Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quote Thursday

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote, 
“Death is not 
the biggest fear 
we have; 
our biggest fear 
is taking the risk 
to be alive -- 
the risk 
to be alive 
and express 
what we really are.” 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NRU - mish mash

In another life, my dissertation project would have been talking with the homeless... not surveys as this story suggests, but really getting their stories, including hanging out where they do and seeing what their lives are like.  But that would have been a great project when I was 23... alas.  Glad to see someone is talking to these folks instead of relying on the talking heads, even well-meaning ones.

I sometimes cringe when I find myself singing along to Katie Perry ... I don't know if it is that she is so appealing to tweens, or that she has made such ugly choices in very public romantic relationships, but there it is.  So, I was quite surprised to hear this interview with her on NPR... turns out she may not be that cringe-worthy.  First of all, she is from the 805, I didn't know that.  I guess I wouldn't mind having a drink with her and hearing out on her views on the world.  See what you think.

I could write a whole book on the issue of bullying... and I take issue with some of the ways the issue is portrayed in this article.  But, I guess I am glad that someone is talking about it.  I am not sure that *watching* kids online is the answer to bullying.  I am not sure what is ... but I have a gut feeling that it is more interactive on a human level, more about creating relationships, infusing value in life and fomenting open communication and respect.   I don't see how monitoring will do any of those things.

**LATE ENTRY:  I heard this piece this morning and love the moms and kids who talk about not necessarily limiting their children's use of technology but teach them how to deal with the conflicts that may arise.  Love it.

I enjoyed this story -- it was about the difficulty of communicating when your body is not cooperating.  But it was about the poet Ntozake Shange.  It got me thinking, again, that in reality one awesome work is enough ... we ought to figure out how to pay folks who write one work of art so that they can live off of it ... rather than demanding more brilliance from them.  It's like a shooting star, it only has to be breathtaking once.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Resting Place

On October 20th, we hiked up this mountain to find my sister's resting place.  It turns out that peak she loved so much is the highest point of the Santa Monica Mountains.

It has always just been Old Boney to us.

Though my uncle told me that the Boy Scouts named it Alan's Peak, the park service calls it Sandstone Peak.

As we climbed up away from the parking lot, we looked back.

From where we were, we could see the road winding down towards my uncles' ranches and the Pacific Ocean.

In the distance, among the clouds is the ocean, and the islands.
About half way up the 1.5 mile trek to the top of the peak, we found a flat area. 

From there, we could look down on either side ... one points towards the ocean (and Ventura County), the other side points towards the valley (and Los Angeles County).

We decided it was the perfect place scatter Chila's ashes.

We found a rock under the larger outcropping.

It is far enough off the trail that it probably won't be trampled.

It is close enough that we can go and visit without having to scale the entire mountain.

We held hands in a circle around the ashes and cried and prayed.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done to let my sister go.

 I thought nothing would be harder than watching my brother's coffin placed in the ground.

This was infinitely harder.

Veronica cued up my sister and brother-in-law's song, and Kevin went up to the rock.

I followed far enough in to place the flowers Angelique had brought.

While Kevin scattered the ashes, I chiseled pieces of the rock for everyone to take back.

I guess I need to start training since hiking up this mountain will be the only way to visit my sister.

Friday, October 25, 2013

NRU - mish mash

This is a heart-breaking yet fascinating piece on a man who returns to Alcatraz fifty years after having been an inmate there. His reflections span the time there, his life since and whether or not he'd go back and do things differently if he had the chance.  The park service let him stay the night ... with the reporter.  This is the kind of story we need NPR for ... who else would do this?

More heart break, I am afraid, though there are other feelings to attach to this piece about a father honoring his son and the grief at his loss by trying to walk across the country.  I can imagine the relief that comes from your outsides feeling like your insides ... with the aches and pains and blisters of the long walk.  It seems like gut wrenching grief should come with physical manifestations, so that others can see your pain as plainly as you feel it.  I am beginning to understand the Jewish tradition of wearing the torn cloth.

I share this family's wish for something to be done without monetary award ... I love that they were able to make a deal that honors their father's loss and salves their souls a little.

I love this effort by the bikers to make their own reputation rather than to have one thrust upon them by others.  It is also a fitting group to help abused children -- tough on the outside, human on the inside.

I love ghost stories, here is one in my hometown's backyard.

I respect the people of Newtown for doing their best to keep the school razing private and as far out of the media and crazies reach as possible.  In a world where I am sure they find very little under their control, this is something they can do, for themselves and the children.  May they find peace.

Looking forward to this fall season of movies, and hoping I will have some time to go see some... here's one I am looking forward to even though it seems it will be challenging to watch.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quote Thursday ... courtesy of Daily Affirmations


The cure 
for anything 
is salt water
or the sea. 

Isak Dinesen

Looking forward to getting to go home to be by the sea. In the meantime, trying to ground in the sweat and allow the tears. 

 [Photos from my train ride along the California Coast, 2010]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And the sky did not fall

As I sat on the plane, these thoughts raced through my head about the weekend.  

Truth telling with people who know it's okay not to be okay.

Lots of hugs and kisses.

Consoling Veronica about petunia.

Beauty of the mountain.
Our special place.

My broken heart. 
The ache in the center of my body.
Restocking the kitchen. Cleaning out the unhealthy choices. 
Organizing support for my parents. 
Outing my mom to her doctor. 
Setting doctor appointments. 

Achy and sore muscles. 
Splitting headaches.


Bad guy. 
Good daughter. 

Asking for help is a family stumbling block. 

Laying bare your soul to light the way for others.

Running for the train.

Dad celebratory coffee. 
Dad & mom celebratory kiss.

The relief, tension and fear of going back to ABQ.

Monday, October 21, 2013

NRU - silver linings

I decided that I needed to start lighting my own torches at the end of the tunnel.

Here is one that I think is almost radiating golden is about a guy in New York who heads out each day to take portraits of folks, and then asks them a couple of questions before posting his "mini story" online.  It's called Humans of New York.  His work has garnered him a book deal and spawned others to take photos in their cities.  Lovely...

I haven't had time to go through my folder of DailyOm gems to post them here, but there are two that I think deserve to be shared in the silver lining edition, even if they aren't news.

As is often the case, the DailyOM is reading my mind.  This piece is about constructing a surrender box.  It is a little like having the Guatemalan worry dolls under your pillow or the penas that they burn in Zozobra.  I am making mine right away.

When you are in the middle of the kind of uncertainty I feel in my life right now, concrete steps to take to move forward are very necessary and super useful.  So, once again, the DailyOM, sensing my need, sent me this piece on staying conscious with ten concrete steps.  One foot in front of the other ... that is the silver lining: this too shall pass.

I decided to catch up on StoryCorps -- it is ripe for silver lining picking.  This story made me cry -- I think I heard it when it came out, but I needed to hear it again.  I needed to hear that families can stick together when times are tough, and that things can get better.  This is another great one I heard some time back about helping others. I think NPR did a story about this guy wandering around looking for people in need.

It may seem morose to include an obituary in the silver linings editions, but I think once you read it, you'll agree.  May Sister Antonia Brenner rest in peace, she has already toiled for so long.

Heartbreaking and beautiful... this story of a bride and her cancer-stricken parents walking down the aisle together.  May they all be blessed for as long as possible with life. I think this is the perfect ending to this collection, really more gold trimmed than silver lined.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Saying Goodbye

Me & Chila on the Alaska Cruise, 2008

Greg, me & Chila, circa 1971
Tonight, I will get on a plane to take my parents home. 

We need to leave today because this weekend, my brother-in-law has planned to have a celebration of my sister's life and to scatter her ashes.

The family, Easter 1972

I wish I could explain the depth of the pain it causes me to write those words.
Sisters on D Street, circa 1973

I can barely keep from crying when I have to say what I have been through in the past 13 months.

This month's 19 will be hard... there isn't any 19 that isn't hard, last month was one year since we lost my brother.

But, this is somehow more painful.

It might just be my inner-teenager trying to protect me, but I have resisted saying goodbye to my sister.

The family, October 2009
When we were ordered to say goodbye to her in the hospital room, I just wanted to scream, "I'm not ready!"
You can't force someone to say goodbye, can you?

Sisters, May 2010
I wanted to wait for a miracle.

I wanted us to join hands in a circle around my sister and not give up.

I wanted a miracle.

I knew that was the only way that she could come back to us.
The Family, July 2, 1994
 When we had the memorial for her, I think I was still in shock... and busy.

Planning, worrying, making sure everyone was okay and had what they needed.

I didn't have time to feel or process.

And, I didn't feel safe.

I don't know if I will find a safe space to mourn my sister this weekend.

The past few weeks have been so full of stress and anxiety.

I barely started breathing again yesterday, and now this...

The Fab Five, October 2009
We will all gather at the place we love so much.

The site of so many parties, weddings, and horseshoe playing.

We will put up a plaque to my sister in this place.

And then we will hike to the top of the mountain to let her go.

If only letting go were that easy.

Pray for us.

It seems unbearable to me right now.

Rest in peace, Chila.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Poetry Thursday, on invisibility

Should his heart break 
and the grief pour out, 
it would flow over 
the whole earth, 
it seems, 
and yet, 
no one sees it.
~ Anton Chekhov

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

no time to write ... here

I am slogging through my exam rewrites ... slowly, but, hopefully, steadily.

I saw this on a break, and thought I would share it.  Hoping you were celebrating contact for the good aspects -- and sending peaceful thoughts to those who through contact found only death, violence and savagery. 

There are two sides to every coin, and sometimes we need the less deplorable side to shine.

So, thanks to contact the world has tomatoes and llamas and pow wows and many other things... it's a little bit of a silver lining.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NRU, a little outrage is necessary

I continue to be shocked by what we allow to happen in our society -- and call it justice.  Rest in Peace, Mr. Wallace.

Sadly, when you want to be a little outraged, there is no shortage of stories to feed the need.  This one is egregious in many ways: 1) it is such a clear demonstration of the lack of respect people in Mexico have for the indigenous -- in that not to be outdone by other nations way; 2) it is funny that any one in this country could be so outraged given that it spends so much time and effort demonizing the indigenous people who come here from Mexico to do our dirty work (I know that they don't call them indigenous but their ignorance about the ethnicity of many workers from Mexico does not soften their words); and 3) once again, women and children get the short end of the stick. You see, so much outrage for one little story.

We were still raw from my sister's hospital experience when I had to take my mom to the emergency room almost two weeks ago.  We were lucky to be blessed with very professional and competent nurses and doctors. However, even in that atmosphere of competence, it was clear that they all had so many things to keep in mind.  Things could go awry -- patients could get the wrong medicine, food, treatment, unless everyone was on top of their games -- including the patient and patient family. I know it is a luxury of sorts, but, please don't leave your loved ones in the hospital alone.  This story demonstrates with fatal consequences that our loved ones need us with them in the hospital.  I have no doubt that the hospital staff is sorry and horrified, but the patient is dead.  There are jobs where there are no take backs, and medicine is one of them.  Only people who are willing to give 110% should be in the profession.

I am not the only one feeling like a little outrage is necessary ... though I am not sure I can muster outrage for the lost adulthood of America or the imposter service dogs, I see the point of these authors ... more importantly, I understand the need to vent a little.  Though these stories do remind me a little too much of Andie MacDowell's character in Sex, Lies, and Videotape malenting over the garbage mounds in the ocean.

[As a side note, I think I learned to hate and avoid Andie MacDowell on the basis of her annoying character in that movie ... I rooted for her skanky sister throughout, she was more appealing.  Tells you something about the sympathy level the characters evoked.  Good movie though.]

It's hard to know where to start with the outrage for this story about adoptive parents of international children putting kids up on a listserv when the parents find they can no longer handle those kids.  In essence, this report is talking about another way children are sold into slavery and the sex trade.  I know it was not those adoptive parents' objective, but it is an unforeseen byproduct.  Sadly, the folks in this interview are unwilling to go out on that limb.  I wonder, if these folks had birthed children that they couldn't handle as teenagers, would they have dropped them off with sexual predators in a trailer park?  The outrage need not end with the irresponsible adults adopting children and then attempting to give them back.  Adoption over age 4 is hard for anyone from anywhere.  With all the money that private, international adoption agencies collect from prospective parents, those who often are unwilling to go through the background searches that domestic adoptive parents do, you would think those companies could afford to train the parents or offer other after care support.  How about once you have allowed a child into the country, and presumably sanctioned the adoption in some legal way, how is it the government has no record of these children? And no responsibility?

On the silver lining side of outrage, this piece details how some states moved on gun control after the Newtown shootings.  It may not all work out, but if enough states in the country can maintain the outrage, perhaps we could finally convince our federal government to make some substantive changes.  Perhaps we could start to think about more trainings about spotting mental illness and come up with some helpful ways to intervene.  One can always hope.

Friday, October 11, 2013

perspective, part 47

Some days there don't seem to be any lights at the end of the tunnel... only the cold, muddy earth beneath my feet, slowing my progress.  I wonder what else could be around the corner, waiting to pounce.

I try to imagine what my brother and sister would say.  They would tell me life is too short.

I know that.

I want to know what to do ... which way to turn, how to get out of this mess without losing myself and still moving forward with my own goals and dreams.

But, truthfully, the only dream I have right at this moment, is a good night's sleep and an empty to do list.


I leave the windows down in my car just a crack so the air can circulate ... the other day, my mom came in and said to me, "Chila's in your car." I am not sure what the look on my face said to her. She continued, "there's a white butterfly in your car."  Her face was alight with the hope and belief that what she said was true.  All I could feel was an ache in the center of my body.

For the past two weeks, I have felt like someone was vacuuming out my soul ... as if someone had stuck a hose into the chest cavity.  It an odd ache ... that feeling I can only associate with heartache.  Or whatever is worse than heartache... something like the space where a heart used to be, empty, aching and unable to heal.

I keep getting out of bed and standing upright and trying to move forward when all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry.  I want to be anywhere but here, to run away to where none of this is true, to be safe somewhere from whatever is going to happen next.

But, I am here, and my parents are here, and my rewrites are due in two weeks, and I am exhausted and feel like I have no more to give.  And I will keep on giving and hope it doesn't kill me, too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Poetry Thursday, life right now

It's so curious: 
one can resist tears 
and 'behave' very well 
in the hardest hours of grief. 
But then someone makes 
you a friendly sign 
behind a window, 
or one notices that a flower 
that was in bud only yesterday 
has suddenly blossomed, 
or a letter slips 
from a drawer... 
and everything collapses. 

This is exactly what it feels like lately...  it is reminiscent of those damned coffee commercials that would make you cry for no good reason.

Monday, October 07, 2013

NRU - on the short side

These folks are walking a dangerous walk -- it certainly is laudable that they do more than just pray for these women.  May they be safe and free from harm -- and continue to believe in the ability to change, to reclaim life.

Turns out flexibility is not only useful but necessary in many cases -- including when deciding who the parents are ... and how many there should be in any given child's life.  Glad California figured this out ... hope some other states will as well.

Wow... I love mountain lions and it pains me any time one has to be harmed because we have encroached on their habitat ... love that this one is making a living in Griffith Park without endangering itself or the human visitors.  Check P-22 out ... he is gorgeous!

This story never ceases to be heartbreaking. I am glad that the film maker ultimately was able to understand the pain of both boys.

Usually the long stories with musicians on the weekend Morning Editions bore me ... not so this week. I enjoyed listening to these sisters talk about their music, their families and their lives.

Friday, October 04, 2013


 When my mom, sister and I were in Italy last summer, we seemed to love to take photos like this...
 down a street...through a door, around a corner.
 Setting up some through the ... fill in the blank ... pictures.

 Now I am wishing that it would be as easy as aiming a camera...
 setting up a shot ...
 manipulating the angles...
 in order to get some perspective.
 Sleeping might help.
 Maybe sleep will come tonight and tomorrow...
 the way will seem clearer ...
 more manageable ...
 or not.
 Send me good thoughts ...
 of straight lines and ample walkways...
 and perspective.
 I need a light at the end of my tunnel right now.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Poetry Thursday ... actually, quote Thursday

The last place 
we tend to look 
for healing 
is within 
~ Wayne Muller

Crazy fungus that looked like pooh, in Alaska

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

breaking points

I was talking to someone recently, and I said, I don't think I can take one more thing.

Well, it feels like I have lived through a shit storm of one more things over the past few weeks.

Each time I weathered the storm, I thought, well, maybe I am stronger than I think.

And then I ended up in the hospital with my mom, and the camel's back really needed shoring up.

When my mom started taking off all her jewelry so I could take it home, and she got into the hospital bed, she suddenly looked like a small woman I barely recognized.  Luckily, by the next afternoon when she talked them into letting her out, she jumped out of the bed, with the spring in her step I am used to seeing.

I don't think I have ever felt so close to a nervous breakdown as I did over the past three days.
Sign on GG Bridge
But, I didn't break down ... perhaps I should have.

I just kept going.  I took care of my mom and my dad and got my work for money done, for two jobs.  I didn't get to my own work, not surprisingly. 

I am just hoping to not to get sick and therefore even farther behind than I already am.  But, honestly, I am also feeling like I just need to sit down, bury my head in my hands and cry until I can't anymore.

I am almost convinced that it would make me feel better -- almost -- the other part of me is convinced that there will never be an end. 

Mom and Dad

I understand that my parents are getting on in age -- that they have had long, full lives -- but I think my nieces and nephews really need them to be here -- and I need to be home so I can take care of them -- even when they work my very last nerve.

I have learned that when it rains, it definitely pours; that there is no way to stop the deluge; that we have no control -- no control over any of this.

My parents teach me strength and frailty at the same time right now -- I find myself begging the spirit and universe to give me one more day with my parents -- to give them a healthy life -- to help me convince them to make healthy choices.

And, I am learning how far my back will bend ... maybe from this, I will also learn when it is okay to let the twigs snap.  It might be we need to prune the twigs off in order to get some regeneration.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Today would have been their 30th wedding anniversary.  My heart breaks over and over again.