Sunday, April 13, 2014


Did I tell you about the time I met LBJ? Because there was an event to honor the passage of the civil rights act this week I've been thinking about him.
My dad sold Lincoln Mercuries at a dealership owned by the mayor of Austin. I think he sold a few to LBJ. Dad was adamantly Democrat but not actually politically aware. One year my grandmother and two aunts took a road trip to Texas to visit he and my half sister. He knew Grandmom in particular would be thrilled to meet the President. We drove out to his ranch but who ever was supposed to be there to give us a tour was not. We hung around on the lawn while sheriffs with big ol cowboy hats and mirrored sunglasses kept their eyes on us. I'm not sure if I remember it clearly but I think Dad was irritated and embarrassed. Grandmom and the aunts were hot and cranky.
My half sister and I were mostly bored. She was about 12 or 13 at the time and had taken to wearing a hair piece intended to make her hair seem long and straight. She wasn't that good at attaching it and it didn't really match her hair color so it looked somewhat odd. I was in my Teen Magazine phase so in photographs I am always posing and never looking directly into the camera. None of really ever are looking into the camera. We look like shoplifters who are trying not to be noticed.
There was a tourist shop in the nearby town. Plates, ashtrays, shot glasses, t-shirts, all with LBJ on them. There were jars full of grass clippings from the ranch.
A few years later Dad bought a ranch of his own and some quarter horses. He raced them on the weekends. We were often at the track. Our family now included a new wife and a step sister. The sisters dressed in matching cowgirl outfits. I wore patched and ragged blue jeans, a tye-dyed t-shirt, no bra, mediation beads and a rosary hanging from my hip, peace sign button another that read: Frodo Lives.
The president was at the track one weekend. Dad introduced us. Two good American daughters and me, the freak. That was actually pretty cool of Dad.
Like so many others, I didn't really think in terms of The Great Society as I shook that hand. I thought in terms of the Vietnam war. My memory may not be clear but it is one of a weak-fingers-barely-touching-not-really handshake. Neither one of us wanted to get too real. Listening to all the speeches this week I think I could have been nicer.
These memories come in the context of my last post and current thinking and continued frustration with the arch of justice.
It's been interesting to watch Mom, who raised me to believe there was "no difference" but married two men who used a word that we only mention by the first letter. And bought me panty hose in flesh tone with no thought about the colors of flesh that they would not match. She doesn't like to think about the things that aren't easy. She likes the narrative in which it all works out if you work hard and play by the rules.
In the book I am reading (Thank you Kristina) a character says: That is all there is -- perception and memory. But it's ragged.     
I think of these scenes in which I am a point of view. I am a point of view in a group of others. I can only imagine what they saw. In fact, I can only see my self back then in light of all I'm thinking now.
But there are clear facts.
I met LBJ.
I wish I'd purchased one of those jars of grass.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Rigorous Hope

Saturday night I watched Twelve Years a Slave. It is an amazing movie. Great acting, great cinematography, great writing. And it's so hard. The next morning MHP hosted a conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates and other profoundly intelligent people in which the notion of white people holding the tragedy of slavery was articulated. 
I watched a movie, which was a representation of a book which was a representation of events that happened a long time ago and I knew there was going to be a (somewhat) happy ending. And even with all those layers, all that distance, I could barely stand it. I wanted to look away. I wanted to fast forward. I wanted to make it stop. I felt the emotion for days afterward but there is a difference in the emotional price I am paying and the price people of color pay holding those same images. 
We are all wounded by racism. Our institutions are, our country is wounded by racism. It is our history and our present. We can not talk about hope and change and liberty and justice for all as if we live in a Disney movie. We live in a story that is still being told. Ta-Nesisi articulated the idea of rigorous hope. Hope that isn't surrounded with hearts and flowers but is felt as muscle tone.  
Of course when I think about these things I start to list all of the oppression in the world. It's not overwhelming but it is fragmenting. 
I've been working on (and never finishing) a post about my purple bathroom. The bathroom is painted purple. Mom had some purple towels, which I swiped. I already had a purple shower curtain. I bought a purple bathmat and a purple hook on which I hang my purple bathrobe. There are purple non slip palm trees in the tub. None of these things is the same shade of purple. It's really quite amazing to me. Some are more red and some are more blue. Some are lighter.
And because I am such an abstract person I look at all these purples and I think about color and in many ways and I think about skin. I have known very few black people. I've known people in many shades of brown. I have only known a few white people. I think I haven't finished the post because it felt dopey and didn't really lead anywhere and revels how my thinking is less than rigorous.
Years ago I read a man writing about how he realized that when his wife, who was a painter, looked at a hillside and where he saw green she saw shades of  green and brown and yellow and more. I don't remember who wrote it but the idea stayed with me and comes back to me in my purple  bathroom. and I'm thinking about all the colors I see in skin. 
But now I think of broken and bleeding black skin and my eyes fill with tears. I do not need comfort. I need to have those tears. I need to feel that tightness in my throat.  
Right after I watched the movie I watch Doc Martin. It was on. I enjoy it. It makes me laugh. 
And that's how it is when you live with choices and freedoms and privileges. I listen to smart conversations. I read smart thinking. I watch tragedy and comedy and it's all part of something. 
The voting rights got passed and the Supreme Court takes bites out of it. 
Marion Anderson sang on the steps of the Lincoln memorial 75 years ago today. 
A woman who played the part of a slave with broken black skin accepted an award for her wonderful acting. 
Things are better.
And worse. 


Monday, March 24, 2014


Caroline Casey often says, create ritual or live melodrama. I'm sure she says it in relation to some planetary influence but I don't remember which or why. It's just always made sense to me. I've had rituals in my life connected to spiritual practice and I've found then comforting. Usually at some point they become rote and start to feel restrictive. But there is something about performing small acts of reverence that feels like ceremony. And ceremony feels like drama is a (somewhat) controlled sense.
With that in mind I wanted to create a daily ritual once I'd settled into the nest. Seemed like a simple thing to do. I wanted to find a way to formalize my gratitude and also do yoga. But I am rarely simple.
It felt like I should start the day with my new ritual but I have to eat pretty much first thing. If I don't I get wicked stomach aches, don't want to eat and then at some point in the afternoon become insatiable. Protein works best. I eat eggs pretty much every day. In San Francisco I walked from the bed to the computer, also turned on the radio, stopped long enough to make breakfast and take it back to the computer. There were days when I didn't get dressed until noon. Now I live on a main street with a wall of floor to ceiling windows. If the light is shining a certain way and if you happen to look up it's like I live in a diorama. People really don't seem to look. And my pajamas aren't particularly revealing. I'm not overly worried about being seen. I could keep the blinds drawn if I were. But Monday through Friday I get up, take a shower and get dressed before I make breakfast. On the weekends there are some news shows on radio and television that I like so my shower comes later. I also wanted to get away from being in front of the screen all day every day. Now I eat at my table or on my butcher block and delay getting to the desk.
Of course.
To be honest.
I check email and Facebook on my phone first thing every day.
And I still turn the radio on first thing with rare exception.
TV on the weekends.
These tiny little shifts in behavior are fun but they are not a formal, reverent, ritual. But OK. I get through all that and then ... a ritual. Right?
I have always wanted an I Ching. I specifically wanted someone to give me one. I took advantage of  a gift certificate from Kristina to get one a few months ago. The Ching is not easy for me. It took me awhile to decide to use pennies instead of looking for special Ching coins. I had to read how to do the casting and I'm not at all sure I'm doing it correctly. Then there was Mom's visit and my trip to North Carolina and wanting to recover from all that by burying myself in a Sims coma. And finally this morning, a Monday morning, the start of a new week morning I decided to try to do my ritual.
First I shower, poach some eggs, feed Benedict, turn on the computer.
And then I toss the coins. My hexagram? Shing: Pushing Upward.
Further reading talked about success with effort. By then I was having an energy crash that I sometimes have in the late morning and I needed to lay down and close my eyes, which I find hysterical.
I had a battle with my elevator door awhile back and I lost. I ended up on the cement floor of the parking garage. I pulled myself up a few steps. The whole thing hurt my shoulders in some muscle straining way. Even small movements can be painful. This too will pass but no yoga for now.
The hexagram talks about heaping up small things and bringing small offerings. All very encouraging.Lots of "no blame." And so I will not count this morning as the beginning of a new ritual but as a small offering toward that idea.
I'll keep pushing upward but verrrrry slowly.    

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Weird thing happened when I returned from NC. When I walked into the nest I didn't feel a sense of being home. I'm not even sure what I mean by that. I haven't lived here that long and there are ways in which I haven't fully internalized the fact that this is my home. It was days later when I stood up, turned toward the kitchen, took in the sight of my cookbook corner and smiled.
I've had the thought that so much of what makes a place home is about habits. It's about the sound of the radio when you're taking a shower and making breakfast. The lights that you turn on when the sun starts to set. It's about the smell of the hand soap.
I think for people in relationships, or with pets it's about hugs and kisses. Maybe. I don't know.
I've been in state of gratitude since I first walked into the nest. Grateful just to be here. Grateful for the people who helped me get here. Grateful for every house warming gift. Grateful every time I do laundry. It's been a long time since I've experienced such spontaneous, sustained gratitude.
Maybe the opposite of gratitude is resentment and I have plenty of that. I have a deep well of resentment. I can tap into it at any moment. But I tap less often. 
If you tell me to look at the positive, I'll tell you to learn to be able to endure the negative. I get very cranky, very quickly when people are all about the positive thing. I have made, I try to make effort to be authentic. And sometimes I am not authentically... positive. It's not about making that OK. It just is.
There's something about wholeness. Something that requires acceptance. Mara tempts and assaults and is always there. Should we ignore Mara? Be entertained? Who knows? But what I feel is that these emotions and experiences and embarrassments are not to be denied. 
I feel more positive things than I have in years. Every color on a wall. Every book on a shelf. Every plant in window. All my stuff. It's all here and all unpacked and I look at it all with new eyes.
But I didn't feel immediately at home. It doesn't worry me. It's just curious. It's like wearing a new outfit and not being sure of the fit, or the style.
I actually think it's a very good thing. The radio I listen to now is OPB, which is NPR with Oregon content. The lights I turn on are all linked to one switch, which makes me smile for no particular reason. The smell of the hand soap is the same but the water gets warm faster. I haven't established habits. Or at least none to which I cling. It's really hard for me to imagine a time when living here won't feel like an amazing reality that I did not see coming.
Maybe that's the way home feels.   

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Mommy is Napping

What to do? What to do? There are so many things I feel I would do if I didn't need to be aware of her and now I have this time and ... what to do?
Mom doesn't require a lot of care but she does like being cared for and this year I notice more and more that she just wants me to help her. I have my own experience of wanting and needing help so I get it. I do what I can. Try not to be impatient or frustrated. Try to be kind. Try. Fail. Try harder.
I've lived alone for most of my adult life. Sharing space for any length of time always stretches me. With mom there are layers. There's the problems of our relationship. The problems of her aging process. The problems of my aging problems. The problems of ... you It's a lot to parse.
There's always something to cook, or something to clean. There's football on the TV. The volume is always on high.
So she's asleep. What to do?
At night when I'm trying to get to sleep I start thinking about blog posts I could write. Can't remember any of them now. I could read. I could watch one of the shows she won't watch. I can't really turn off the TV because she'll wake up if I do. I could take my own nap.
There's a line in a Joni song. There's always a line in a Joni song. "Now I am returning to myself the things you and I suppress." I imagine it's about a romantic relationship but it's something I feel after these long times with Mom. I put the jewelry back in my nose and call back all the parts of myself that I have not needed around her.
I feel like I'm changing. In ways I can't quite articulate. I have felt that way for most of the year. It's probably in part about living in a new town. The changes of habit. Something is shifting. Good. Bad. Both. Neither.
I never had my own children but I spent lots of time with other people's kids. I remember that feeling when they fall asleep and you know you are free but you're also exhausted. You do something mindless or silly just because you need to not be ... on.
Now I'm starting to worry because she's slept a lot today. Is she sick? Is she slipping away?
What to do?
It's almost time to start the soup.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Is It Safe?

Years ago I had a friend who had seen the movie Marathon Man and used the "is it safe" question as his own method of torture. He would look all glittery eyed and ask the question for no particular reason. We were, at that time, all trying to believe that the universe was going to take care of us in all ways if we had enough faith. We wanted it to be safe. But we weren't really sure it was.
Last week I noticed a post from the Hood River News on Facebook. There had been a bank robbery and schools were in lock down. I got an email from a friend with the heading: Don't go outside! I hadn't really been planning on it so I wasn't too worried.
A little while later I got email from the HOA guy saying that a homeless guy had entered our building somehow and tried to get into one of the units. He's a known homeless guy. I've seen him from my window. He seems harmless but it would be disconcerting to have him walk in the door.  
All this while the news from Colorado became increasingly grim. The news about Syria became increasingly confusing. The news. The news. The news.
The day felt weird. It wasn't that I felt like the robbers and homeless people of the world were on their way to me with mal intent. I wasn't even really worried. But I was something. Disconcerted? Maybe.
I've been trying to get a non drivers ID from the state of Oregon. I went on line for the paper work and filled it out. I brought two non driver IDs from the state of Colorado. I brought my long expired passport. I brought the xerox copy of my state issued birth certificate. None of that was enough. I need a specific state issued birth certificate. I talked to Mom. She sent my birth certificate. I went back. Not good enough. It was issued by the hospital. Not the state.
It's the death of common sense.
Since I have two state issued non driver IDs there must have been a time when the things I have were enough. But not now. And here's why it's pissing me off. There are states requiring state issued IDs before you can vote. I'm not entirely sure if that's true here but when I went on line to register it asked for my Driver's licence number. And you hear people talking about how it's not that hard to get an ID.
I will eventually get what I need. Maybe the third time will be the charm. I'll get my ID. I'll register to vote.
The burglar was taken into custody the other day.
Haven't seen the homeless guy walking around.
Is it safe?  

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Then what?

Kristina came for a visit. That was a very good thing.
It seemed like once or twice a day we'd be talking and I say something about a post I was going to write. When she left I assumed I'd be writing up a storm.
I assumed I'd be writing because we'd had so many great conversations. And we'd met up with Marcia in Portland and had more great conversation. My brain was sparking. I can't really explain why I never got to the page.
Since I've been here my days have been filled with unpacking and general settling in activities. My back has knocked me down a few times. Not terribly surprising since for months I've been moving boxes around. Mostly boxes of books. I found a really wonderful chiropractor but her adjustments are somewhat different than Barbara's. It all added up and I spent so many days on an ice pack that I burned my skin. But I was reading a lot and that also usually stimulates writing.
I think there's a writing guru who says something about "butt in the chair" as a big part of writing. Maybe. But for me it's always been about words building up and repeating in my head. It's often a reaction. I often have a post written in my head long before I sit in the chair. And I did have a few. But they seem to flattened.
The nest is pretty close to settled. I've bought and been gifted a few things but most of the stuff is the same stuff I've been living with and yet it all looks new. Every book on a shelf. Every picture on the wall. I feel more and more ... at home.
I've been asking myself what I'll do when there's nothing left to unpack. It's going to be awhile before that's true.