Sunday, November 30, 2014

the alien bar scene in Star Wars & a prayer to my angel

I have not seen all the Star Wars movies. I resisted seeing any of them, even the first.   I am not overly fond of science fiction.  I did, eventually, watch Star Wars, primarily because I kept hearing so many cultural references to it, years after the first movie came out, and I wanted to get the references.

My favorite scene is the bar scene on a planet that is not Earth. Hans Solo has landed to fuel up his space ship but also to make a vital connection. He goes to a bar known for making connections. In this bar are all kinds of beings that do not look like humans. To Hans, all the odd beings just look normal to him.

And the main point of the scene, for me, is that he is trying to make a connection to advance on his path, to get where he thinks he needs to go.

I feel like I am trapped in a bad bar scene, or waystation, waiting for my life to move forward but not moving at all. Stuck. What am I missing? What do I fail to see?

I ask my guardian angel to give me blunt clues because, as she knows, I tend to miss the subtle ones.

free blankets in soap boxes & free toasters from banks

In the nineteen thirties, I think, one marketing trick for laundry detergent, at least one laundry detergent company, was to put 'free' blankets inside the soap boxes.

I know about this because my grandmother had a white blanket with roses that she got free in a box of laundry detergent.  That blanket got misplaced.  I mentioned it to my Great Aunt Effie, my grandmother's baby sister, and Effie gave me an identical blanket. 

I love this blanket. It's worn. And it was cheap to begin with so it is full of pills. It it a layer on a chilly night. I basically use it as a sofa blanket when I type on my sofa. It's not warm. It's pretty and sentimental.

Remember when banks would give you things like toasters or comforters when you opened a savings account?

I once moved my savings account so I could get a comforter. Not a down one but a thick one that would keep a person warm. Then I offered it to my aunt the nun who was working in a very poor parish and working to help the poor. She said "If you give me the blanket, I will probably give it away." That was fine with me. I had not seriously believed my aunt needed a blanket. I was a little indignant that she had not understood I had given her the comforter because I knew she needed things to help the poor she helped. Duh.

My aunt the nun is no longer a nun. When I was 47, she married an Episcopalian priest she met while attending a Jean Houston program. It was love at first sight but the guy was married. They decided he had to keep his commitment to his wife and songs, so my aunt took a job in Guatemala to get over him.

A few years later, that Episcopal priest turned up in Guatemala to propose. His wife had decided she was a lesbian and was divorcing him. A clean, ethical break for the priest. He was free to marry my aunt, who quickly left her order, with her order's support.


old people

As I got in the car to go to a meeting with my friend Maureen, she said "It's going to be a meeting full of old people and probably not very interesting."

"Maureen," I said, "We're old ladies."  I am 61, she is 68. She and  I are not old, however, the way most at this meeting were old.

I think the average age of folks in attendance was over 70 but it wasn't so much the age of others present that made them seem old, even to us not-young ones.  It was orientation, attitude, something.

It was a meeting full of old people.

And boring. I kept getting up to roam around the food buffet. Maureen whipped out her smart phone and was doing email. Finally she came back to the food buffet and asked me if I wanted to leave.

Thank goddess.

There are aging humans and old humans. What is the difference?

Maureen and I are not old the way the others, most of them, are old. It is an orientation of life, I think.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lars von Trier gives rare interview!

This is on today's website:

In his first interview since he was banned from Cannes for his outrageous Hitler jokes, the Nymphomaniac director Lars von Trier told the Danish paper Politiken that he has been attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings every day and will be 90 days sober as of this Sunday. He worries, though, that his sobriety will dull his creative acumen. "No creative expression of artistic value has ever been carried out by former alcoholics and drug addicts," he said. Von Trier added that he used to drink a bottle of vodka a day, which he liberally mixed with other drugs, as part of his creative process. "I can't recommend anyone to do the same. It is very dangerous and stupid in every way," he said.

Gee, his films are so dark. Maybe the darkness is the result of out of control addiction, maybe he has been recreating his nightmarish life. Or maybe he is an artistic genius, lives at a fine, even delicate vibration and it is hard to be so finely energized.

I'm not in his league as an artistic genius but I think I understand how hard it is to go through life vibrating at levels most people don't. So few people have ever seen me, the me I want to be seen.  Actually, only a few ever have.  Lucky for me, I did not get any tendency to addiction.

I empathize with von Trier. I have been challenged by his body of work. I wish him continued sobriety. And I wish for him that he will find richer creative outlets sober.  Of course he worries that sobriety will dull his creativity. If he works the program and trusts in his higher power, he will be fine.

Keeping Things Whole

Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand
In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
 Former U.S. poet laureate Mark Strand died today. This is one of his most beloved poems.

The myth of progress manifested in tool form.

“Wilderness can be saved permanently,” claims Ted Kaczynski, “only by eliminating the technoindustrial system.” I am beginning to think that the neo-environmentalists may leave a deliciously ironic legacy: proving the Unabomber right.

The Unabomber opens his book with these four premises, which the author of the Orion article agrees with. Kingsworth describes reading the Unabomber and how he found himself agreeing with him.

Here are the four premises with which Kaczynski begins the book:
1. Technological progress is carrying us to inevitable disaster.
2. Only the collapse of modern technological civilization can avert disaster.
3. The political left is technological society’s first line of defense against revolution.
4. What is needed is a new revolutionary movement, dedicated to the elimination of technological society.

The above quote is from an Orion Magazine article by Paul Kingsworth. Link to the whole article below.

Another quote from this great article:

“Romanticizing the past” is a familiar accusation, made mostly by people who think it is more grown-up to romanticize the future. But it’s not necessary to convince yourself that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers lived in paradise in order to observe that progress is a ratchet, every turn forcing us more tightly into the gears of a machine we were forced to create to solve the problems created by progress. It is far too late to think about dismantling this machine in a rational manner—and in any case who wants to? We can’t deny that it brings benefits to us, even as it chokes us and our world by degrees. Those benefits are what keep us largely quiet and uncomplaining as the machine rolls on, in the words of the poet R. S. Thomas, “over the creeds and masterpieces”:
The machine appeared
In the distance, singing to itself
Of money. Its song was the web
They were caught in, men and women
Together. The villages were as flies
To be sucked empty.
God secreted
A tear. Enough, enough,
He commanded, but the machine
Looked at him and went on singing.

Another quote from the Orion piece:

We are not gods, and our machines will not get us off this hook, however clever they are and however much we would like to believe it.

civilization is going to collapse, so what to do w/ourselves?

I don't agree with Kaczinsky's criminal attempt to harm people he believe were contributing to our collapse but I agree with what Kingsworth:  Kacinsky was onto something right.

You are that lumiosity

Ignorance can be compared to
a dark room in which you sleep.
No matter how long the room has been dark,
an hour or a million years,
the moment the lamp of awareness is lit
the entire room becomes luminous.
You are that luminosity.
You are that clear light."
-Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

craving gluten-free cheese crackers

I went to a weekend training at Pajaro Dunes,  a beautiful patch of beach along the ocean. There was lots of gluten free food. Someone brought a massive amount of tamales, which are gluten-free. And these tamales were awesomely good.

And the food shoppers, which included me, had bought boxes of gluten free crackers.

I hadn't eaten a cracker is so long that I couldn't remember when. Sure I shopped for the crackers but I viewed them as for others.

Then no one touched the crackers. They sat out in the open, on a shelf I passed constantly.

Finally I caved. I inhaled an entire box of gluten-free 'cheese' crackers. So I ate some dairy although most of the cheese flavor was chemical. There were only four ounces of those crackers. I ate every one.

That was two weeks ago.

mending fences

I just heard from my best brother, my baby brother, my Dolly Dave. He has had a wicked hard year. He's had several hard years, losing his home to foreclosure, homelessness for awhile, now legally blind but he still has the sunny disposition he had from the first moment he was born.

He told me our brother Tom seems very sick. Tom is 54. Dave saw him recently and said Tom looked like he was seventy years old, had grown very thin and seemed very sick. Tom would not tell Dave what was going on. Another brother was at this lunch and this other brother, Joe, said Tom never goes to the doctor.

Looks like Tom is doing what our father did. Ignoring his diabetes and allowing his overall health to deteriorate needlessly. Our dad died at age 62 from ignoring his diabetes.

Dave asked Tom if he could tell me Tom was sick. Tom resisted, with Joe chiming in that I should not be told. I didn't have the heart to tell Dave I don't really care if Tom is sick. I'm sick. Does Tom care to know?  I guess Dave harangued about my right as a sister to know and Tom yielded, conceding maybe it was time to mend fences.

I have never done anything to any of my brothers to merit their rejection.  In the case of my brother Tom, I truly believe he and I have never had a quarrel.

I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. Every dysfunctional family has a scapegoat and I got that job. As the only girl with four bros until I was fourteen, in an era of open and casual misogyny, it makes a sick sense that my whole family scapegoated me for our father's sexual and physical abuse, our mother's physical, emotional and using-me-like-a-slave abuse (what to call that?) abuse and everyone's unhappiness.

I grew up in Chicago but never lived there again once I left home for college. I visited, of course. To see my dad and my brother Dave. And, eventually, my mom who moved back to Chicago when she was her second husband died.  I have seen almost nothing of my brothers but Dave since we became adults. I haven't been around them since 1971 except for holiday visits with our dad.

Yet, when my brother Tom became involved with a crazy woman named Julie, who I never met, and I heard wild stories of Julie's crazy behavior, I also heard the story that Tom remarked "This is all Tree's fault."  I had not seen him, when he said it, in many years. I never met Julie.

OK Cupid

"I joined OK Cupid because I want to meet single men to socialize with, have fun. It would be nice if I found someone for a relationship but my main goal is just to meet men, go out and do things with them," Megan said.   Megan is sixty eight, gorgeous and still a tall blonde drink of water. She's very thin, the ideal thin in this society's idea of what women should look like.

None of the three other women in the car are in Megan's league of beauty.

She had just told us she signed up and got messages from over sixty men. Another of the four women in the car said "You're kidding!  I never get any messages, no indication of interest."

"I have never dated online and I am never going to," said Margaret. However, she was already considering that she would go into OK Cupid, put up a profile and find out if any men messaged her. she did not share this with the other three women in the car.  She was surprised that Mary didn't get any messages from men because Mary is not fat. Margaret is fat. Really, these days, she is plump but it is still her experience that most men don't even see her.  Quite a lot of men, and some women, don't see fat women. Truly. They just don't see them. "

"So tell us about some of your messages," Margaret said, when no one picked up the conversational ball.

"Well, one guy said he is in an open relationship. Yuck, right?  So I blocked him."  Megan drove on in silence a few moments. "And one guy said he is into tantric sex. What is tantric sex? I don't know what that is."

After all four women had laughed, Mary said "It's all about special positions."  Margaret said "I think it is supposed to lead to transcendence, to take you to a higher spiritual place.  I heard a presentation once from a woman who talked about all the spiritual visions she had during tantric sex."

"Huh" was the general tone in the car.

"I'm not looking for sex. I'm looking for friends, single men to socialize with, have some fun. If a relationship happens, I'm open to that. Some of the messages I have looked at, so far, seem to be just looking for sex."

I was blind & clueless

I have been blind and clueless in some ways.  I tend to block out unkindness, also emotional abuse, when I believe someone loves me.  I have mistakenly believed my daughter loved me. I was blind and clueless about her. And I was blind and clueless about a male, nonromantic friend -- blind and clueless to the fact that he was emotionally abusive and dishonest.

My sister is the person who brought Simon's Rock College of Bard (now fully folded into Bard, I believe) to my attention. She got a brochute about Simon's Rock and as she placed it on my dining room table, she said "I think if you live with Rosie two more years, it is going to kill you. She is so mean to you."

I had no conscious understanding of what my sister referred to.

Another time, a teacher at Rosie's Waldorf School told me, when she was in the seventh grade, that the way she treated me was unacceptable. I don't remember what behavior elicited his comment. He went on to voice concern for me. Again, I had no conscious awareness of what he referred to.

Now, thirteen years after she severed ties with me, I have some visceral awareness that my child was angrily unkind to me, lashing out at me.  And I can pinpoint a few examples of her actually behaving unkindly.

I was blind and clueless.

And I was blind and clueless about the former friend who told me I was blind and clueless. He insulted me all the time, often with the effective smokescreen of telling me I was the one behaving badly. His insults would leave me scouring my motives, trying to figure out if what he said about me was true. I became  self absorbed in understanding what I might have done to elicit his accusations from within my own knowing. I was distracted by his accusations, blindly and cluelessly ignoring that he was behaving unkindly towards me.

As I keep writing, I see that it is not just loved ones whose unkindness I have ignored or blamed on myself.  I trust others as kind, decent beings. When glitches arise, as they always do between people if they try to get close to one another, I look inward to uncover what I did wrong. With the other person negatively characterizing me, I have, in the past, instantly blamed myself.

So I can be blind and clueless. The man who told me I was blind and clueless was right. I was blindly clueless to his steady insults, his steady accusations of negativity and untrustworthiness in me.

I was so blind, so clueless. I have known for a long, long time that when someone criticizes me, they are really talking about themselves. He often told me he didn't trust me, he feared me. I was blind and clueless in the face of that characterization. I did not realize he felt fearful and vulnerability and was projecting that fear and vulnerability onto me, blaming me for how he felt.  Instead, I also blamed me for his feelings. Blind and clueless.

Fuck life is complex.

Friday, November 28, 2014

I am very proud

I am very proud of the hundreds of miles I walked in July, August, September and October to help Tony Thurmond get elected.  He even won in Berkeley, although it was a squeaker. His opponent was endorsed by the Berkeley political machine, grew up in Berkeley, is rich and well connected and she thought she had a lock on the gig.

She only campaigned with mailers, including some smear mailers -- even one using a photo of Tony with his kids.  She had pledged not to engage in negative campaigning but she did. It worked against her. Many of Tony's volunteers heard voters telling them that they were undecided until Liz went negative.

The first day I met Tony, in early July, in El Sobrante, he said "I am going to win in these hills."  He won Contra Costa County by about ten percent above his opponent.  He won Alameda County by a much smaller spread. And he won Berkeley by only 1.5% (approximately). His opponent seemed to think it was a Berkeley seat and she only needed to win in Berkeley but she didn't!  Not to mention she lives in Oakland.

This district stretches from N. Oakland up to the North Bay of Contra Costa County.

I have walked up and down hills and sidewalks through the district.   I now know Berkeley intimately, except for the Berkeley hills where I was never asked to canvass.  I would have canvassed the Berkeley hills.

I also know North Oakland.

And I know that my efforts most definitely delivered some votes for Tony.

What a great feeling, to know I made a real difference. For the differences between Tony and his opponent are stark.  She espouses progressive values, but so does Berkeley's Mayor Tom Bates. Tom Bates is a Repuglican in Democratic clothing.

this old lady took a nap in a seminar

I was seated in a recliner. My hips hurt in any position and hurt more if I keep them in the same position for long. A recliner is ideal. It is designed to change positions! I gave into temptation and reclined during a presentation during my recent tgroup facilitator training.

habitual emotional repression . . .

One challenge I don't have in life is a repression of my emotions, praise goddess.  I believe a family member suffered throughout her childhood with chronic stress, or anxiety. And I believe I know a former friend who suffers from self imposed chronic stress that he projects on others in his life, mostly women. He's also a bit of a bully and bullies do like to pick on those they perceive as less powerful and women have less power in this culture. Who knows?  I can't really know what goes on inside others.

Prince Charming

I have finally figured out men that are extremely charming. That's it, that's all they are. And I feel much empathy for such charmers, who, somewhere on their life path, came to believe they had to be charming to be chosen, make the cut for a team or a job, or to win. Charm is rarely a reflection of a person's true self. Charm is not much different than Narcissus' mirror.

Charming is not committed. Charming is not love.

Charming is a shiny bauble with no substance, no ballast for the inevitable storms in any actual relationship. Charm is an unmoored buoy in the ocean, bobbing delightfully but without mooring, it is puffery. Emptiness.

Charm. Poof. I dismiss a man who is adorably charming as easily as I can blow away the white seeds on a dandelion puff.  Puff puff gone, Prince Charming.

Black Lives Matter: action in Oakland today

An awesome group of human beings locked themselves in a chain to a BART train today, stopping Black Friday travel at the West Oakland BART. Wow. I have much admiration for this courageous action.

I wish we had a news industry that would cover such news. I read snippets online of large protests across the country but it does not make headlines on the websites of major news outlets. I don't have a TV. Did the Oakland LOCKED-TO-THE-TRAIN-CHAIN-OF-HUMANS make tv news?

When I was growing up, one such demonstration in one city would have made the front page of the Chicago papers (where I grew up). Nowadays, there are simultaneous demonstrations, even riots and looting, across the country and it doesn't seem to be reported as news.

I fuzzily recall a public radio interview I heard shortly after the Rodney King riots. A small bookstore in Watts, run by an older black couple had been burned out in the rioting, collateral damage to a community so outraged by Rodney King's brutal beating and so unable to be heard except by rioting (MLK,Jr's quote about riot being the voice of the unheard keeps ringing in my head).  Most of the stores destroyed in the wake of Rodney King were black-owned inner city businesses. The interviewer asked this couple, who had just lost their bookstore, which had been a community center for black activism as well as a book store filled with literature focussed on the black community, how they were coping with their loss. The woman said "We are okay. We know that black people are holding a heavy burden on behalf of the whole. We know black suffering is suffering endured on behalf of all in this country and we must endure.  We are holding pain for this society." She spoke with pride. I felt anger and feel it again as I remember her words which I have, no doubt, muddled in memory.  She enobled her community for their suffering with her words.

I am not black.  I hope some nonwhites blocked that BART train today, not just blacks.  I am weary and sickened by all the racism I see in this world. I don't dare to imagine I can know what it is like for a black person.  And I am steadily shocked by the unconsciousness in so many whites I know. I have had brilliant, well-educated white males tell me there is no such thing as white privilege, much less white male privilege. Ha! Such blindness but, then, didn't someone once say 'none are so blind as those who will not see?"

Is it all right that I feel pride for the humans that locked themselves to one another and to a BART train at the West Oakland BART stop? I do feel pride. And I feel regret that I was not chained to them.

And I hope the Black Lives Matter work finds a way to really engage this country in long overdue dialogues about racism, the new Jim Crow of incarceration and the new Ku Klux Klannish aspects of many police departments. I am steadily shocked by comments I hear from some Caucasians who don't see a racial problem in things like Michael Brown's murder.

About as immoral as the slaughter of Michael Brown (and all the other unjust murders of young black males) was the prosecutor's refusal to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor for that grand jury.

I hear calls for the Justice Department to do something but the standards for the Justice Department to do something to the killer cop in Ferguson are very high.

I'm still wincing and hurting over Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Sean Dugar and the young black males I occasionally overhear on buses in Alameda County as they casually calculate their interactions with cops, their age, the charges they have faced and when they expect to cross the line that will land them in prison. They speak, understandably, I believe, as if they assume it is just a matter of time until they go to prison. As such overheard conversations break my heart, my heart breaks all over again for their parents and other loved ones.

my Thanksgiving

A friend invited me, her treat, to a movie Thanksgiving evening.  The movie outing ended up being four single older women, alone (as in no life partners).

I hope the outing did not presage my future. I had a nice time with these women but I don't want my socializing to be limited to only older women.

I want to date and, hopefully, find a life partner.  I'm too young to be alone forever, too vibrant and passionate.

Process consultants are my homies

I am missing having process consultants actively in my life.  Most of my worldview is shaped around dialogic models of communication.

Lately I mention Meg Wheatley or Peter Senge to new friends and they have never heard of them.

This might seem petulant but I am not sure someone can get me if they don't know who Meg, Senge, Peggy Holman, Harrison Owen and so many more are.

I miss process consulting.   I don't see how to get going in such work.

Lost.  I miss my homies.

smart, intuitive, wise & great facilitator

The recent tgroup I did was a training tgroup, designed to develop tgroup facilitation skills for participants.

I definitely made many positive, facilitative contributions to my group.

After one of the fishbowl tgroups, when the other facilitators in training observed my group doing a tgroup session, a woman said "Tree acts like she can do whatever she wants."  I felt safe and secure in that group, confident of my ability to contribute positively to the experience. I received much positive feedback.

One of our actual facilitators told me privately that one intervention I did with another group member had been 'masterfully done'.

I am not blind and clueless about tgroup. I consider tgroup a dinosaur, a group dynamics model created in the forties that ignores the decades of work that has happened to increase our understanding of group communication patterns.

I like to train groups of coworkers in group communication skill, without the personal disclosures often pressured to happen in tgroup.  In my preferred model of group work, for any group of coworkers, is that everyone take responsibility for facilitation, time keeping and feedback.  It is key that everyone own the facilitator role.

blind and clueless

A former acquaintance abusively told me several times that I am blind and clueless.  When I indicated I did not like being negatively characterized as blind and clueless, he would express disbelief that I was offended by his negative characterization. Only this guy has his charm act down pat so he charmingly chided me for taking offense at what he characterized as his harmless characterization.

I am an INFJ, deeply intuitive, severely gifted intellectually. I usually get the feedback that I seem more tuned in than most people, that I pick up on all kinds of details that few others notice.

I am so not blind and clueless.

When someone negatively characterizes me, or anyone other than themselves, they are engaged in self-disclosure. Listen attentively when someone you have mistakenly believed was your friend tells you what is wrong with you. They are telling you about themselves.

So the man who told me I am blind and clueless was really telling me he is blind and clueless.

This man also frequently told me he did not trust me. Translation:   he was telling me he is not trustworthy. And, as it turned out, he was not. I genuinely believed he was my friend. We've all heard the old saying 'with friends like that, who needs enemies'.  Some people, apparently, feed like vampires off the strength of others, deriving a sense of their own value by putting others down and then, seeing they have deflated the other, they feel a false inflation of their own value.  I guess. I am speculating. I don't really know why anyone could, so wrongly, see blindness and cluelessness in me.

I am notorious among my friends for noticing everything.  I have friends who are internationally recognized communication consultants who are amazed at all the things I notice, and these are people that notice most things, too.

Once, when a friend and I were convening a four-day weekend, residential event, someone went through most of the rooms where people were staying, during the dinner hour, and stole money from most purses and wallets. The group was very upset and even fearful, wondering if a stranger had come to the retreat center. The loss of the money was less upsetting than the idea of a stranger staking out our group, watching us and carefully choosing dinner time to steal from most of us.

So my co-convenor and I gathered to talk about it. She had absolutely no idea who could possibly have violated the privacy of most of the group. For me, it was instantly obvious.

A new participant in this community, for this was an ongoing experiment in community that met four times a year for four-day residential retreats, had dragged her unwilling fourteen year old daughter to the gathering. This new participant had just finished her college degree and had been promising her daughter for quite some time that after graduation, the mother and daughter would have a weekend getaway together. When this woman heard about our gathering, she wanted to attend it and she, disingenuously, imho, told her daughter "this will be out special time together".

But it wasn't a special time together. The new participant aggressively made a big presence in our group, took over lots of circle time blowing her own horn. And she did not spend any time with her teenager.

I, convening that weekend, paid closer attention than I might have if I were not convening. I saw the teenager was angry, upset and unhappy to be at this adult and, to her, boring gathering.

When I heard someone had stolen money from most of the participants, I knew instantly that it was the teenager.

When my co-convenor and I gathered to assess how to manage the anxiety that was alive in the whole group, I said "It's so-and-so, the teenager, she's mad at her mama."  My co-convenor, a beloved friend,  and also a hugely successful communications consultant who has worked all over the world, published popular books on group dynamics models and dialogic models, almost gasped and she exclaimed "I never would have gotten that!"  She didn't have to say that she knew I was right. We both felt the certainty that I was right. That teen was angry with her mother for dragging her to a boring adult gathering. The kid might have been okay with spending a weekend in the woods. I think what rankled the kid was her mom had said "This is out getaway together" when the mom was totally absorbed by the event and ignored her daughter. Probably a pattern in their ongoing lives.  This mother had a tendency to suck up all the attention she could.

The next time the group met in full circle, it came out that it was the girl.  The group did not talk about her motives.  Everyone was empathetic and many participants shared stories of having stolen, esp. as a young person. No one suggested that the girl had stolen from most of the participants to act out anger towards her mother. But that's what it was.  Mad at her mama.

A blind and clueless person would not have seen, instantly, that the thief was that kid, mad at her mama.

The kid fessed up on her own. No one had to confront her.

I couldn't understand why the whole community had not instantly realized it had been that teenager. Her anger at her mother was boiling over. The girl had disrupted our large circles, sucking up a lot of attention from all of us because, I surmised even before the theft was discovered, she wasn't getting the attention she wanted from her mother.  It was obvious to me.

Then again, I had endured an angry teenage daughter.   I had relevant experience?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Elk Speaks v. Guns Germs and Steel

For my college freshman orientation program, the first book I was assigned to read in college was Black Elk Speaks. I wrote a post about Black Elk Speaks a few days ago.

I have had a nagging urge to remember something and I remembered what I was trying to remember just now.

My daughter also had an orientation at college. I believe the transfer students, which she was, and freshman all read the same book:  Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel.

I remember recoiling in my being at the book Guns Germs and Steel. I considered reading it, to have a sense of what my daughter was learning. I don't think she ever read it, actually. Some guy she was seeing just before she left for Ithaca found it fascinating.

1971:  as a college freshman, my first book was Black Elk Speaks

2001:  as a transfer student in orientation, my daughter, all the new transfers and all the freshman were assigned Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel.

I don't think I could read a book called Guns Germs and Steel even if I were paid a hundred dollars a word. I suspect the name tells me all I need to know:  guns, germs and steel have shaped human civilization.

Black Elk Speaks offered a way forward. Guns Germs and Steel seemed wrong to me.  I wonder why my daughter's college chose the book it chose. I thought the choice did not bode well for my child.

I am grateful I went to a university that had all its freshman read Black Elk Speaks. We also watched an Ingmar Bergman film during our freshman studies program, my introduction to foreign film.

a Thanksgiving memory

I once spent Thanksgiving at my mother's home in Ohio, where she lived with her second husband. My older brother had relocated to Ohio also so he was, of course, part of the Thanksgiving gathering.

My brother was in charge of cooking. My mom did not like to cook. I don't think she ever cooked a turkey. My dad always did when she was married to him, then her husband or my brother cooked. Not just big holiday meals. Mom didn't cook.

Mom's kitchen had a newly installed stove with an oven that, for some reason, locked shut while it was cooking. You programmed it to time how long you wanted it at whatever temperature.  I never used that oven so I don't know how it worked.  Or maybe the oven was not supposed to lock shut but it did.

On this rare Thanksgiving with my mother, daughter, brother, stepfather, and sister-in-law, when my brother, who took much pride in his cooking ability, panicked when he could not open the oven to baste his turkey.

I remember him on the phone with the oven company, seeking help to stop the lock from remaining locked.

It was funny, although I did not dare laugh about it in front of my brother. He was very tense, upset.

Things worked out. He got the oven unlocked, basted his turkey and I guess we all had our Thanksgiving dinner. I don't remember the meal, just the panic over that locked oven.

parents are not around forever



A thank for mandolins and cheese
A thank for wine and honeybees
A thank for fellows deft and quirky
A thank for stuffing in the turkey

A thank for pixies trolls and faieries
A thank for Bloody and Holy Marys
A thank for angels and for knaves
A thank for rumors with their waves (a reference to the band Rumors of the Big Wave)

A thank for art and dance and words
For cooks and cocks and hummingbirds
A thank for queers and queens and cuties
and one for brawny hot patooties

A thank for those whose love is firm
A thank for hardon and for sperm
A thank for friends and food like this
and every taste of simple bliss


James Broughton 1992

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

rejecting a parent for 13 years

I listened to a friend describe her thirteen year choice to have no contact with her father.  At one point, she had genuinely feared that her father wanted to kill her.

Her story, her true story, had a happy ending.  Near the end of his life, after he had a major stroke, she came to resolution with her father.

It is her story, one she reports is still quite painful to tell.

As I listened to her, I felt empathy and compassion. And admiration.   It must have been hard to set aside her pain and fear and support her father when a stroke greatly weakened him.

Afterwards, on my way home, I began to think of my daughter's choice to sever all ties with me. Much old pain stirred up for me.

When I first lost her, for about three years, I first combed through my memories of parenting her for nineteen years, the age I last saw her. I could not remember beating her or behaving abusively. In nineteen years, yes, I felt some anger towards her. Once or twice, I slapped her, which, of course, I regretted. I never beat her. Never molested her. Never deprived her of anything she needed.

Then, I slide into what has been the craziest, most difficult period of my life.  I decided I must have brutalized her, even molested her, and done all kinds of horrible things to her but I had blocked them out in denial.  This was the most painful time in my life because I lost my moorings. I could not trust my memories. I was sure I had done something to make her hate me enough to disown me completely.

Once an old friend from our Waldorf life visited me in Berkeley. She was accompanied by a friend from MN, a person new to me. This young woman asked me, over lunch, "Why did your daughter leave you?"  It surprised me that someone who did not know me would bring up my loss and probe me about it. My friend rushed in and said "It's like I already told you. I think Tree loved her too much."

Too much love?   I lost my daughter because I loved her too much?  I don't think so.  I think she left me for reasons of her own that, however she may frame them to herself, can only be about her.  I was a good mother.

Someone overheard me, a couple weeks ago, disclosing my daughter had not talked to me for thirteen years. He said "Did you have a codependent relationship?"

Codependency involves some kind of drug, alcohol or other human dysfunction and one person in a relationship enabled that dependency. Codependency gets thrown about these days for, it seems, any relationship stress.

I did not have a codependent relationship with my daughter.  I didn't answer the man who shared that, I believe, unkind, blunt and even cold speculation. I didn't actually know him. He had just overheard me. I reeled inwardly, remembering the years I became unmoored as a combed my memories from nineteen years mothering her.

I sent her to camp every summer. I wrote to her father and his relatives regularly and begged them to see her, even offering to pay to fly her to visit them.  I encouraged her to leave high school early and start college after her sophomore year in high school. That is not the behavior of an overly involved codependent mother.  If there was any dysfunction, it was hers that corroded our relationship.

It took me years to regain a foothold on my own truth, years to feel certain that I had never beat her or molested her, never starved her.

I did yell at her in anger a handful of times. Not many. If she was so brittle that a few snaps from her mother caused her to sever her bond with her mother, she has deep troubles, troubles perhaps she blames me for but for which I am not responsible.

She and I shared a tragedy.  Something happened to her when she was five. Later, she came to disbelieve it happened. And I couldn't know for sure because it happened when she was away from me, visiting someone. I know she went off for a Christmas visit and returned like a different child. I know her kindergarden teachers began to ask me "what has happened to Rosie?"  When her Sunday school teacher asked me "What has happened to Rosie? She is completely different" I knew I had to try to find out what had happened.

I will write more on this.  I am crying too hard right now to continue.  I did not plant the idea of being molested in her mind.  I tried hard to convince myself it was wrong.

Child Protection got involved. A doctor examined her. And we saw a therapist with the unhappy specialty of sexually abused children.

Rosie, if you are reading this:  the first time we saw that therapist, you talked to her about a dream you had the night before. I guess she asked you if you had had any dreams.  I don't remember exactly how you began to talk about having had a dream of being in our old house, where we lived before the divorce. You were in the house with your father, you said, in your dream and I was outside the house being chased by a monster. The therapist asked you to draw a picture of the monster on one of those white boards with a bunch of markers.

You drew a picture of a penis. You drew a long round phallic-shaped image, you put grass or bushes at its base (like public hair). And you drew drops spurting out of that phallic shaped 'monster'.

Until you drew that picture, I was not convinced you had been molested.

You drew a picture of a penis, honey. I didn't make that up.

a h.s. crush, never acknowledged

I used to have a friend who told me a story that I think would make a good short story, although it would need a fictional ending.

Through much of his high school years, he had been 'best friends' with a girl that he actually was attracted to. He could never bring himself to disclose his feelings of attraction to her so the relationship remained platonic.

I feel empathy, and I think most humans could, for that high school boy, anxious and fearful to tell a girl "I like you as a girlfriend", fearful to risk that she might reject him.  Even now, when this man and I are no longer friends, I feel empathy for his teenage self, which, I have other reasons to believe, was not a particularly happy teen.

Once, as he and I and another person rode through Marin County, where he had grown up, we passed near a shopping mall. He told me that on more than one occasion, he would go into the private parts of the mall, pull a fire alarm and then blend in with customers. He spoke of hearing emergency sirens rushing to the all. He said he did it a few times.  I had just met him when he told me that story but the story really tugged on my heart.  I know a child's cry for help when I hear one. Pulling a fire alarm, especially more than once, is a blunt cry for help but, in these calls for helps, so buried that no one knew that teenage boy was troubleed, or anxious, or whatever the pain that motivated him was about.

A couple years later, when he told me about his high school platonic female friend, I think he was planning to attend a high school reunion.

After high school, this person deferred his acceptance into a prestigious college to spend a year in Europe. When he returned, to attend UC Berkeley, his high school gal pal was at Stanford. They eagerly made plans for a reunion, with him traveling by public transit, I think, to see her.  I envision him crossing the Dumbarton bridge.

He made his way to her Stanford dorm room, she greeted him, they hugged each other and she felt the hardness of his erection. He had fantasized that they would finally become boyfriend and girlfriend, especially as he had journeyed from Berkeley to Palo Alto.

Perhaps he had had some sexual experiences while living in Europe. I don't know that part.

I don't think he would have forced himself on her. I think he got a hard on when they hugged, after not seeing each other for about a year, because he was young. Young men sometimes get hard ons without intending to. In my imagination, his erection was a signal of his innocence and goodness. In my imagination, although I know he had fantasized that they might become sexual during his weekend visit with her, and, perhaps, assumed she returned his feelings, I 'see' him leading up to intimacy. I don't know what he imagined. He told me he was crazy attracted to her, that his feelings had been pent up throughout high school. And, hugging her after a long year apart, his feelings spilled over physically.

As soon as they embraced, she felt his erection, jumped back and said "I think you better go."

Then, he told me nearly 30 years later, he left and never spoke to her again.

I think, but I am fuzzy on this detail, that he told me the story because he was wondering if she would be at the reunion.

I felt much tenderness for that younger version of this man.  And I easily identified with having feelings of attraction but being anxious to disclose my feelings. For me, such fear is a fear of being rejected, feeling shame.

I urged him to contact her then, in 2008.  He shrugged off my suggestion as undoable.

I felt much poignant tenderness hearing that story. It caused me twinges of pain to imagine that he felt so ashamed of what had happened, that he never talked to a beloved friend again.

I understand adolescents, and college sophomores are still adolescents, can feel awkward, insecure, uneasy about their feelings of sexual attraction.

I wish I could relive the day this man told me that story. I wish I could listen to it once more, listening with active empathy and compassion. I wish for this like it would be a magic thing, like my expression of compassion, empathy and love for him might have mattered to him.

I think I wrote him, in emails, that I was sure she loved him, sure she had not intended to reject him. I was sure she had been surprised and, perhaps, might have felt violated retroactively, remembering him assuring her he just wanted to be friends.

I am sixty one and feel anxious and awkward when I feel attracted to someone.

you never looked so alone, Billy Collins

Embrace by Bill Collins
You know the parlor trick.
wrap your arms around your own body
and from the back it looks like
someone is embracing you
her hands grasping your shirt
her fingernails teasing your neck
from the front it is another story
you never looked so alone
your crossed elbows and screwy grin
you could be waiting for a tailor
to fit you with a straight jacket
one that would hold you really tight.

getting into gratitude . . . a timely aspiration!

At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. --Albert Schweitzer

We mostly regret choices not made, or too long delayed

do I dare to eat this peach? or write about my real life?

If I am going to write a memoir of my actual life, instead of  limiting myself to happy or funny memories, I will have to write stories I can barely access.  I am going to write about my hesitations and anxieties in an effort to write my real story.

When I got divorced, I was, and this surprised me, concerned about being a divorced Catholic.  I had given up on Catholicism when I was in my teens. When I married a man who had also gone to Catholic school all his life, including his undergrad and MBA programs, I slid back into going to church and acting like a Catholic. 

I was very unhappy in that marriage. Church was surprisingly soothing. As a child attending mass a lot, I had never really connected spiritually. Going to Catholic school, having parents active in parish life, my Catholic world was cultural.  Irish Catholic cultural.

I was surprised, during my brief marriage in my late twenties, to find solace at Sunday mass.  My husband, who talked all the time about his Catholicism rarely went to mass. I soon reached the point where I never missed.

When we separated, I talked to my parish priest about becoming a divorced Catholic.  He gave me what is probably good advice.  He told me that a divorced Catholic had to wait a few years to file for an annulment. He suggested that I write my annulment petition then, as soon as I had separated.  He suggested writing it might be cathartic plus it would spare me from reliving the answers years later.

So I did start to write my annulment petition in the early weeks of my legal separation from my husband.  I wrote and wrote and wrote, answering each question I depth.

I was probably 20 pages into my annulment petition when I realized I was writing the fake version of our lives that my ex-husband and I had invented to cover times when we had gaps in employment or had been fighting ferociously.  We had so smoothly told fake versions of our shared life that I was smoothly writing it down for ‘the Vatican’. 

When I realized I wanted a divorce from my false narrative, I dropped the idea of annulment. And that was when I truly stopped being a Catholic.

There, you see, I just wrote another inaccurate piece of my past.

I did completely drop Catholicism from my heart and soul. I was raising a child, however.  When she and I were able to move away from Nebraska, returning to Minnesota where I had gone to law school and had friends, I felt I should give my child some kind of spiritual life.

When we first moved to Minnesota (first time for her, a return for me), we happened to live two blocks from a Catholic church with a spellbinding young Irish priest who gave great sermons. The church had great music. For the year or so we lived there, we went to mass every Sunday. After mass, we walked to a nearby café were Rosie always ordered a bottle of orangina, which she did not actually like to drink. She liked the round bulb of the bobble. It was expensive. Every Sunday I tried to cajole her out of that orangina, then cajole her into drinking it. She never budged.

One day in church, after the energetic young, visiting Irish priest had returned to Ireland, a priest said, in the middle of a hate-speech sermon, “If anyone in this church right now doesn’t believe that homosexuality is a sin, they should leave this church and never come back.”

Thank you, Father!

Rosie and I were seated in the third row, smack dab in the middle of that very long row.  We got up and crawled over a dozen or more right-thinking Catholics.

I relished the dramatic departure. Rosie was glad to get out of sitting still for mass.

That was when I gave up on Catholicism for good.

My baby brother and my best out of four brothers is gay.  I could not attend a church that considered my dollykins Dave a sinner.  Dave came into this world very effeminate. When he was five and I fifteen, I had a moment of awareness that Dave was one of those males I had heard whispers about. I didn’t have language for what I knew about my little brother but I knew:  he was ‘like that’, whatever that was.  After that, no one could tell me people choose to be queer. Dave was born gay.

Then my guiding star for finding a church, for I felt I had to give my child some kind of spiritual exposure apart from my own beliefs,  became finding a church that accepted homosexuals without judgment.  In the mid-eighties, this was not an easy quest.

For some time, Rosie and I went to a different church most Mondays, rejecting them.

I don’t want to write about my attempts to give my child some kind of spiritual foundation.  We ended up in Waldorf, which does not teach anthroposophy, of course, but which became our source for fellowship and community.  We did search for church for some years but left church behind as we grew in anthroposophy.

My point is that annulment petition, how I wrote a fake version of my life.

I veer away from my truths in not-quite-conscious ways. 

Maybe I am too intense. Or maybe I think about the truth of my life in a skewed way.

I don’t know if I will be able to write my real life story but I hope to try. Ever since it came to me that I live behind layer upon layer of white lies and hiding aspects of my being, I feel a tremble in my whole being.

Do I dare to write about aspects of my life I have never talked about with anyone, except for Jane, a psychotherapist I saw every Monday for ten years.  Jane might be the only person I have ever revealed myself honestly to. And that took years.

Jane once said, and she was the kind of therapist that almost never said anything, “I have a strong sense, Tree, that you are dancing on the table here, that you are not telling me about your real life, but the one you think is acceptable.”

Dancing on the table. She was right.

I have been dancing on the table all my life.  Can I stop now?  I trusted Jane as much as I have ever trusted anyone and I couldn’t stop dancing on the table for her. I wanted to but I couldn’t.

It hit me last night, powerfully, that I might be ready to stop dancing on the table.  And maybe, at age 61, it is too late to stop. Too late to be me.  I hope not.

I keep thinking of a quote from George Eliot:  “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

I note that I did not write what the true story of our marriage was here. That might be a start.

Something within me seems to want to come out.

One benefit of being dumped by my daughter and even my five siblings, who all live far from me ,and my parents gone is I am free to write my story. Own my story. Write whatever I want in anyway I like. As Annie Lamott has been quoted saying "If people wanted you to write nicer stories about them, they should have been nicer to you."

I am free from the constraint of relatives who might object to me writing my life story

a Thanksgiving first

My sister, my daughter, my niece and I shared my niece’s first Thanksgiving in our house. The baby was eight months old. My daughter was fourteen, a freshman at a snotty prep school.
My daughter, fourteen when Ruby was born, was jealous of the baby. And I understood her jealousy. Ruby was both spectacularly gorgeous and intensely charismatic.   I have never known a more captivating baby. I doted adoringly on Rosie as a baby. And I loved her more deeply than I ever loved Ruby. I assured Rosie that she was wrong to be jealous.  Yet, truth be told, Ruby was stunning and stunningly charismatic.
Once I went out to breakfast with Ruby while her mother was in class. The people at the next table said “Your baby is like an old fashioned baby. She might be the most beautiful baby we have ever seen.”  Many, many people said she looked like the Gerber baby on old baby food labels. And she did.
I assured Rosie that people had stopped me to tell me how beautiful she was. And people did. I did not ever tell Rosie my honest belief that Ruby was an unusually charming, and charmingly beautiful baby.
Rosie could see all people who came in contact with Ruby sparked to her specialness. Rosie is not stupid.  She was a little jealous, for she had never seen me admire another baby before. There was nothing I could do about it.  I struggles to figure out how to deal with a teenager’s jealousy of a baby, jealous of the attention the baby got.  My daughter got plenty of attention. She had a very toned body because she danced about 30 hours a week. Her date to homecoming, just before this particular Thanksgiving, had told her he was going to the dance with the most beautiful girl in the school.
One way Rosie protected herself from Ruby’s considerable charm was she ignored her. Rosie complained to me steadily, when she was alone with me, that she knew I was trying to get her to interact with the baby so Rosie would baby sit. Rosie said “That is never going to work, Mom. I hate babies. I am never going to have babies. And I sure as shit am never going to babysit any babies, not even my cousin.”
I told Rosie that my sister and I had no expectation that Rosie would babysit.  Rosie did not believe me.  I did not have the heart to tell my daughter that we did not trust her with a baby.  She had never been alone with a baby, never changed a diaper, never had to comfort a crying baby. And, goddess forbid, my perfectionistic daughter was not well suited to changing a messy diaper. If she becomes a parent, I am sure she will (or, who knows, has) adapted, learned how to care very well for any babies of her own. At age fourteen, having never spent time around any babies, she just wasn't up to babysitting.

Me.  I started changing diapers when my brother Tom was born when I was seven. I changed most of brother Tom's diapers, nearly all of my brother Dave's diapers and even more of my baby sister's. Our mother was not fond of tending to babies and she saw her eldest daughter in a light not unlike Cinderella's stepmother saw her, as an indentured servant. I did not have to sweep cinders for mom. I had to tend her babies from age seven upward, plus that was about the age when I became responsible for preparing all the week day family dinners. Dad did dinner on the weekends.   I even had to grocery shop with the latest babies in tow in a double stroller that had a carrier for groceries.

My daughter? The first time she held a baby was when he Waldorf teacher had a baby. I asked the teacher if he would make a point of letting Rosie hold his newborn son, telling him Rosie had never held a baby. Of course he did. That baby had been born with a caul. Our Waldorf class teacher, David, considered that caul a powerful, positive omen for his third child.  He had told the class about the caul and spoke proudly of helping his wife remove it.

Things changed a bit on Ruby’s first Thanksgiving,regarding Rosie's aversion to Ruby. 
Rosie was in a couple dance companies. Ruby had attended one or two of her performances. Ruby adored Rosie, the person in her world closest to her in age and size. Ruby understood Rosie represented a separte category from her mother and I, that Rosie was closer to being a child than the adults around her.  Ruby would follow Rosie around, gazing upon her adoringly even though Rosie assiduously ignored her.  Rosie would make an open show of ignoring our adorable baby.
Then, as our turkey cooked in my oven, I had an inspiration.  Talking in semi-baby-talk, as one does talk to babies, I asked Ruby if she knew how to dance. She was crawling, standing up and trying to walk, but not quite walking.  Ruby shook her head solemnly. No, she did not know how to dance.
Then I asked Rosie if she might teach Ruby a few dance moves.  To my astonishment, Rosie agreed. I think I had played on her pride in her dance skill.

Soon the girls were rolling on the floor. Since Ruby couldn’t walk, Rosie came up with moves she could do. The main ‘dance’ move was for the two of them to stand, lean down and grasp their ankles and laugh through their legs at one another.  Other moves involved rolling around on the floor together, the two of them laughing joyfully, giggling, squealing.

Rosie played with our baby the rest of that day.  After that day, Rosie always interacted happily with Ruby. And Ruby adored the beautiful teenager who deigned to notice her. A win all around. Until that Thanksgiving, Rosie had not noticed that Ruby followed her around in adoration. The world might have seen a more adorable child in eight month old Ruby then fourteen year old Rosie but Ruby thought Rosie was the coolest human in her world.

That night, our company gone home and our kitchen clean, Rosie said “You know, mom, all this time, since Ruby was born, I really did think you were trying to get me interested in Ruby so I would babysit. Now I see that you were trying to help me have fun with her. It is fantastic playing with a baby.”

I don’t remember if I said anything. I remember the happiness I felt. I was happy my little girl, for she was still my baby, had rolled on the floor with a baby and found happiness.  I remember how I felt. I felt contentment, love and joy.

my daily pancake

I checked out Berkeley's new Whole Foods recently.  It's hella long walk from my place. The old Whole Foods is not only half as far but more like a grocery store. The new place has an odd layout and even odder food choices. In my opinion.

One interesting new thing:  the paleo hot food take-out bar.  I don't try to follow a paleo diet but paleo usually means lower carbs. My diabetes necessitates rigorous carb control. So I turned to the paleo food bar in curiosity.

I bought a bunch of spicy green beans.  And added some marinated crimini mushrooms in the same box. The marinade was tart and sour, burying any mushroom flavor and seeping into my deliciously spicy green beans. Yuck.

Right now, before I head to my writers group, I am enjoying my favorite daily breakfast. I think it counts as paleo but I am not sure.

Mash two bananas, add cinnamon, two eggs, beat with stick blender and cook like a pancake. It is as much egg dish as banana dish but it is as close to pancake as I get these days. I have added ginger to this recipe and it tasted fine. I have also tried a dash of vanilla; also fine. I love a cinnamon-y pancake like breakfast.  Sometimes I add chia seeds, which does not change the flavor or texture.  I quite like the way chia seeds metabolize slowly and leave me feeling full.

On paleo, can you eat bananas?

I used to avoid most fruits, because of the carbs. I have learned fruits have healthier carbs than processed foods like most flours and all sugar and sugar substitutes.

considering taking a risk

I write, a lot, about my pleasurable memories. I virtually never write, or talk, or acnowledge, what my life is really like.

I am going to try to surface my real self in my writing.

At the tgroup I did recently, I made good contributions to the groups. I was very open, which I pretty much always am. I facilitated others naturally.

And I talked about a lot of private, past suffering.

But I never voiced what my true suffering is about.

I am going to try writing my truth. My whole being is trembling at the thought of doing so. It remains to be seen if I can do it. Do it and share with my writers' group.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

a bit of butter on toast: yum

The host of our writing group always puts out bread and butter for toast. Sometimes muffins. She also presents nuts and, sometimes, blends of trail mix with a few bits of chocolate.

I always bring my own snacks, everywhere I go. If I feel suddenly ravenous, I have learned, I need to eat. A one ounce bag of cashews, sold conveniently by the dozen at Trader Joe's, does the trick.

I have resisted buying glucose tablets for low blood sugar challenges.  I have not had many low blood sugar moments. I bring a piece of fruit to eat when I feel low blood sugar. I also test when I feel my glucose is dropping. I need data, urgently. A 70 reading is very different than a 30. A 30 is close to coma time.

Low blood sugar can happen overnight while sleeping and this is often when the type one diabetic slips into a coma.  My former endocrinologist wanted me to awaken at 2 a.m. each night to test for lows but that would keep me awake for hours. Plus I never tested low.

Diabetes changes all the time. Doctors don't tell you this. Doctors, in my experience, don't tell diabetics very much. And endocrinologists are weirdly, tightly focussed on certain lab tests and don't actually pay attention to the patient as a person.

Two weeks ago at my writers' group, an hour after Eric had offered to make toast for everyone. He made custom orders for each person but me because I don't do gluten, dairy (butter) or sugar (jam).

An hour or so into the writing, I suddenly felt my sugar plummet. Like a large stone dropped in a river.  I tested and there it was, the dread 32.

I got up and made myself toast. And, since I was eating wheat, reasoned I might as well butter that toast.   I miss hot buttered toast. I really miss it. Such a simple pleasure.

Eric, restless and hungry, I guess, came in and added a piece of toast for himself, expressing surprise that I was making some for myself. When I told him about my low blood sugar, he reminded me there was jam in the fridge.  I probably should have used some jam. Sugar will boost my glucose fast but probably not much faster than the highly processed white flour toast I was going to have. I was already looking forward to the hot buttery toast and already planning on a second slice. If I added jam, I would only have had one slice.

A purist? 

Two pieces of not-very-nutritious white bread toast with butter and my glucose was back up.

A persimmon would have done the job but I had slipped out without my fruit.  I always carry an apple and some cashews, depending on which way the sugar is moving. In persimmon season, I carry persimmons.

Those two pieces of hot buttered toast were so good.  They reminded me, however, that it is optimal to avoid highly processed carbohydrates. The more processed the carbs, the more I crave carbs. After such an indulgence, I crave junky carbs like more toast, donuts, even candy.

I have learned, to my happiness, that I can eat more fruit than I allowed myself for the ten years I was misdiagnosed. Fruit has healthy carbs. Fruit doesn't spark my glucose to dangerous levels the way highly processed carbs do.

But in a dangerously low blood sugar situation, processed carbs get the job done.

Gosh that buttered toast was tasty. And my blood sugar level snapped back into healthy range.

That buttered toast was so much more pleasurable than the most delicious fruit, probably because it was my first buttered toast in many years.

Not enough to condemn riots: Rev MLK.

"It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard." Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

Monday, November 24, 2014

the greatest gift

a mystery of life . . ;-)

I bought some purple and orange cauliflower. Gonna roast the cauliflower.

I bought two butternut squash that I am going to turn into a mildly curried butternut squash soup.

Fiber. The nutrients that come in yellow foods.

I wonder if purple cauliflower has different nutrients than white cauliflower.

The mysteries of life. . .

think hippie thoughts

This is from Spirit Science's FB page.  I love this one.  It omits visual art and literature. Who can forget poetry?!

Ralph Waldo Emerson: wise

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Ralph Waldo Emerson

um, I don't want a dog

hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of years from now

Much like the dinosuars disappeared, the Mayan, Egyptian and Machu Picchu and other ancient civilizations snuffed out, we contemporary humans are snuffing ourselves out.

I imagine a listing planet, with gradual recovery of nature, whorling through the cosmos and some other life form will discover Planet Earth and study it's history. These beings will wonder, much as we do, why ancient civilizations disappeared.

I hope our self destruction leaves discoverable traces so future civilizations can learn from our mistakes.

chia seeds

I've been using chia seeds for about two years.  Now and then, I have a day without eating chia seeds and I really notice the difference.

Chia seeds are high in omega 3, providing enough Omega 3 in one ounce for a week. They are high in fiber and protein, too.

My favorite thing about chia seeds is how slowly the body metabolizes them, leaving me feeling sated for a couple more hours than a meal without them.

I put them in my grain-free breakfast muffins. I put them in my heavenly banana-egg-cinnamon-chia seed pancakes (almost no carbs! good for my glucose).

Eating chia seeds helps me need less insulin. Insulin is a tricky medicine. I need it to live, since as a Type I Diabetic, my pancreas is shutting down its ability to make insulin. Yet taking insulin tends to make it very hard to lose weight, a major goal of mine. I continue to steadily lose but it is a lot harder with all the insulin. Chia seeds help me eat less, eat less carbs and, happily, need less insulin.

My chia seed supply is low. I have to reorder but have to wait until the first. I am completely out of money until December first. No turkey dinner buffet from Whole Foods for me this year.  For years, I have gone to WF the day before Thanksgiving to buy a plate of traditional Thanksgiving, and also for Christmas, meal. Not this week! Perhaps it is just as well for I would surely have taken a scoop of stuffing -- carbs, carbs, carbs.

My organic baker pal said to me, yesterday (she lives in Santa Cruz), "Even if you don't have a family, you should be able to find a family of friends to have holiday meals with."

"I know, you'd think so. But I have spent all holidays alone since my daughter left me. I used to ask friends to invite me. People who do family things don't seem very comfortable including an Elisiah or two in their family meals."

Then she said "But many people have gatherings of friends, take in friends who would be alone. Seems to me Berkeley would be a great place for such hospitality."

"I think it is but something about me blocks me."  I didn't go into my sorrow. 

I deliberately kept my head down and did my best to ignore the holiday season, which I took to calling the holiday hellhole when 'Rosie left me. I haven't used the phrase holiday hellhole for a couple years. That's some improvement, altho in recent weeks, with holiday jingles feeling more assaultive than usual, I have heard myself thinking "Hunker down, babe, and keep to yourself, avoid the hell of the holiday hellhole."  The hole is no daughter.

One thing I really hate:  when a friend brings up the holidays, maybe just to say "Happy Thanksgiving" my heart uncontrollably leaps with hope, thinking  maybe they are going to ask me what I am doing and when they hear I will be alone, they'll invite me". I fell for that leap of hope for years. Now I hate it when friends mention 'the holidays'.

I don't celebrate 'the holidays'. I stay home alone, eating a raw green smoothie with chia seeds this year.

At least I have chia seeds. Actually I have plenty of food in the house. Wild salmon, squash. For some reason, I bought two butternut squashes yesterday. Visions of a curried swuash soup danced in my head. If I keep feeling better, I might actually make that soup. Otherwise, I'll just bake the squash.

rambling, eh?

struggling to believe I matter

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren't any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn't be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life's challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. ”
― R. Buckminster Fuller

I am struggling to believe I matter although my lizard brain knows I do.  I am unhappy.

But on the mend. It did not hurt like heck to get out of bed today.  I still feel lousy. A major infection does not just cause pain, apparently. It also has had me feeling weak, woozy, lousy and, well, sick.


Finally, I am feeling a bit better. My flank pain,  which has spread to both sides, did not wrench me as I got out of bed.

I am feeling a bit better physically.  Emotionally I am a wreck.  Being sick distracted me from my emotional pain.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

coconut creamer: yucky ingredients

I buy 22 pound bags of organic coconut flakes, which I use to make coconut milk. I have also used coconut flakes to make coconut butter, and then go on to make chocolate bliss using raw cacao butter (white chocolate), raw cacao powder (brown) and almonds. It melds together, one ingredient at a time, in my Vitamix so, sans the almonds, I can pour the chocobliss into ice cream trays for form little cube of chilled chocolate delight. Sugar free. Dairy free. And a great treat. I don't make chocobliss anymore. It's lots of calories and I am focussed tightly on weight loss.

Sometimes I find I am out of cocomilk when I am making a cup of chai or, far less often, a cup of cocomilk cocoa and I have 'cheated' by using a can of coconut milk from Trader Joe's.

I found out a few days ago that my stock of canned coconut milk was depleted. Then I learned TJ's no longer sells canned coconut milk.

It's not a tragedy. I can still keep an aseptic container of unsweetened, but not organic, cocomilk on hand for the day I am out of my own homemade cocomilk and not in the mood to make more.

Exploring my back-up cocomilk options while at TJ's, I looked in the dairy section. I think all grocery stores now sell half gallons of coconut milk, to emulate half gallons of cow's milk but that stuff is not organic and always has some added shit.

While I was just scoping out the dairy aisle, to see if anything new had appeared that might interest me (i am completely off dairy so this was my first foray into dairy land in about a year), I saw a tiny carton of coconut creamer. Impulsively, I bought some, unwisely assuming it had nothing but coconut, coconut fat and water in it. 

I never take my reading glasses to grocery stores and I can't read the ingredients. Sometimes I'll ask a store employee to read something for me but I rarely buy any processed food anymore.

I just looked at the coconut creamer:   it has xanthan gum (yuck), sugar (unbelievable that I didn't check), titanium dioxide and and dipotassium phosphase. Yuck, yuck and more yuck.

I think I will just chuck this puppy out.  For years, unless a guest in someone's home, when I will politely eat what I am served without grilling them about ingredients, I have not eaten anything with unrecognizable ingredients. Titannium dioxide is a chemical. My body needs food, not chemicals.

This coconut creamer shit has no nutrients whatsosever. Seriously, the nutrition label lists 0% for everything but sugar, which gets a 1%. So not much sugar.  Funny they present the sugar on the nutrition label because sugar has no nutritional value. In fact, your body uses healthy nutrients it needs to process the shit that is sugar.  1% might seem harmless but I have found any sugar changes how my body feels. I can easily start craving sweets if I eat any.

I am not perfectly disciplined. I will eat something processed once in a blue moon. At the tgroup 3.5 day training, there were boxes of gluten-free crackers. I didn't read the label. I am sure those crackers were loaded with crap. They sat on the shelf, open for anyone to take, for a couple days. No one touched them.

Finally I broke down and ate one whole box. It was a small box. Only four ounces. Gluten free but, I am certain, loaded with chemicals and other crappola. But tasty. Mighty mighty tasty. My glucose spiked, I injected a bunch of insulin and enjoyed my slip into the land of junk food. This junk food was tricky; presented as gluten-free with the unspoken aura that gluten-free meant healthy.  I didn't read the label because I didn't want to know what crap I was eating.

Onward and upward.

Gosh, those crackers were tasty. And the crunch of a cracker:  I sure liked that too.

peanut butter. v. Marmite

Marmite is a yeast paste commonly used on one's breakfast toast in the UK and, for all I know, on other things. I have eaten Marmite and its Austrailian equivalent, Vegemite, a few times. It is, as my mom often said to encourage her children to eat new foods, an acquired taste. It is a taste I never acquired.

One my daughter's Waldorf School has a prominent Anthroposophical teacher and speaker come to town. Several leaders of the school community, which included me as a board member, attended a dinner at one board member's home to honor him.

Over that dinner table, the topic of Marmite came up. The visitor was from UK. And he put us all in our place.

After several Americans had weighed in on the peculiarity of Marmite, he announced, in his stensorial, professorial tone, "For most Brits, peanut butter is intolerable. Peanut butter is disgusting. Can you explain to me why Americans love peanut butter?"


We didn't get Marmite. He didn't get peanut butter.

Peanuts, by the way, are not a nut. They are a legume, wrongly considered a nut by most. Pinto beans, navy beans, black beans. These are legumes, not nuts.

Peanut butter is an odd food.

So is Marmite, eh?

a poem I wrote, age 16

on the underside
where no one ever looks
there is so much more
than anyone will ever know

hidden love
hidden pain
hidden beauty

but not one ever opens the door
so it remains

on the underside
and no one ever knows

I wrote another poem at the same time.  I think my h.s. English department required each English teacher to give two 'creative' writing assignments a year. We didn't write all that much. Although I went on to college, it was not really a college prep school. Most of the girls expected to get jobs after h.s. and marry within a year or two. And most did, I believe.

I wish I had gone to  school that nurtured aspiring writers.  One of the things on my underside was a deep desire to be a writer of some kind.

This desire was furthe quashed by Professor Goldgar, the English professor I unfortunately took Introduction to English with. I had intended to take many more and probably major in English but Goldgar ripped my papers, all literary analysis, to bits. He didn't critique my writing pe se. He ripped apart my literary analysis. Retroactively, his vicious and, I suspect, sexist criticism (only men made real writers in his world) angers me. I had been told, repeatedly by my dad, that my dream to be a writer was foolish. He said writers starved and I should chose another goal.

Adults often asked me, as a child, 'what do you want to be?" and they nearly universallly discouraged me when I had the nerve to voice the truth, which was I wanted to be a writer. I remember befuddlement whenever choosing a career came up. The question was always preceded by some kind of motivational pep talk, that one could be whatever they wanted, to look within one's self and discern what your Self was calling you to be and then plan accordingly.

Goldgar was my last attempt, in an educational setting, to write.

Goldgar, fuck you. Literature is art. As a trained, experienced art docent, I know that no piece of visual art is interpreted the same way by everyone. And the same is true in literature. There are academic tropes and guidelines defining what constitutes literary analysis but that's baloney. Whatever I see in a novel or short story is right, in terms of what I saw.

Goldgar also snuffed out the literary ambitions of a college friend, Lou.  She, too, had started college intending to major in English and be a writer. Goldgar steamed that right out of her.  And he only encouaraged aspiring male student writers. I am still jealous. And angry.

It's never too late to be who you want to be. I hope.

Note. I know the poem I have shared is very adolescent-y and not great poetry.  It does reflect, however, how I felt:  unseen. And I still do.

I did a tgroup recently. Two twenty-something MFT students in my tgroup kept talking about how they feel unseen, feel they take up too much space when they talk.  A tale as old as time.

I don't think the human race has improved over thousands of years. I think we are devolving into something avaricious and, in that greediness, evil.  Grim thoughts, eh?  I blame the approaching holiday hell hole.

Rapids by A. R. Ammons

by A. R. Ammons

Original Language English

Fall's leaves are redder than
spring's flowers, have no pollen,
and also sometimes fly, as the wind
schools them out or down in shoals
or droves: though I
have not been here long, I can
look up at the sky at night and tell
how things are likely to go for
the next hundred million years:
the universe will probably not find
a way to vanish nor I
in all that time reappear.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

a pleasant reconciliation: I compassioned it

A few weeks ago, I made a reservation to use a computer at the public library, which is one block from my building.  My machine was in the shop, I think.  As I waited for the time for my reservation, I sat next to a woman, unknown to me, and she and I chatted in low voices.

A woman who lives in my building was using a computer nearby. This neighbor has always been brusque with me so I have given her wide berth but also tried to greet her pleasantly. It's tricky, being warm and friendly to someone who only grunts at me but, I swear, I have tried. I have always appreciated the tiny windows I had to be friendly to her grandson, who spends a lot of time with her. He is developmentally disabled and I see many ignoring him. I thought she had taken note of my tiny effort to act like a good neighbor. She had even smiled at me a couple times. Or so I thought.

So as this unknown woman and I chatted at the library, this neighbor got up from her machine to seek help from a librarian. I tried to tell her to save her computer, which the reservation system allows her to do. If you step away from a  computer with an open, active reservation in progress, anyone can cancel your session and start using it. But she shushed me and rushed off. Fortunately she returned with no one jumping onto her machine. Believe it or not, there are always folks who do not own computers who lurk, waiting to pounce on someone who steps away from an open session. The library only gives people two one-hour sessions a day and folks without machines, often homeless people, do what they can to squeeze more time. I had wanted to help her but she brushed me off, rushed off without securing her reservation and came back upset.

The unknown woman and I kept chatting, in low voices. I have never seen the public library enforce standards of absolute silence.

Finally, my neighbor gave up on what she was trying to do. I later learned, from our property manager because this neighbor complained to her about how hard it was to use the computer and how my talking had bothered her, that this neighbor had been frustrated with the computers, unable to do what she had wanted to do.

When this neighbor told us to shut up at the library, the other woman said "I am sorry" and stopped talking. I said "I am sorry, but. .  " and the neighbor angrily, and loudly, told me to shut up. "With you," she said, "It's always a but, you always got something to say."  I have interacted with her so rarely. She never attends building meetings.  I truly don't believe I have ever had a 'but' with her before.

I am assertive and, as my property manager said to me when I mentioned the incident to her, I am 'spicey'. I liked that. Spicey. A nice way to say I have energy and get noticed. I also think, and my property manger, who is black agreed this might have been a factor, that maybe this neighbor, a bit older than me, has some dated attitudes towards caucasians and sees my assertiveness as white domination. I discussed the library with the property manager to ask her if she had ever experienced me as being pushy or always have a 'but', always having something to say in some situations where I should not. I asked her if she had heard complaints about me from other residents. Nope, she had not. Well, many neighbors beleive I am the source of all noise complaints and the noisy neighbors tend to complain about me when they are cited for lease violation for noise late at night. It's not always me.  I swear. 

This woman at the library got loud, drawing a security guard, yelling at me that she was not going to listen to my but. I kept trying to speak, she got louder as she shut me up. The guard said we'd both have to leave if we didn't hush. I said "She said something to me and when I tried to respond, she told me to shut up."  She got to have her say but not me.  I can easily imagine many blacks thinking whites always get to have their say. The guard said "If you want to say what you have to say, maybe you can go outside with her and tell her."  Before I could answer, this neighbor, almost shouting said "No she won't, she won't be coming with me, she doesn't care about anyone but herself."  I said to the guard "I won't go outside to talk to her because I am not going to forfeit my reservation."

The next day, when I talked to the property manager about the interaction, the lady who had yelled at me was waiting to see her. I know, from the manager, that when I left and the angry neighbor went in, she asked the property manager if I had talked about the office. The property manger told her "Yes, she did. She said she was going to say "I am sorry our talking bothered you but if you had said something when we first started, we would have stopped." And I also had wanted to offer to help her with whatever she was having trouble with on the machine. But she wouldn't let me speak.

Since then, she has glowered at me the few times we've seen one another in the library.

Today I got my chance to heal this rift. She got on the elevator with me. She turned away from me, stony faced, as she has pretty much always been with me for the past five and a half years.  I asked "Can I ask you something?" She said I could speak to her. "I am sure you know there are computers for resident use in the building, plus there is the library. If you want, I would be willing to coach you at a computer, here or at the library, so you would not have whatever problem you had that day."  She thanked me but said it wasn't necessary. She had signed up for a class at the Albany Senior Center. I said "Well, that's smart of you. I am glad you are getting your needs met." She said "It is time for us to bury the hatchet." I said "That's what I thought. I have been looking for an opportunity to offer you some kindness ever since." "Well thank you, I am glad we can put it behind us." Smiles from both of us.

If I had been wearing my compassion it bracelet, and I actually thought this as I left the building after my neighbor,  I would have turned it over. My offer to help her was an act of kindness and compassion.

I also have empathy for blacks who see me as white and entitled. I do carry myself with an appearance of confidence. I do feel free to speak up whenever I feel like it. Is that white privilege?  I think it is who I am, and likely, to some extent, also related to my background as a professional advocate when I practiced law. I think I have some small understanding how an elderly black woman could see a spicy white woman who always not only has an opinion but feels comfortable and free to share it as white privileged.

I am pleased she accepted my overture of reconciliation. And pleased I don't have to coach her. The computers I mentioned are PC's and I am a Mac gal.