Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Witchy Women

The other day, I was talking to a friend who spends a good bit of her time cleaning up her eighteen year old daughter's poop, among other things related to her daughter's disability. I talk regularly to my friend Erika, who's wrapping up another prolonged visit to the PICU with her daughter whose Angelman syndrome causes not just seizures, but strange bouts of cyclical vomiting and complications that warrant breathing machines and long, sedated weeks in the hospital. I write ad nauseum of the trials and tribulations of uncontrolled epilepsy in my daughter Sophie, but probably less so of the conflict better known as why sweat the small stuff? You know what I'm talking about -- the mindless aggravations of modern, in my case, urban life -- the traffic, the school situation, the incessant driving around of our children, the agony of it all.

Erika and my other friend roll our eyes, generally, at this regular stuff that consumes our days and those of our regular friends. We don't sweat the small stuff as a rule, until we do. Sometimes, it is the small stuff that breaks the proverbial back, and yesterday as I drove around the city, while the terrible devastation wreaked by hurricane Sandy and my good friend's dying sister occupied my heart, it was the small stuff that occupied my brain and, eventually, drove me to, if not weep, then at least scream.

It was the couple being interviewed on NPR whose faith in the Southern Baptist God informed all of their decisions, including their recent "problem" of whether or not they could afford a new bookcase for their living room.  They also expressed bemusement at why they were so financially successful when others -- even family and friends -- were not. Why the hell were these people being interviewed?

It was the woman yakking on her phone while standing in line at Trader Joe's, who dismissively spoke to the cashier bagging her groceries and flicked her hair around her finger. I sunk to the level of contempt when I looked at her long, skinny legs and her three-inch heels and imagined her going up in a blast of fire and smoke.

It was the crap lying all over the Halloween store and the tortured indecision of my son over what to wear for Halloween. Am I a spoiled brat? he asked, as we left the store. You're a spoiled brat if you complain one tiny little bit for the rest of the day, I said, feeling justified given the 1/2 hour wait on line to pay for the costume, the screams and wails of the Halloween sound system and the haranguing I did with the cashier over the price of the Halloween pumpkin mask that was missing one bobble eye.

So, now it's Halloween, and I'm feeling particularly witchy today. I promise, though, to have some cheerful photos of the children frolicking on our urban streets, collecting candy filled with chemicals while I eat chili and drink wine with my good friend, Cara before heading back home to stand at the door and drop candy into the tiny outstretched arms of neighborhood ghosts and goblins and princesses.

Witchy women sweat the small stuff AND handle the big stuff with guile and cunning and sometimes, rarely, uncommon grace.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What warms the heart and sustains:

this post, by the fabulous Grady Doctor.

Thank you, Dear Dr. Manning.

Thank you.

Ice-cream castles in the air

I was typing at my computer last night and heard deep breathing, in and out, somewhat muffled, labored. I thought it was The Husband, snoring, in the living room and kept typing until a few minutes passed, when I got up from my desk in irritation and stood in the hallway to listen. The sound was coming from Sophie's room so I walked the three steps down the hall, opened her door and saw her lying face-down on her bed, the now-guttural sounds a frightening intake and out. When I flipped her over, her face was red, but she remained asleep, her eyes closed and her breathing quickly returned to normal. Was it a seizure? Had she had a silent seizure that left her face down, and when she began breathing normally again it was with a pillow in her face? Who the hell knows? Who the hell knows?

A very dear friend of mine has a beautiful sister, barely sixty years old, who is in hospice this week. Her family surrounds her with more love than one can imagine, but their mother has already buried two of her four children and my friend will have lost all of her siblings and who the hell knows?

The storm on the east coast whipped several cities and has already caused ten deaths. Living under brilliant blue skies and blinding sun here in Los Angeles feels like living on another planet. People in our country still argue incessantly about climate change and whether it's contributing to the increasing volatility of weather patterns. I'm on the side of trusting the majority of scientists and this who the hell knows would be directed at those who debunk the science. Who the hell knows?

Last night, I sat up in bed, sweating, still stuck in the throes of a nightmare where my wallet was stolen. That was all -- my wallet was stolen -- yet, I was bathed in sweat and terror. Who the hell knows?

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's clouds' illusions I recall.
I really don't know clouds at all.

As I dressed Sophie for school today, the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's song played over and over in my head. Are they the most perfect ones of nearly any song I can think of with a melody that tears one's heart to pieces? Who the hell knows?

Monday, October 29, 2012

My friend Moye

is an extraordinary artist.

That's a wall of ceramic vessels, each in its own tiny cigar case. It was part of Moye's first solo show, and the opening was in Santa Monica on Saturday night. I gasped when I saw what she had created over the last six months -- never has clay and chicken wire and color and simple, utilitarian objects been created and arranged with such startling beauty.

Moye is one of my oldest friends. We went to junior high school together in Atlanta and then high school. She has always been one of the most talented people I've ever known, and also the sweetest. Be on the look-out for her work as she'll soon be designing art pieces for Crate and Barrel!

Bravo, Moye. I am so proud to know you!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Team Sophie and the Walk to End Epilepsy!

The sky was a brilliant blue and the Pasadena sun relentless, but TEAM SOPHIE gathered at the BRAIN NOW bus at the Rose Bowl to walk together to help END EPILEPSY.

Here's our STAR: Gretchen  of Second Blooming who RAN a 5K for Team Sophie and raised more than $500! I adore her. Thank you, Gretchen!

Here's our INSPIRATION, Sophie in front of the Brain Bus. Those teams who raised the most money got their names on the bus. Thank you, everyone who donated!

Here's one of my best friends -- Cara -- who with her husband and girls triumphantly completed the 1K Stroll with us!
She has always been Sophie's and my biggest supporter, and I adore her, too.
Thank you, Cara!

Here's the whole TEAM SOPHIE -- friends, relatives and Sophie's caregiver, my friend Carmen with her entire family!Thank you to each of you. 
I'm not sure how much you realize what it meant to us to have you there, walking alongside Henry, Oliver, Michael, Sophie and me.

I just loved these ladies and their hilarious tee-shirts. As you all know, it's incredibly difficult to
keep calm during a seizure, and those of us in the trenches, dealing with it daily just want epilepsy to END.

 See you next year! 

If you missed donating, you still can! Visit Team Sophie on the End Epilepsy Walk page here.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bumper Sticker Thoughts

See you tomorrow at the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles' END EPILEPSY walk. We're meeting all members of Team Sophie at the giant brain by the Epilepsy Brain Bus.

Thank you for all your donations and your support. If you haven't had time to donate, that's all right because there's still time. Just click here and join us as we indefatigably work for relief from this devastating disease.

As for the MAKE DINNER NOT WAR bumper sticker, I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny Rosenstrach, the author of the wonderful cookbook Dinner: A Love Story and blog of the same name.  She was at Chevalier's, my favorite independent bookstore in Los Angeles, signing her books. We chatted for quite a bit, and I can honestly say that I feel like I've known her forever! If you don't know her blog or haven't gotten her book, I highly recommend its incredibly family-friendly recipes. Jenny and her husband write beautifully and with much banter and wit about their life with their children. I have used the recipes on her blog and in her book over and over and can attest for their ease and deliciousness!

A Dog with Two Bones

That would be me, of late, the first bone being Ann Coulter's use of the word retard and the discussion that cropped up around it, the second being the looming threat of a Romney win and his promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Some dogs chew more effectively on their bones, though, and my friend and fellow writer, Jeneva Stone is one of the big dogs. She re-posted one of her best this morning on Facebook, and I think it's not only required reading, it's imperative reading. I so wish the 24 people on my Facebook page who've checked LIKE on Mitt Romney's page would read Jeneva's essay. I wish many of my relatives would read Jeneva's essay. I hope that those of you indifferent to the Affordable Care Act will read Jeneva's essay and ponder on it a bit.

Here's an excerpt, but please read the entire, brilliant and impassioned plea.

A few years ago, I read most of T.R. Reid's book, The Healing of America, in which he suggests that universal healthcare arose in other countries through some sense of national commonality or other community sensibility: the Brits pulled together after WWII, the Germans rallied round the idea of the common German man (or person, I suppose), and I don't recall what drove the other countries' reasoning. Fairness, I suppose. Cost savings. Desire to improve quality of life. You know, all that reasonable stuff.
Well, not here. In his first chapter, Reid says, "Americans generally recognize now that our nation's health care system has become excessively expensive, ineffective, and unjust." Note that word "unjust." Read the status update above again. "Unjust" because, apparently, that's the way we like it. In his conclusion, Reid notes that "the American reliance on private, for-profit health insurance companies for the bulk of medical coverage is in accord with American values of capitalism and freedom."
As Americans, we value not only capitalism and freedom, we also value merit and "hard work." Because our health insurance system developed as a jobs benefit, we have become accustomed to associating access to health care with the ability to hold a job. People who can't hold jobs don't deserve "benefits" like health care. Because they are lazy, apparently.
Or at least that's the way Americans tend to think when we think at all. Most of the time we're too busy being independent pioneers and starting our own businesses and raising our children according each to her own individual belief that we really don't have time to think. Or when we have time to think we mostly think that Americans who whine about health care are lazy or have government jobs, otherwise known as "sucking on the government teat." Or some less polite spelling. I see that in comment threads all the time, which my husband constantly tells me to stop reading.

As my little sister says, I hear you barking, big dog.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Raising Teenagers: An Interview with Dr. Dennis Coates about the Teenage Brain

I recently read a book by Dr. Dennis Coates, Conversations with the Wise Uncle. A book for middle-school teens, it's a series of entertaining stories about a young boy and his uncle who mentors him throughout his teen years. The purpose of the book is to give young kids wisdom and advice when they need it most -- early in adolescence. It has given me some good ideas for talking to both Henry and Oliver, aged 14 and 11. Coates also has a similar book for young girls, Conversations with the Wise Aunt. Denny happens to be the husband of Kathleen, a blogger whom I've read for many years, so I contacted Denny to find out why there's so much on his blog and in these books about the teen brain.

 Whether you write for parents or for teenagers, you seem to talk a lot about the brain. Why?

Denny: I've been involved in learning and development for over 25 years, and early on I realized that learning is something that happens in the brain. So I've had a passionate interest in brain development and brain function –how the brain learns and how habits and skills are formed.

Not long ago I came across some new research about the brains of teenagers that has changed what we understand about the teen brain. The research explains the strange behavior of teens and what’s happening in their brains during adolescence. The long-term consequences are enormous, and if parents understood what’s happening, they could help give their child a superior mind. My work these days is to tell parents what I've learned about this.

What have you learned?

Denny: Brain scientists used to say that basic development of all areas of the brain was complete well before puberty. This new research proved this assumption to be incorrect, that one last area is still under development during adolescence—the lobes of the pre-frontal cortex, the area in charge of critical thinking and judgement.

Why is this important to parents?

Denny: The consequences for the teenager are huge. In the near term, the area for rational judgment is “under construction,” so it’s hard for teens to use it. This is the real reason why teen behavior is sometimes unpredictable, emotional or risk-taking. Several books have been written that explain this. What these books don’t explain are the long-term consequences, and what parents can do to make sure the basic wiring in this area is extensive.

What long-term consequences are you talking about?

Denny: Parents have always known that a child needs lots of stimulation during infancy and encouragement to learn to sit, crawl, walk, talk and other basic skills. What they didn't know is that the child’s efforts cause the brain to wire itself in different areas. And they don’t know that one last area still needs to be wired—the area involved in critical thinking and judgment. And this has to happen during adolescence. Like other brain areas, there is a sensitive period of development, when the child has to do the work to make the basic wiring happen. But the wiring won’t happen if the child doesn't exercise critical thinking and judgment during adolescence. The long term consequence is that a child will become an adult with a superior mind, or a mind with limited capacity for thinking and learning—for life.

What then should parents be doing?

Denny: First, parents need to learn what’s going on in the teen brain. They need to understand how this area of the teen brain develops and the payoff if the teen does the work. And they should share these insights with the teen.

Also, most parents think it’s their job to criticize, lecture, solve problems and give all the answers. The problem is this approach doesn't require the child to think for himself. Parents need to learn a new way of communicating with the child that stimulates him to think.

And they need to do whatever they can to encourage their teen to avoid alcohol and drugs during adolescence, which is a sensitive period of brain development. Substance abuse during these years can derail development in the prefrontal cortex. I know getting teens to stay away from alcohol and drugs has always been a tough challenge, but the stakes are high and the kids need to know about it, too.

Parents shouldn't feel it’s all on their shoulders. They ought to seek other teen mentors who can encourage the kids to think for themselves—relatives, counselors, teachers, employers, program directors.

A lot of what you’re saying seems like new information. Where can parents go to learn more?

Denny: The first thing I’d advise a parent to do is to read the eBook, How to Give Your Teen a Superior Mind. It explains the teen brain issue in non-technical terms, and it has some good how-to advice. They can get it free on the web.

My books for young teens are another good resource. Conversations with the Wise Aunt and Conversations with the Wise Uncle are available on Amazon in Kindle and paper formats. Also, adult discussion guides for these books are available free on the web.

Unconditional love is essential to parenting a teenager, but anyone who has done that knows that love is not enough. It takes a lot of strength and some key parent-child communication skills that most parents don’t have. For parents who want to work on this, there is an online system for personal development for parents called Strong for Parenting. A similar system is available for young adults – Strong for Success.
And I have a blog for parents:, which features new articles weekly and connections to resources from other parenting experts. 

Thank you so much, Denny! I know this information will be useful to my readers, and I really appreciate you reaching out to me on this blog.

To all my blog readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments here, as would Denny. I'm generally not one for parenting advice from books, but I found his research and ideas, as well as books, compelling, and they're really helping me with my own boys. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Seizures, Santa Ana and Raymond Chandler

The Santa Anas blew hard last night, and this morning we woke to giant palm fronds draped everywhere in the back yard and blankets of leaves and flowers covering the front lawn. Sophie has had some very big, prolonged seizures, which I'm going to blame on the hot, dry winds, and I continue to tamp down residual rage. Blame it on the winds.

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen.
Raymond Chandler 

One More Thing

Oliver, during No Name-Calling Week in 2010

I've been mulling over this Ann Coulter fiasco and feeling conflicted, still, on whether or not to keep making a fuss. I understand people's assertions that Ann Coulter is about making a fuss and that our outrage and disdain for her fuels her. I understand, too, and lean probably closer to the assertion that it's terrible to say nothing and that fueling her fire is perhaps the price to pay because silence is far, far worse. One of my favorite bloggers, Stephen Kuusisto of Planet of the Blind writes that Ann Coulter's name-calling has strayed glibly into fascist rhetoric. I'm not going to stop thinking about it or talking about it, either, no matter the initial "power" it lends Coulter.

Last night, after emailing a bit with another mother of a child with special needs, I thought about the publicity in general and how good it is in general. I thought about the huge numbers of people who have come to my blog over the past three days, when I've written about this. I thought about the many people I know that continue to use the word retard in conversation, casually, and while they might remember not to when I'm around, or quickly apologize if it slips out, they're still using it. A woman who performed in Expressing Motherhood, a warm and funny and beautiful person in every way, made a comment that she felt like a retard. I recently went to a lunch with a group of women, most of whom were my close friends, and one of them described herself as a big retard when she ran. Now, I know these people don't think anything of this word and perhaps don't even realize how hurtful -- even devastating -- it can be, to me, to Oliver, to Henry or The Husband. I'm not sure whether they realize that when they describe themselves as stupid or goofy, they're comparing themselves to Sophie. I'm thinking, though, that big splashes like the Ann Coulter one might imprint in otherwise wonderful, loving people and that they might, at last be educated. I'm hoping that they read some of the letters and emails and blog posts and Facebook updates that I've seen these past few days, have written myself, and really work harder on how they communicate.

And if they don't, I'm afraid I have to agree with many others that it's a reflection of their characters, and they are, basically, assholes -- no better than Ann Coulter.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Antidote to Ann Coulter

An old high school friend of mine worked on this commercial for Disney. I'm not a princess sort of gal, and I'm certainly not a Disney sort, either, but thank god for people like Scott and the sentiments expressed in this commercial. It helped, too, that there are two children with disabilities in it.

I'll go out on a limb and suggest that Ann Coulter is decidedly not a princess, nor is she a model for any child, boy or girl. I'd venture to say, too, that the way she was parented is perhaps at the root of her vile behavior and seeming disregard for anything of worth in our culture.

Thank you, Scott, from the bottom of my strong, albeit hard heart!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Burning a Bonfire

You know? I'm just going to type it out here: a response to my own response to Ann Coulter's vile slur against not only the President of the United States but all the children I know and don't know with an intellectual disability, the children, like Sophie, formerly (not formally) known as retards -- 

I'm tired of the comments that claim Ann Coulter is a bitch who is more an entertainer than a journalist or even spokesperson for the Republican party and that any outrage expressed is fuel for her, that we should just turn our heads and not cry, Stop! but rather be silent, ignore her and move on.

I would rather build a bonfire.

Here's another remarkable essay by the writer Robert Rummel-Hudson who says just about everything that I'd say, sans bonfire, including this:

If Liberals excuse her remarks because we think she's a buffoon who is clearly desperate for attention, we become complicit. If Conservatives distance themselves from her and say "Well, she doesn't speak for me, so I have no duty to rebuke her," they are also complicit, because it's not a political issue. It might be a little different if she were abusing communities with any power or any privilege, groups that could push back.

Read the rest here.

My only nod to politics, this late in the game, or why I'm voting for "the retard."

Last night, Ann Coulter, one of the Republicans' top spokespeople tweeted the following:

I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.
Yeah, plenty of people who support Obama use the word retard, and I'd call each of them on it, if I heard it, but if someone's measuring the despicable shit that's been flung around on this election cycle, I feel certain the Republicans' vile combination of jingoism, family values, outright racism and condemnation of entire groups of people certainly tips the scale.

I don't want to live in an America that is populated by a majority of people who have voted for Romney, because I think their viewpoints on most social issues are repellent and not worthy of respect or tolerance.

I'm voting for Obama, or as the witty, patriotic, conservative Republican Ann Coulter said, the retard.

Enough said.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blue Pillow

Last night, it was the blue pillow lying in the hallway, its corner crisply pointed upward, its center crushed, a stray curly hair, that I couldn't get out of my mind. Would you please pick that pillow up? I asked more than once, as both boys stepped over it on their endless treks up and down the hall. The blue pillow was there because as Henry walked into the kitchen with Sophie for dinner and turned left into the kitchen, she went down in the doorway, the split second before I glanced their way and knew it, like some sort of homing dog, I knew she'd go down, so I turned toward them, grabbed her and as she jerked, both Henry and I lowered her to the floor. I bent my knees to keep her arms and legs from hitting the door frame and the narrow walls of the hallway, Oliver put his head in his hands at the table in the kitchen, Henry said, I'll get a pillow, and he brought it to me and we placed it under her head while it jerked and her eyes rolled and her near-herculean efforts to sit up, while jerking, still seizing, taking the rest of my efforts. I'm so sorry, I said in the direction of the kitchen, the edge of turquoise peripheral in my vision, I adore that color, but only in my head because Oliver was crying over his pasta. I'm so sorry. I felt sweat trickle down my back, my face felt inflamed, the blue of the pillow behind Sophie's hair an ocean. When the jerking stopped, I heaved myself -- and her -- up in my arms and carried her to her room where I lay her on the bed and sat there myself for a moment.

Help Wanted and The Epilepsy Walk

Looking for a scientist/humanitarian to find the reasons and cure for epilepsy, particularly pediatric cases. Applicant must know the brain inside and out and have witnessed the daily life of a child with uncontrolled epilepsy. Interpersonal skills a must as is a total disdain for insurance companies and dubious appreciation of pharmaceuticals. Assumption that pharmaceutical discoveries will be considered successful ONLY if side effects are minimal to nonexistent as defined by parents of child or child him or herself. Cure must be complete and total; 30% or 1/3 efficacy rate is not acceptable. Applicant must have ability to outwit the brain.

Sobering Statistics:

1. Epilepsy in America is as common as breast cancer and takes as many lives.
2. One in 10 people will suffer a seizure in their lifetimes.
3. The mortality rate for people with epilepsy is 2 to 3 times HIGHER than that of the general population.
4. The risk of sudden death for people with epilepsy is 24 times higher than that of the general population.
5. There are 200,000 new cases each year, and a total of more than 3 million Americans are affected by it.
6. This number is MORE than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease COMBINED.
7. Public and private funding for research lags far behind other neurological afflictions, at $35 per patient. Compare this with $129 for Alzheimer's and $280 for multiple sclerosis).

This Sunday, October 28th, is the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles' End Epilepsy Walk, and Team Sophie will be at the Rose Bowl in beautiful Pasadena, walking doggedly. I know these walks and ribbons and colored days can be tiresome -- I myself have taken a couple years off in a sort of anti-non-profit foundation sabbatical, but I'm back, as are Henry, Oliver, Sophie and The Husband. Sophie had a seizure last night, again, at the dinner table that would scare the beejesus out of any normal family (as Oliver put it). I desperately wish that they'd stop, and while I know it might not happen soon enough, with enough support, enough money and enough doggedness, some kind of impact against this scourge will be made.  I'm making a last ditch effort to sign up more members and get more donations, so if you'd like to support us, please go to the Team Sophie page! And thank you, thank you, thank you to all of those who have already donated or who are actually walking with us! I so appreciate it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mornings with Sophie (too early) and a poem


Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punch line, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don't bother remembering any of it. Let's stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

Dorianne Laux

Listen to it HERE.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Anatomy of Melancholy

Gray skies, mid-October heat, driving to the valley, flaccid raindrops, ruing the ego, driving to the west side, swords of Damocles, vague loneliness, little Izzy in the hospital again, a rear-view mirrored glimpse of orange from the side.

Friday, October 19, 2012

What I think about

when I think about Ms. Chavez.

In all seriousness, I'm loathe to write this letter -- it hangs over me, though, like an obligation, not so much a sword of Damocles, but weighted with all the symbolism I put into it. I've said it before, but I need to go somewhere by myself for a bit, escape to a tropical island, sit on a lounge chair in front of sparkling, clear turquoise water, read several novels, have crazy sex with a kind stranger who then leaves me alone to my books and occasional dips in the water, interspersed with good food and citrusy vodka cocktails.


I guess I'll go and write that letter.

The principal thing in this world is to keep one's soul aloft.
Gustave Flaubert

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cat's Cradle

via Chris Pekoc

Yesterday, I had to go pick Oliver up from school early and take him to our homeopath/naturopath. I pulled in front of the school and parked in the 5-minute loading zone, dashed inside, signed him out and then walked outside to wait for him to come down (the school is in a many-storied building in a very urban part of the city). You're not going to believe this, but the exact same woman who had tormented me the other day with her impervious refusal to acknowledge my emergency, was typing away on her hand-held device, giving me a ticket! I said, Wait a minute! This is a 5-minute loading zone, and I've been here for less than 2 minutes! You can't give me a ticket! She said, It's a loading zone and you're not loading, are you? I said, Yes, my son will be down in a moment. She said, Nope, I've already written you a ticket and then she handed it to me with a smile. I couldn't see her eyes because she was wearing those mirrored kind. I swear to the good lord above that she knew exactly who I was, that she remembered my car and just wanted to stick it to me. Once again, I refrained from calling her a   foul name but did ask her for her name. She told me that it was on the ticket.

Her name is Ms. Chavez.

Evidently, Ms. Chavez is now part of what Kurt Vonnegut called my karass, a  group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God's will. The group can be thought of as the fingers that support a cat's cradle.

Either that, or I'm dealing with some interesting karma.

I fully intend to write a nice note to the parking authorities, whomever they are, and complain about Ms. Chavez. I understand that one has to be a hard ass to be a parking meter cop, but Ms. Chavez is a bitch and needs a complaint filed against her.

Now, let's listen to this and all calm down.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Precious jewel

Precious jewel,
you glow,
you shine,
reflecting all the good
things in the world.
Just look at yourself.

Maya Angelou

How We Do It, Part XVIII in a series

We're driving back from the physical therapist's office, where Sophie has just been cast for orthotics to help correct or at least ameliorate her increasingly awkward gait that is causing callouses, blisters and stiff ankles. They will cost nearly $1500, and I anticipate the wrangling with the insurance company, the telephone calls and call-backs, the forms to fill, the justifications. Sophie has been drooling excessively the last few days, soaking through more handkerchiefs than we have and also keeps a steady humming droney moan up the entire time we're at the therapist's as well as the drive home. When I crank up the classical music to drown out the sound, it manages to rise above it and wrap itself around my neck, insistent tendrils curling round into my ear, a hand to hand combat with any empathy left standing. I remember to breathe and do so, deeply, despite my own stuffed nose and congested head. I raise my voice perhaps too much and say Sophie, STOP. Please. But it doesn't stop, and we continue down Olympic Boulevard, heading east to pick up The Brothers, baroque instruments, Sophie's steady humming, adagio, piccolo, what would be the Italian musical term -- perhaps acceso (ignited, on fire), agitato (agitated), my own thoughts acciaccatura (broken down, crushed). When the seizure starts, I pull over to the side of the road and park in a red zone, jump out of the car and sit with Sophie in the back seat until it's over. When I climb back into the front, I lay my head back and close my eyes. Sophie isn't humming anymore. A couple of minutes later, I open my eyes and respond to tapping on my window and a voice con forto (with force) shouts,  You're in the red! I say angstlich (agitated, German), My daughter just had a seizure. I will move in a moment. The traffic lady repeated affrettando (hurrying, pressing onwards) Well then, just move! and she whipped out her handheld ticket machine and began to tap into it. I repeated myself, adagissimo (very slowly), My daughter just had a seizure, but I know how these things work so I pulled out of the red and into the street and then circled the block and found an empty spot with a meter. I carefully placed the handicapped placard on the rear-view mirror, opened my door and walked toward the meter maid, Not Lovely Rita, who was busy tapping into her machine. Excuse me, I said, amabile (easy, pleasant). You know, my daughter had an epileptic seizure and I had to pull over to help her. I really don't like the tone you used with me. Not Lovely Rita looked up at me, squinting against the sun. You shouldn't have parked in a red zone, she repeated, dumpf (dull). I repeated that I hoped she would be kinder, the tears running down my cheeks were not contrived. It's not my job, she said, and I cried dolente (sorrowfully, plaintively), Not your job? Not your job to be a human being? and when she turned her back and walked away, I raised my hand and grew a baton that I waved in the air and called on the accompaniments, the sacred and the profane, and I threw my head around, crescendo (growing, progressively louder), the baton slipped from my hand, sailed through the air and right through the stocky back of Not Lovely Rita who slumped to the ground, morendo, dying away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When inspiration doesn't work

Pithy expressions don't work during seizures. They also don't work when Sophie drools excessively, and I have to change her scarf twenty times a day. Inspirational messages mean nothing when the silence between two people doesn't seem bridgeable, when it's 90 degrees in mid-October, the dog has fleas and needs a bath. A long time ago, I held a screaming baby in my arms in an armchair and looked out onto a wintry playground, stories below. Breathing in I calm myself, breathing out I smile, I whispered over and over as I rocked my screaming baby. I pulled this out of an inspiration box today:

Go slowly.

Thict Nhat Hanh

Monday, October 15, 2012

Black spiders on white door with white dog

Halloween tchotchke hell abounds.

I Ching

Whenever things get dark and dirty or I'm stumped as to how to proceed in life, I throw the I Ching. I'm no Nancy Reagan (who evidently consulted it when advising her husband), but I've found that it utterly helps me to clarify whatever predicament I'm in and motivates me to sit with said problem without anxiety or fear. If you don't know about The Book of Changes, I suggest you read about it online because I'm hard-pressed for time today and just don't feel like typing out an explanation in addition to what I'm going to type out here.

I have the original Bollingen Series of the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of The I Ching or Book of Changes with a remarkable forward about the book and synchronicity by the great C.G. Jung, but when I throw the coins, I use R.L. Wing's The I Ching Workbook. It's easier to understand, and I can keep a record of the outcomes I've gotten in its pages.

So, last night I asked a question -- which is particularly unbloggable -- threw my two ancient pennies and one Buddha charm -- and got a very satisfying answer -- an answer that enabled me to settle down in my bed and watch three episodes of Homeland on my Kindle Fire as I blew my nose and sipped tea (I have a nasty cold). Lest you think every hexagram/answer is as benign or gentle as the one I got below, I assure you that other times I've thrown the coins for guidance have resulted in very different answers, some with bold warnings and admonitions.

I know this is a cruel blog post in that I'm not divulging my question, but the answer was so perfect that I just felt like marking it:

Hexagram 52: Keeping Still; Meditation

There is a focus now upon your inner perspective. It is of particular importance at this time that you meditate upon the object of your inquiry. With this frame of mind you can realign yourself to the tao.

MEDITATION here refers to a state where your thoughts do not go beyond the situation at hand. It is not a single act but a frame of mind.  Once the mind is calm and the ego quelled, you will transcend your internal turmoil. Your inner stillness will bring enlightenment by objectifying your impressions. You can now make exceptional progress by acting in accordance with the cosmos. MEDITATION and inner calm will help to center you. Through objectivity, you will know when to act and when not to act. In this way you make no mistakes and suffer no consequences.

Because of the external complexities in worldy matters, it is of great importance to achieve an inner peace which will allow you to act in harmony with the times, rather than reacting with impulsiveness. Hold your thoughts to the present and attempt an unprejudiced view of the situation. Actions that spring from this attitude will be appropriate and well regarded.

Relationships can now benefit from internal stillness. By avoiding thoughts that project too far into the future, and dispelling illusions of what can or will be, you can overcome ego-generated difficulties. MEDITATION, as well, can prevent you from making regretful social errors.
MEDITATION, in general, can renew both mind and body. By pacifying stress that is based upon projection and fantasy, true relaxation can be attained. The instincts that spring forth will be in accordance with your real needs. Stop your thoughts now.

Stop your thoughts now! What a thought, no? It's back to the cushion and sitting, I believe -- my practice has been half-hearted, at best, but this gives me some impetus to circle back, as do these words of Lao Tzu, from the sixth century, B.C.:

He who knows does not speak.
He who speaks does not know.
Close the mouth.
Shut the door of desire.
Blunt the sharpness.
Untie the tangles.
Soften the light.
Become one with the dusty world.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday, Sunday

should be sung as a dirge, I think. I hated Sundays as a kid, the blue of it, the going to church (boring), the driving around afterward (boring) in  the family station wagon, looking at houses, stopping to buy lumber at the hardware store, the whole day stretched out not a speck of joy. In fact, when I really think about it, the only time Sundays were bearable was when I had a job as a pastry chef and worked them, just another day. Even Henry, my most joyful of children hates Sunday. And Oliver has recently figured out that he hates them and wonders why they're so horrible. Why? he asked today, Why do they go on and on but then it's already over?

I bet you were wondering where my post was today. Here you have it -- a dirge of a post. But at least tomorrow's Monday.


Yes, he caught it and ran. That's the Big O, playing flag football on a golden evening in Los Angeles. I've said it before, but despite my own complete and utter lack of expertise in anything athletic (and interest, I'd add), I've grown and raised two athletes, boys who love to talk and play sports and who get their ya-yas out on the field. And I'll add that it doesn't inspire me to be good at anything athletic, either. I'm happy sitting in one of those chairs that fold up like an umbrella, my face turned toward the sun, grateful for their health and exuberance and abilities.


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