Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quote Thursday

Mom's garden, cactus flower
All sorrows can be borne 
if you put them into a story 
or tell a story about them. 
 ~ Isak Dinesen

From the nearly dead stump, a bud...
Some days, when I am not so spent from the school writing, I think, these trials may someday become a book -- a story, if you will.

The only thing I can't figure out is if it is a self-help book or a novel. It is some kind of story.

Today's adventure in evaluation is a story waiting to happen ... part 3 coming up soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

NRU mish mash

Sorry to hear that our knee jerk reactions continue to foil students as they try to stretch themselves into adulthood.  I would certainly love to see this movie and any others produced by this group.

This was a lovely little bit on what to say to your child about death. As I continue to field questions from my nephew -- usually not so directed towards the loss of his mother -- I often wonder how truthful I need to be to get the point across.  So far, I have always come down on the side of truthful and direct ... but there are some questions I do not know how to or how I will answer.

This story about a study of children who die prematurely after losing a parent made my heart drop.  My concern for my parents after losing my brother and sister is only greater for my nieces and nephews.  This piece is high on statistics and light on story -- that is it is a story about a study about numbers.  Even though this is true, it is still scary.

Turns out being a vegetarian, vegan or just switching to anything but beef is good for the environment.  In general, I think it is best to do much less of everything we do.  We might plant more ... but everything else we do seems to get us deeper in the environmental hole. 

In my opinion, full contact football should be banned from middle schools and high schools, so these new rules do not go nearly far enough for me.  One bad practice can end a young player's life -- we have seen this one too many times.  However, the long-term damage done by continued trauma to the head should certainly not start while children are under 18 years old. 

I share the frustration and anguish that this op-ed expresses -- the only saving grace to this dark cloud is that by the time any of this can actually be put in motion is after millions of Americans who have never had the opportunity can experience a primary care physician and preventative care rather than emergency room band-aids.  I want to see those Americans who have derided Obamacare to stand up and demand their right to health care ... I believe it will happen.  I have to believe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Side Bar, Oakland

I love Oakland... and I love bartenders that can make an awesome drink.  Somehow, I didn't know about Side Bar.

This happened at the bar ...
Jared (the bartender) heard me talking about how I don't like bourbon but these two drinks looked good. As I was talking shit, he calmly made one of those drinks and pushed it towards me.  Just try it... mean time, I had not only been talking shit but got the name of the drink wrong, I called it Caged Heart (not Caged Heat).


I loved it.  It was hot, particularly at the end.  And so it was the perfect flavor and a sipping cocktail.

Gorgeous and tasty.

Loved it.

Jared, then, also intuited what drink to make for my friend, C.

Thyme Fizz, also delicious.  They were very different drinks, and mine fit me perfectly and the other was perfect for C.

The good drinks and good food just kept coming from Jared. 

Somehow we got to telling stories.

Then C. and I decided to talk about the folks at the bar.  There was this "couple" that we couldn't figure out.  He: older, maybe fifties, sort of non-descript hair, clothes, no wedding ring.  She:  young, maybe mid twenties, red hair, red nail polish, really red lipstick, I can't remember what she was wearing, but I noted that she had no jewelry on. 

C. asked Jared if he knew what the deal was… C. and I were between dad/daughter and date.  Jared thought date, not first date, but working through exactly what the relationship was/would be. 

The threesome on the corner of the bar left just after we had a discussion about one of them not caring for leftovers.  He was adamant.

C. and I speculated about some others around the bar … we were at least three drinks in, each.

Then a young man sat next to C. and was using his iPad to look for tires for his bike.  C. bonded with him over this and he was heartily entertained by our running commentary with Jared.

I don't think we exactly won him over, but he was definitely amused.

Sitting at the bar is so entertaining. I am not sure why I don't do it more often.

And the drinks were really good, too… as was the cornbread/pound cake! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

RIP James Garner...

I love me some Rockford Files... and just about anything else that starred James Garner.
 [Links included for the uninitiated.]

I was already full of memories and some tears when I heard on the radio as I drove home that James Garner had passed away.  I was imagining my sister and brother welcoming Mr. Garner to the other side.  She is the biggest Garner fan I know ... her favorites were not mine, but there was plenty to agree on anyway.

May he rest in peace... and thanks for the many memorable characters - especially the terminally flawed yet redeemed ones like Jimmy Rockford.

As I have written here before, I spend a summer watching Rockford on hulu as I did some other grief filled work. He's a great companion if you need someone to commiserate... thank you, Jimmy and Mr. Garner.

Wishing his wife and daughters peace as they learn to live in a world without him.  May their memories bring them solace -- and their eyes brighten at the reruns as I know mine will.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bippity boppity boo...

 Back from the road...

Scenes from the garden before M. started picking all the pumpkins.  Cinderella would have had her pick for a carriage ... now we will have soup. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

diagnoses, research, hope, part 2

After several phones calls that turned into scavenger hunts for documentation, my sister-in-law learned what it means to be made to jump through hoops.

First they wanted a copy of this, and then they wanted a copy of that ... and in between the voice on the other phone demanded, why do you want your daughter re-evaluated. 

And she made up reasons to not be helpful: "we closed this case...years ago."

And, "I can't send you a copy of the file." And, "You'll have to call someone else for that."

And, finally, "No, we won't re-evaluate your daughter; we closed the file."

One of the scavenger hunt runs involved getting the school psychologist to send in the latest evaluation.  Let me highlight three parts for you, 1) "specific learning disability" noted as the issue, though no specific learning disability (sld) is named, no treatments for said sld described, and no long-term goal noted.  These two go together for emphasis: 2) reading grade level 1.7 [you read that correctly, she's in the 11th grade at the time of this evaluation, and reading at grade level 1 and seven months] and 3) making adequate progress.

These three facts do not make sense together.

The only up side to all of this scavenging for information is that my sister-in-law began to really question all she is hearing.  She is starting to feel like being nice and agreeable might not have translated into getting the best education for her daughter. 

My sister-in-law started building up for the fight we had in front of us.

We made a game plan.

1) Get the pediatrician to send a letter to the regional center and to start paper work through the HMO to get our own evaluation done.  And a letter to the school requesting an IEP meeting ASAP, maybe as soon as before school starts.
2) Research on what is needed for an evaluation and what might the regional center accept from the outside.
3) Gather all of the IEP reports over the 12 years Q. has already been in school.
4) Activate networks and identify other networks that can get us in touch with the appropriate lawyers/advocates, etc.

Battle ready, emotionally and physically... fears and inadequacies pushed aside to do what is best for Q.

Then came the call... we can re-evaluate Q., next week.

It was probably good they said no first.  It gave my sister-in-law the time and space to prepare for battle and understand what it might take to get the help Q. needs.  It also allowed her to make some moves that demonstrate the power of the parent and the registered letter. 

This is good because the re-evaluation is just step one.  We still have to stay on top of Q. getting exactly what she needs to be productive and successful. 

And so the saga continues...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poetry Thursday

Julie's retreat, threshold

Let yourself
be silently drawn
by the strange pull
of what
you really love

Sunflower emerging from kale, Julie's house, July 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Le quatorze juillet

Good friends and lively strangers
Red, white and blue for a different country
Bastille Day
San Francisco *alleys*
Prix Fixe
Excellent cocktails, champagne, wine...
Dancing, old American music, newish French disco music
Obnoxious fog/steam machine
Beer spilled on toes
Dancing til we nearly dropped

All in all a lovely evening!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gone fishin' again

I was in San Francisco to celebrate Bastille Day and this is the picture I took.
Don't try to understand the motivation or rationale - it is only likely to cause a headache. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

NRU mish mashy

Several friends and I have been debating the idea of date/nondate for sometime.  I don't know why I thought we were the only ones... but naively, I guessed that it was just these friends who were having this issue.  For my friends, date or nondate frequently equaled good date or bad date.  Apparently there is much more to it for many others.  On some level, I am relieved to know that it is more pervasive, but I am also disheartened.  The issues presented here, though facetious, demonstrate a breakdown of that mythical dating thing.  But that we have destroyed dates is just too much.  I think it is most definitely an age issue, I am of an age to understand that a date is a date.

I think this is more disturbing than the headline (4Theories On Why The Ocean's Floating Plastic Is Disappearing) would have us believe.  If theory number 4 is right, so far it seems to be the front-runner though unproven – hence THEORY, those of us trying to make healthy choices by eating fish are in big trouble.  Like the GMO research, it makes me feel like we are really killing ourselves with our technology … not in the way most people in science fiction have predicted. 

On some level, this little article is meant as comedy.  However, it is also a recording of our society using mental illness as entertainment … and when it crosses the line, and we suffer the consequences, we are left feeling unsafe.

SFGate/Chronicle rarely has stories well enough written for me to share, but this story, despite its clunkiness, begged to be shared.  We never know the chain reaction of events we set off with our choices.  It is probably best to always think it is for the best as it was in this case.

Happy Bastille Day ...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Santa Monica Postcard

 This is how I think of Santa Monica ... houses on the ocean, the surf, sand and mountains.

 Is this what tourists think of when they conjure Santa Monica in their minds?

As a local, I had never been ... so I met friends from out of town there.  It's a boardwalk atmosphere with tons of tourists.  So far this year, I have visited Venice Beach and Santa Monica with visiting friends.  I can check them off the list ... done and done.

I know why I never went there before...but I enjoyed the Santa Cruz boardwalk as a child/tourist...

 I loved the composition of this sight.  The rocks, the palm trees (imported) and the yucca (indigenous) and the tourists... perfect combo of native and import all in in one shot.  Plus, the ocean and mountains in the background.

 This is a hotel I would like to visit ... after I win the lottery.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Proverb Thursday

Clouds over Arroyo Grande, CA, may 2009

You cannot prevent 
the birds of sorrow 
from flying over your head, 
but you can prevent them 
from building nests 
in your hair
~ Chinese Proverb

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

gone fishing...

Actually, not fishing at all ... just a day/night/day at the beach across from the mountains.

These pictures are not from the beach where we are camping ... but you get the idea.

These are all from my favorite beach in Oxnard ... we are at my favorite beach in Malibu.  I might get motivated to get pictures, and I might not..

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

diagnoses, research, hope, part 1

Yes, actually, almost all my posts involve grief, and, therefore, are tagged as such.

The last really long conversation I had with my brother was about my niece, Q, his daughter.  He had picked me up from the airport.  We headed for home so that he could attend a childhood friend's funeral.  It was a foreshadowing I could not appreciate at that time.

For years, at this point nearly 14, we (my sister, my mom and I) had tried to impress on my brother the need to get help for my niece.  She showed delays in speech and communication as a toddler.  She also displayed some odd behaviors.  And she suffered seizures as an infant and toddler that were never connected to a specific medical condition.

Probably because my brother was an independent contractor and did not have health insurance, she was not under the care of a primary caregiver.  Perhaps if that had been the case, "professionals" would have also impressed upon my brother and sister-in-law the importance of getting to the root causes of all three of the above mentioned conditions.

Finally, after about 3 years, the comparisons to other children could not be ignored.  FINALLY, they took her to the "Regional Center" to get some help.  My brother was so touchy about it all - over the years, our insistence on getting Mija more helped waned as we were told in subtle and not so subtle ways that she was not our child.

I tried many, many times to get him to see that she needed more than what she was getting in school.  Maybe I didn't ask the right, pointed questions -- like "Can I see her IEP?"  But I offered to pay for special tutoring over the summer.  I allowed that I would let them pick the person.  I just wanted to capitalize on the fact that one year she had a terrific teacher who knew how to reach my niece.  My sister-in-law has always been prickly with us and super over-protective of her kids, so none of us ever approached her ... that I know.

So, that February day, in the car, on our hour long ride along the coast, I pressed the case, again.  Mija, already 14, is unable to read and write.  How will she take care of herself?  I know he was seeing the danger more clearly than ever before.

I thought I felt a glimmer of hope because he was engaging and asking questions.  I thought I saw a wistful look in his eye.  Maybe I was making it up.  But we never got a chance to talk about it again.  I saw him one more time for a few days in Las Vegas, and then he was gone.

Now I approached my sister-in-law about it earnestly.  It was probably not a great time to press the case, my brother's shadow and his loss still cast over our landscape. 

But, time was running out for us to get her re-evaluated.  I insisted on going to the school to find out what kind of grief support was available for the kids.  I wanted to ask in front of my sis-in-law so she could mirror my actions later if needed. 

I had only one week with them following the funeral.  I needed to get so much done with her, bank accounts, and insurance claims and changing dmv records.   Now she doesn't even recall that meeting in the school psychologist's office. 

I saw an opening and asked what the diagnosis they had on record for my niece: "globally delayed."  I countered that it was not a real diagnosis -- the psychologist agreed that it would not qualify her for SSI or to stay at the high school for the extra three years that other special ed kids would get.  Yet, Q is in a self-contained classroom doing first grade level reading and writing ... per her IEP not necessarily her ability. 

When I asked what we needed to do to get Q re-evaluated, the psychologist said we needed to get back to the Regional Center. My sis-in-law said as soon as things calmed down she would call them; after all, she already had a relationship with them.  My hands, tied once again, were unable to do anymore.  I had to trust that I had impressed upon my sis-in-law the urgency.  Q was already a sophomore at that point.

A year went by, and then nearly another ... in between both my little sister and I had once again approached my sis-in-law about a diagnosis.  We had a long talk about autism, what it looks like and what kind of help is available.  She admitted that she was wary to do battle with the Regional Center on her own, I offered to go with her to the meetings.  I gave her my availability.


I have always had to measure how much to push because I know that we need to do more for Q and how much pushing will make me persona non grata.

Then, the miracle happened ... and we can thank Obamacare (hope there are some trolls out there that end up reading this).  I insisted when my brother died that the family would get health insurance even if I had to pay for it.  It is expensive for folks who don't get it through employment -- but without it there is no long-term care.  It does not exist when you only go to the doctor for emergencies ... even if it is to the same doctor.

My sis-in-law had to change providers at the beginning of the year, and her first visit with their new PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN (in caps because it is a wonderful, beautiful thing!).  This doctor wanted to talk with Q and when the responses were not what she expected, she looked at my sis-in-law and said, are you getting help from the Regional Center?  A new door was opened because it was coming from someone outside the family.

I don't care how it happened... next to do battle with Regional Center.

[I started this post weeks ago and just had the time to finish it ... the prelude to the next part is that the battle is full on with the Regional Center ... FULL BATTLE MODE, like looking for lawyers kind of battle...]

Monday, July 07, 2014

NRU CA sights edition

Winston Street in Los Angeles... who knew? Well the people who are trying to make it a better place to live for all, I guess.  From this piece, it would seem that gentrification here doesn't mean getting rid of people.  I wonder if this is peaceful cohabitation... guess I am feeling a little pessimistic today.

This little piece is ostensibly about Yosemite, but it is really about the founder of Patagonia.  It is fascinating and a good read.

I never knew there was a private club in Disneyland... I just figured out the restaurant in the Pirates of the Caribbean.  Well, obviously, I am not a regular.

I wish I were a hiker ... I have made many plans to be a hiker, except the obvious -- go for a hike, regularly.  I am adding this to the list, anyway, of the place I would like to hike (someday).

Long, but moderately interesting, piece on a play: taking a page from Culture Clash's and Anna Deveare Smith's ways of interviewing residents and then writing plays, this playwright has created a play about the ghosts of Santa Ana.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sunday Rant

I don't generally blog on weekends … let alone on Sundays, but I needed to get this little rant out today.  It's Sunday, and I may not have gone to church today, but I have been thinking about God, American Christians and the way we have been treating some poor immigrants in the last few weeks.
1) We live in an incredibly rich and abundant world.  I know that there are many people who believe they are hurting … and some are.  But, there are many, many people buying $5 coffees and eating out and spending over $100 on phones and $200 on tv per month.

My point:  we have plenty of everything to share.

2) We live in a country where the majority of people (78%) claim to be Christian if not religious (5%) in some other variety.  [In fact, only 16% claim to be "unaffiliated" with less than 2% to be atheist.]  In the Christian Bible I've read, Jesus (that would be the Christ from Christian, lest you forget Christmas) told his followers he was proclaiming two new rules to supersede all others – love God, love your neighbors as yourself.  We call that last one The Golden Rule – and have a really, really hard time following it.  The first one, though, gets a little short shrift because we seem to not understand what it means … it means not only love and honor God, it means to love and honor God in ourselves, remember we were made in His image?  So, it also means to love and honor all other beings we believe to have been made in God's image, i.e. it reinforces rule 2 (the Golden one).  Also, honoring God means not doing things in His name that are ungodly … like being mean to people.

My point:  As God-loving, God-fearing, Christian claiming people, we ought to be sharing what we have… all of it, without reserve or conditions, certainly without malice.

So, I think the talking heads should stop trying to use poor children seeking a better life as a way to trash our president.  In the wake of your political shitstorm, there are real people.  In each of those human beings, you should see your God … the one you love so much you go to the Supreme Court to preserve your ability to honor Him … that same one, that one, right over there on the cross.

I pray the apocalypse doesn't come right now because all those assholes will be left here on earth with me because they didn't recognize Jesus in all the people asking for their help.

Yeah, I went there.  I said it was a rant, so what did you expect?

I believe this is political pandering to fear -- I wish that today from all the pulpits (or wherever religious people speak) they would be reminding their congregants that our country's media has had different ways of viewing young children in need in the past.  We also had a different way of understanding tenacity, the danger immigration involves and the challenge of making lives anew.

I believe in those words from the Bible even if I am not a church-goer -- I think there was a man named Jesus and he made some very profound statements which those who do believe in God and go to Church might do well to remember ... and apply liberally in their lives.

Stats from, lest you believe I am pulling "facts" out of my ass like all the people on FOX NEWS do.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Quote Thursday +

Perhaps they are not stars,
but rather openings in Heaven
where the love of our lost ones
pours through and shines down
upon us to let us know
they are happy.
[courtesy of Daily Affirmations]

I was going to try to find an appropriately patriotic quote or poem for the week, but then I didn't have the energy to do it. 

I found this one, instead, as I read through some Daily Affirmations.  I was trying to steel myself for a a hectic week of writing.  So far, in my grief process, this is when the hurt hits hardest.

I was also trying to think of an answer for the journal challenge I posted earlier this week... and I thought that this one spoke to what I hope it feels like.

Some days I can imagine being there, others not ... but when I get that crooked smile from my nephew, or I think of getting Quetz the help she needs, or I imagine my parents finding more will to live (healthily), or I imagine my nieces and nephews in college... well, then, I can imagine this also being true.

Monday, June 30, 2014

NRU mish mash

Some of these have been sitting in my to read pile, so they are a little old.  I mean old in internet time -- as in a few weeks ago, not a few months or years ago.  Enjoy...

This pair of articles discusses the trio of anti-Latinolegislation ushered in over a few years back in the 1990s under Governor Pete Wilson.   It was as one interviewee in the article stated, a cynical attempt to demonize Latinos in California – to lump all together immigrant and citizen.  Also as stated in the article, the policies backfired on two counts: 1) much of the most egregious legislation (187) was declared unconstitutional, and 2) the trio of laws caused a generation of Latinos to become more politically relevant.  The surge in both voter registration and greater representation in the legislature may have come about due to the growth in population, or it might have taken other draconian measures to force California Latinos to recognize the power of politics.  Now these legislators try to turn the tide, make their mark and remedy what they see as stains on our state.  It remains to be seen what kind of backlash, such as the Asian American response to the push to repeal 209, will emerge.  We are living in different times with a different population – but many of our wounds remain.
There is nothing but heartbreak in this story about fourteen-year-oldGeorge Stinney.  I am against the death penalty.  I restate it lest anyone accuse me of not being forthright.  This story about railroading this young man should put into perspective, however, how death penalty equals nothing more than vengeance.  It is not about justice.  As the editorial states, justice would have had some hallmarks we might recognize:  competent representation, a jury of our peers, cross examination, alibi witnesses, lawyers present at so-called confessions.  It would be easy to pass this article by – there are so many contemporary examples of just this sort of injustice.  However, I think this article aptly demonstrates the way racism has always been a part of this equation … and why so many of us continue to argue that until we can apply this kind of penalty equitably, it should not be applied to anyone.  May George rest in peace, and may justice for him bring some solace to his sisters who never saw him again.

There is so much about our own bodies and brains that we don't know. It is heartening to know that mother's mental illness is being considered by more scientists and included in more health plans. This piece in the NY Times sheds some light on the issue and how some are tackling it.

So this NRU got a little dark, so to lighten it up a bit, I am going to change gears a little:  I used to read a section in the AP news called odd or weird or something ... and it was a guilty pleasure.  There is no need for the section in most newspapers, though, because I think they pull from that pile first when they go through the AP articles.  Like a train wreck, it is hard for me to look away ... so I am going to share some of the silliness.  

If ever you were going to build a case for tea partiers being off their meds crazy, you might start with this little story.  A tea party Republican challenger in Mississippi had this supporter who thought the absolute most helpful thing he could do was to sneak into the nursing home housing the incumbent's wife and snap some photos.  I would stop there because that is a bad episode of some crazy dramedy I don't watch on TNT or USA.  But, there is actually more ... after his candidate did not win, said supporter took his own life.  If you just read the headline, you could decide it was because challenger didn't win.  I cannot tell if the AP reporter's tongue was in his cheek or if he really felt like he should include the quotes about the man who committed suicide's integrity.  I mean, may he rest in peace, but his actions don't really scream integrity in any way.  I was slightly more interested in the fact that the challenger's name was not mentioned in the headline, rather the incumbent's was.  Sarah Palin really is the tea party's spiritual mother.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Skittish, mostly photos

Mostly in honor of Mattie's curious bunny ...

Skittish, aka the wild bunny still with us, has been hopping around our house of late.

This week, Mijo was here to see him for a couple of days.  He immediately recognized the bunny as Skittish and not Carmul, who he considers his bunny.

But, this week, Skittish was feeling somewhat friendly.

First he let Mijo feed him and even touch him a bit before he hopped away.

Later, we heard, "BUNNY!" from outside.  The neighbor across the street's grandchildren were tooling around and saw the bunny.

Mijo went out to show the littlest grandchild, Faustino, how to feed Skittish.  Skittish complied and eventually even ate out of Faustino's hand.

 The other kids tried to act like they were too big to get in on this bunny stuff.  But then when they wanted in, Skittish had had enough.

On the upside, Mijo found a soccer ball while chasing Skittish around and invited Faustino and his brother to play for awhile.

Bunnies bring many treasures.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Poetry Thursday, more from Mattie



At night, the moon is
The marble eye of a 
Curious rabbit, looking
Upon the world with interest.
[April 2000]