Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coming soon, promise!!

Darling readers -

My apologies for the silence.  I've been in a weird boring (menopausal?) mental fog lately, and wordless.  Which is so weird.  And boring, which is ...  well, boring.

But I'm getting off my ass soon, I promise.  Ideas are stirring, fingers are itching to hit the keyboard.

More soon, promise, including the much in-demand Kit Kat Story.

Love you!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hep C: good news

Most people don't know that I have Hepatitis C.   I am a HepC survivor, you could say.  I count myself among the lucky.  Hepatitis C is no joke, although I've been assured that it's something I will most assuredly die with, rather than from. Today's news in the SF Chronicle -- about the newly-approved Invicek and the possibility of actual cure for HepC -- is great and so sent me traipsing down the memory lane.

Six years ago at this time, 2005, I was halfway through 6 months of treatment for Hep C.  To be clear, even though I had elevated enzymes and platelets in my bloodwork (which is what led to the HepC test in the first place), I had never been sick from HepC, didn't show signs of liver damage, and so -- also thanks to gender and the amount of suspected time I'd had the virus -- was in the ideal group for the "difficult treatment" to be most effective.  And most effective didn't guarantee cure.  The Chronicle article does a neat job of summarizing the treatment experience:
Treatment is a toxic cocktail of weekly intravenous chemotherapy drugs and an older antiviral that patients took for at least 48 weeks - if they could tolerate the side effects, which included flu-like symptoms, anemia and depression. The treatment didn't reach the hepatitis C virus specifically, but boosted the patient's immune system to help it fight off the infection.
The treatment, in other words, is a total crap-shoot.  Most people are completely debilitated by it, some have to quit, and none of us -- none -- at the end could be assured of cure, just maybe better counts, a stronger system, a somewhat better chance of avoiding liver disease and/or cancer.

And yet I jumped on the possibility.  Why not?  I figured I'd rather try to kick the ass of the disease, beat it down, come out the winner, than do nothing, just know it's there, lurking. So I did it.  I self-administered my first chemo shot in the doctor's office, a little training run, pinching some belly fat between index and thumb, picked up my Sharps container, and we were off. 

Basically I felt like shit for 5 months, a gradual miserable decline that robbed me of joie de vivre and reduced my activity level from running every day and yoga several times a week, to slowly perambulating around the block and yoga several times a week.  I say 5 months because it took at least a month on the front-end for me to begin to feel the cumulative drag of the experience.  I kept a diary, wrote everything down, so even if I don't remember perfectly, I have a record.  Exercise, though less vigorous than I would have liked, saved me.  I went into it reasonably strong, and that strength -- and my sweethearts -- sustained me throughout.  Still, I felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails.

Yoga helped me so much.  I was fairly new in my practice then, but I know that coming to the mat regularly, being taught through the poses, was so good for me.

I lost my taste for spicy food.  The inside of my mouth was super sensitive.  I ate white rice and saltine crackers for 5 of the 6 months.  Nothing tasted good.  Everything made me feel worse. I felt tired all the time, just dragging, sad.

On the up-side, I lost a ton of weight.  I did appreciate that part.  

By the end I was so accustomed to the shots that I got a little sloppy, didn’t even sit down, could have done them with my eyes closed.

It’s not uncommon for people to take a leave of absence from work during HepC treatment.  A lot of people go out on disability.  They’re in bed, totally hammered by the side effects.  They can’t work.  They can’t take care of themselves.  It’s a freaking nightmare.  For whatever reason, that possibility, of leave, never occurred to me.  I worked throughout.  I never stopped.  I probably couldn’t have, financially, not worked.  And anyway, it would have been worse for me not to work, since working forced me to get up every day and go somewhere and be something besides a wasted little shell of me.  But I won’t lie: it was super-hard.  I felt just horrible for just so long.  And it was so hard to put up with bullshit, harder than usual, when I was just absolutely sucked-dry by the treatment, skinny and weak. 

I reminded myself throughout that I had chosen treatment.  No one had made me do it.  I had decided that I was willing to try it, to take the virus on.  So yeah, I felt really bad, but at least I was doing something.

At the conclusion of all of this,the final bloodwork found the virus to be undetectable.  That’s the best outcome you could hope for.  Still there, but in such small quantities that it doesn’t count.  But still there.

I had some bloodwork done recently and was alarmed at my platelet count. I called up the spreadsheet I kept during treatment – that’s right, a notebook and a spreadsheet, that’s me – and compared.  The count is higher now than it was at the beginning of treatment.  What can that mean?  It sent me into a minor spiral of worry.  Oh shit, I really don’t want to go through that again.  What if I have to go through that again?  OK, the weight loss would be nice, but really, what if I have to go through that again?

Now, though, I can let that go.  At least if I have to go through it again, they’ll add this new Invicek to the mix and I can be, actually, really, cured.  It would still be really, really hard, but it would be worth it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

really, i should work with animals

The other day at lunch, a young friend asked me what I did for work.  His response to my answer was surprised and definitely disappointed.  

"Oh," he said, "I thought you would work with animals or something.  Like a vet."  
Oh, how true, from the mouth of babes, etc., etc.  How dull, indeed, does my actual work sound, in comparison with my friend's idea of what I should do, based on many conversations and hours of looking at animal photos and videos on-line together, and talking excitedly about if you had a farm, what creatures would you keep on it...

It's weird how in that moment, I felt distinctly as though I'd let him down.  As though I'd let myself down.

Because naturally, he's right: I should indeed work with animals.

It was what I always wanted.

This morning, reading about a hyena researcher in Africa on the NY Times website, I am back to thinking about it -- about how I didn't pursue what I perhaps should have, what I certainly could have, but instead went a different route.  It never does cease to intrigue me, how this happened.  Yes, there are many things about the profession I've wound up in that make sense -- I do love numbers, the clarity of systems, the grammar of financial statements.  Yes to that. At the same time, why wasn't I encouraged in the direction of the sciences?

It occurs to me that adult words have inordinate power on child minds.  That even though it might not have been intended to close the door, the snapped "Animals?  You should be a doctor, instead," in response to the declaration of wanting to be a vet, dimmed that childhood aspiration.  Other kids would have been able to tell me what was right for me.  But the adults, somehow, didn't see it.  And I let the thick soup of their attitudes dictate my path.

I'm not bitter about it.  I'm amazed.  And hoping that I learned something from that, that I didn't repeat it, when it was my turn.

For a little bit, I was trying to get back to that childhood ambition, taking classes at College of Marin, pursuing my passion for animals, everything about them, in natural history classes.  I loved Biology.  I love Mammalogy.  I crashed and burned this semester, though, incapable of focusing on Herpetology given what was happening with Jasper, and withdrew, knowing I couldn't give it what it required.  It was a distinct relief to step away from it.

I thought it was for good, but now realize it might just have been a break.

The two-semester-long Ornithology series begins in the fall, and is tantalizing, indeed.  As is the idea that even though I didn't make animals my life's work, that doesn't mean that they don't remain my life's passion.  So that even though animals are not my job, I can still say to my young friend and to myself, that I'm doing what I love, staying true to what I know is true, being me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Breaking up with Crazy

In addition to all of the other resolutions I made for 2011, all my detailed lists of tasks Small, Medium and Large, and goals and projects, I have also declared this to be the year I break up with crazy. This is consistent, naturally, with my overall theme for the year of viveka, discernment, of saying No to say Yes.  And it's working out great.

Now, there's a certain amount of crazy that can't be avoided (like the crazy you're related to, for example), and which must simply be dealt with with as much grace as hours and hours of yoga should prepare one to deal, and breathe, and deal.

The crazy I decided to break up with was all of the inessential, avoidable crazy -- the kind that I really do have a choice about.  And up with which I need not put.

Let me be clear: there's good-crazy and bad-crazy.  A lot of people I love most in my life are some kind of crazy, they're wild, they're boldly committed to a vision, they're unique, they're risk-takers.  They're crazy, but good-crazy, and I adore them.  I'm talking about breaking up with the bad-crazy, the really crazy: the kind that bring me down, that suck my energy, that just generally are so not-fun to be around.  

I took a big step along this BUWC path when I changed jobs in January, eliminating enormous day-to-day crazy from my work-life.  And boy, that felt good.  It still feels good. Earlier this week, an email came in from an external partner which so reminded me of the e-blurts I used to receive at my old gig, no grammar, incomplete sentences, words missing, just this mad e-barking.  My stomach clenched up instantly, I felt ill, my heart raced, as if I had post-traumatic stress, seriously.  And then I remembered, oh yeah, this isn't my reality anymore. This is just this one crazy guy from whom I will probably never receive an email again. I'm safe. Phew.

But changing jobs wasn't enough.  There was still more crazy to be broken up with.

So I broke up with my hairdresser.  She had been cutting my hair for a few years.  I went to her initially because she specializes in hair like mine (non-hair, my mother calls it).  She did me a solid good haircut and highlights, and generally delivered.  But I dreaded a bit going to see her because her stories made me squirm a little.  There was some protracted family drama, and private investigators, and litigation.  I am remembering a story of her crawling under a car and placing a GPS device on its undercarriage, I shit you not.  Unsavory, a little too COPS for me.  And really, when you're sitting in the chair for an hour or so, you need to not be squirmy.  I dealt with it for a while, happy with the haircut that ensued, but emboldened by my professional break-up and this year's resolution, ended it.

And I broke up with my eyebrow technician.  Now that was a long-lasting relationship. I think the first time I went to see her was in 1996 when I had enormous untouched eyebrows, a fantastic canvas for her to mold and shape.  She did a great job, transformed my whole face honestly, by removing excess pelage.  But again, crazy.  A lot, a lot of the time, I found her narratives entertaining, but as the years went by, I started to feel ill at ease.  And again, really, when someone is waxing you, that's enough discomfort, right?  

The clincher for me was when she adopted a little chihuahua mix.  First time I saw him, everything was fine.  But after a really big storm, that dog flipped out the next time I came for an appointment.  I was fending him off with a pillow I'd grabbed from one of the reception chairs, but that little fucker managed to leap up and take a chomp on my knee.  I love dogs and it just bothered me so much that I was so scared of this little tiny one, little tiny savage one.  I kept going to her, insisting she lock up the piranha before I came in the door.  But the crazy just became too much, so I ended that one, too.  It was the kind of crazy that doesn't recognize it's a bad idea to keep a pet who bites your clients.  Who does that?  It's sad for me because she was really skilled.  But I just couldn't do it anymore.

It's interesting to me that so far the breaking up with crazy, other than the work one, has all been with those women whose work it had been to keep me looking good.  The result, however, was not pretty.  My hair has been looking shitty, my eyebrows a bit raggedy.  S
lowly I'm exploring, trying to replace those service providers with non-crazy.  After all, there's no reason to be sane but frizzy, calm but frumpy, right? Especially at my age.

The thing about making a resolution to break up with crazy, is that as I began eliminating it wherever possible, I became so much sensitive to it when it rears its raving little head.  Before, I think I was so immersed in crazy that I was less able to recognize it.  And say No to it.  Now, though, the merest whiff of crazy, particularly in a new situation, and I am one foot out the door, see ya, no time, bye.

It's great.  I'm really happy about it.  I encourage everyone to consider whether it's worth it to sustain a relationship of any kind with crazy, if you don't have to.  What's it doing for you?  More bad than good?  End it.  There are other hairdressers and estheticians, other bosses and friends, tons more.

I got a haircut today from someone new to me.  Actually, it turns out I know her from yoga, naturally, had seen her millions of times and then there I was in her chair.  She did a fantastic job and -- best part -- she's not the slightest bit crazy.  

Break up with crazy.  I am telling you it's one of the best things I've done for myself in a long time.  And the new haircut kicks ass, too.  


Thanks, Nicole at Siren Salon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As big as the universe

I’ve definitely felt this way sitting on my mat, before, during and after yoga: 

My entire self-concept shifted as I no longer perceived myself as a single, a solid, an entity with boundaries that separated me from the entities around me. I understood that at the most elementary level, I am a fluid. Of course I am a fluid! Everything around, about us, among us, within us, and between us is made up of atoms and molecules vibrating in space. Although the ego center of our language center prefers defining our self as individual and solid, most of us are aware that we are made up of trillions of cells, gallons of water, and ultimately everything about us exists in a constant and dynamic state of activity. My left hemisphere had been trained to perceive myself as a solid, separate from others. Now, released from that restricted circuitry, my right hemisphere relished in its attachment to the eternal flow. I was no longer isolated and alone. My soul was as big as the universe and frolicked with glee in a boundless sea.

It's not about yoga, of course. It's from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's "My Stroke of Insight," the story of the massive stroke she experienced in 1996. 

Not to oversimplify or anything: the right-brain peace that Dr. Bolte Taylor describes is so like the expansive bliss of a good practice, minus the brain damage, of course.  When she's talking about "stepping to the right," inhabiting the more peaceful right hemisphere, I feel completely at home, like that's where we're stepping every time we unroll our mats.

Maybe that's why yoga is so irresistible.  The peace, the sense of connection and unity, is irresistible.    Up til now, I sometimes worried that it was perhaps an addiction of some kind, a habit or crutch.  But having read "Stroke of Insight," I see my deep draw to yoga with a different clarity -- it's irresistible and necessary to spend hours in the right brain-space, running our inner-peace circuitry as Dr. Bolte Taylor calls it.  How and why stay away from a place where we feel whole, perfect, beautiful just as we are?  And spending time there, running that circuitry, has the added benefit of creating more peace around us.  Are we wired for yoga?  Seems like it.

The book is a quick read and I highly recommend it, if you haven't read it already.  And you can watch the TED below.  Dr. Bolte Taylor is a pleasure to listen to.  

Me, I can't wait to be on my mat, stepping over to the right hemisphere of my brain.  Such a lovely place!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

stupid girl stuff, skip it if you wish

OK, so I'm an idiot: I'm a-dither because I bought great earrings today and a great dress.  If money were no object, and sadly it is, I would have bought many more great things, but am content with the two colorful additions to my possessions.  Let it be celebrated that I didn't buy anything black.  Let it not be celebrated that I parted with a lot of cold, hard cash -- but the price of admission to the Land of Fucking Gorgeous is generally some greenbacks.  So be it.

I adore the earrings by Malena Maggi.  They're like princess earrings I think, long, and sparkly, with a pleasant bounce at each step.  They shouldn't be worn in handstand, but will be, since there's nothing prettier than pretty stuff in yoga.  Yoga should never be all purely functional and shit like going to the gym.  No, bring on your preening birds, pretty please.  I want to be dazzled in Warrior III.  And dazzling.  So much more fun that way.

And while Joanne and I were waiting for fish tacos in the food area of the Festival, a woman worked her way through the crowd with a rack of the most absolutely darling dresses -- I have been dreaming of pinafore-like dresses with huge pockets, and lo and behold, this woman appears to have dreamed with me.

It is remarkably difficult to take photos of a dress on oneself, just by the way, but I did try, all the while thinking of my friend Nada and her old habit of posting her outfits on her blog.  Which I personally loved.  She's got that down, for reals -- knows just where and how to strike the pose.  Besides that she's brilliant and a poet and we share a birthday.  Truly, she is brilliant.  Check her out.

But back to the dress, it's handmade by Rebe, also available on-line through her website and through FairTribe.  I have decided I like the look of stripes with my sleeves, so that works, and the dress has the same colors -- the orange and blue -- as the beloved earrings pictured above.

I'm including this photo at left mostly because I also love, love, love my red SaltWater sandals, which I am basically wearing every single day this "summer" so far.  It's hard to dignify this half-assed weather with the name Summer, honestly.  The weather has just been crap lately: cold, windy, foggy, rainy.  And it's June.  Today at the Fairfax Festival I spent most of the day in a sweater.  What?!

Ok, but the thing about the dress that I like the best is def the pockets.  They are gigantic and I LOVE them.  I had to take the dress off  in order to get a decent picture.

I'm still dreaming of making my own dress but this one is very close.  The only difference is that My Dress, the one I'll sew, will be sleeve-less, be more jumper-like.  I have never really lost that habit of childhood, wanting a simple uniform.  This one will be super-functional with huge pockets, big enough to keep apples in like my beloved apron from Oaxaca. Or my phone. Or a coin purse.  It'll be something I can just throw on on a daily basis and be ready to roll, no fuss.

So I'm totally inspired.  Today was a great day.  And pretty things just really truly do make me happy and eager to make more pretty things and more happy.  XX

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ugh: injury...

Since Wednesday night, the moment I got out of the car after a really great yoga class, my low back has been bothering me.  More on the left side than the right.  It was a dull twinge Wednesday night, metamorphosed into a  worse ache yesterday, and is still with me today.  Damn it.  I've been swallowing ibuprofen and stuffing down my fear that I've done something grievous to myself, like the time I herniated a disc in 1998.  No, no, no, no, no, not that!

I stayed home yesterday, largely because I was in pain but also because I needed to finish (start and finish) our taxes, something I've been putting off for ages.  I can't do that kind of work in the evenings or on the weekends, as it turns out.  I need the evening and weekends for FUN, so I've come to accept that as long as I never get really seriously sick, those sick days really have to be used for escape into deeper work on our life and business, deeper work, in yesterday's case, like taxes.

In truth, I went back to bed first thing yesterday morning, with Jonathan Franzen's Freedom.  I only had about 200 pages to go, so I remained prone until 1:15 when I could finally close the book, after the final page and emerge blinking into a gorgeous sunny day.

One pass around the garden, then I was in my desk chair and 5 hours later, done with the taxes.

But too long in a chair.

And this morning, not feeling much improvement, just a general skeletal unhappiness around the left side of my sacrum.

Which means I have been working the principles like mad.  Did a little practice -- seriously, tiny -- working around the fragility in my back, knees bent, pulling to the midline like there's no tomorrow, but still feeling that spazzy feeling in my back.  Ugh, hate it.

So that's me today.  A fraction of my usual self, aware with every step, motion, breath that something is not physically right.  Taking it easy, going gently, and reminding myself constantly that the boundary is there for me to use, if I can just stay patient and calm enough not to throw shoes at it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Obits, bis: Ariège, au revoir.

I have some young friends who, unsure about my first name, dubbed me "Ariage," a name which has stuck.  I don't mind it at all, in fact I like it that they have their own word for me.  When it first came up, it gave me the opportunity to tell a story from my childhood that had remained stored in my memory, a little burning coal.

At the French American Bilingual School where I was a student from kindergarten through the 7th grade, with the notable absence of the 6th grade year when we were in France, I had a classmate named Ariège.  Of course, only in French school would you have such names, an Ariane and an Ariège in the same room.  I don’t remember being friends.  But I don’t actually remember being friends with many people actually, particularly not in my grade.  I was the youngest and the smallest by far, having skipped low kindergarten and entered high kindergarten a full year younger than everyone else.  No naptime or midafternoon snack for me, as I already spoke the language.  Instead I was put with kids at least a full year older, which now of course seems like nothing, but then might as well have been a decade.

First day at FABS.  The blonde: me,
the brunette: Nina, a year younger, my friend.

I was always aware of being on the outside at FABS.  My first memory there, indeed, age 4, day 1, is of other kids criticizing the way I drew birds, the way I pronounced the word "Fido," since I pronounced it as you would in French or Spanish.  Funny that even in a French school, right, you could be picked on for pronouncing things in French. Yes, I got a great education, but mostly I spent a lot of years feeling pretty much like a cretin.

My friend Frances writes in her memoir “To Have Not” about the profound dislocation of being placed in gifted programs in about the 7th grade.  I, in contrast, felt profoundly dislocated at the French school and only felt located once I was in Cluster V, the gifted program at Everett Junior High School.  I spent all of those years at FABS distinctly feeling the outsider, the one who didn’t get it, wandering around feeling poor amongst the wealthy, a have-not amongst the haves.  [Frances’s memoir is fantastic, by the way.  I loved reading about her childhood in San Francisco in the 70s and marveling at how we could inhabit the same location, sometimes even wander the same blocks, and have such different parents, hence different lives.  Most look back on high school as a terrible time – but for me was a time of tremendous unfolding and learning, largely because I had amazing teachers in the form of incredible, creative, intelligent friends like Frances to whom I am grateful to this day.]

I digress. 

I think of Ariège every single time my young friends call me Ariage, which seems the perfect funny blending of our names.  And in particular, as I told them, I am reminded of the time I was unexpectedly invited to Jamie’s birthday party, 3rd or 4th grade.  Unexpectedly, as I said above, because I wasn’t friends with Jamie in the same way I wasn’t friends with any of the kids in my class, really. Unexpectedly because the party was at Hungry Hippo, to which I’d never been and which I hungered for, gazing at it longingly through the windows of my parents’ VW as we motored up Van Ness Avenue.  It was a step up from Zim’s, I knew that much.  Jamie lived in St. Francis Wood, which was more alien to me than another country, much more alien because I’d been, by then, to other countries and never felt as I did in the houses of some of my classmates, deeply, culturally, an outsider.

But here I was, mysteriously, invited to the party.  I don’t remember what I wore that day, but have a memory of a velvet party dress and my hair combed with a ribbon in it.  My parents dropped me off, and there I was, inside the place I’d longed for.  I had a gift and card in my hand.  Perhaps Jamie’s parent met me at the door and took my coat.  Next: Jamie’s sharp hot whisper in my ear, “You’re not supposed to be here.  My mother made a mistake.  She was supposed to invite Ariège, not you.” 

And immediately, the veil lifted and everything was back as it should be, the blurry Hippo burger in front of me on the table, the happy noise of the party somehow distant.  Familiar territory.

Naturally, I never held this Hippo fiasco against Ariège herself.  I knew it was just the natural order of things re-asserting itself.  I drifted along, doing my best in school for years, screamed at by insane teachers who should have been locked up,  bullied by the endless ranking, until I woke up, in junior high, and felt like a person finally, like someone not-stupid, not-resourceless, someone who could actually, after all that, think.

I’m only prompted to tell this story now by Facebook.  In recent years, I’ve reconnected with French school classmates who weren’t my friends then but are my Friends now, all of us benefiting from the great passage of time.  Forty years definitely softens the corners.

So I was shocked to read this morning, grace à Facebook, that Ariège passed away last Sunday, of breast cancer after a long illness. She had a beautiful life, a husband, two children.  She was only, maybe, one year older than me.

How shockingly quickly life passes by.  We were schoolmates, in our blue jumpers and white blouses, eating lunch in the lovely Mme Rouget’s class, and now she’s gone.  Although we weren’t friends then or now, we shared a beginning in that beautiful Victorian on Grove & Steiner, perfect penmanship (or else!) in our cahiers.  And now Ariège herself, the center of my old Hippo story, a fixture in my childhood repertoire, has truly become just that: a memory.  Shocking how quickly it passes. 

Going by Ariage, now, has a different poignancy, as I think of Ariège inevitably each time, our names so close together and yet so very different.

Blessings to her family.  Love all around.

Ariège Arseguel
February 22, 1962 - June 5, 2011

Wake up singing

Around here we sing in the morning. It's always been this way, I think.  Joe generally wakes up with a song in his head, and we sing the words we know, make up the rest.  Mostly we make up the rest because it's more fun, singing about folding laundry or whatever is in front of us.  I always sang nonsense songs to The Kid when he was little to get him out of bed.  And I spent 13 years singing nonsense to Jasper every single morning, absurd lyrics about his ever-growing cuteness and how much I loved him -- every single day.  When The Kid sleeps here, which happens less and less often, it puts a bit of a damper on the morning sing, but we still do it, quietly, big birds chirping sedately behind the closed door of our room, egging each other on with stranger and stranger punny variations, always eager to make the other laugh or ooh-and-aaah over our cleverness.

Sometimes the song is awful.  There was a while when we were stuck with Bruno Mars.  Don't get me wrong: Bruno Mars has a lovely, lovely voice and I love the melodies, but the lyrics to "Grenade" are a horror.  

I’d catch a grenade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Throw my hand on a blade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’d jump in front of a train for ya (yeah, yeah , yeah)
You know I'd do anything for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Oh, oh
I would go through all this pain,
Take a bullet straight through my brain,
Yes, I would die for ya baby;
But you won't do the same

Fortunately, there are any number of goofy combinations you can make out of these lines, so we're not always singing about causing ourselves grave injury.  Incidentally, I don't really have a problem with the "bullet in the brain" concept -- this is not about the violence of the lyrics themselves (Black Flag, anyone?).  It's more the bizarre juxtaposition of the melody with these words.

Anyway, there really are days when we're stuck singing a song we don't like so much, its catchiness catching us up.  I think there might have been a period of Black Eyed Peas, oh horror of horrors.

So I was really glad when Joe woke up this morning singing "Dear God" by XTC, a song I hadn't thought about for years, and which has really really amazing lyrics.  The video is sure dated, but this is a great song.  On this one, we're not as interested in changing up the lyrics.  We like to sing it as written, a simple anthem for morning birds greeting the day.

Dear god, hope you get the letter and...
I pray you can make it better down here
I don't mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image
See them starving in the street
'Cause they don't get enough to eat from god
I can't believe in you

Dear god, sorry to disturb you but...
I feel that I should be heard loud and clear
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image
See them fighting in the street
'Cause they can't make opinions meet about god
I can't believe in you

Did you make disease and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too!

Dear god don't know if you noticed but...
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book
And us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look
And all the people that you made in your image
still believing that junk is true
Well I know it ain't, and so do you
Dear god
I can't believe in
I don't believe

I won't believe in heaven or hell
No saints, no sinners, no devil as well
No pearly gates, no thorny crown
You're always letting us humans down
The wars you bring, the babes you drown
Those lost at sea and never found
And it's the same the whole world 'round
The hurt I see helps to compound
That father, son and holy ghost
Is just somebody's unholy hoax
And if you're up there you'll perceive
That my heart's here upon my sleeve
If there's one thing I don't believe in

It's you
Dear god 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We represent the President.

Sam is with a woman he met the night before. He's in the shower when his beeper goes off, and the woman, at first thinking it's her beeper, sees the message. It is 5:30 in the morning, but when Sam sees the message, he says he has to go. She says that he should tell his friend, POTUS, that he has a funny name and he should learn to ride a bike. He says that POTUS is not his friend, POTUS is his boss, and it's is not his name, it's his title: President of the United States.
-- Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing, Pilot.

Last night I attended my first meeting of the San Rafael Organizing for America neighborhood team.  Organizing for America, OFA, is President Obama’s grassroots re-election effort.

How I got there seems almost kismet-y.  I actually answered a call from an unknown number one Saturday afternoon not too long ago – my deep phone-aversion generally means I don’t answer unless I know who it is.   I recognized the 491- as incoming from Terra Linda and thought it might be someone I knew.  Instead it was a volunteer with OFA calling to ask me whether I was still supporting the President, and would I be willing to come meet her for coffee, 20 minutes, to share my thoughts and opinions on the direction of the re-election campaign.  I was intrigued instantly, the moment the conversation began. I mean, here was someone as passionate about the President as me, taking the time to call and invite me to coffee? 

Perhaps if I hadn’t, that very afternoon, received my 2012 car-magnet and already slapped it on the Prius, perhaps the call wouldn’t have had that prickly bit of kismet about it.  I had already declared myself as In on the campaign with my first, small financial contribution, but wait, here was an opportunity to do something more.  Intriguing!   

All the way to the Thursday afternoon rendez-vous at Starbucks, I thought about how, if nothing else, this would be a new experience.  When’s the last time I had coffee with a stranger?  And so Sue interviewed me, running through the OFA questionnaire, and I realized how much I really truly deeply care about Obama’s re-election in 2012, enough to actually work for it.  So when the invitation came to attend the neighborhood team meeting, I’m in. 

Funny: the meeting was at the house of someone I've never actually met in person but who regularly picks up used New Yorkers from my driveway, an offshoot of a post on Freecycle.  Small world, indeed.  And again, if nothing else, attending will give me the opportunity to hand off a stack of magazines and put a face to the name and email address.

The meeting itself was interesting. I, of course, total nerd that I am, loved it that we were working off strategy documents from the campaign itself, this little group one of thousands upon thousands of little groups of neighbors coming together for this purpose. But the real moment that hooked me was when Belle turned to me and said, re a project to compile a list of accomplishments since January 20, 2009, that our sources only need include the White House website, the campaign website. We don't have to make anything up. Our sole purpose, she said, is to represent the President.

Oh, I'm SO in.

I had that same rush of feeling I always had when watching West Wing, that genius escapist show that saved my sanity during the horrible Bush years, that rush of pride I always felt when someone on cast spoke these words, "I serve at the pleasure of the President." Those days when President Bartlett and his administration represented an alternate reality to the one we were in, seem so long ago now. So much has happened and changed and moved in three years.

That's not to say that I was totally comfortable last night, honestly. As some know, I have deeply shy, anti-social tendencies, so for me to follow-through on showing up to a stranger's house for a potluck and meeting was a pretty big step out of my comfort zone. And I was missing yoga, too, which is not inconsequential. But I sat there in the circle of chairs and took it all in, all of the different faces and speaking styles, and thought about how it represents a different kind of kula, community, than I'm used to and how it will be good for me to work in a group where I appear, right now, to be younger than the average. That hasn't happened for a while. I was definitely surprised when there were people in the group for whom the acronym POTUS was news. Really, did you not survive by watching West Wing as I did? Really? But that's great, too, in its own way. Another opportunity to learn from difference. So, yes, I'm in.

Last night I felt a little too green to pick up the phone and start calling people to invite them to come out and join us, to be part of building the campaign for re-election from the ground up. But the moment is not far off when I will overcome my phone-aversion and do so myself, talking to strangers and inviting them to coffee to find out what they care about, what they wish for, how they might want to become a part of this effort.

If nothing else, it'll be a new experience. But I know it'll likely be more than that, another chance to connect to people over something that matters, the future of this country, the future of the planet, their hopes and dreams for themselves and for their kids.

If you're a San Rafael resident and interested in becoming part of this group, there is a Grassroots Planning Session (GPS) taking place on Saturday, June 25th, from 10-1. Email me -- -- for more info!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Busy little bee

Even though I haven't posted here since Saturday night, I've been busy elsewhere. Check me out on San Rafael Patch and Bay Shakti.  Yahoo!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Welcome to my world

We had just a little break in this crazy June rain on Saturday and rushed outdoors to see what all was happening.  So beautiful out there, it's a wonder we can ever leave the house.  The bees were busy, so were we.  The thirty-second video at bottom is shot from the bench next to Hive #1 - such a great vantage point from which to watch those girls bring in the pollen, all while listening to the finches sing and sing.

My world is an utter dream.  Enjoy!

lily, oh lily

tender peas

kale, lettuce, kale - yum!

Brandywine tomato blossoms

gladiola and borage

bee in the borage

you guessed it, KTU: double delight!

the climbers

Jassie's corner, coming together

Reading the obits

THAT is how it should be done.
RIP, Kimberly -- you were super-loved!
Maybe 8 years ago, I took an evening class on how to write obituaries from a local obituary writer.  I went into the class fired up to write my own obituary, to learn from a pro.  Why leave writing the obit to someone else, someone grieving the loss of me, distracted by details?  Also, writing my own obit seemed a good way to look at my life.  What was it really about?  How did I want to be remembered and what could I do now  to get my life to be about what was most important to me?

And it seemed like it would be really fun.

But my enthusiasm was checked by the fact that everyone else in the class was there to write the obit of a person they were caring for who didn't have long to live.  They were full of pain and turmoil and tears; my interest seemed silly, almost disrespectful.  And writing was really hard for them.  So I kept a lid on my creativity. I might even have, when asked to read aloud, manufactured a dying relation rather than read about me.  

My interest in the obits has been life-long.  Jean-Paul, my father (we always called our parents by their first names), read them, reading aloud parts that he liked, as he did with all stories in the paper.  I have the same tendency.  I think The Kid more than once referred to my interest in obits as morbid.  Possibly.  But there's something so delightful about phrases like "leaves behind his beloved cat Percy," for example, or the list of hobbies and interests.  It can tell such a sweet, sweet story about the person now gone, truly deeply touching.

I won't lie: I do scan the columns for what they died from, gleaning from the "In lieu of flowers, send donations" part if they don't state it outright.  

Also I do think about writing my youngest sister's obituary.  For those who don't know, she has been living with inoperable brain cancer since her diagnosis in December 2008 and has largely cut herself off from our family.  I think about the arc of her life story and how I would tell it.  I write it over and over in my head, preparing for the day that no preparation can make less terrible.

On the same day as Kimberly's obit above (I didn't know her - but her people sure loved her), Krista Frances Walker was described as follows:
There is no conventional definition of Krista Frances Walker.  This is probably because she had a lifetime of experiences that would fill the lives of several people.  Krista was a mother, a warrior, a scholar, a writer, an artist, "The Nali," a sister, a daughter, a debutante and a traveler.  Ask anybody that knew her, and they would agree that she always captured the attention of any crowd.  Krista fiercely and proudly referred to herself as "the celtic viking warrior princess."  She loved the beach, Lake Tahoe, sea turtles and anywhere her passport could take her.
Think about it.  How do you want to be remembered?  It's such a profound way to consider everything you do, how you spend your time.  And most importantly, how you give of yourself to those you love, those who will outlive you and be the ones to tell your story.  

Sending warm thoughts and love to the families of Kimberly and Krista in their grief.  I didn't know either of them, but am profoundly moved by the passion of friends and families for these women, one only 20, the other a grandmother of 5.  As one person wrote in the on-line guest-book, may they live on in memory eternally.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Double Karuṇā with cheese, please, side of Shri, hold the Maya

Laura's theme in class on Wednesday was karunā, or compassion. This was a particularly timely message for me -- since I'd spent a good portion of that day in the doghouse at work.  Yes, in the doghouse.  About 7 hours keenly feeling the degree to which I'd disappointed my still-new boss.  Ouch.  I screwed up a budget that went out while she was on vacation, made at least three errors that mortified me, and then from there, just kept fucking up all day, missing details, compounding the ouch.  It was extremely humbling and horrible, just makes me sweat to think back on it, honestly.

But I fixed everything.  And I learned.

Which was one really important take-away for me from that day spent in the dog house.  When confronted with my mortifying, so-stupid mistakes, I was eager to learn why, to learn more, to do better.  And I realized that for at least 10 years, I haven't had anyone to learn from at work, no one to school me on the specifics of my job.  I've been out there flying solo pretty much, which can be fun, but can also be a drag, since no one really gets what you do.  It remains a little invisible, all that's involved to do it well, to pull it off smoothly, tablecloth in hand, dishes still intact on the table.

Now I am delighted to learn there is someone to learn from, someone who can teach me, someone who understands intimately the detail of my work and will help me improve. That is exactly what I was looking for.  So yay for the doghouse, yay for getting schooled!

I learned something else from the doghouse, too, something about what it feels like to be in there, since I have often been the one to put people there myself.  Ouch. Not a nice place at all.  Even dogs don't like the doghouse.

Which brings me back to karunā, compassion.  This good dog hadn't spent any time in the doghouse for years and years, so being there really showed me starkly what it's like for others when the tables are turned, when I'm the one putting them there.  So not a nice place to be.  Experiencing this myself definitely opened me up a lot, stoked my own karunā, my fellow-feeling for others, and had an immediate impact on my own behavior.

To err is human, after all, right?

And so it is with compassion, also human.

So glad to have had that double-helping of karunā on Wednesday. As my darling friend Eunice would order it up, having mine with a side of shri, hold the maya.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Wait, it's June already? It's hard to believe, especially since it's supposed to rain today and the weather has been generally cool. The lettuce and peas are loving it, but I despair a bit for the peppers, eggplant and tomatoes -- they, as I, need the heat. Such strange weather. The radio says thunderstorms and hail for later this afternoon. What?

I've spent quite a bit of time in the past 24 hours alone in the house. This used to be something I relished, especially on Tuesday nights when Joe was on a long team ride, before I started going to class on Tuesdays. I used to come home and really, truly enjoy that alone-time here, but was never alone since I had Jasper with me, and we would lounge together, walk around and stare at things, find our spots on couch or bed and nestle in, me keeping up a fairly steady chatter of baby-talk at Jassie, him talking to me always with his eyes. I'd wander in the garden and write and make dinner slowly, and enjoy being here with my sweet dog. Being here now alone is really alone, and makes his absence so enormous for me. I did all the same things last night -- wandered, stared, wrote, cooked -- but always with a feeling of agitation under the surface. Boo.

It's no wonder it feels weird to be here without Jasper. We hadn't even lived here a year before we adopted him and brought him into our house. Such a cute puppy, so small I could carry him in the crook of my arm. Honestly, we were in love with him, all three of us, the moment we saw him.  He has been a part of this house through all its transformations, to the point where, even if his fur isn't blowing in dust bunnies everywhere anymore, still he's in everything I see around me, everything we've made here over the years.

And we're still making and adding, and at each point I wonder what he would make of it.  Like how would he like this unexpected water feature we started on Saturday, that now sits just outside our room?  The bees seem to love it, attracted by the sound of running water perhaps.  We're giving it a week or so to settle and then will introduce some little fish.  We saw fatty tadpoles at the petstore and I so would love to add frogs to it, but have a feeling that's a big no-no.  So cute though, those tadpoles!

And I wonder how interested he would have been, as we were, to visit the poor raccoon Joe found up the street.  Such a beautiful face and such amazing little hands and feet.  Of course it's morbid and weird (for some) that we stand around in the shoulder of the road and turn the lifeless creature this way and that to give him a thorough look, but honestly, when that raccoon was alive, he wouldn't have permitted it, no way.  Just look at that adorable nose, how it scoops up at the end, like a badger's, and those funny little bear feet.  So precious.

Jasper would have patiently waited for us as we stood at the blackberry bushes at the corner, watching bees roll and bumble about in the blossoms, wondering which bees were from our hives, Joe plucking a blossom and holding it, hoping a bee would land in it.  He would have watched the cars go by as we still stood there, waiting, marveling at how silly we are, entertained by bugs.  And then trotted home by our side.

So bittersweet, this spring, this spring that keeps stretching into the time that should be summer's.  I don't mind the rain so much, really, since I too feel caught up in a wet weather pattern.  But behind the gray skies, I know the summer's there, ready to bust out once we're past these storms.  I'm ready.