Friday, May 30, 2008


Tafari, over at one of my latest favorite blogs, has been writing about faith and how are families take it when we no longer share the same faith.

It struck a chord for me... and as I was leaving him a very lengthy response, I realized that I just needed to go ahead and put it out here... that is to say, I have been meaning to blog about it, but the timing had just not been working out. So, thanks, Tafari, for kicking my butt into gear.

Take some time and rummage through T's ruminations... he doesn't hold back (which I love) and takes GORGEOUS photographs.

Here is what I wrote to Tafari with a few more lines added in...
I have been off the god thing for a while but not really talking about it with others. Recently I tried to talk to a few people who know me well about it and received some strange and defensive reactions.

It surprised me because the fact that I don't believe in a "god" that is keeping track of things behind the scene doesn't contradict the way I live in any way. It certainly doesn't make me evil or un-godly ;) -- but it scares people. I am not sure if they are able to respect my beliefs as I respect theirs; I get the distinct feeling that they don't really care what I believe as long as I don't talk about it -- and in some way force them to have to choose?! In any case, as long as I am not trying to talk anyone out of their belief, I can't see why it would be a problem.

I was raised by very religious people (they still go to church EVERY DAY) and I
love and respect their faith. They did their best to teach me that same faith by example not edict for which I will always be eternally grateful, but I have never been able to connect to the spirit the way they do. I admire the sense of comfort and protection they feel. I just don't find it in the same ways.

When I hesitate from telling people, "I will pray for you," in times of trouble, it bothers some people. I just have not been able to continue the facade for the sake of not hurting other people's feelings. I do keep people in my thoughts. I hope that we will have the strength to bear troubles with grace, but I know that I cannot bring about what I want in my life or someone else's life by asking a god to make it so. This is not to say that I don't throw out wishes to the universe. I do. But I think life is about what we go through every day right now.

It's complicated... and yet, for me, it is so much more simple, it is just what it is. I take personal responsibility for the inevitable ups and downs... I am not waiting for a god to make it better or give me things that I want... as long as you don't try to talk me into believing something else, I have no problem with your beliefs. The world is a big place with all kinds of comfort and protection to go around; the trick is to find the one that works for you.

the latest mountain

Because I don't have anything better to do on Saturday??

Or, just because it's there.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Love Note from RUMI

Thanks to an anonymous blogger comment where I found this... it was meant for someone else, but like all things in the blogosphere, it was meant for me, too ... and for you.

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in
be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~Rumi (from The Book of Love)

If you want to know more about Rumi.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Endings

Scrolling through all the stories I missed while not listening to the radio this weekend, I purposely skipped over the story about aid workers abusing children and adults in refugee camps. I think someone else can take the hit on that one.

Instead, I listened to this wonderful story about children writing essays about their favorite literary characters. I will warn you now that it is a long story and you have to wade through a lot of children before you get to the main event, Mark.

Mark likes Squirrel... a stray dog who goes through many adventures before being taken in by a loving family. This is just the smallest snippet, to whet your appetite; or to satiate if you don't have time to listen.

Martin says Squirrel finds out just how resilient she is through the course of the story.

"As she finds her way through wintertime, through cruel owners, cruel people that she meets along the way, she also discovers that she is a stronger dog then she thought she was," Martin says. "You have to be a strong animal — and a smart one — to be able to survive."

"Squirrel and I kept going because we knew there was a family waiting for us out there somewhere in the real world," says Mark in his essay.

Literacy coach Mary Turner, who helped Mark write about Squirrel, points out that while he and his canine hero both had to deal with unhappy situations, Mark was very clear that he wanted to tell a story about hope.

"Both of our stories have happy endings," writes Mark. "Two months ago, I was adopted into a loving family, and at the end of the book a nice lady adopted Squirrel."

If you haven't guessed, Mark was in the foster care system and recently adopted.

As you may know, I am on the board of an adoption agency and plan to grow my family (someday) by adopting kids (as many as I can) like Mark.

Some of the other folks on the board get really upset when people are more interested in adopting pets than adopting children. I believe that the people who feel that strongly about rescuing and adopting pets feel much the same way we feel about wanting all children to become a part of a forever family. Hearing Mark talk about his struggle to find the right fit and remembering the struggles so many children our agency has helped, the tears welled in my eyes.
There is great strength in this story, both the fictional story about Squirrel and the non-fiction story about Mark... and in the stories of the many wonderful (and challenging and deserving) children and youth we have helped to find forever families. It is remarkable to feel the strength, the tenacity and the resiliency.

One last bit you have to read from Mark's essay:

"But we knew there was a family out there waiting for us, so we never gave up," Mark says. Reading about another creature's struggle to find a good fit, he says, "kind of made me feel happy because I'm not the only one.
As you can imagine, Mark's story has touched many people. You can join the conversation here.

If you want to know more about the agency, you can find us here.

Here's the book that inspired Mark.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

i didn't forget

just didn't have time to push the publish button before i hit the road...

it's Friday... you know the deal

Got StoryCorps?

Unfortunately, my great aunt died last week. Fortunately, I was home this weekend, so I was able to pay my respects at the cemetery. Since my great aunt was not buried in the ground but put into a crypt, I was able to take some of her gorgeous red roses and share them with my other family members and friends buried at the same cemetery. While I was there, I got to visit with my grandparents and uncle, my great-uncle and his wife and daughter... and my friend, Jaime.

The sky kept opening up and weeping for her and the others... slow sobbing and heavier weeping. That's the perfect day to have a fits the mood.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Must tragedy beget more tragedy?

I want to start by saying that like all thinking and feeling human beings, I mourn the loss of Jamiel Shaw, Jr. His murder was a tragedy not only for his family and community but for all of us. The depth of his parents' pain cannot be imagined or felt, it is far too deep and wide for any of us to really understand.

I don't care if Jamiel threw a gang sign in a picture or posted any words on a myspace page that could be construed as gang affiliated. No one's life is less than any others. It is not ok for anyone to take the life of any other person. It is not ok for us to sit back and say, well, if it was two gang-bangers shooting it out, well then it doesn't matter; but if it was someone with promise who was killed then it was a tragedy. Young life wasted on our streets is tragic regardless of where that life might have been headed.

Trying to create a law with the name of Jamiel that could be used as a way to racially profile other youth is, in my opinion, creating a new tragedy as the result of another tragedy. Would it not be a better to gather signatures and pledges from the community to become actively involved in finding a way to end gang violence, or to end the perceived need for gangs, or to name a scholarship in the name of Jamiel? There are so many ways to make lemonade of this lemon, however painful it might be, but to pour salt in the wounds of others seems like an incredible waste of energy.

I send all my best thoughts to Jamiel's family. I volunteer to career some of their pain. I wish I could carry their sorrow around for a while to give them a moment when they might see beyond this awful reality. I cannot bring back their son. I cannot make their grief go away. But I cannot support this retribution against all others in response to their loss.

News and Notes spent some time with Jamiel's parents today; Farai also talked with a young Latino whose life mirrors the murderer's life in every way except he is not gang affiliated.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Imperfect yet Beautiful

How much more interesting and satisfying would our world be if we were willing to accept imperfection?

I am not talking about some philosophical description of our interior world.

Our country is currently rapt on the likes of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars (not to mention, Survivor, etal.); at the heart of these shows is the idea that someone must be the best, someone must win. The side effect of others must be ridicule is my least favorite part of the phenomenon. I just don't think we need more opportunities to run down people.

So, when I saw this piece on NBC's Nightly News tonight, my heart lightened and the smile sprouted across my face. It is the glorification of imperfection. It is the story about the Cuban circus rebuilding after losing most of its acrobats to defection. Instead of showing up expecting flawless routines, the fans show up to cheer regardless of how it turns out. The jubilation when the acrobats get it just right is so genuine, you can almost feel it. Likewise, you see the compassion and care on the faces of the fans when the acrobat makes good use of the trampoline that catches missed tricks.

I give you that the Cubans don't always have a lot to choose from in terms of entertainment, but they sure know how to appreciate what they do have. The same cannot always (or maybe even ever) be said of us in the so-called greatest country on earth.

Take a look and tell me what you see.


In the middle of intense nephew time presently.

It's hard not to be exhausted... physically and emotionally.

We go on lots of walks. He needs to be in motion working out the energy.

Walking...running, playing, jumping, climbing -- anything that seems even possibly climb-able: benches, trees, tables, bookshelves. Power Ranger punches, kicks and sound effects.

He discovered "hockey" -- we call it pool or billiards, but he insists, "hockey."

We had watched other kids playing only for a while each day when he finally got his chance to try. He immediately mimicked their hands and tried to make it happen, never mind he is only four and they are in their teens. When he hit the ball and it moved, he beamed.

"What does snow look like?"

"What does the sign say?"

"Why are the ants here?"

"Where is the mountain lion?"

"Why are those plants caged?"

"Why won't the deer let us pet it?"

Follow up question: "Is that why they don't like hunters?"

Better have answers you can live with because he is listening, considering, contemplating, cataloguing. It will all be back in one form or another.

Then there are the negotiations. "I am going to be a good listener, now."

"I am going to play with this stick here; I'm not collecting."

He's reading now... not necessarily words, but definitely symbols. No parking. No smoking, "Remember smoking is bad for you." Today he told me that if I smoked I would turn into a red and green indian. My mother thought he said alien, but he corrected her, no, not an alien, an indian, a red and green indian, actually (his favorite word).

Lots and lots of questions, lots and lots of walking... and sheer exhaustion. Oh, and goats and flowers and birthday cake and presents and cucumbers and cherries. All in all, a good weekend.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Friday, so that must mean

it's time to listen to StoryCorps!!

This one is on parenting, appreciating our parents and finding the way to accept the past and move on guaranteed to make you cry...

all that and it's super short, I promise (less than three minutes).

Happy Friday, ya'll.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Let Freedom RING

Hooray for the Republican dominated California Supreme Court. There is no legal justification for hate and discrimination.

I can't wait for wedding season this year! It's going to be lovely.

Oh and there is a poll, take it here. When I voted it was at 83% YES, the CA Supreme Court made the correct decision. Let's keep it positive all day.

You can go here to support equality in marriage in California. These folks are organizing parties for this evening around the state, you can find out where and how you can participate -- and donate. There will be more battles ahead.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

something missing? absent?

I have an unwritten script running through my mind and body -- unwritten because there are no real words fully formed -- just a series of feelings and sensations -- most resembling the phantom bug, you know prickly, unnerving, not quite uncomfortable but annoying.

You can't quite put your finger on what it is that is bothering you, but there's something.

It's a restlessness of spirit -- you notice you are not breathing deeply, not focusing on your task. It looks like boredom, but it's really a feeble attempt at distraction -- because no matter what you do that damn phantom fly keeps buzzing by.

I feel as though I have forgotten to do something, but I certainly couldn't remember what it was in any case.

It could be related to loss. Since Monday at about 3 am when I jumped out of bed wondering if my friends were still waiting at the airport and then what kind of fool I might have made of myself, I have been mourning a loss or an absence.

Most days I feel full (and tired); there's a lot of going on in my life. At times I wish I had someone to share it with -- but then I have to think I wish I could trust someone enough to share it with him. But these moments are truly fleeting. I am happy alone; more often I worry I have little patience for the outside world and find myself yearning for alone time and sanctuary.

So what was different about Sunday?

It was a slight and maybe imaginary glimpse into the what could be. A truly simple gesture -- noticing that my turtle knows me; that she tries to communicate with me differently than with anyone else. He was noticing her and I was only an attendant detail, but that was all the more endearing. In a world zooming by at the speed of light, I am a noticer. I take it as a challenge to see people, read their actions and words, get underneath the appearance and hear personality, feel hurt and joy -- all integral to discovering (uncovering) their stories. And, of course, truly appreciating people with all of their quirkiness.

So, what's or who's missing or absent?

Actually, not someone -- there are always people to fill your days/time.

It's more than that... it's the willingness to be seen by others, it's the willingness to reach for someone who hasn't already been labeled as impossible or unavailable.

Breathing a little more deeply now.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Back Yard Buddies

Call me crazy, but I would much rather have this guy in my back yard than the raccoons....
I know, I know... and I would not be able to get out of my house and have no way of escaping should he want to come in, but still, love the bears!!!

Read full story here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cinco de mayo

Sorry we have to talk about this every year, but I really enjoyed this commentary.


You might also like this: Ellen DeGeneres' research into the "holiday." Fairly accurate, particularly the part about spring break and bathing suit styles.

Oh, and please, if you are making margaritas, don't use Patron... use Cuervo.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

New Favorite Song

Dear Mr. President lyrics
(Pink, featuring Indigo Girls)
Loving Pink. Loving her forthrightness. Loving her style.

Dear Mr. President,
Come take a walk with me.
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me.
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why?

Dear Mr. President,
Were you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
How can you say
No child is left behind?
We're not dumb and we're not blind.
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pave the road to hell.

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away?
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don't know nothing 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work

How do you sleep at night?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Dear Mr. President,
You'd never take a walk with me.
Would you?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Inner Teenager and the Grown Woman Fist Fight on the Road to Albuquerque

Or... why you should make a plan and stick to it
Or... why you should take your responsibilities more seriously
Or...learning the hard way
The original title is a little shout out to one of my favorite authors. Get out there and read his books!

For months, I have been getting up close and personally acquainted with my inner teenager. You know her, she's the petulant, sullen one who can very occasionally be a lot of fun but usually she is just lazy and obstinate. She never wants to do anything that 1) she is supposed to do or 2) is irrefutably good for her. She is the one who will sit and watch tv for hours rather than get up to change the channel, for example. More likely, in my case, she refuses to get up and take her contacts out even though her eyes hurt or waits until the sun is about to set before starting the 5 mile run knowing the cemetery will lock the gates at sundown.

You recognize her, surely. Well she/I knew all through my training that I should be stretching more, cross-training in general. But, clearly, battling the inner teenager just to get all my miles in left me without the strength and/or determination to insist on the stretching or the yoga. I would resolve daily to stretch, go to a yoga class or at least use the tape at home and then not follow through.

It is typical of the contradiction. I know what I need to do. I have the motivation and determination for over 16 weeks to get out there and get my runs in, but then I refuse to stretch!? The next day, aches and pains in tow, I resolve again to do what I know I must do, and then I don't.

There's nothing really different about knowing I need to get work done by a particular date, turning down social engagements to do the work, and then obstinately not doing any of it. In the middle of the night, I will get up to do the work I had set aside THE ENTIRE DAY to do. Or not. Then facing the ultimate deadline, pulling an all-nighter. If that isn't the inner-teenager planting IEDs, then I don't know what is.

I hear people complimenting me for my steadfastness on the training or the recent dedication to weight loss, and I have an internal voice ready to call up the teenager's failings.

There are so many incarnations of the duality, that the examples fill my mind, taking over this post. The breadth of this problem is not the issue, really. It's bigger than the ugly realities I face or the mistakes I have to correct as a result. The important piece, of course, is what to do about it. Perhaps that is why it has taken 3 months to actually write this piece. It has been rolling around my head for a while, and was drafted several times.

I have to find a way to overcome the struggle. I know the inner-teenager is trying to tell me something and like any adult, it is my job to try to hear the real message and help resolve the issue. I wonder if this is the final throes of learning how to name what I want and claiming the gifts of the universe. When I act in a self-destructive manner, often it is about withholding success -- like putting a foot out to trip myself. It's pre-punishment, but it's also about making me unworthy for what I want. I have dared to name what I want, but I haven't dared to believe I can actually have it.

I want to learn from the latest escapade. As I said I trained very hard for this race. I made all my runs but one 4-miler up until the 14th week of training; in weeks 12-14 of training, I started seriously limiting my caloric intake in order to lose the weight I had been promising myself to lose since December. All of my motivation, strength and determination were running at full capacity. Any number of outside observers might report I was the most dedicated person they've met. Meanwhile, I knew I was not stretching enough -- not making time for the yoga either at the gym or at home. The doctor would tell you it was only a matter of time and that the shoe episode was a fluke. And he is no doubt accurate in his assessment and diagnosis.

However, the fact is my calves were stretched to the limit and the pain radiated up only one foot and it happened after I wore the new shoes meant for the other foot's slight movement. Two weeks from the race and running one step shoots pain all the way up to my right hip. I spring into action -- doctor's appointment, specialist appointment, concocting back up plans and trying to keep the disapproving voices at bay. They manifested as a tremendous urge to eat man donuts and a deep sadness and disappointment. Using all my resources, I resisted the donuts and faced the sadness and disappointment head on.

Ultimately it took all my physical and emotional energy to determine not to fall to the food/comfort impulse or to give into the voices. I determined to do whatever I could to heal and to be pleased with myself even if I could only participate in the 10K trail walk. Luckily, those emotions came before actually visiting the specialist and his finger wagging: "some people think they can just start running and not stretch." Inside my head, I answered: "I don't like you either." I know all about finger wagging and it never works as a real impetus for doing a better job. I put all my resources to work devising the plan: doctor's orders, extra stretching, a massage and acupuncture. It might work; it might not work, but it couldn't hurt.

I am powerful when I put my mind to it. There's no denying it. The question is, why don't I make better use of that power? I continued my stretching and careful running. The tightness remained, but I determined to start the race and walk whenever the shooting pain arrived, not worrying about bettering my time.

I am happy to report that I had no foot pain. I flew through the first three miles before I even started noticing the miles. I still had a spring in my step at mile 8, singing along to the songs in my ear. Slow, but steady the only walking came between water tables and trash bins. It wasn't my best time, but it was a very acceptable 13 min miles and NO PAIN and a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.

The inner-teenager would have said I don't like running anyway, let's just walk and enjoy the trip!

She didn't even try to get her way. It turns out the adult can win as long as I am willing to put my foot down and actually be the adult!

Preach, Brother

Just in case you still have not heeded my calls for you to watch Bill Moyers, please read on.

Excerpt of Bill's opening on 5/2 (full text here)

Behold the double standard: John McCain sought out the endorsement of John Hagee, the war-mongering Catholic-bashing Texas preacher who said the people of New Orleans got what they deserved for their sins. But no one suggests McCain shares Hagee's delusions, or thinks AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality. Pat Robertson called for the assassination of a foreign head of state and asked God to remove Supreme Court justices, yet he remains a force in the Republican religious right. After 9/11 Jerry Falwell said the attack was God's judgment on America for having been driven out of our schools and the public square, but when McCain goes after the endorsement of the preacher he once condemned as an agent of intolerance, the press gives him a pass.

Jon Stewart recently played a tape from the Nixon White House in which Billy Graham talks in the oval office about how he has friends who are Jewish, but he nows in his heart that they are undermining America. This is crazy; this is wrong -- white preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren't.

Which means it is all about race, isn't it? Wright's offensive opinions and inflammatory appearances are judged differently. He doesn't fire a shot in anger, put a noose around anyone's neck, call for insurrection, or plant a bomb in a church with children in Sunday school. What he does is to speak his mind in a language and style that unsettle some people, and says some things so outlandish and ill-advised that he finally leaves Obama no choice but to end their friendship. We are often exposed to the corroding acid of the politics of personal destruction, but I've never seen anything like this -this wrenching break between pastor and parishioner -before our very eyes. Both men no doubt will carry the grief to their graves. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the non-stop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race. It is the price we are paying for failing to heed the great historian Jacob Burckhardt, who said "beware the terrible simplifiers".

My emphasis, of course; but if you watch it, you will see what Bill was emphasizing and that I am not really exaggerating.

I know that Obama supporters are righteously angry about Reverend Wright's timing and desire to defend himself winning over Obama supporting. I understand. But, this man does not deserve to be reviled. And, in the long run, it will be a benefit to Obama for Wright to have made available the opportunity to be disavowed righteously. It's up to us to be the moral compass, here; stand up to the news media. Demand that they deal with ISSUES and not DRAMA.

And, by the way, I am not a believer, but I would go to Rev. Wright's church. He hasn't said anything that has offended me.

And, Bill, as always, YOU ROCK!

Friday, May 02, 2008

May Day many connotations here.

1) international day of labor -- again, the meanings fly by like moths trying to commit suicide against your windshield. This labor, this work, was to get a report finished, check things off the to do list, figure out how to get my achilles tendon to behave, get my eyes checked, wash clothes, pick up the best gift ever for a dog's going away party, HAVE FUN, pack, wash dishes....get the turtle to eat some fish. Those are the pieces of the do list that actually got done or at least attempted. In the end, what did I birth today? Not sure, check back with me later.

2) international distress signal -- ahh, yes. Diligently train for 16 weeks. Notice that cross training and yoga would be a great idea and super helpful. Don't find time for that. Take vitamins, make all the miles if not the runs, practice in altitude, increase speed, lose weight. Check, check, check. Oops, forgot to check the gas tank, ran out. Not really, but injured achilles tendon two weeks before the race?!

Two doctor visits, massage, much ibuprofen, ice (and if you know me, you know how hard that is for me to pull off), acupuncture and many stretches later...still not clear is I will be able to run on Saturday. Only time will tell...

On the other hand, there is another run I can do at the end of the month.

It will still be a lovely trip.

There is a fantastic resort with a massage already scheduled waiting for me on the other side of the race, whether I run, walk or just switch over to the 10K trail walk.

Oh, and officially 12 lbs lighter on Monday... no telling where I am today. Speaking of today, it was my Friday -- ya'll enjoy your Friday and your weekend.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Support Your Local Independent Book Store

ala local gunfighter...

Dutton's was never my local independent, but it sounds just like the kind of bookstore you want in your neighborhood.

So, get out there and support your local bookstore. It may cost a few more pennies, and be a little less convenient, to go out to the independent to buy your books, but in the long run, WE NEED THESE INDEPENDENTS a place to hang out, so that we don't get all the best sellers shoved down our throats, etc.

I have a list of books to buy, and I am heading out to Cody's Books or Waldenpond to get them!