Friday, February 27, 2015

Giving in isn't giving up

This phrase is too true in too many situations, but today it is my message to Oren.

I don't know Oren, as in I have never spoken directly to him or met him in person.  But, I know Oren ... the person who has given so much of himself for his community, and who has enlarged that community by giving so generously around his illness.

I check on his twitter and facebook religiously ... hoping for good news and bracing for bad.  He has been very silent lately.  And I have been worried.

I saw some posts on fb by others this morning ... and my heart sank.  There are so many things I want to do, and none of them will help.  But I thought I could put out here what is in my heart.

Dear Oren,
You have been brave, so brave, even in those moments when you thought you weren't being brave.  Brave looks and acts differently in the many situations we face.  You have exhibited brave by being present, by admitting the pain and fear and bewilderment, by writing those letters to your kids, by believing in the treatments, by accepting the limited successes, by succumbing to the inevitable.  Giving in is not giving up.  There is no way to see all you have been through in any way as giving up.

At a time when I needed to remember to live despite the pain, I turned to your story.  I used the strength and courage and bravery you showed to remind myself to hold on.  I used the vulnerability you recounted to remember to be compassionate with myself when I felt like I was giving up.  I realized that sometimes you have to give in to the pain and the grief in order to get through it -- to whatever is on the other side.

You are and will always be a bright spot in this world -- through your life, your words, your tremendous wife and beautiful children.  You have given us your living legacy.  I cannot begin to thank you enough for sharing your journey with the world.  You put it out there -- fearless, brave, strong, courageous and intensely human.

I wish you peace.  I pray your pain is manageable.  I hope you are surrounded by all the love possible.  I know that there are many of us out here who do not know you that are sending it all your way.

All my best to you and your family, now and always.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Poetry Thursday, for Oren

I am sure I already shared this one, but it jumped out to me again as I think of Oren and his family and all they are going through (read tomorrow's post for more details, or this one)

the wisdom 
lies in 
engaging the life
you have been given
as fully
and courageously
as possible
and not letting go
until you find
the unknown blessing
that is everything.
~R. N. Remen

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


 The news has been full of sea lions in distress.  I got a first hand look a while back, an about 8 month old sea lion, who really looked like just a pup, had pulled itself up on the rocks at the beach.  I had taken my mom (and LUCY) for a walk at low tide to see the tide pools.  And there was this emaciated pup.  When it stretched its little head up to see what we were doing, it looked like a super model, bone structure visible.  There was already a volunteer there keeping track of it.  The volunteer told me that at that point there had been more than 80 rescues and the centers were over capacity.  I asked if that was for the state, and she said it was for the county.  Less than two weeks later, they are already over 100 almost what it was for the whole year (we aren't even at two months!). It is disheartening ... sad and distressing, but more so because folks see these little guys and feel compassion ... but still take plastic bags at the store and throw their trash where it will end up in the ocean.  They still get in their SUVs and crank up the ac.  I'm sorry ... but we are doing this to them.  So, no we can't save them all, one by one, but we can change our habits and stop pretending that we are complicit in climate change.  The volunteer told me very clearly that the problem is the changing tides (read climate change and excess water changing the sea level) that is disrupting the sea lion feeding patterns.  Heartbreaking most of all because it is preventable.  It's not too late to change this ... will we do what needs to be done or just dump on the volunteers for not being able to "rescue" each of these adorable creatures?

Wondering if the Republicans think this is judicial overstep, or if they just think that when the rulings go against them.

American lynching has a wider scope than we generally discuss.  This article is a promo for a book, and it focuses largely on Texas. But there are more comprehensive books that describe the use of lynching not as a way to sentence (mob style) suspected criminals, instead in California lynching was used as another way to take away people's land and especially gold claims.  For those who do not want to review our historical atrocities (see the comments), I wonder if they watch FOX news that does real time lynching of anyone and anything that does not fall into their viewpoint.  History is what it is, we obviously cannot change it.  But if we want a different (better, even) future, then we must learn the lessons of history.  That includes taking responsibility for our actions rather than excusing them.

Early Tuesday morning, my alarm clock radio started giving the news as it does every day.  About six am, the local newsperson announced there was a collision between a truck and the commuter train, and minutes later, I heard the emergency vehicles from all around our home rushing to the site.  All day, I heard updates, read some in the newspaper, and most unfortunately read posts on fb speculating about the driver.  The thing about jumping to conclusions rather than applying compassion is that it diminishes our own humanity.  I think the appropriate response to this kind of tragedy should always start with care and concern for all involved, including the truck driver and the many people responding to the incident.  Of course, my heart breaks for those on the train and their families, waiting to hear that everyone is "ok."  This commuter train is the one that I take into Los Angeles when I can.  At least two times in the past few months I have been on the train when an "incident" caused significant delays.  These incidents were probably suicides - thus they don't get widely reported in the same way that this collision did.  However, I believe at the heart of this matter is the same real pain of grief that those whose depression drives them to jump in front of trains.  Compassion, however simple and small a gesture it may seem, is the appropriate response, unless you can also muster love.  It's what we all need more of ... everyday in every way.

Monday, February 23, 2015

RIP Wil Smith

I woke to the news that this man had passed ... I remember the first time I heard his story on NPR.  What a lovely legacy to leave his daughter.  I am sure, though, today, that her grief may not allow for feeling legacy.  Wishing peace and light to Olivia. 

New Moon Altar

For my new moon ceremony last week I decided to clean my desk and decorate it as an altar.  I used all of the treasures I have been collecting on my beach walks.

The candles and pictures were already there.

I have been collecting the tiny bits of sea glass and small shells in a small glass I pilfered from a local restaurant.  But the other shells and magic rocks were in piles all around my room.

Friday, February 20, 2015

News Round Up, you know...

I meant to post this last week, but somehow I forgot ... super encouraging article about the police chief in Richmond, California.  If you know anything about Richmond, it probably isn't good, so this just might blow you away.  I know Richmond to be a complicated place with a strong sense of community that has taken more than its fair share of the repercussions of troubled economic times.  I am so glad that they are finding ways to use their strengths to combat their weaknesses.

I am truly torn between "say it isn't so" and "best wishes" on hearing that Jon Stewart will walk away from The Daily Show sometime this year.  I truly do wish him and his family the best ... but what a loss for the world to not have him around four days a week, when he isn't on vacation *wink*.  Seriously, though, who else will take the media to task on being divas -- following ridiculous stories down the rabbit hole like it is a bare Kardashian ass...

It would seem that the whole world has gotten Pope Francis' messages wrong, and the archbishops and cardinals, especially those in San Francisco and Oakland, are carrying out the true message ... or these guys are fighting back from the colonies.  Whichever it is, the people losing are those who have been enjoying pretty progressive Catholic education in the Bay Area .. so sad.  

For those who still think that their words and actions of "self-preservation" (read NIMBY) are not sending larger messages to the community at large, here's some proof you are dead wrong.  First you went to war with a church group about their ministry to the homeless, and then the youth listening to you rage over your evening cocktails take to the street with matches and bats.  As this article points out ... the homeless, like it or not, are also citizens of your city.

Not sure what it says about me ... but I used to love to read the long pieces in the NY Times about politics, life, etc... and then I couldn't take the tragedy (and I didn't have the time to read and then be properly outraged).  Recently, I have developed an interest in these pretty emotional pieces.  I opened this one, titled All Parents Are Cowards, not knowing what to expect.  I loved it, but maybe I relate more to this since I became the not-parent to my nieces and nephews (and especially since I have been trying to coax my nephew to try the skateboard someone gave him for Christmas) ... hope you like it, too.

I always think the saying "acknowledgement is the first step" is just another bit of excruciating torture.  First step into what?  Hell.  Whenever I acknowledge something it is always some ugly truth I have been effectively hiding from ... and I am guessing that is exactly what it is meant to refer to.  Here is a piece on just this kind of acknowledgement ... and it seems like it is not only a logical first step -- it is necessary ... to say it aloud and for someone in this man's positions and of his complexion to say it.  Though I am guessing that it will need to be said by many others who look and sound like him, and some that look like him but sound much more reactionary, if we are ever going to find a way to combat the knee-jerk reaction to race.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Quote Thursday

When a man takes an oath ...
he's holding his own self
in his own hands.
Like water.
~Robert Bolt

Dug back into the Daily Affirmations and found this little gem.  Water and sand pic thanks to the low tide beach walk.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

1/2 a donut

Gilbert is charming, especially to strangers and acquaintances -- note he considers all of them friends. When I was growing up, though, I mostly knew Gilbert to be quirky in terms of interpersonal interactions. He is the kind of guy who will actually give the shirt off his back to the stranger on the street, but can't seem to remember his family's birthdays (or his own).

Lest you think I exaggerate, the year I studied abroad, he moved a homeless man, Frank, into my bedroom. My dad picked him up on the road somewhere. My mom nearly moved out. Frank was out of the house before I got home, but my dad still brought him around.  It's one of those charming/outrageous things, I think.  The more a "friend" upsets my mom, the more my father wants to hang out. 

On the flip side, we all learned to cherish a gift or card from dad because it was such an occasion that he remembered. His gifts are always thoughtful if offbeat. I could almost picture my dad picking it out -- giggling as he thought about how it was just the right thing. Given how offbeat the gifts were, then, it was probably okay that we only got them on select birthdays and holidays.  I am not sure he cares if we like his gifts or not -- if the way he treats his own gifts are a guide as he frequently gives them away.

This push pull tendency with my dad extends to much more important situations, such as his health.  Some time ago, he decided that western medicine was not for him.  Since then, his aversion has grown to near paranoia.  He reads health pamphlets, he pays for them, and calls the writers of these pamphlets (that are very thinly veiled sales pitches for the latest THIS WILL CURE EVERYTHING supplement) his doctors.  My doctor says ... and these doctors are against many traditional medicines, like aspirin.

My dad has been fired by several real live doctors for refusing to take medication.  Notably, he did manage to keep his heart moderately healthy until he abruptly stopped walking because his knees hurt. He won't even contemplate any kind of surgical intervention -- instead he uses light therapy (he does it himself -- read it in a book), takes supplements, uses a machine that sends electrical pulses through his body ... and eats donuts.

The donuts are not part of the cure, but they certainly are part of the problem.  And he does all the things, and eats all the things he is told not to ... with more and more vigor the more you tell him not to do it.  He smiles when he tells me that he only ever eats half a donut.  He swears he throws the other half away.  I have had to break it to my dad that as a former teacher that kind of "story" does not work for me in any way.  I counter with "how many halves of donuts did you have?"  He giggles.

Last week we got the final final say on the diabetes (he had been pre-diabetic for years, and then diabetic but not that bad) ... the quack doctor I can't stand put my dad on meds and asked him to at least walk the dog around the corner.

We made a deal, and he broke it promptly.  I yelled, screamed, he yelled back ... no more giggling.

The hard part is that he doesn't hear me when I talk logically, patiently, like the pamphlet.  He only hears what he wants to hear, or says "yes" to whatever I said ... since he wasn't really listening, he had no intention of keeping the agreement.

But when I yell, and make him so angry he accuses me of trying to kill him by asking him to exercise and make healthy food choices ... somehow it also breaks through a wall.  At least for a little while... he has mostly done some walking every day for the last week.  He has mostly eaten at home, the healthy food I make him.

All of this, though, is under the cloud of having to go back to the doctor and get another sugar test this week... fingers crossed that he has learned a lesson... or that I will figure out how to let go of my expectations.  But how do you come to grips with your dad being sick - making himself sick?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

California Love

As part of the Valentine weekend, my mom and I took my niece and nephew whale watching in the Santa Barbara Channel.  It was a truly gorgeous Southern California day.  We stood up in the front of the boat as we sped through the waves.  From the distance, you could see the islands through the haze.  This is the Anacapa arch as we left the harbor.

 Best day of wildlife I have ever seen on a whale watching trip in SoCal.  We caught two pods (one of three and one of seven) of gray whales, many dolphins, birds, sea lions.  The first friends to visit the boat was a pod of dolphins.  They were so excited to see us, they raced around and under the boat.  These were right beneath my feet.
 The first sign of whales: the spout. I learned on this trip that gray whales have a heart shaped spout.

 I love pelicans.  I have been trying to take pictures of them in flight forever, from the boat, I got some without even trying.

I caught quite a few waves from the whales.

 My niece says that these birds were a decoy. I was trying to snap a picture of them as we waited for the small pod of whales to surface again.  And, of course, I missed the chance to take the picture of the short breach... ah well.  I saw the whale fall back into the ocean and my niece got a video of it on her phone!
 Beautiful rainbow spout from the larger pod.  I didn't think I could catch it, but with seven of them spouting in succession, I had time to shoot several pictures -- one with the rainbow!

more whale tails

I ran out of battery on my camera as we rounded Anacapa Island right before we headed back for the harbor.
I will share more photos with some poetry Thursday in the future.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Valentine

This pose and the fact that she would strike it as she waited for me to get off the phone and on with our date is the reason my father frequently says, "Her parents have no idea what they are in for..." and then he giggles.

We had a blast. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Friday

Just a pretty picture for Friday the 13th ... hope you are enjoying a day off, mercury being direct and a long weekend.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Poetry Thursday, more cummings

Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard

Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you’re flush pride keeps

you from the pawn shop and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house

Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down

on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity

i hate you

e e cummings

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Weekly NRU ... mishy and mashy

I really hardly know what to say about Bruce Jenner and his sort of public, sort of public transition news.  I yearn for the time when we don't need to obsessively gawk at people, and when people doing what feels natural for them to be their own damn business.  Even as we become a more tolerant society, thanks mostly to our youth, we are also becoming more reactionary in our voyeuristic tendencies.  The internet has brought much good to the world, but continues to bring out the evil in those who would hide behind their computers to shoot invectives.  I fear the time when they no longer need their computers and will fire at will to whomever without one thought to what it might mean to others.  Of course, with the Jenner/Kardashian crew, it is difficult to know when one should be compassionate and when one should be appalled.  But, I guess that what being a *reality* celebrity is all about.

With all the talk of vaccines and superbowl ads, it is not strange to see an article that speaks to what it calls the "real threats" to children.  Interesting, to be sure, and most poignant in talking about priorities.  Using another country as an example, I think, is meant to lessen the blow a bit.  It's hard not to see echos of this piece in Eric Holder's lament about gun control

Updates on Adnan from Serial fame ... does this make him a *reality* star, too?? If so, where are his bucks?  I wish him the best with his appeal ... and I hope that they come to a reasonable agreement on calling his debt paid.

Harper Lee's lawyer strikes back ... the other side of the story?

I have nearly fully transitioned into the role of coach for my primary job -- and it is tricky and hard and yet more fulfilling than just providing a "score" or "edits" to a paper.  As much as I am learning on that front from a business perspective, it remains difficult to bring it to my personal life -- enough. Ugh...I am not afraid to have the difficult conversations, but how much more peace might I have if I could manage to be above button pushing ...or if some others in my family were willing to broach the difficult subjects instead of leaving me to do all the dirty work.

My mom keeps telling me that she "is not ready" to talk about her "affairs" -- and I try to stave off the panic as I watch them decline ... I try to get them to eat right and exercise -- and they sometimes do, and sometimes they just want to eat horribly and sit on the couch and watch movies. I could get behind that kind of behavior if they were also willing to be realistic about helping me prepare for their deaths.  I know it is a lot to ask ... but after watching us all flail after losing my brother and sister, you would think that they wouldn't want to put us through that extra pain ... alas.

This little piece on how we write about love might be as romantic as I can get near to Valentine's Day...

Monday, February 09, 2015

low tide treasures

I have lived near the ocean most of my life ... with the exception of my time in New Jersey and New Mexico... and though I know in my head about high tide and low tide, I never really paid attention to it.
So, whenever I show up at the beach for my walk, I just get whatever tide happens to be hanging around ... high or low. 

Even though high tide usually means having to walk on the sand you sink into -- making my legs feel like walking hills in Oakland was too easy -- I still don't *search out* the low tide.

But low tides are awesome ... besides being able to walk on compacted sand or squishy sand, there are these tide pool treasures.  Since I have been plotting running on the beach, I might have to start looking at tide charts.  It will be a shame to not *happen* upon low tides like this.

These are few pictures I took last Friday when I showed up for my walk to the absolute best low tide ever.

I have been collecting sea glass and rocks, and I felt like I had hit the mother lode ... so many places with beautiful rocks, glimmering sea glass (I got four colors!) and shiny shells and shell pieces.

I am trying to take full advantage of being in beautiful coastal Southern California.

Oh, and I got some meditating in, too, believe it or not.

Friday, February 06, 2015

NRU mish mash

Others may find the exhaustive soul searching and teeth gnashing about how to finalize the report on Sandy Hook tiresome.  However, I think this kind of thoughtful, public consideration is a welcome respite to the twenty-four hour news cycle and unfiltered internet coverage.  I am not suggesting that we filter the internet or tell the news people to stop reporting 24-hours a day ... it would be pointless to do so.  But, with that kind of exposure to "information" or "infotainment" comes a responsibility that requires more than a robotic or market driven thought process.  We must think about, talk through and decide how we want situations, experiences memorialized precisely because we are not going to limit access to that information.  No reports are neutral and we should not pretend and abdicate responsibility for the ways in which it will be used in the future.

If this is any indication of my level of overwhelm ... this is where I want to move, forever...and I already live just a few miles from it.

It would appear that my new exercise regime is right on target for a healthy lifestyle. How wonderful because I only aspire to running 11 minute miles and never more than a half marathon once a year or so... currently on track to start training but not for another month or so ... working my way up slowly.  Though happy to report I clocked over 66 miles last month plus -- only 3 were jogging (I call it running but these folks would not) the rest were walking, so I made my 2 miles per day goal!

It's not that I look a gift horse in the mouth (whatever that means!) or that I don't relish the idea of reading more about Atticus, Scout and Jem...but I am so glad that someone said this, and this.  When the news hit, I was more than suspicious.  For all the reasons mentioned in the two articles.  I wish Ms. Lee the absolute best always -- and I am sure that the book will sell, but at what cost to her reputation or our nostalgia.  

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Poetry Thursday

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, 
not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Do You Know Me? part 2

This post might well have also been titled: WALLS. 
The therapist asked me about the walls ... if I could identify when they were erected.  She frequently poses questions that I am just supposed to go think about ... we don't always get back to them in session.  These were my musings about that question.

I don't know if I was aware that I was living behind those walls at that time.  But I remember feeling an overwhelming feeling of recognition. Someone had seen me!
That adult had only just met me at a leadership conference and in less than a week had put his finger on secret of my existence.  I don't know if he meant it as a criticism but I vaguely recall an admonition following that I should allow people in.

He was a teacher (though not mine), so one of his skills, probably honed over many years in the classroom was reading children.  It is a treasured skill I also polished while spending time with children both in school and in other contexts.

I imagine now that beyond the walls, he also sensed my pain.
In two years from that meeting, I would hit the bottom of the well – though maybe I just scratched the bottom with my feet because I called out for help.  Another teacher (perhaps this explains the primacy of teachers in my life), also not mine, who knew me from our after school chats was there to pull the bucket up and save my life.

I owe those two teachers my life in some way.  As teachers we never know how significant our interactions may be - and sometimes the simplest act of just seeing the children and youth can mean the difference between life and death, pain and joy. 

Despite their help, though, the walls never tumbled.

There might have been a hole dug though or a parapet crumbled here and there allowing some farther in than others, but these walls were soundly built over years.

When people tell you to tear down the walls, they never tell how you how to still feel safe without walls.

For those of us living behind the lines, safety matters more than anything else.  We might not appear fearful -- we don't need to show any fear because we are protected.  If only you could be vulnerable and still feel safe, how many people would chance it?

It is only in lonely moments that I contemplate what life would be like without the walls.  And those moments are not frequent for me.  Outside the wall is chaos. I stand strong in my safety.  My strength calls people -- especially needy people.  They see me and don't even think about what might be going on behind my strength.

I am all too happy to be alone behind the walls - it is quiet and there are no people grasping for some piece of me.  Happy is a strong word.  Happy is not something that I have ever felt easily.  Safe … that is even a strong word if I am completely honest.

While others see me as strong, sarcastic, and secure in my opinions, underneath I am just like everyone else.  Human. That is what I told my therapist when she asked me about it the other day.

[more drafts I have been hording since November, not sure what it means that I am feeling like sharing now...]

[all photos are from my walks]

Monday, February 02, 2015

pier walking etc.

To celebrate my mother's birthday, I took her and my dad to brunch... (and my niece joined and bought my birthday brunch).  I took them to a lovely restaurant that is inside of a historic building in downtown Ventura.   We all remembered the building as a bank (mom and dad remembered the later incarnations of jewelry and women's clothing store), but it turns out it was built in 1927 - designed by the same architects that designed Griffith Observatory - as the power company's headquarters.

It has gorgeous carved wood beams, original murals painted by Norman Kennedy, and beautiful tiling.  Painstakingly restored and with lovely chandeliers and other light fixtures, the old bank vault was turned into a liquor/wine vault.  We sat in a big booth by the windows and toasted to my mother's birthday.

I intended to work at the library afterwards, but it turned out that it doesn't open til 1pm on Sunday.  I have said several times aloud that I have never been to the pier in Ventura or the promenade (where parts of Little Miss Sunshine were filmed), I realized I was so close I could make it a double:  go to a new place and get my last two miles in for the week.  So, I took a walk down to the pier while I waited for the library to open.

It was an easy and lovely walk ... but not nearly as meditative as walking on the sand near the waves.  On the pier, bustling with walkers, gazers, fisherpeople and birds, you can barely hear the ocean.

I made a quick stop in the bathroom at the end of the pier where someone, a woman from her voice, was giving a rousing talk in one of the stalls.  It included rhetorical flourishes, facts and figures "without the internet", and call and response.  You could tell there were responses in her head as she took them and waited for the silent response to be stated.

Down the pier, I asked about how the fishing was going, watched two ladies make friends with the seagulls by throwing bread crumbs, and witnessed a young boy tentatively chase the birds from the pier.

Needless to say, lovely and entertaining, but hard to quiet the mind.