Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Plans Change

Plans change and planes break down.

As I rounded the corner on the freeway to the Oakland airport, I got a text from Southwest that my plane was going to be delayed by nearly an hour.

This was a sign ... it should have said, don't bother, just go back to J's house.

I had carefully planned the trip home so that I could catch the last metrolink from Burbank to home.

My one fallback was that there is one more Amtrak that passes that way before 8pm.

So, a delay of more than an hour meant no way to get home from the airport without potentially disturbing the apple cart of my life.

I was also making this trip home quickly so I could be home in time to take my nephew to grief group and to my own therapy.

When Southwest shows more than a fifteen minute delay, non full fare folks can change their flight with no penalty. 

Apparently it is a little known rule -- chalk it up to the "kind" of folks who travel Southwest versus those that go with the airlines that will give you a seat assignment -- they have no 15 minute rule, you just suck it up.

So, whenever there is a delay it is usually posted at 15 minutes -- and then updated every fifteen minutes to another ... just to look like they are not corporate scum while they might be after all.  Whatever the game is ... what I decided a while ago was that if they actually told you that the delay was long ... nearly an hour, say, then the best best was that the flight would actually be cancelled.

I will play it out for you, lest you disbelieve as many are wont to do (the ladies working the gate looked at my aghast when I told them my reasoning ... but who was right?!)

If you know the 15 minute rule and you see a 45 minute delay, you should immediately rebook as is your right -- and so seldom actually given to you!  So if everyone or almost everyone rebooks then the manifest is nearly empty and the flight is cancelled -- due to low load not mechanical difficulty, or whatever -- cancelled does not go on the books in the same way delayed does for those who check those statistics!

So, whether or not the mechanical difficulty, in this case, was really going to knock the flight out of commission or not, the flight would be cancelled if everyone followed the unspoken guidelines.

No one did ... and we watched the plane mechanics scratch their heads, invite others over to look at it, etc... for an hour and a half ... by then I had already decided to just delay for a day.

It turns out the world will keep spinning without me at home ... huzzah... at least they all claimed it would.

And I got a lovely dinner and more time with my friends last night and this morning ...

Plans change, planes breakdown, and wonderful things happen.

Monday, September 29, 2014


I was originally going to title this SAFETY but I am not sure that it is the best descriptor for how I am feeling.

I spent the weekend with a lovely three-year-old who is full of life, wonder, and hope.  She processes her raw emotions for the most part before they spill out, though, at times, they slip out in their messiness.

I was amazed by her ability to soothe, express and protect herself.  She made up songs to help her understand what was going on around her.  She talked through her thoughts, but they were already packaged into her way of making sense of the world. 

Still, one of her coping mechanisms was to share her thoughts.

I noted her desire to be self-sufficient.  It was a little like looking in the mirror.  I felt a twinge of hypocrisy as I explained to her that sometimes it was okay to ask for help rather than struggle. 

We examined how it might heighten the anxiety to try to resolve a challenge by ourselves when we could just ask for help.  By the end of the weekend, she was not so reticent about telling me what I could do to help – or when she needed me to keep her company.

As she watched me pack, her little eyes darted back and forth from her things to my things.  She acknowledged that now she had become so comfortable with my presence, she was going to miss me.

My visceral response to her was such that whenever I put her for a nap or to sleep, I dissolved into tears. 

My first inclination was to understand the reaction as safety.  Far enough from home, I could do more than just look at my emotions, I could feel them.  The frustration, the helplessness, the fear and the sadness spilled out over and over again.

I was happy to be alone, tied to the house as she slept peacefully.

I can't say that I processed any of those just emotions.

I was happy, so to speak, to just release.  Instead of thorns pricking me whenever I came near, the feelings became a salty river washing out and away from me.

Now as I come to the close of that time with Princess A., I realize that it was not just "safety" that allowed the feelings to emerge.

I have been feeling so stretched that any movement would tear me from my moorings.  I wondered if I was even still grounded to anything at all.

My body, even post massage, testifies to the taut, stiff, tense sensations.

I need to stretch and I can't at home.

The therapist has been pushing me to think about what I need and how I can get it.

My friends, too, have been suggesting I move or remove myself from the tension.  I become paralyzed, deer in the headlights, in the midst of the chaos of home when it comes to my own needs/safety.  I move into fix-it-mode for everyone else.  They sense my can do it spirit and ask for more.  I don't suggest I need replenishment and neither do they.

This is not a long term solution … neither are vacations.  Real life needs to be more balanced.

I hope that realization will help move me to resolution.  We'll see…

Friday, September 26, 2014

My weekend companion

As luck would have it, some friends went to a wedding this weekend ... but they left their lovely daughter with me.

We are having fun ... we went out to dinner. And she created some artistic masterpieces.

We picked flowers.

Actually, we picked only one flower because, as she explained, we don't want to disturb the bumble bees.  After all, they are busy making honey for us.  Those bees need those flowers.

They do not like to be disturbed.

I wholeheartedly agree with those sentiments.

Then we might need to wear said flower in our hair -- or maybe just her hair.

Later, that flower, and the artistic masterpieces, turned into gifts for Julie.  At Julie's house, we made cookies and she frosted cupcakes. 

Wow, so much sugar, and still she was the perfect helper, cleaning up with any paper towel she could find.

Last time I was here, she was shy. 

But she told me boldly that she is not shy right now.  Of course, she is reserving the right to be shy again, someday. 

She is a smart cookie.

At the restaurant, and at Julie's house, there was also ballet dancing. 

And balance beam walking. 

And tapping.

And, yes, this is the unit I am rocking on this trip north.  I am not shy -- neither are her parents, obviously.  We like to be noticed.  I even wore a matching shirt yesterday as I arrived ... one must always try to match a showy car at least once in a while lest it get too complacent in its awesomeness.

What a treat for me ... sometimes dark chocolate pretzels are just what I need to balance out all the crazy things going on in my life right now.  Sometimes, pink-colored bubble gum is a welcome departure from the stinging salty with the bittersweet.

Thanks to my friends for sharing their little bundle of joy with me... oh the stories we'll tell...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quote Thursday, Rumi

Run from what's comfortable.
Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Catch Up, Part 3

It was a whirlwind trip to New Mexico -- with no less than three different friends opening their homes to me ...

Mostly I parked myself at the resource center, trying to get some work done and schedule meetings.

It was most definitely cart/horse chaos -- but it mostly worked out the way I had hoped.

Along the way, I remembered to take a few photos, but not often enough to actually document the trip.

I had a lovely and uneventful overnight train ride to Albuquerque.  Maria, my lovely seatmate, was gregarious and entertaining ... and she also left me alone to get some work done.  Every thing you could want in a travel companion.  In fact, I got her name and number because she said she was looking for someone to travel with her.  I immediately thought of my mother and her desire to go places and my father's refusal to do so.  Maria is perfect in many ways as a travel companion for my mom, not the least of which is that she works at JCPenney ... aka my mom's store.

I didn't snap any pictures, but the remnants of the full harvest moon gave us a beautiful show as we exited California.

The next morning, I woke (if I was actually sleeping is up in the air) to the most gorgeous sunrise.  Orange seemed to explode from the horizon giving the Arizona landscape the most exquisite back lighting.  I thought about taking out my phone to snap a picture, but decided to just enjoy it in my half-waking, half-sleeping state.

Usually, I like to try to wake up to see La Posada for the Winslow, AZ stop.  But I didn't have the window.

The familiar territory between Gallup and Albuquerque carried a magical twist: WATER!  As we passed through the Grants area, it was as if we were suddenly traveling through marshland complete with ducks and egrets or herons.  I was too taken with this twist to the landscape, I didn't bother to try to capture it with anything other than my mind. 

We had a sweet and friendly group of people in our car mostly headed to Albuquerque. There was one man who was headed all the way to Chicago (he helped Maria carry her luggage off the train) who got off with us to see Albuquerque for a bit.  The train was twenty minutes early and usually stops for some sprucing up for another twenty.

One of the cutest sights at the train station, though, was this gorgeous toddler who had been quiet as a mouse in the train.  Now she wanted to give everyone hugs.  She made the rounds, even stopping to embrace a post that looked lonely.  It was a loving re-entry to Albuquerque.

I met Enrique and his aunt waiting for the train to Santa Fe on Friday evening.  He let me know from the beginning that he was not going to talk to strangers, whether his aunt encouraged him or not.

In his four short years, he has already developed an aversion for the snapping of photos.  Though whenever I offered to show him pictures, he was happy to see them.

Saturday afternoon, my friends invited me to their daughter's school picnic.
It was at a lovely park in the middle of a housing development on the southern end of Santa Fe.  It had park area with grass and room to put out food under a little structure.  But the other side, gravel, sidewalk and art was the real prize. Between the two parks was a little stand of apple trees and sunflowers. 

I was taken by these showy sunflowers.  I almost caught a busy bee visiting this very flower, but I was not quick enough with the shot.  The bee had way too many beautiful flowers to visit.   Thanks to all the monsoons New Mexico is celebrating the summer with green and blooms as if it were still spring.

There was a wide range of sculpted art in the small area.
I loved all the art, but I thought that the flowers stole the show.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Catch Up, Part 2

One day sometime in the past two weeks, I saw these clouds in the sky. I travel what used to be the farm roads in order to avoid the freeway between towns.  They are not lonely, farm roads anymore, but we still refer to them as the back way. 

I guess that there are transplants that don't know how to get from one town to another without using the freeway.  But these roads are usually full of cars, but for some reason seem easier to travel.

I might just be that they provide these scenes and the right amount of stops to take photos like these.
Another day, this backpack caught my eye.  I was mostly interested in the fact that the person wearing it looked to be at least 18-years-old. 

I snapped the picture to send it to my niece, via my sister-in-law, who is crazy about Frozen. 

I was tickled, though, that love of Frozen is not unique to the three-year-old set.  Though I did consider whether or not to have a conversation with this woman about which of the sisters was a better role model for young women/girls.  I have to admit sometimes I think Christoff is the most level headed of the bunch.

Finally, my nephew and I went to explore Cemetery Park.  He has been asking me questions about the park for months.  So, I thought the best thing to do was just to go there and see if there were any signs.

We read head stones, didn't figure out the back story of the park, but enjoyed our time there.

For a while, my nephew tried out all of the trees to see which was most climbable.

My nephew was captivated by the dogs that seemed to come out of the woodwork as the sun started to go down.  Turns out cemetery park is really dog park in the late afternoon/early evening.

This four month old german shepard puppy was his favorite.  Blaze obliged by being adorable when lil K. decided to take his picture.

The Lady & The Tramp looking dog decided I looked like safe harbor, so he/she (?!) plopped next to me on the park bench when I took a rest.  Growling at anyone that came near, everyone thought it was my dog and peppered me with questions.  Nope ...not mine, just another animal that felt safe in my ambit.

Friday, September 19, 2014

2 years

I am pretending this is any other day, sometimes successfully.  But my heart hurts.

I was with my sister-in-law the other day and she said to me, "He was special."

No doubt.

My brother was one of a kind. 

There is not a minute of the day when I don't miss him.

Most days, I hide my own grief inside the pain I feel for my niece and nephew and my sister-in-law for not getting to be by his side as long as I did.

But, today, I hurt just for me. 

My brother was the one that made everything okay for me when it felt the world was ending.

He had that special ability to make everyone feel like he/she was the most special person in the world.  He shined the light on all that was good - and knew how to put you in your place when necessary, too.

He was the best big brother -- always had your back and, at the same time, urged you forward into new and exciting adventures.  I always knew he was on my side even when I was half way around the world from him.

As I have had to step into the role of oldest, I have come to appreciate the strains and pressures he was hiding under the trademark smile and twinkle in the eye.

You would never have thought that life was anything but easy for him -- and almost never was.

I hope you are getting the rest you needed, Greg, but we miss you so very much.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Quote Thursday

The deep pain that is felt 
at the death of every friendly soul 
arises from the feeling 
that there is in every individual 
something which is inexpressible, 
peculiar to him alone, 
and is, therefore, 
absolutely and irretrievably lost.  
~Arthur Schopenhauer

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

um, yeah ... just crazy

So, my parents have put off fumigating the house for so long because they are fearful, and not unrealistically, about the house being broken into during the tenting. 

Though it is not unfounded -- fear should not rule our lives or push us into crazy actions.

Yet, it does.

There are ways to deal with this fear -- you could just rely on the fact that you have home owners insurance in case the worst happens; you can remove irreplaceable items; and you can proactively remove other items, though replaceable, that you don't want to fall into the hands of others.

We did all of those things... yet my parents' fear were not allayed.

So, I spent the night in my car next to the house as the guard.

Yes, I said that ... I did that.

I realized somewhere in between being exhausted and frustrated and stressed that the only armaments I had were my car alarm and teacher voice.

As I explained to a friend last night, my only plan was to keep the car fob near me - if I saw someone doing something illegal, such as breaking into the house, I would hit the panic button and call the police.

Failing that car alarm making any dent in a robber's intentions, all I could do is roll down the window and use my teacher voice to command him/her away from the house.

It is as ridiculous as it sounds.

I can report after night one (yes, I have do it for another night) that I did not have to use either of the two *weapons* in my limited arsenal.

And, sadly what pains me the most about this situation is that my parents neither called me last night or this morning to check in with me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Catch Up...part 1

Technology and spaces with no internet along with the buckets full of work left me with no time to write while away.

But here are some pictures to give you a sense for what caught my eye... and what pictures were conjured as well.

These are the harvest moon on Tuesday night as I drove back from Camarillo (aka grief therapy).

It was so stunning, I pulled over to take pictures ... but all I had was my phone, so this is all I got.

I was headed back to get as much packed both for my trip and in preparation for the fumigation.

Since I am on that tack ... here is what the house looks like wrapped in bumble bee skin.

Finally to round out the California sights ... this is what I saw from the Pacific Coast Highway as I drove home from the airport.

There were these lines of boats on the water, though not lit up, when I left Oxnard on Wednesday morning.  But when I arrived back into LAX it was already quite late, dark and too hot to be coastal southern California in the summer...

As I drove through Santa Monica and then Malibu, I rolled my windows down to get the night air as it gradually cooled while I worked my way north.

The first smell that smacked me in the face was so fishy, I was picturing those whole schools of fish that washed up in Long Beach not too long ago.

The deeper I got into Malibu, approaching the Ventura County line, the smells shifted to the ones that recall all the days and nights spent at my uncle's "ranch."  When I catch a whiff of the fragrant chaparral, I feel and see the canyon where we fished for tadpoles and stalked around the trees, through the brush, pretending that no one could see us or hear us (despite the crunching of the oak leaves underfoot).  I picture Old Boney towering above and now, of course, I think of my sister and her resting place.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Quote Thursday

Suppressed grief suffocates,
it rages within the breast,
and is forced to multiply
its strength.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

hoarders, oh my!

I learned the hard way many years ago to not own much more than you can carry because someday you will have to give it up.

The hardest for me to part with were the books. 

I still ache for the photo albums that I could not retrieve, but I guess I imagine that someday I can still get them back -- as unrealistic as that thought it.

For the past few days, I have been preparing my parents' home for fumigation ... it is does not require them to actually give up anything.  It is just that I have to pack up all the things that might be ingested.

One would think that though tedious, this should not be that onerous.

We have already had to ask for more than the standard number of bags than is usually given.

And we are going to ask for more...

And I have thrown away many, many things that carried "best if used by" years that number over 5 years go...

I threatened my mother to not pick through the trash as I assured her that everything I threw out is truly garbage.

I wonder if I will ever be able to talk them into not buying warehouse size things for themselves -- especially since they always *remember* what they like and buy it every time whether or not they have checked to see if they already have some... and then open each without finishing any -- and without being able to bring themselves to throw any out.

How many jars of KARO SYRUP can two old folks possibly need?  I guess as many as the number of cartons of ground cloves -- because those are the numbers we are working on ...

I am taking a break from the hoarders to venture back to NM for a few days.

I may or may not have the energy to blog. 

That is all...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

On Strength

We have all heard that old adage, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  And I am sure that many have either agreed wholeheartedly or disagreed so vehemently that punching the person delivering the nugget was the only appropriate response.

I am not in the mood to punch.

Actually, I disavow violence for the most part.

But, I disagree with the adage.

That is not to say that I don't believe in it as I am wont to do with many ideas, concepts and items (often to the chagrin of very concrete people who tell me, what do you mean you don't believe in umbrellas?  They are right here, umbrellas!)

I am sure that there are people for whom this adage is true, or that they believe it to be true.

As I have been considering the notions of strength, weakness and vulnerability (again), the "truth" of this statement for me has evolved.

What doesn't kills us certainly touches us, shapes us, moves us off course or onto another course.  It has an impact.

However for me, the outcome doesn't feel like "stronger."

It feels like that tenderness of a bruise.  It isn't the sting of the original injury.  It is more of a reminder of the hurting. 

You know that you have been through this rough road and it caused you pain.

This sense memory could be construed as a lesson, but I am not sure that what it teaches you is to be stronger.

I worry that my take away is to be wary.

My learning around this is acknowledging that hard times come and then they go.  It doesn't mean that I am stronger afterwards.  It also does not mean that I am broken by the troubles.

It is just that there are challenging situations, and I exist through them.  

I guess learning to expect that there will be pain could be understood as strength of a sort.  But what I feel more strongly is the normalization of the existence of those hard times -- they will come and they will go and I will not control them: I do not cause them to come or go.  And I am still right here whether they are.

This is getting more convoluted instead of more clear, so I will stop.  But these are the thoughts that occupy my time while I should be writing.

Monday, September 08, 2014

NRU more education, college edition

This is at once an ode to late bloomers and an eloquent example of how it takes more than a dream and dollars to get folks over the finish line.  In fact, the woman profiled here is still making her way through the course.  It is a beautiful read.  May Ms. Warren continue to shine in Technicolor.  Can't wait to hear about her continued success.

This article tackles a complex issue and hits almost every point on why there are still not more low-income students at elite colleges.  I would add to this careful appraisal two other cans of worms:  1) the kind of education that the students receive in their schools (this is different from the issue of how poverty affects the ways in which poor students/families approach the educational system) - we have still not gotten on board giving poor schools the best teachers or expecting all students to perform in ways that will prepare them for college; and 2) beyond the issue of exposure to elite schools, many poor students who are prepared and have been given scholarships still choose to stay close to home and go to the community college.  This last one is huge and continues to be an enigma.  It is not, in these cases, that they do not know that there are other schools out there.  It is not that they cannot afford them.  It is that these students are choosing not to go.  It happens every day ... and it is heartbreaking.  I wish someone would do some qualitative research on that issue.

I cannot let the passing of John Sperling go without notice here -- I have a complicated relationship to this man, his university and the legacy.  I only met John once, but as a friend says, he was akin to her Medici.  It is thanks to him that my friend's son was able to put himself through college.  But I feel that many of the tactics his university has used to get federal funding is unconscionable.  His life, his legacy, is marred by the corporate tactics, and it is a shame that is true because his rags to riches life story is remarkable.  It gets lost in the capitalist dream/nightmare that his success created.  I know John, through my friend, as a strong, caring and imaginative person.  I hope that his story will always include how he climbed out of poverty -- and provided a way for others to do so as well -- and not just the unbridled capitalism that it has come to embody.  Regardless, I wish John peace and his family solace. 

This NRU got pretty heavy and occasionally dark (after that lovely inspirational but still heavy story at the beginning), so this last one is much lighter, almost fun.  It is a photo retrospective of the first year of college for some students in New York.  Two pictures, one from September '13 and one from April '14 and a tiny blurb. Enjoy

Friday, September 05, 2014

NRU, StoryCorps & Youth Radio edition

One of the things that NPR gets so right is interviews and conversations.  The StoryCorps program is one of the highlights of my week even when it make me cry like a baby.  And that happens on a regular basis.  This is sort of the mom/dad and kid edition.

Youth Radio also frequently hits it out of the ballpark.

As a corollary to the men in America series, NPR played this piece on a bi-racial man talking with his white dad about the time the younger man asked his father what it was like to be the white father of a biracial kid.  It kept me in my car and almost made me late for an appointment, tears streaming down my face.  Hope you like it, too.

This in another bi-racial family but this time it is mom and son talking about a heartbreaking tangle the son had with some racist police.

The resilience exhibited in these stories is remarkable.  There is heartbreak and there is physical or emotional pain, but they are telling the stories because they survived.

This mom and daughter open up the world of the homeless in unexpected but telling ways.

If only we knew more about the people we judge, wouldn't there be so much more built-in compassion?  Or am I just way too Pollyanna?  Whichever it is, I am holding on to that hope.

There are many, many wonderful stories on StoryCorps, take a look and listen.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Poetry Thursday, Rumi, again

If you want what visible reality
can give, you're an employee.
If you want the unseen world,
you're not living your truth.
Both wishes are foolish,
but you'll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love's confusing joy.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dark Chocolate Pretzels

I had a family-filled weekend including two large gatherings ... I don't know how many times each of us cried, or at least had eyes filled with tears, independently over the weekend.

Finally, Sunday night, my niece, my mom, nephew and I settled in to watch a movie -- and I suggested we watch The Book Thief.

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow plant

My niece looked at me with apprehension -- is it going to be too sad -- her look screamed.

I told her it was like chocolate pretzels, partly salty and partly sweet.

As the movie progressed, my nephew abandoned us for his video games.   My mom flew the coup to watch a Cantinflas movie.  But my niece and I persevered. 

Sometime near the end of the movie, I amended my description -- adding "dark" to the chocolate to connote the slight bitterness also evoked by the movie.

This also describes our time together -- in so many ways.  But especially as we learn how to get together without my brother and sister.

This time around my younger sister decided to bring out a game. 

We have carefully survived long family gatherings without our usual board games since we lost them.  There is too much of them in all of our memories of playing these games.

But A. ventured into that game - calling out directly my sister's memory.  My niece excused herself for a minute, pretending to go play with the dog, but returned with tears in her eyes.

I know that we all were secretly savoring that bittersweet memory.

I think this is moving forward, but I still think that it is odd that we can't grieve their loss together... it's a process.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

NRU Education Edition

I couldn't bring myself to post this on Labor Day as it had been the traditional end of summer and call to school for children.  But, the day after Labor Day, formerly first day of school, seems appropriate, though many students have already been in school for two or three weeks at this point!  It seems like an unfortunate coincidence that school starts earlier in the summer just as the heating effects of global warming are hitting so many places that have no experience or equipment to deal with overheated children and teachers.  Alas…

I am not sure how to feel about this initiative to bring four year degrees to the community colleges.  That is not to say that I am exactly ambivalent (can anyone be exactly ambivalent or is that inherently an oxymoron?).  I have strong feelings about how our community college system functions – how it was intended to function, how it actually functions, and whether or not these functions are at odds.  I also see the community college as a frequent death blow to the college aspirations of many first in their family college goers.  Whatever the prevailing commentary may say, community college is not for the dabblers or uninitiated to college culture.  It is more like the tar pits where mastodons remain after getting stuck in the muck.  There is the additional nagging concern that putting four-year degrees here is intended to keep those children of color and first-in- right where the other people would like them to be.  Of course none of these issues are addressed in the article. It is just what comes up for me when they so leisurely mention only the intended consequences and supposed intentions of this kind of legislation.

I almost don't know what to say about this article -- the evaluations are in ... and yet they do not reveal the answer to low scores being as a result of teachers.  So, the critics decide the evaluation system must be wrong.  Ok ... as someone who has been evaluated by many principals, I agree that the old way of evaluating produced not very helpful reports.  But theoretically this is the reporting system the powers that be wanted, designed and negotiated with all the teachers except those in New York City.   But it does bring us around to the fact that the governor of California is appealing the ruling on teacher tenure.  This war on teachers is setting up to become another chapter in the war of teaching ... and we all know that war doesn't necessarily bring progress.   With so much attention on teachers, my proposed study is either super timely or utterly irrelevant... we'll see.

There are tons of more articles in the queue ... but no time to read and process just now.