Thursday, April 30, 2015

Poetry Thursday

When you really listen 
to yourself,
you can heal yourself.
~C. Deroham

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

busy bees

I finally made it to the Getty Center ... my niece was going for extra credit with her art appreciation class, and we all (mom, me and the mijo) tagged along.

In an attempt to keep the mijo occupied, who was already bored during the short drive there, I let him decide how we would explore the "campus."

One great thing was that they had iPods with tour info, maps and other features available for all to use.  We quickly grabbed our tech gear.  This allowed the mijo to look through stuff to his content -- no more "bored" moments. 

Whenever bored threatened to overtake him, he would find another way to use the iPod.  For instance, one option was to key in codes to hear more about certain pieces.  He discovered that he could key in numbers randomly like a game.  As it was an iPod Touch, there was often visuals to go with the audio.  So, not only would he get to hear about a piece, he often got to see it on the screen as well.  Consequently, he had *viewed* much more of the museum by the end of the trip than the rest of us.

His favorite, though, was when he discovered a set of audio pieces that spoke in the voice of an animal depicted in one of the art works.  He was very engaged with his technology -- often interrupting whatever I was listening to or looking at in order to tell me that I *needed* to listen to THIS!

He decided we should start in the garden ... turns out it was a good choice because the sun went away after our garden tour and rain threatened the rest of the day.  It was quite chilly ... windy, gray and angel spit.

But the gardens were beautiful ... and the best part were the bees.  I have never seen such happy bees.

I am not sure if you will be able to appreciate this from the photos, but these bees were rolling around in the pollen like dogs in dirt!


We went from flower to flower watching these little guys revel in the pollen. 

It gives one hope for *happiness* in the every day, even in the *work* we must do (I say hopefully as I return to my papers...)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Some days are like this...

Anger is a refuge.

Maybe it is a fort.

Maybe it is an impediment.

I don’t know, but it seems to be the *safest* emotion for me right now.

Maybe it is not safe, just readily available.

When I think of refuge, I picture Julie’s house with beds where you can sleep til noon and gardens where beauty can distract you from any pain.

It feels safe there.

Yes, there are mean and unthinking people everywhere, but somehow Julie’s house is safe.

Anger is not that kind of refuge. Anger is the hot tears turned inward creating a shield.

Anger reminds me that I have to fight against all the impulses to believe I am not worthy.  Anger has kept me alive so many times that I am reluctant to give it up or denigrate it.

But it also feels like a yoke. And it certainly leads to misunderstandings.

I yearn for safety, for someone to protect me so that I won’t need anger. But it is so hard to feel safe enough to let go of the anger.

What a crazy circle of pain, loneliness and peril. And, yes, it is of my own making. It is the definition of suffering.

NRU mish mash

This is yet another heartbreaking tale of our failure to both treat (medically and socially) and integrate into society folks with mental illness.  I am not an expert, but I am pretty sure that we cannot legislate our way into a solution ... but I feel for the families who have tried so hard to get their loved ones help.

A return to the natural way of disposing of dead bodies... is this a way to begin to heal the earth?

I had the pleasure of reading Eduardo Galeano when I was in college and then the great opportunity to see him at a book reading in Berkeley just before I started graduate school.  If you have never read his work, pick up one of them.  As this piece recounts, Galeano's work is part history, part poetry, or as Galeno called his style sentipensante (coincidentally quoting from a review by one of my best former supervisor's).  May you rest in peace, sir.

Lovely piece on a Holocaust survivor who is still making pastries ... now in Lake Tahoe.  Sometimes we just need stories of resilience and survival, you know, to remind us that strength is a good thing.  Ernie, may your light continue to shine.

A current, persistent annoyance is that many people, too many people, I know keep telling me that they get their "news" from places like fb ... this article should suggest to those people, and many others, that sources need to be scrutinized at all times -- even the newspaper, I know...

I think of all the precious, priceless brains lost to football, and I find it heartbreaking.  I hate football.  I am never going to be convinced it is a worthwhile pursuit for anyone -- because I think it is soul sucking for those who watch it -- they just don't realize how much of their humanity they relinquish every time they cheer for someone to be crushed senseless.

Friday, April 24, 2015

NRU mostly education

This is an inspiring and disheartening article all in one.  Over 25 years ago, when I was a first generation, not necessarily low-income, student at Princeton, we faced these SAME issues.  I am glad that the students are organizing themselves around the issue rather than just striving to be corporate tools.  I am sure that there are still those aspirations among some of these first gen students.  I am disheartened because the issues remain so striking - perhaps more striking.  These students have more financial help, in most cases, and yet describe similar

The importance of a college education for young people, however, continues to pile in ... despite all the anti-college rhetoric.  Yes, it will cost something to get it; and No, any building with the word "college" does not count.  In the end, the college education will still be more valuable than another 4-10 years in close to minimum wage earning ... which has its own detrimental aspects for the economy as a whole. If only the vast majority of people did not rely solely on FB for their news.

I am not sure how to feel about this story at all ... are they vicious felons that need to be punished or folks caught in a vise of our making?  I am sorry that no one could figure out how to use this situation to open a dialogue about the usefulness of the very tests they were accused of cheating.  That might have been worth the waste of so much time and money.

Um... I am not sure if this is education and not exactly sure how to feel about it, either, but it is *interesting* -- blogger smackdown about who is more uninformed?  blogger smackdown about who is more popular? the problem with too much information and too little filtering?  the problem of people believing anything that is on the internet? Maybe it is just about when we want to believe what we see/hear (not necessarily read because I am not sure who is reading ....).

Last week was National Public Library Week... and many people wrote a bunch of articles, but this is the one that I really liked.  So, I am sharing it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Poetry Thursday

Gentle time will heal our sorrow.

Or so we are promised....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


He who has gone, so we 
but cherish his memory,
abides with us,
more potent, 
nay more present
than the living man.

~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


These three letters are my life right now.

Don't ask me how I am ... unless you want to hear me say that.

These are hard days under any circumstances, but worse lately.

I am going to visit my sister's resting place tomorrow -- on the second anniversary of us letting her go. 

My head hurts, and my eyes threaten to get salty (that's what mijo calls it).  Last night I made it until 6pm before I had to take a nap.  The emotional energy it takes me to be upright at present is exhausting.  Exhausting.

I am at my *office* with the headphones on ... as loud as I can stand it... and I can't motivate to do work.  I can barely get this out.

When will it get better?  When will those awful memories of the hospital only be like a scene from a horror movie? Instead, I relive them in excruciating detail ... because the farther away from it we get, the more I remember.  It is a nightmare. 

I guess it is all just part of that "you have to go through it" part of grieving.  The more *able* I am to *handle* it (too many loaded words around here), the more I have to relive? 

These are the days when I wish I weren't *strong* -- if I were just a little pool on the floor, at some point I would evaporate, right? It would be over...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Moths, Butterflies and Chicks...

I had an interesting conversation with the therapist a while back (before I decided not to go back) as I was telling her about feeling like a butterfly coming out of the cocoon ... She corrected me, the butterfly comes out of the chrysalis, and the moth comes out of the cocoon. It is not just a semantic distinction.

Once (or twice) I compared teenagers to chicks.  You know, they are moody little guys (teenagers), but I think we should cut them some slack.  Like chicks, they have to create their next stage in life.  Chicks peck at that shell until they make it out.  They seem overcome with joy, maybe relief at the freedom from the shell.  But, of course, they are also tired, maybe even exhausted.  And when they get enough distance from the shell, they must also be frightened suddenly without external protection.  Remaking your life or creating the next stage of your life is exhausting, exhilarating and frightening (could not think of an "e" fear word, sorry).

A couple of years ago, I was at a silent day-long meditation retreat when I witnessed a moth trying to crawl out of his cocoon.  They looked like dried up leaves on silk strings, dangling in the wind.  They were all over.  It wasn't until I sat down in the grass, tired of walking meditation, that I realized they were not leaves at all.

I sat and watched, mesmerized, as the little moth pulled itself up the string.  I watched it pull, slowly and surely, and pull and pull and then sink back into the cocoon.  It kept trying.  I thought, this has got to be the epitome of two steps forward and one step back.  I got called back into the group meditation before the moth made it out.

I was left with the determined impression of the little fella.  It was like watching seemingly tireless work.  It certainly gave me a better appreciation for those often overlooked moths - especially the ones that seemed to bash themselves mercilessly against the lights several springs ago.  I guess I can cut them a little slack, too, for being exhausted and distracted after all that work.

Butterflies apparently don't struggle in the same way.  The chrysalis is not a covering, it is the butterfly in its in-between stage.  Its matter takes some time to transform itself -- but it is not exactly an external covering the way the silk/cocoon or shell are.  It is just another layer of skin that needs to be shed.  It is not just that the butterfly emerges from that stage as a beautiful creature, there is definitely something about it not needing to struggle to become that beautiful self.  I bet that butterfly isn't moody.

The determination and inner strength might be equal, but they seem different to me.  To be sure, though, none of these three needed help to get where they needed to go. No white knights or heroes were coming to rescue these creatures.

 I haven't been able to summon much of the inner strength needed to either transform myself or break out of this external covering.  But I am sure that whatever I need has got to be inside me somewhere.  The universe seems to be signalling in many ways that I need to stop looking for that strength outside of myself.

Friday, April 17, 2015

NRU mostly law enforcement related

Seems like the issue of policing and our justice system has been consuming some journalists' thoughts lately.  First I saw this piece in the NY Times Magazine about the cost of wrongly imprisonment to those who have lost large chunks of their life -- and whether or not we have the obligation to pay for that loss of life.  Then, I read this on the cost of one poorly prosecuted murder case -- that is a generous description. 

Perhaps the videos surfacing, through news organizations and by-standers not law enforcement, or the highlighting of the death by police of so many young men and women has finally suggested to journalists that they should dig deeper on the issue of law enforcement.  It is not an easy subject by any means -- but we must investigate our complicity as the public who said to be protected (and served) by policing.  I appreciated the complexity This American Life took the time to expose in their two part series:  Cops See it Differently.

Then there is the craziness and lawlessness of those we entrust with our law enforcement.  What are we to make of this? I still do think that we need better training and on-going training with all of those involved with our justice system.  I believe that this kind of work is taxing on the soul, requiring endless stores of compassion in order to keep equilibrium.

I thought once and twice before including this piece about our beloved P-22.  But when the spokesperson talking about the big cat is the warden, well, law enforcement just made sense.  It is good to know, sort of, that I am not the only person star struck by P-22... turns out he is a media darling as well as beloved by the people. I will admit to staying up to watch the full coverage on the local news Monday night.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Poetry Thursday

Death leaves a heartache
no one can heal,
love leaves a memory
no one can steal.
~Headstone, Ireland

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not Safe

When I was a teenager, I started having nightmares.  My fears were never monsters or bad guys chasing me or trying to hurt me. 

No, my greatest fear was someone making fun of me or saying mean things to me while my mother stood by and watched without intervening on my behalf.  The worst nightmares were the ones in which she actually egged on those who were taunting me.

Invariably in the nightmare, the person hurting my feelings was a family member of some stripe -- usually a faceless person I understood to be family, not necessarily someone in particular.  The star of my nightmare was always my mother, either standing by or encouraging the insults.

I often had these nightmares for a week before I returned home from college or from living far from home, which I most of my adult life.

You could say I have been living out my nightmare lately.

When I take a big step back, it makes perfect sense that what I hold on to the need to protect myself and the dread of vulnerability.

Though what people may see when they see me is a tough bitch, I have tiny little helpless feelings, and they are easily trampled.  In the waking hours I was called sensitive, moody and dramatic.  If I had a problem with it, it was because I could not take a joke.  When I learned to stand up to the taunts, I was mean and bossy or the favorite of all favorites: angry.

I almost never ear for my personal safety. I have lived in some of the so-called most dangerous cities in the country and not felt unsafe.  I appear to be confident, in charge.  Even when walking in a strange city, people ask me for directions.

Still, my family knows exactly what to say to make me feel vulnerable, alone and in danger.

I fear that there is only so much dirtying of one's soul that any person can take -- and I don't want to know what I will become trying to fend off the current dangers.

Friday, April 10, 2015


Oxnard in the New York Times real estate section.  Not even sure what to say about that, except, maybe, NO!!!!  Oops, too late.

Local, but not necessarily hometown ... except the strawberries are probably hometown, I hope they are.. this is the kind of venture I can get behind (did you catch the typo?).

Not a local story, really, but in the end it could be the ultimate local story.  Congrats to StoryCorps on their grant to create a phone app.

I have had a horrible week ... one of the worst in my life, and I read this and it made it better, at least while I was reading it.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Poetry Thursday

Better never to have met you 
in my dreams 
than to wake and 
reach for hands 
that are not there
~Otomo No Yakamochi

Monday, April 06, 2015

Perfect (NOT)

As a child, I was taught to only pick up shells that were perfect.  Perfect, in the sense of whole.  Beauty, then, I learned could only be found in something perfectly formed.  But more than beauty, perfect also denoted value, worth of the shell.  


I might find a piece of a shell, cleaned to shiny glimmer by tumbling in the surf or a sand dollar with a corner missing, demonstrating its complexity by showing its innards or its fragility with the tender shell shattered.   

My mom would counsel me to look for another.  Prized were the small, delicate butterflies of the tiny opened clam shell with both sides still precariously attached.  I cannot remember the number of little butterflies I picked up from the sand over the years.  Perfection meant I could get it home in one piece. 
The desirableness of perfection and maybe in particular its elusiveness was burned into my being, unquestioned.  I thought it was the most normal belief – one shared by all – and it, therefore, extended its tentacles from those beach visits into all aspects of my life. Recognizing just how infrequently perfect is attainable, I configured worth or value of all things (products, outcomes, people, myself) accordingly.   

Not perfect was clearly not as valuable as perfect.  And imperfect could not become perfect.  While this was supremely exacting and limiting in many ways, it also liberated me from certain things, like pretty.  I was not pretty, not perfect in that pretty way, and I never would be.  Nor would I ever be expected to be.  As a not perfect, not valuable person, I could construct that barometer easily: not perfect equals not valuable and not pretty.

Striving for perfect in other ways, however, gets to be second nature when you have made this agreement about perfect.  It activates the negative self talk effortlessly and internalizes slights as confirmation of that not perfect status.  And yet we strive for the unattainable perfect in something, anything.   

Knowing just how elusive it is, we self sabotage, we fall, we make it worse by failing.  There isn’t anything redeemable about this agreement at all.
Sure, I have heard the TED talks on not-perfect and read plenty of self help books and analyzed my life and its shortcomings, but here it was, in living color as it were.  But it wasn’t until I was back on the beach in my home town watching my nephew pick out shells an rocks that I fully acknowledged this perfect agreement and its history in my life.  
My nephew was drawn to shapes, figures he saw in the broken and worn down shells. I resisted the urge to dissuade him from collecting imperfect shells.  He found one heart shaped piece and he immediately identified it as something he wanted to give his mom – dead nearly a year at that point.

I stepped ever so slightly back from the ingrained belief system.  Nearly another year has passed and I still struggle with the aftermath of perfect as I try to release the compulsion to find perfect and to punish myself endlessly for not being perfect.  I remember, in flashes as I walk the beach, that there is beauty in a broken shell, an imperfect sand dollar.  I identify rocks whose odd coloration or shape evoke beauty, whose value and worth is simply in its existence. 

I watch the waves make and remake patterns in the sand.  I watch the wind slowly chisel away at whatever was there a second ago.  The ocean and the beach allows change and movement without regard for perfection, perhaps not even knowing of its existence.

Sunday, April 05, 2015


Forty seven years ago, Martin went home and left a void in our world.

Today, to honor that loss, I finally went to see Selma

I had heard how good a movie it was from many people.  But I knew it was going to be difficult to watch. 

It is not that anything would be portrayed in that movie that I didn't already know about.  But it is qualitatively different to read about it than to witness a reenactment.  Perhaps I have even already seen footage.  But, I still knew that the brutality would be unbearable.

But, I like depressing movies you might say.  The last film I saw was Still Alice -- heartbreaking, but beautiful and in its own way uplifting. 

This was different.   

All the while I was watching it, all I could do was think of all the people who have given so much of themselves so that we don't have to fight this battle anymore -- and of all the young men and women of color who have died at the hands of the police, lately and historically.

Watching those batons come down on the protesters felt like bearing witness to the continued deaths of so many people.

Tears streamed down my face for much of the movie.  I could not help but look away when the most brutal attacks were on the screen.

It is a great film.  Very well done, very well acted and directed.  But it is brutal... more for the echoes of what we continue to live despite the many blood sacrifices already given.

Friday, April 03, 2015


That is some author love ... or maybe jut the desire for a trip to the Bay? Either one I am good with ... I wish there were more that this person could have told about the story, maybe it for another book.  Then again, I know too well what looking for history looks like, threads that might or might not knit into a picture that makes sense... or maybe threads that give hints at a story and leave much to the imagination.  Either way, it sounds like it would be a good book.

I doubt very sincerely that this case will be resolved in a way that makes the tribe "happy," but I think it might just get the state talking about water in more substantive ways.  At least, I hope so.

A little silver lining for the NRU... we should all do a tiny bit more for others, this man is doing way more than his share but seems to enjoy it.

This is the kind of news (along with the breakfast all day idea) that makes me consider taking up some McDonalds again ... even if it is only for Egg white delights and ice cream cones...  how do I figure out which stores are owned by McDonalds and not franchises??

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Poetry Thursday

Healing may not be 
so much about getting better, 
as about letting go 
of everything that isn't you 
-- all of the expectations, 
all of the beliefs -- 
and becoming who you are.
~ R. N. Remen

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


These are the "hidden stairs" I climbed a few times (read 2) while in Oakland... feels less daunting than plunging back into my work today.  But, I am going to do it anyway.

Here I go...