that can be true for some, but that's not the whole story.  It is about the presents and it's about so much more, as the Grinch himself realizes on the day his poor shriveled heart grows three sizes.  For me, there is such deep delight in the searching for and finding the perfect gift, that item that corresponds to some want or taste or interest of the receiver.  And how much deep delight in receiving a truly thoughtful gift.  I think I will keep the three things my son gave me this year always together, arranged together always, as a reminder. My heart was so full considering the time he devoted to thinking of me, what I'm crazy about, what would please me.  That is not consumerism gone wild. It's love.
Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind... and that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad I'm here, maybe I can do something about it.
Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
I felt so lucky this year to find myself on the couch on Christmas Eve with Joe, our dinner guests gone home by 8:30, watching "Miracle on 34th Steet," which Joe had never seen.  We turned it on right at the point where Susan Walker, the young skeptic meets Kris Kringle for the first time.  I can't find the specific clip  in which Susan pulls Santa's beard.  But I did find this one, with the little Dutch girl, which was the moment at which I knew the movie had grabbed Joe.  Oh so sweet, the way her face lights up, after her terrible experience in an orphanage in the second World War.

How wonderful that we have a day every year in which to work magic for others, to demonstrate our love for them in a material manner. For me, each item received really is symbolic. Yes, it's a thing, but it's a thing packed with meaning, a thing replete with love.

I'm counting the days already to next Christmas, to the next opportunity for this big Love Blow-Out and its tinsel and packages. Til then, I'm looking around at the traces of yesterday, and feeling all the love and effort that makes the day what it is -- a big opportunity to sing our love to each other, nice and loud, heart to heart and hand in hand.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Yay, Christmas Eve!

Woke up early this morning even though the alarm was off.  I'm too excited about Christmas to possibly stay in bed.  There's a ton to do today with family coming for dinner tonight, and it's Christmas EVE!

I may love Christmas Eve even more than Christmas itself.  Generally most of my work is done (although this year I do need to scrub the house top-to-bottom and hope to get outside for some winter garden clean-up), and I can sit quietly savoring the anticipation.  I love giving presents, particularly to LT, wishing so hard that he feels through this holiday the enormity of my love for him, how he is ever-present in my thoughts.  It's a little silly, makes me weepily sentimental (like the beginning of Love Actually, best Christmas movie ever), but I love it.

I'm especially savoring the Eve right now because everyone else (except Jasper) is still a-snooze, a bit after 7am, as the sky lightens outside.

Best Breakfast of the Year
On Christmas Eve, I treat myself to toasted panettone for breakies.  There's a whole production on Christmas morning at Joe's mom's house, a whole raft of traditional foods (more on that tomorrow), but today it's just me and my beloved Italian sweet bread.  Oh delectable delight, how I wish I could make you last all day!  This year I'm feeling extra super-lucky that I found a personal panettone, just a tiny one, rather than the usual regular size, which then I am required to finish, in the week after the holiday.

A Little Time with the Year's "Tree"
When Laurent was little, we used to go and get as big a tree as we could fit in our low-ceilinged homes.  Growing up in a Victorian as I did, I was used to really tall trees, but since moving to little boxes on the hillside, I've adapted to shorter heights.  But always, as much as I love the smell of tree in my house, I felt terrible about the waste.  Even if they ultimately get chipped up for mulch, there's a little heartbreak for me in all that tree-cutting.  And Joe, who relies on cut-trees for a living, can't stomach the idea of cutting one for fun.  We did living trees, but that felt even more like torture of something living, forcing it inside in the heat.  And really there's a limit to how many pine trees a person should be planting across the street, in the vacant area at the bottom of the cliff.  So we've gotten creative.

Last year, that bad chemo year, we used the bottle drying rack from our home beer-making production supplies.  Not bad!  This year, thanks to Container Store (which I vow only to visit maybe three times in 2011), we have a little "tree" I can bust out every year, although its ornament display ability is nil.  It's situated in the dining area of our kitchen so I can plug the lights in as I am setting my breakfast down on the table.  I am not sure anyone else in the house cares about the tree one whit, but it makes me happy to see that twinkle of little LED lights.

A Little Quiet Before, and After, the Storm
Outside fat drops of rain cling to the bare branches of Apple Tree #2.  That tree's got one apple left on it, small and red, eye-catching just like an ornament.  A jay is darting from fence to tree, tree to fence, chirping, a flash of blue that keeps drawing my eye to the window.  It's quiet out.  I know when I walk later with Jasper, there'll be that hush outside, that lovely holiday feeling of less traffic, more conviviality.  And then, at some point, my work will begin.  I'll make two batches of cookies, prep the rest of tonight's dinner, clean the house, wrap presents, maybe have to go out for last-minute things I've forgotten.  So this quiet right now, the sky brightening, is so sweet, some silence before the hustle-bustle that will take over tonight about 6 and keep up, pretty much non-stop, until about 24 hours after Santa stops by.  Sweet.

With a contented heart full of love, I am wishing you such a merry and bright holiday.  Savor it like a tiny, delicious sweet piece of panettone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Excellent pupil

While waiting for the return of my vision last Friday following dilation of my pupils -- and by the way, no, I couldn't have worked, and yes, it did take longer than 2 hours for my eyes to return to normal, more like 5 -- I realized all of the ways in which I rely on being able to see.  How most every waking moment of my day involves use of the eyeballs: whether it's reading on screen or paper, or writing.  That's basically all I do.

So while I was unable to participate in those beloved activities, here is the list I scribbled, describing how I wiled away four hours on a rainy Friday afternoon when I should have been at work:

Things to do when eyesight fucked up:
- Laundry.
- Boil water, make and drink tea.
- Repeatedly check pupils in the mirror.
- Turn up the heater.
- Empathize mightily with the blind.
- Straighten up the house.
- Make banana bread.  Interesting how standing over a cookbook at the counter makes it a little easier to see.  But was that 1 1/3 cup sugar or 1 2/3? Whatever: it was delicious.
- Repeatedly try to discern texts on phone.
- Check pupils.
- Determine that loss of limb better than loss of sight.
- Try to get these words in focus.
- Wonder how Laura survived 6 months of sightlessness.
- Talk on the phone.
- Be sad that my father's macular degeneration means he can no longer read.  What would I do?
- Feel bad for two minutes about jacking up the work day.
- Misplace readers, at least four times.
- Stare at rain.
- Realize that I really have an addiction to vision.

My glasses with their progressive lenses arrive in a week and I honestly can't wait.  Right now, to be able to see up close, I have to wear readers.  They're not bad, cute in fact, purchased on a lucky whim at the check-out at Borders.  But the putting them on and taking them off drives me crazy.  Better to have one pair, always on.  It'll take getting used to, but honestly, if last Friday learned me anything it's that I have absolutely *got to* be able to see.

It's true that I've always wanted glasses, and naturally, now that I'm about to get them, I'm a little bittersweet on the transition.  Yes, my eyes are getting old along with the rest of me.  But as long as the edges of the words on the pages are crisp and clear, that is just fine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Really, Moleskin: so bogus that you cause cancer...

I was just shopping for a 2011 notebook on and was about to put a replacement Large Squared Notebook in my cart when I noticed these words, California Residents: click here for Proposition 65 warning.  Since I've always bought my Moleskin in a stationers, I'd never seen such a notice before.  Really not happy to read the following:

WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

God damn it, the cover is PVC.  That makes me so mad!

The Moleskin has been my go-to for years.  It offers so many excellent qualities: the weight of the paper, the way fountain-pen ink looks on the page, the binding and the way it lays flat when you open it.  Plus, the Large size is just perfect to carry everywhere in my hand or in my bag.  Perfect.

But no more.  

So now begins the search for a replacement notebook that offers all of the qualities I love about Moleskin without the cancer-causing chemicals.

Maybe everyone knows this already and I'm the slow-poke at the back just figuring this out, but damn it, I am so disappointed.  Thank goodness for California, otherwise I wouldn't even know.

Really, Moleskin: could you please get your shit together and do a little better than a PVC cover?  I used the Contact Form to ask them when they're planning on replacing the cover, letting them know how disappointed I am. Alternately, their email is  In case anyone else is interested in sending a good old fashioned letter (which I'll be mailing tomorrow, thanks), here's the address:

The European Paper Company
4775 Walnut Street Suite C
Boulder, Colorado 80301-2579

I've already received an automated reply to my email.  Fingers crossed that they have something great to tell me, like they're changing out the covers...  Oh Pollyanna, what will you take notes in now?

Full Metal Rabbit

As I continue making my plans for 2011, I am thinking a lot about the Chinese zodiac.  Naturally, I love a system that relies on 12 animals.

In researching the coming Year of the Rabbit, I am finding so much delightful information -- i.e., not only is 2011 Year of the Rabbit, but Year of the Metal Rabbit.  Rock on!

Oh, and the English is delightful.  

Sounds like 2011's going to be such a relief, just the year I need after the fierce year of the Tiger.  Looking forward to feeling untroubled and contented, cozy in my little den just like a bunny.

2011 - The Year of the RABBIT

In Chinese mythology, the Rabbit is a symbol of endurance and their essence is said to have originated from the Moon. During the Chinese mid-Autumn festival when the Moon is usually at its best, Chinese children still carry lit paper lanterns made in the form of a Rabbit, and climb the hills to look at the Moon and admire the Moon Hare.
Rabbit Years come fourth in the cycle of the Chinese New Year, and recur every twelve years. The Chinese New Year does not occur on a particular date, so it is vital to check the calendar to find the precise date on which each Rabbit Year really starts. Years of the rabbit include 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 and 2011. Year of the Rabbit 2011 is February 3, 2011 to January 22, 2012.
The Year of the Rabbit is a peaceful year, very much welcomed and desired after the fierce year of the Tiger. We should go somewhere tranquil to sooth our wounds and get some well deserved rest after all the encounters of the year before. Good taste and enhancement will excel on everything, and persons will recognize that influence is better than force. A time to make sure that we do not become too indulgent. The influence of the Rabbit tends to spoil those who like too much comfort and therefore weakens their value and sense of responsibility.
Law and order will be negligent; rules and regulations will not be firmly enforced. No one seems to be inclined to bother with these distasteful realities. They are too busy having fun, entertaining others or just relaxing. The outlook is tranquil and serene. We will all have a tendency to procrastinate on unlikable tasks for as long as is possible. Money can be made without too much effort. Our way of life will be relaxed and leisurely as we permit ourselves the luxuries we have always wanted. A moderate year with an easygoing pace. It may actually seem possible for us to be untroubled and contented without much infuriation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Durga is my homegirl

Probably because it’s Year of the Tiger, this has been a Durga year for me.  I’ve been living with her image from the start, her picture on the front of my notebook and in front of my eyes every time I take it out to scribble an idea, take some more notes.

Year of the Tiger is my year, anyway.  Born in January 1963, I got in at the tail-end J of Year of the Tiger 1962.  And naturally, I have a tiger-thing, have long dreamed of visiting Ranthambore or some other tiger park in India before my demise.  And that there was a tiger painted on the backdrop of the 7-day long Immersion and workshops with John Friend in SF in February, helped seal the image in.

But more than just the tiger, it really has been about Durga  all year for me.  Every time I saw her now-peeling image on my notebook, she reminded me to wield all those weapons in defense of what’s true and right, for me.  I thought about the work of cutting what’s unnecessary, mustered the ferocity to stay on track.

And believe me, you need all those arms and all those weapons.

I’m still reflecting on everything that happened this year.  Durga served me well.  I am really grateful, humbled and happy and satisfied with how much everything has evolved in one year.  And aware of how much work it was to maintain that degree of sustained focus.

And since we’re here, at the end of 2010, it’s time for 2011 notebook and 2011 goals.   Which means pretty soon Durga and the red Moleskin notebook she adorns will be heading into the cabinet soon to sleep with 2009 and prior yeas.

Thanks to this year’s experience,  I realize that the work of setting a course for the year gets bigger every year. It used to be coming up with New Year's resolutions. Then it became for me a list of goals, in discrete categories, 'cause that's how my mind works. Then, thanks to yoga, I added in the creation of a sutra for the coming year, a word or phrase or couple of lines, to help keep on course, a distillation, concentration of the idea of the year.

And now I see that there's another level, too. There's the image, the visual to help keep me on track, to provide a non-verbal heads-up every single day.

So excited to dream about 2011, to consider where I want this path to take me over the coming 12 months.  Year of the Rabbit, here we come!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Does not get old!

That's right.  It just does not get old to see my name in print in the local paper.  How's that for some narcissism?  Apple not falling far from the tree.  Snap!

Here's the piece if somehow you missed my day-long effusion of shameless self-promotion.

Really, even though I'm the one who wrote the piece, in a rush after a great yoga class and hang-out sesh with my buddies, even though I'm the one who emailed it to the editor of this section of the paper, still I jumped in surprise when I saw it there on Page B2.  It's not a big deal, I am fully aware, just a funny little local paper that I normally deride -- but whatever, I'm enjoying using it as a vehicle for funny little local stories about the people I meet and know.

That's definitely working for me.

This afternoon I was at a bookstore in San Rafael and noticed that Beth Ashley, storied/ancient columnist for the same paper, whose piece this morning was directly above mine, was also milling about the New Fiction section.  The following fleeting insane scenario flashed through my mind: me extending a hand and introducing myself as a fellow writer whose by-line was just below hers today.  Hello Beth, we shared a page in the paper today.  After which she'd no doubt mumble something kind and move swiftly to the exit.  Clearly, I would never do such a thing.  But it made me laugh throughout the rest of my bookstore visit.  What if I were just that nuts?

It could certainly happen, given that the thing I thought would never, ever happen appears to have finally taken place: yes, I think I need glasses.  There is something combination comical/alluring about the thought of perching Readers on the end of my nose, so I can type like hell on my iPhone without holding it out three feet from my face.  The woman at the register when I bought the glasses today said, oh these aren't for you, you're too young.  Hah, I said, actually I'm just that old.

So yeah, probably since the eyes are going, the tenuous grip on boundaries and appropriate behavior will be next.   And then I'll really be in good company.  With more ridiculous stories to tell.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010: in the home stretch

Thanks, ND, for sending this gem from Village Voice. 
The crazy season is in full swing. Like most Decembers, I am reaching for lofty goals, hopped up on carols and caffeine.  This year has its special flavor, naturally, as the count-down is not just to Christmas, to time-off, but also to the end of  my current job.  Fifteen days!!  Leaving this job gracefully really has been my #1 goal for the year, the one toward which all other intentions have been pointed, so it's gratifying to know that on December 31st, I will walk out the door there a final time.  Ba-bye.

But in the last miles of what feels like a marathon, I just need to say that this is hard and I'm tired. Constructing the map for the person who will come after me is grueling, but harder still is contending with my own short-timer's syndrome, my impatience to be done, and the accompanying impulse several times a day to just say "fuck it," grab the purse and go.  Making this transition in December -- a super-social time every year, and now I have a final exam this month on top of that -- is also challenging: there's so much to do, so little down-time at home right now.

Naturally, because I'm complaining, my Pollyanna reminds me that I'm also having a blast.  Going to San Diego last weekend for Mammalogy field trip definitely took away from at-home time, but god damn, that was a blast.  Geeking out for 24 solid hours with my classmates and teacher was so good for me, crystallized in such a remarkable way all that we've spent a semester learning, and helped me make an important decision for 2011 (more on that later).

And Pollyanna also reminds that going out to see a band on a school-night, which may not have seemed like such a good idea, was actually an AWESOME plan.  Charlie Hunter Trio featuring the dancer Tamango blew my mind in the way great live performances do -- took me completely out of my own preoccupations, rocked me deep to my core, made me so super-duper happy, face breaking from smiling, Snoopy-dance head to toe.

To try and create a bit of space, I'm cashing in a vacation day on Friday to study for Mammalogy, and also to have the sensation of sitting in my house and staring out the window.  I need some space to continue reflecting on this year, to brood.  

Because I'm tired, I am wondering whether my time will really be more open, come January 1, 2011.  For some reason (fatigue, impending period, most likely), I am now doubting that not spending 1 1/2 - 2 hours in the car will have any measurable positive impact on my life.  Because, truth be told, I could easily fill that time with more stuff -- or with nothing, with OCD social networking.  The key is going to be saying No after a year of saying Yes to pretty much everything, keeping the 2011 commitment to a core simplicity.

So yeah, yeah, I'm tired but still triumphant, still stoked that I managed to make this change this year, even though I'm taking it down to the wire, stoked that I'm doing it in the best way possible.  I can't wait til tomorrow, to take a breather, study and play in my own backyard a bit.  It really is the little things, especially in the crazy season, that make all the difference.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

duh, no wonder they're so foxy

It occurs to me, as I am reviewing this post, that I have always been this person researching animals and writing papers, dating all the way back to the report Medora and I were always writing, when we were probably 8 and 10, for fun, about cats, an animal neither of us could have as a pet, since members of our families were so deeply allergic.  We read and read and wrote and wrote, collaborating on this tome for what felt like years, organizing principle of weekend afternoons.  It amuses me to consider how I have really never fundamentally changed at all. How fun that I now have this place to keep and share all of the reports that I am constantly writing -- once a geek, always a geek.

*  *  *  *  *
Thanks to my more-knowledgeable Mammalogy classmates, I now know that our squirrels -- that is, Natasha, my father's quasi-pet, and my own backyard residents -- are not Western Gray Squirrels, but Fox Squirrels, a non-native.  Which  also answers my stupid question about why our particular squirrel-friends are so red -- duh, 'cause they're not Gray Squirrels, double-duh.  None of the books I checked as reference either listed or depicted the Fox as an option, part of the usual smear campaign against those labeled "alien."  But I digress...

The largest North American tree squirrel, the fox squirrel, Scurius niger, has more adaptive range than our native gray squirrel -- will nest in more kinds of trees, live closer to people, and produce twice as many litters in a year.  Mr. Foxy, therefore, really has a leg up on Mr. Gray counterpart who is pickier about which trees he'll nest in (only oak or eucalyptus) and pickier about the company he keeps.  For more info from my favorite local animal group, WildCare, scroll down to Mammal Bio here.

Note that photo at left also lifted from Wildcare.  That's not me holding that squirrel, though you know I wish it were.  When I volunteered there briefly one Spring, in the wildlife hospital, I did get to hold a baby squirrel once.  Ridiculously cute.  Like this.

For those wondering about the niger in Scurius niger given that our Fox Squirrels are so obviously rusty-red, the animal was named in 1789 based on a black specimen in the southeastern US, where all-black fox squirrels may still be found.  Pretty!

Alsoly, the very word "squirrel" is delightful.  From wiki, "The word squirrel, first attested in 1327, comes via Anglo-Norman esquirel from the Old French escurel, the reflex of a Latin word sciurus. This Latin word was itself borrowed from Ancient Greek word σκίουρος, skiouros, which means shadow-tailed, referring to the bushy appendage possessed by many of its members."

And speaking of bushy appendage, my favorite sentence from the WildCare Mammal Bio pretty much sums up all you need to know to identify this squirrel: "The Fox Squirrel's brilliant cinnamon-black tail can be spectacular."   Make that IS spectacular, and sign me up.  They use their tails in such an expressive way, flicking them up over their backs -- the tail as a flag, warning off other squirrels.  So often it's that whip of color that catches my eye, that waving tail in the yard drawing my attention.

As part of my ongoing effort to domesticate a squirrel, create my own Natasha, I've been inspired by this piece from Tim Friend's Animal Talk: Breaking the Codes of Animal Language -- and have been trying to engage squirrels in conversation.  I can get them to stop, look at me and come closer, but we don't get past that, really.  Still it's a pretty big thrill to have their eyes on me.  Joe has also taken to leaving a trail of unsalted shelled peanuts, hoping we can work up to JP's trick of feeding Natasha walnuts through the open kitchen door.  Some day, with patience...

In the meantime, we'll just keep watching our foxy friends, enjoying their cinnamon brilliance.

Monday, November 29, 2010

in the name of dog

One of the things we know about Jasper is that you can call him pretty much anything you like as long as you say it sweetly.  He responds readily and immediately to baby-talk.  And as we are prone to making up words in this family, to creating our own language, not surprisingly, as a consequence, the names we have made and use regularly for our 4-legged companion are both many and varied.  For some, we have no remaining idea of their origin.  We just keep saying them, the sound, just as it is for Jas himself, completely divorced of meaning, an endless babble of love.

That endless babble confirms, as often as possible, that Jasper is not just cute, but made of it, adding -- as Sally would say -- more cute cells every day.  He puts the cute in subcutaneous, a uniform layer of gorgeousness covering his entire body, just under the skin.

As he ages, as he has gone gray under his chin and around his eyes, loving him through these changes has been such a powerful lesson.  May we celebrate with as much delight our own human signs of aging, pet the gray hair at each other's temples, love up the sag.

Herewith I give you a compilation of the Names of Dog.  Appreciate that it has taken weeks to remember all of the variants, all three of Jasper's people adding to this list their most common expressions of love for our 13-year-old brother, son, friend and companion, Jasper Bacon Trelaun.

Jassy-pone (combo of Jass + pony)

Darkwing Dog
Dardimps, Dardumps

Batty in the Ocean
Toast Hound
Pig Eye
Fur Pants

Mr Pokey Pegs
Mr Pillow Sticks
Mr Gray Beard
Mr Flat Worm

Frog Legs
Gandalf the Gray
Brown Guy
Mr Big Stuff
Old Man
Sweet Boy
Sweet Cakes
Baby Cakes
Baby Snakes
Mr Wagglesworth
Fur Face
Barrel Snout
Seal Breath

Love this creature just so much very much!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sad day for squirrel

I'm a little crazy for squirrels, something which may run in my family, considering that my father has a pet squirrel, Natasha, who's trained to take walnuts from his hand.  She taps insistently at the window of the French doors in their kitchen.  She is absolutely gorgeous.  I adore her and am a bit insanely jealous, since it's always been my Doolittle ambition to talk to the animals, walk around with a pet squirrel on my shoulder.  Dreamy!

photo credit: M. Trelaun

Before I go any longer with this story, I'm offering you a bail-out.  This story is about to go a little morbid, which if you know me and my skull collection, won't surprise you.  So you may want to leave right now.  Rest assured, nothing bad happened to Natasha.  As far as I know, she is fat and happy and tapping at the doors of my parents' kitchen in San Francisco right now.

We are extremely lucky to live in an area that is filled with animals.  We spend hours watching birds and squirrels in our yard.  We co-exist with coyote and deer and rabbits and raccoons and possums and wood rats and lots of other creatures.  It is one of my delights in living here in this funny part of the county.

That same abundance of life has its sad complement in an abundance of road-kill.  But ever since I put dead moles in my suitcase at summer camp when I was 10 -- ever since that first experience of being able to closely examine a still creature, marvel at its features, the miraculous softness of its fur -- I have been able to find a (selfish) silver lining in all the carnage.

And today was no different.

While doing some neighborhood-hero work (clearing blackberry bramble from the sidewalk down by the corner), Joe found me a poor dead squirrel, freshie, probably fatally injured last night.  Reverently I carried its heavy little body home, where I was able to look it over carefully, then offer it a simple burial in the yard.  Look at this delightful Sciurus griseus. How lucky are we to co-exist with such creatures!

Look at that face!  So damn cute!!

I'm crazy for these paws, those pads, the little ridges on the "fingers."  

Beautiful belly fur, such a gorgeous mix of gray and red.
Hind paw: the fur!  the claws!

Another view of the hind paw and the beautiful tail. 
Naturally I cried after I put it in the ground and that sad moment came to tip the first scoops of dirt back in.  But I know that that little squirrel's precious little body will nourish the soil, will feed the flowers I'll plant over it in the springtime, so much gorgeousness returning to earth.  Sleep deep, little beauty!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

mistress of my destiny: sure. machines: not so much.

Here's a true exchange with Joe, who really is an angel. I showed up at his work in a bit of a panic because a "low tire pressure" warning light was on in the dashboard *and* my phone is dead, so I couldn't call to ask for advice.

Joe: (having pushed the re-set button and made the light go away) So now you can just drive to work. It's fine.

Me: But what if it's not fine and I have a problem on my way to work or in the city?

Joe: Then call AAA and they'll come.

Me: But my phone is dead.

Joe: Then it'll be like the old days.

Me: I didn't like the old days. (waving my dead phone) I like Now.

only you make your dreams come true

I haven't been posting as much to this blog, but that ain't because I haven't been writing.  Or thinking.  Or plotting.  

Just this past weekend, par exemple, I wrote and sent a piece to our local rag, for their Tuesday "How It Is" column, in which I had something published earlier this year.  It's just a local paper, but there's something pleasing about telling stories in that forum.

And last Friday I spent three hours and four pages working out how to arrive at what I could reasonably say, to my current colleagues, about why I'm resigning that position and moving on.  Four pages of diatribe, to arrive at a list of 6 bulleted items.  

But mostly I've been catching up on sleep, since Friday, and thinking.  And, to be honest, feeling pretty pleased with myself. 

On my long list of goals for 2010, #1 in the Business category is "Gracefully leave [current job]."  I've been super-serious about these goals all year, made a copy and pasted them into the back of my new Moleskin when I ran out of pages in the old one, and refer to them periodically.  It seems like I refer to my two-page list most on those rare occasions when Joe and I go out to dinner together, we've placed our order and are waiting for food to arrive, and are sitting in that quiet pause reviewing progress, making plans, sketching (literally) ideas.

It's taken me most of this year to get clear about what I want and need, to move beyond the clear sense of what I don't want.  Which is so much easier to describe.  Getting to a definition of the positive, on its own, not just in contrast to what's negative, has been months in the making.

And now I'm here.

Pretty happy, as I said, with myself, with sticking to my intention to leave a place where I've been unhappy and frustrated for about three years, for these reasons (and yes, these are my positive bullets):

I’m leaving in favor of a job:
- in the city I live in, in an organization that directly serves my community and the environment with a mission I can get behind and which has nothing to do with cancer, which I’m sick of
- in a location I can ride my bike to, so I’ll be out of my car and have 1 ½ to 2 hours more of my life back a day, plus more time outside and physically active
-  at an organization that has managed to grow even during an economic contraction through strategic moves and investments
- at an organization that is non-profit but operated like a business, with two bottom lines
- with a defined scope allowing me to do work I love (numbers) in a position that is a respected and integral part of a fully-functioning successful management team
- that will support my desire to simplify my life a great deal and enforce a discipline of simplicity through a reduced salary

Probably the best thing about setting an intention, sticking to it, and getting there, is this profound sense that only I can make my dreams come true.  Only you can do the same for you.  This is so great -- this feeling of being in the driver's seat, of being in charge of destiny, of calling the shots in my own life.  When it's a big change, like this one, it just feels so good to accomplish a deeply-considered goal written down in January of the year.

So as of December 31, 2010, I will walk away from the work I've been doing for 10 years and be in a "smaller" position, one with a narrower scope.  Such a tremendous relief. And such a sense of accomplishment. 

And just in time for me to start dreaming 2011.  New list here I come.  Yay!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Deep Delight of a Great Read, or how i discover that i don't know shit about de Tocqueville

Parrot and Olivier in AmericaI am pretty wild about Peter Carey's latest novel.  I've been stuck on the same passage for a few days, not because I'm sleepy while reading and so forced to go back and re-read the same sentence over and over and not because it's been so long since I picked the book up that I can't remember what's going on.

No, it's just that the passage is so delightful that I can't get enough of it, so I keep reading it and enjoying the words so much.  Below I indulge my taste for copying out parts that I love, enjoying the process of making the words on the page, so you can taste it, too.

Thanks to the marvel of the interwebs, I have been cautiously reading a little about the book, watching BBC interviews with the author, reading Ursula LeGuin's review. Cautiously because I don't want other people's opinions in my head just yet, also no spoilers, please.  And it's pretty cool to read what Peter Carey himself was reading while writing the book.

Which is how I realized that I don't know shit about Alexis de Tocqueville, a chief source of the novel's story.   Surely we covered this in AP US History?

Really, I should know who he is, and yet realized with a start this morning that I don't remember a thing.  Don't know shit.  Which matters and yet doesn't, because that same interwebs can just tell me what I need to know.  So great that we don't have to hold everything in our capacious yet challenged brains.

I'm on page 96 and already fearing the end on page 380, not wanting this adventure to end.  If you haven't read Peter Carey, "Parrot and Olivier in America" is a fine place to start. Squiddy soul: so wonderful!

* * * * *
     I touched Mathilde’s bare shoulder, and gently drew back her hair.
     “Go,” she cried. “Just go.”
     “I’m not going anywhere.”
     She did not look at me but went to our bed, picked up my trousers, and threw them down into the street.
     “What have I done?”
     She was my treasure, my ball of pain and beauty – her luminous eyes, her curved little belly, her perfect thigh. Who she was fighting I did not know, but I was old enough, had scars on my ankles and my arms, a piece missing from my ear, and saw how the moment had come, like an unexpected death, like God striking, the lightning hitting, and I was a man tipped from his bunk on the ship to find not floor but death water, bubbles, the fierce cold fingers of the salty night. There, die. Rise no more.
     There was no point in asking is it fair that I should lose everything I love again. I took my duffel and threw in my tools, my better clothes, a book, and with no word to Maman I made off down the giddy seasick stairs, emerging half naked into the courtyard where the children were already playing with the trousers, from whose pockets all coin, even my good-luck acorn, was gone. It had taken only ten minutes to have my body flayed, my bones stripped clean, my squiddy soul out in the sun to dry.
     I headed for my English printers, for where else could I go? The day was sunny and cruelly pleasant. Along the way I spied, in every café, the sweet familiarity of couples who had spent the night happily in each other’s arms and I, who had been for six years one of them, was cast beyond the pale, a poor lonely foreign wretch. I found my friends all gone to work, and the landlady, who had always been so pleasant to me, said her house was full. Reluctantly she brought me some bottled ale and wrote the tab on my friend’s account.
     Then I removed to a hotel on the rue Richelieu, where, on the strength of Monsieur’s famous name and my good clothes – which I was forced to lay out on the bed – I was given, for twelve francs every month, a “parlor next to the sky.”
     It sickens me to tell the rest, my many trips back to the faubourg Saint-Antoine where Mathilde finally softened enough to lend me a hundred sous. There is little that is not pathetic but in the end, no matter what injustice he suffers, a man is still a man and cannot be a sniveling wretch forever, and I set out, at an age when one expects this shit to be well past, to present myself at the petite maison, declaring myself ready to travel to America or Hell, whatever would remove me from my present state.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Practice: more benefits

I've been continuing my home practice, not every day, but often enough, on a little schedule of my own creation. As I go along I am more and more aware of benefits, even as it remains hard, some days, to get off my ass and go do it.  Still, it's going swimmingly, I think.

So, those benefits of which I speak?

- a cleaner house.  Yes, in order for me to be able to practice in a room inside my house, that room needs to be clear of clutter, the floor clear of dust and dirt (and dog hair).  Practicing at home is enforcing its own discipline on my house-keeping, which is not a bad thing at all.  I end up feeling satisfied on two fronts: clean body, clean house.  Creates a nice sense of contentment and ease.

- an awareness of my own breath.  Practicing alone, with no musical accompaniment, no outside-teacher's voice, means all I can really hear, besides my own mental chatter, is the sound of my breath moving in and out.  I think I realized very quickly that in class, I am not really focussed on my breath - so many distractions allow me to disconnect from that fundamental.  It's so interesting to be inside the quiet of that simple sound.

maybe it's boring for him?
- more together-time with my beloved dog.  Jasper can't seem to stay away from my mat.  There's something so funny about the way he'll come in, settle on the back sixth of my mat, body partly on, partly off, and just hang out.  I like thinking about the simple geometry of each pose, how to turn my back foot or jump back into plank without stepping on him.  Keeps me aware of where I am in space.

part of the view, old painting of LT's
- finally, the just being home is another benefit of the home practice.  I have been really, really enjoying being home more, feeling more deeply integrated into my house and life here.  I love the view from the window where I practice and the art on the walls.  There's something so satisfying about being still and truly inhabiting the space that so much hard work over years and years has gone into making.

This is such a good thing, I can't believe I've resisted it for so long.  Then again, it's happening at just the perfect time, when I am ready and can really enjoy it.  Yay!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another adventure with a stranger

As I was leaving birthday-sneakies yesterday, pulling out of my parking space near the Barnes & Noble in Town Center, I saw in the rear-view mirror an old woman shuffling her way towards the car, gesturing at me with one hand, holding onto the walker with the other.  I slowed, to make sure she had clearance to get around me, but then realized that she was on her way directly to my open window.

I had just stowed a couple of bags of birthday goodies for the kid in the back of the car and thrown my sweater back there, too.  In typical fashion, it was hot yesterday.

I spend the entirety of November 14 and 15 every year reliving the birth of my son.  It's a very special couple of days for me, a combination of awe at the present and the past alike, a day of bringing them together into focus.  Anyway, I was -- yesterday afternoon -- feeling happy, remembering how hot it was the day Laurent was born, sunlight streaming into the room at Mt. Zion hospital in San Francisco.

Old lady approaches and I realize that she's waving me down.  I ask her, through the window, if she needs something, if there's something I can for her.  She asks me for a ride home.  It's only, she says, two blocks away.

In an instant, all kinds of things tumble through my mind.  I take in the fact that she's wearing sweatpants, a turtle neck, a cardigan with all its buttons buttoned, long-fingered red gloves.  She clutches the walker, a plastic bag containing a clear box of noodles and broth dangling also from one hand.  Her teeth are very yellow.  She is frail.  I can smell faint alcohol on her breath.  She has no purse, no place on her person where a weapon could be hidden, ax or shiv.  I'm not supposed to pick up hitch-hikers, and she's a hitch-hiker of a sort, a super-frail one, a bit of a mess.  Really, the only risk in saying Yes, besides having a stranger in my car, is that she might pee.  That would truly suck.

So I say Yes, of course, hop out, help her with her seatbelt while she delightedly asks me about my tattoos.  I place the walker in the back of the car, careful not to squash any of the presents I've bought for LT.  I get in.  We push off.

I keep up a steady chatter of questions and little stories as we travel on towards her house.  It's farther than two blocks, more like a mile.  As it turns out, it's not unusual for her to get a ride to the shopping center from someone she knows.  She has a little lunch at Chang's (hence the wine smell, the little bag of left-over noodles) and then finds a ride home.  Clearly, this ploy works on others.  It worked on me.

She asks about my tattoos, do I have others, do I want more -- she has a friend who has tattoos covering his entire body.  Her eyes sparkle when she talks.  Her speech is slow but animated.  Could be the wine.  I am relaxed.

She asks if I was at the bookstore.  And I say yes, I was out shopping for presents for my son's birthday.  She asks how old and when I tell her, she replies that I couldn't be more than 20.  We have a laugh about this.  Her son lives in San Rafael with his family.  She sees him often.

And then we make the left-hand turn onto her street, and I pull to the curb at #11 and help her out.  I give her back her walker and she gets ready to make the short walk to her front door.

As we're parting, I ask her her name.  Pat, she says.  I tell her mine.  Delighted to meet you, we both say.  Enjoy the rest of this beautiful day.

And then she shuffles off.  I get back in my car and head home.

I suppose it's possible that this happens all the time, all over the place, that people do these things for each other all the time, for total strangers.  There's something that feels special about the opportunity, and yet, I know, because I learned it yesterday, that it's actually not unusual, since Pat is able to find a ride home several times a week.

Still, it's unusual for me, and I feel lucky that it was my car Pat approached, that I said Yes and went a little out of my way to help someone I may never see again in my entire life.  I won't soon forget the sight of her funny little face, eyes lit up, right next to me in the car, a stranger reminding me, again, of how much we're all the same, riding along companionably together.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

and behaving badly in the safeway self check-out line

Really, I do know better.  I know better than to use the self check-out at Safeway.  I have never managed to get through that experience without being supremely irritated, the machine asking for items that I don't have, challenging the weight of that particular box of brownie mix as if I have anything at all to do with that.  Today was no exception.  And now I am regretting making the choice of the self check-out, even though the regular check-out lines looked even more insane.  I annoyed and embarrassed my kid and just generally acted like an asshole.

I know this is one of those petty annoyances of modern life, like endless voice mail shenanigans of "Press 1 for this, Press 7 if you can't remember the last 6 god damn options."  I assume the supermarket chain is making money by putting one poor harried employee in charge of 6 self check-out lanes.  I can only imagine that on a Saturday afternoon like this one, that job is a huge pain in the ass.

But really: say "This is a one-person job, ma'am" in that condescending tone one more time.  Go on: awaken the sleeping Jules, I dare you.

Yes, when finally, the really, really tall woman working the 6 self check-out registers made her way to where we were trying unsuccessfully to get past the "unexpected weight detected" message on the touch-tone screen, after I chased her around, trying to get her attention while customer after customer cut ahead of me, when finally she came over to help us, she said, "Let me tell you how this works."  I said, "No, can you please just clear that error message?"  She responded, "This is a one-person job, ma'am," and simply would not believe that while my son was trying to scan things, I was doing nothing, standing by or alternately chasing her around the store, trying to get help.  When I said, "I wasn't doing anything," she responded, like a robot, "It's a one-woman job, ma'am.  Let me tell you how this works."

After lecturing me in monotone, she did clear the error message.  But we couldn't help repeating to each other, "This is a one-person job, ma'am" over and over, just to get through the frustration of the experience.  It gave me only a little pleasure to realize that we used the button for regular bananas instead of organic when prompted, because we were so excited to see the right picture and eager to be done.  So we saved a little money, but I don't feel good about any of it.

I know that Joe, truly my much-better half, is able to get through the self check-out just fine.  He is infinitely more patient and much less of a jerk.  So, just like my self-imposed ban from Trader Joe's for a few years, I'll be avoiding the self check-out from here forward.  Even if it takes longer, it's so much better for me and everyone else if I side-step the shop-rage.  Such a paradox, since I'd generally rather not deal with people if there's a machine option.  But it turns out that actually it's so much better for me to wait longer, make chit-chat with the checker, spy on the next-person-in-line's food choices.  As long as the person ahead of me doesn't write a check, it should be just fine.

And here's Jules.

Friday, November 12, 2010

being awesome your whole life

It's pretty great and amazing that we live in the time that we do, when we get to be awesome for our entire lives.  I think I must have grown up with a different idea.  In fact, I know I did.  Getting old meant getting lame, getting boring, getting stuffy.  In fact, if you were really cool -- Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Janis Joplin, James Dean, Darby Crash, Sid Vicious, oh and so many others -- then you actually really were dead, your unworldly genius burnt out hot and fast, too good for this world, live hard, die young.  The Who said it best: "I hope I die before I get old."

Naturally I can see how self-serving it is to unfurl my Manifesto of Perpetual Ageless Awesome, given that I am just a smidge away, 2 years + 2 months, from 50 myself.  But the older I get (the wiser?), the more I am certain that "old" is not about chronological age.

You can keep being awesome forever, as it turns out.  After all, note that those old Who men are still performing, and at the Super Bowl no less.  They got chronologically old, didn't die, and still are awesome.  [Too bad recent setlists don't include My Generation.  Such a great song, and would be so sweet and funny if they sang it.]  And The Rolling Stones?  Or Meryl Streep? Don't get me started. We are surrounded by examples that you can be awesome at any age.

In a yoga class recently with Stacey Rosenberg, she talked about how inspired she is by her students, by her friends and community, that we are all such seekers (and yes, that made me sing another Who song, thanks), always exploring how we can be fuller, truer expressions of our own selves.  This, she continued, seems distinctly different from previous generations, in older times, where there was a sense that you got to a certain point in your life and you were done, set, no further possibility of growth or change.  At a certain age, you just sat down.

Those days are so gone.

I don't have to look far for examples of how to remain young. It's not just celebrities, huge rock stars.  My parents are number 1 Manifesters of Perpetual Ageless Awesome, always proving it isn't chronological age that makes a person boring and stuffy.  It's really something else, a shutting-down in the mind, a disconnection, a loss of engagement.  And our friend Pierre, who just turned, yesterday, another shade of 80 -- utterly delightful, always, plugged in, entertaining, delighted with the world and delightful as a result.  Across the age-range of my friends, I see it too.  That this engagement with the world is what keeps you vibrant, supple, alive. 

Let the young snicker as I continue to sing, loud, "I hope I die before I get old."  Because I know, and you know, that really, I'll never get old as long as I live.  I'll just keep being awesome and getting more awesome all the time.  It's the only option, unless you want to be dead while you're still breathing.  

Here's my anthem, sung by someone whose Awesome is still unfolding, across genres and decades, keeping me on the path, singing the whole way.  Thanks for inspiring the Manifesto, EC.

And keep being awesome.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Man Booker prize: what I wish for...

If only there were a way I could sign up for automatic delivery every year of the Man Booker Prize shortlisted titles...  You can buy subscriptions that deliver an orchid or bottle of wine every month for a year.  I swear I even saw a subscription last holiday season, maybe on J. Crew, enriching the receiver with a new cashmere sweater per month.  I could be convinced on that one...

But really I just want this one annual delivery -- all those Booker Prize books to appear magically in my mailbox. 

Instead I'm on Amazon right now, buying them separately.  I know Alicia's read the Peter Carey (love Peter Carey). Anybody read any of the others and care to chime in? I'll read them regardless since this list never fails to introduce me to writers I might not otherwise find on my own, always refreshing.  

Yes, I could take them from the library, like Alicia, but for whatever reason (habit, idiocy), I need to own the paper they're printed on.

Coming soon, though not automatically, to my mailbox, the 2010 Man Booker Prize shortlisted titles:

Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America
Emma Donoghue, Room
Damon Galgut, In A Strange Room
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
Andrea Leavy, The Long Song
Tom McCarthy, C

Monday, November 8, 2010

Home Practice: day 2 of new resolution

All I need is this...
Part of my middle-of-the-night realizations last week, during a long insomniac interlude, was that I really, really need to practice on my own at home.  I've been waffling in a dilemma for a while about where and when to go to class: do I re-cancel the YogaWorks membership despite the killer-deal they made me (yes), do I become an unlimited annual member at Yoga of Sausalito (no).  How do I get back on my 5-times-a-week schedule?

And how do I do all of the homework for my Teacher Training?

Simple: practice at home.  There's no better way to develop myself as a teacher than to teach myself in this way, to create the habit of regular daily solo practice.

Other benefits that I realized yesterday, after successful Day 1:

- it's so quiet.  I love seeing my friends at yoga and chatting, hugging and kissing before and after, but man, practicing in the quiet of my home-office is so peaceful.  Makes it easier to give my hyper-active monkey brain a break...

- it's so quick.  Going to a 1 1/2 hour class, no matter where I drive, takes around 2 1/2 hours with travel time (since naturally, I have to arrive early, then there's the inevitable post-yoga Slow Loris putting back on of shoes and ambling slowly back to vehicle).  Practicing at home took me one hour, start to finish.  For now, I think an hour is plenty; I'll build up from here.

- it's so hard.  Stringing together poses in a sequence, in a flow that makes sense, that builds to a pinnacle pose, is no easy feat.  Not to mention staying focused, not letting my mind chase after the dust bunnies I can see from cobra pose...

After my practice yesterday, I exclaimed to Joe, full of happiness with myself (maybe a smidge too much),  "practicing at home is going to change my life."  He replied, "well, actually, honey, I want to just remind you that you've only done it once."  That sounds mean when I write it out, but actually it perfectly typifies our dynamic balance -- he helps me keep my feet on the ground when I am likely to get carried away by the wind in my own head.  It's so true that the proof of the experiment will be in doing it in a sustained way.

Which is where I'm going right now: day 2 of new resolution, practicing at home.  Yay!