Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year from Yosemite!

I have limited Wifi and can't transfer any of my glorious photos of this speectacular place, but we're having a wonderful time with friends and family. I'll also take this small space to thank each of you for being in my life and to wish you a wonderful and Happy New Year!

May we all be peaceful and well in the next!

Here's a link to my newest post at Gratefulness called Everyday Epic.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Blood-Red and Complicit

Those are the books I'm currently reading, simultaneously. Well, I'm not actually reading them all at once, like scanning them from left to right, etc. -- but I dip into each one and read a bit, then lay that one down and dip into another one. I'm almost finished with the lyrical Ade by Rebecca Walker (she's Alice Walker's daughter, and I actually met her at a friend's house the other day!) and just loved it. Percival Everett's short stories are like no other that I've read, and I delved into the Flannery O'Connor because I read about The Displaced Person, didn't remember it from earlier reading and was just gobsmacked -- again -- by her brilliance. It's about a Polish refugee who finds work on a farm in Georgia, shortly after World War II, and -- well -- let's just say that it's prescient and that we haven't evolved too much since then, especially given much of the country's response to allowing Syrian refugees inside and the fact that a whole lot of people support contenders for the throne of the plutocracy who want to keep them out. There's also my own complicity to contend with (I learned at Tomales Bay from the great writer Steve Almond that we are ALL complicit in one way or another with just about every travesty) as part Syrian and all American. But hey, my last rant on that SIT U A Cee On landed me in a heap of trouble, including being asked to get my head out of my poetry ass, so I'll just leave you this passage from the story. (The Gobblehooks is what the woman, a white sharecropper, calls the Poles because she can't understand their name):

Mrs. Shortley recalled a newsreel she had seen once of a small room piled high with bodies of dead naked people all in a heap, their arms and legs tangled together, a head thrust in here, a head there, a foot, a knee, a part that should have been covered up sticking out, a hand raised clutching nothing. Before you could realize that it was real and take it into your head, the picture changed and a hollow-sounding voice was saying "Time marches on!" This was the kind of thing that was happening every day in Europe where they had not advanced as in this country, and watching from her vantage point, Mrs. Shortley had the sudden intuition that the Gobblehooks, like rats with typhoid fleas, could have carried all those murderous ways over the water with them directly to this place. If they had come from where that kind of thing was done to them, who was to say they were not the kind that would also do it to others.

That story was written in the 1950s, folks.

The Sy Montgomery book is an astounding one about an octopus and human consciousness. I can hardly stand how good it is and can only read in bits. I'll report back on it next year, which is just around the corner. My other Leisure Activity, done largely at night when the children are safely in their rooms either sleeping or playing horrific video games, is watching the second season of The Affair. It's on Showtime, and I don't subscribe to Showtime, but I signed up for a trial membership, and I'm in. I know there are probably better quality shows right now on the TV, but I can't stand a crime thriller or anything with lots of lawyers or intrigue on The Hill or spies and Strong Women Who Never Smile but are CIA operatives in the middle east. Give me a cheesy drama with lots of graphic sex, good acting and unbelievable story lines that revolve around marriages and child-rearing and New York City and Long Island over self-conscious Claire Danes combatting terrorists or fake southern accented Kevin Spacey sliming Washington D.C. Don't watch The Affair with your children (just allow them to steal cars and shoot up people in foreign lands with fancy guns and that all-American camo wear) or your parents (if your parents are like mine) because I repeat: the sex is graphic and there's lots of language and pretty much every single person is despicable, but it's a good soap opera for the likes of me.

I got my nails painted bright red today -- just in time, I told my friend -- for my drive up to snowy Yosemite tomorrow morning and my phantom lover. Just kidding on the lover -- phantom or not. I am leaving with the boys for the rest of the week and meeting my parents and two of my nieces at my favorite place on earth. Yosemite is a holy place, in winter or summer, and while I did just read a disturbing article about the thousands of Native Americans who were killed and otherwise displaced from their native lands, including Yosemite, I will approach it with reverence and humility and full acceptance of my own complicity as a white woman, reaping benefits hundreds of years later, my nails blood-red.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Hello Kitty In A Suitcase Washes Up On A Beach

Los Angeles, Sunset on Christmas Day 2015

So, I know the day after Christmas is not a good time to kvetch about the fact that I haven't done any real writing in weeks and weeks, but I haven't really written anything in weeks and weeks. There's a lot going on in these parts, in addition to The Holidays, but I generally write like the dickens no matter. This time, no matter isn't working for me, and I just don't have it in me to spin my stuff.
Tonight, I was talking with my sister on the telephone, and she was trying to remember the name of the book that she's reading. My sister is 50, and I'm 52, and we're both voracious readers, but we're both having a hard time recalling the names of the books we're reading. (Our other sister is a spring chicken at 42 and also a voracious reader but she claims memory loss as well). The 50 year old told me that she was reading a really good one that was shortlisted for the Booker prize (we both believe firmly that you can never go wrong with Booker finalists). She asked me whether a Hello Kitty in a suitcase that washes up on a beach rang a bell, and I said no but that I thought the question would make a great comedic line in a video or sit-com about two middle-aged sisters. Meanwhile, my sister headed upstairs in her house to check on the title which I didn't recognize, and when I asked her who the author was, she said Ruth and I said Ozeki and she said Yes! and I said I haven't read it but I hear it's good and she agreed. I simultaneously remembered that Ruth Ozeki was a Hedgebrook writer, that she'd spent time on Whidbey Island just like I had done but hell if I remember that person. Me, a Hedgebrook Writer in Residence. Was that a dream? Did I really go there? I had so much potential! Where has it gone? When will I write again?

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Poem for a McMansion Developer

I in my kerchief and they in their caps,
were nestled snug in our beds
dreaming of apps
when what to our wondering ears should a-sound
 but the play of drills and saws all around.
At 7 am,
I sprang from the bed to see
what was the matter
and all I could hear was the
clatter, clatter, clatter.
Your workers, it seems, on
this bright Christmas morn
were busy with tools
taking Christmas for fools.
You called me a communist
not long ago
when I deplored
the slaughter of trees
on my knees.
I find it ironic
and almost iconic
That on this sacred day
you're building
your house
and not even a mouse
can find peace.
I imagine your workers
are of Christian persuasion
but must work, work, work
even on this occasion
And because you love freedom
and the capitalist's way
I don't imagine you'll pay
for the holiday.
So as dry leaves that before
the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle,
mount to the sky,
so up to the housetop,
We'll fly, my boys, girl and I.
Our eyes will twinkle, our dimples
how merry
Our bellies will shake
like bowlfuls of jelly.
We'll speak not a word,
but go straight to our work
delivering chocolates
to those who don't shirk
Your house will get built
It will loom over mine
But a wink from an eye,
a nod from a head,
soon gave me to know 
we had nothing to dread.
We'll spring to our sleigh,
and I'll give a whistle
and away we'll all fly
like the down on a thistle.
We'll arise from the clatter
to the only thing that does matter.

Happy Christmas to All, And To All A Good Night!

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dear Cruel World,

Today I learned that the beautiful man who works at Trader Joe's and also jump-ropes in the parking lot has been forbidden to do so. Not not work, but no jump-roping in the parking lot. I learned this when I pushed my cart to his register, as he scanned my items. I struck up a conversation. A melon, a bottle of wine, a spiral-sliced ham, a smile. How's the jump-roping? I asked. He looked up and smiled. Not allowed to do it anymore, he said. What? I restrained myself from shouting. Why? I know there are many of you Angelenos out there who know what I'm talking about, and if you're not an Angeleno, read between the lines.

Evidently customers had complained, so management told him that he couldn't jump-rope anymore.

Reader, I am crushed. I have been watching this guy jump-rope for the eighteen years that I've lived in Los Angeles and shopped at this particular Trader Joe's. I don't want to sound all creepy and middle-agey pathetic womany, but that beautiful man jumping rope in hot weather and cold was like a mirage in the desert of -- well -- everything. He was thrilling. Sexy. Water. An inspiration. A fantasy.

I can't imagine who would complain about him or why. I took it upon myself to tell him so and then -- thank God my boys were not with me because they might have died right there on the spot -- I told him how much I'd loved watching him jump-rope  and how disappointed I can imagine many, many women were going to be to learn that he wouldn't be there anymore. Hell, I imagine there are many men who are going to be bummed, too. The Jump-Roper lifted my heavy bags into my cart and smiled and thanked me. I didn't tell him how much I'd looked forward to seeing him jump and how I was sustained by the pondering of what else he could do even as I hauled my bags out of  my Sexy White Mazda and unbuckled my toddlers from their car-seats, glared at the SUVs in the compact spaces with their "W" stickers back in the day.

Cruel World, why?



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Finding the Places of Hope

The more we lose, the more we come close to the reality of what it is to be human. Which is to accept our weaknesses, to discover that they’re beautiful. So many people are running around doing lots of things, but they’re controlled by anguish.
Jean Vanier 

Henry, Oliver and I went to LACMA last night and visited The Rain Room. It's a very cool installation -- a sqaure room with constant rain fall, except around yourself. You can walk very slowly through rain yet not under rain, if that makes sense.

I always struggle a bit with the pretension inherent in museums. Then I walked through the room along with my sons and other Angelenos. I was charmed.

If you rush or run, you get wet. If you stand still or walk ever so slowly, you're cocooned and able to hear the rain and see it, but it doesn't touch you. There's all kind of metaphor in that, no?

Have I ever told you how much I love Los Angeles?

We also wandered into the Diana Thater exhibit which was some kind of multi-media show about the imagination.

Cool stuff. We were there less than an hour and home 45 minutes later. Gratitude.

I know I've written quite a bit about Jean Vanier and L'Arche here on the old blog. He's my hero. Ian Brown, the terrific Canadian journalist whose book A Boy in the Moon I wrote about years ago when it came out, wrote this terrific profile about Vanier. Read it if you feel hopeless. Read it if your life is filled with riches, both material and spiritual or delirious and spine-tingling sex.

Jean Vanier's comfort and joy: 'What we have to do is find the places of hope'

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hippo Solstice

What are ya'll doing? I'm lolling about and then getting up and doing stuff like laundry and cleaning the stuff off the dining room table, then reading a bit of Flannery O'Connor's The Displaced Person (it's relevance to us and particular prescience) and then walking to OSH to buy those little carpety things that go under the dining table legs and then back to lolling and then to helping Sophie off the floor where she's lying seizing (yes, seizing, but I've done another WEAN of her gd medication, so we're in for it) and then debating whether pizza is in order for dinner -- again.

It's a long poem, but it's so beautiful. Read it silently and then read it aloud and let those words roll off your tongue.

A Dream of Solstice

Qual e' colui che somniando vede,
che dopo 'l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l'altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io...

Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

'Like somebody who sees things when he's dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now', for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king's gold dagger when it plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle

Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.

Seamus Heaney

Friday, December 18, 2015

How To Make Cannabis Oil

I've sent you to my friend Christy Shake's blog Calvin's Story numerous times. She's a beautiful mother of a beautiful boy with a severe seizure disorder. She's a magnificent writer. She also makes her own cannabis oil to treat her son. Yessirre, Bob. She also makes her own cannabis oil to treat her son. Today she posted how to do it -- how to make cannabis oil. I'm going to cut and paste the information below, but you can also go straight to her site here and look at the really great photographs that go along with the instructions and, of course, start reading the rest of her beautiful blog.

Those of you who've sent along the recent "findings" about cannabis oil and epilepsy, "announced" at the most recent meeting of The American Epilepsy Society should know that while I appreciate you thinking of me, I have to say that I feel a bit on the smug, I told you so side. The train left the station years ago for many of us, and while we welcome these positive reports -- well -- yawn.

Here you go:

easy as pie: how to make cannabis oil

If I were to vanish from the earth on any given day—get hit by a bus or by someone texting while driving, take a fall down the stairs, get into a car wreck—I think to myself, how might Calvin survive? It’s not an unwarranted worry of mine because, unlike typical children who could carry on with life after the death of a parent, without harm or peril to their physical selves, if I died, it would take a huge and focused effort for Michael to take over everything medically related to Calvin just to keep him alive and buffered from the specter of life-threatening seizures. He’d have to know Calvin’s every medicine, their doses and time of administration, know how to refill them and get prior authorizations from the insurance companies and know how to make Calvin’s cannabis oils.

So, in the interest of recording my methods in the simplest way for Michael (no, I'm not planning on keeling over anytime soon) and, too, for other parents out there considering making cannabis oils for their children, here’s the nitty-gritty of it all. It’s as easy as pie once you get over the initial intimidation of trying something new:

THCA cannabis oil:
This will give you some idea of what to expect, but I highly recommend you study the original recipe I use before you begin, which is in much more detail and downloadable from Epsilon Apothacaries. I've included several links so you can visualize and/or purchase some of the items you'll need, many of which you can buy at your local hardware or kitchen store.

    1. Start with one ounce of high THC(A) cannabis flower, trimmed well, dried and cured. I use an indica dominant hybrid. Mainers, I get mine at Remedy dispensary in Auburn; they are awesome.
    2. Grind the dried bud by hand (wearing thin plastic gloves if you like) or with an herb grinder over a sterile stainless steel bowl. Note: sterilizing instruments is easiest by steaming them, rather than boiling; I found this out the hard way.
    3. Transfer the crushed bud to a large sterile mason jar, cover and freeze overnight and ...
    4.  Pour 8 to 10 ounces of organic grain alcohol into a second sterile mason jar, cover and freeze overnight. I use cane alcohol from Alchemical Solutions but some folks use Everclear.
    5.  The next day, pour the alcohol over the crushed bud and let sit, covered, in the dark for up to 30 minutes (some people recommend as short as 5 minutes), agitating the mixture several times by shaking or stirring.
    6. Dump the soaked bud into a medium or large sterile stainless steel sieve placed over a sterile 4 cup glass measuring cup with spout, and press out as much liquid as possible using a sterile spatula, spoon or other tool. Discard or compost the strained plant matter. You can also have it tested to see how complete your extraction was.
    7. Push a sterile 75 micron nylon mesh bag partway into a sterile mason jar. Pour the liquid from the measuring cup into the bag (which is partway inside the jar) to strain out further plant matter.
    8. Cover the jar and freeze no less than 24 hours. This process is known as winterizing and will remove some of the chlorophyll.
    9. Place a sterile 25 micron nylon pressing screen over another stainless mason jar and depress its center to catch the liquid. Secure it with a rubber band or string. Pour the "frozen" liquid into its center while keeping the jar in the freezer so as best to extract the frozen plant matter, which has settled to the bottom of the jar. This straining goes very slowly, so it will need to be done in stages. Keep both jars in the freezer while you wait for the liquid to pass through the screen. The screen will catch a light brownish silt and your liquid will be clear and likely green.
    10. Pour the well-strained liquid into a sterile 9 x 13 flat-bottom glass baking pan and place in a darkened, light-tight room (I put mine in the basement, the windows covered to keep out the light).
    11. Cover the pan with a rectangle air filter, secure it and place it near a fan positioned at a slight upward angle to aid in evaporation. Some people suggest sterilizing the fan and its blades.
    12. After a day or two the alcohol evaporates off and you’re left with a thin layer of golden resin.
    13. Procure a sensitive scale, such as a jeweler’s scale, to accurately weigh the resin to at least a tenth of a gram.
    14. Place a small sterile glass jar on the scale, which should be set to grams. Make note of the jar’s weight in case something goes amiss or the scale turns off, then tare to zero.
    15. Using a scraper and/or razor blades, scrape the resin from the pan into the jar while it sits on the zeroed scale. The resin will be black and tarry. (See tip below.) Make note of the total resin weight in grams.
    16. Using a sterile 50ml glass measuring beaker for ease, add 30 mls of edible oil to each gram of the resin and agitate to dissolve over the course of hours/days. I use MCT oil, which is made from palm or coconuts, but I may be changing to a pure liquid coconut oil instead. Many people use olive, safflower or black seed oil. Keep the jar in a dark place, such as a cupboard, away from heat while it dissolves. I usually yield close to 4.5 gms of resin which, by adding 30 mls of oil to each gram, gives me about 140 mls of tincture lasting Calvin about two months at roughly 2 mls per day in divided doses. As of this post, Calvin weighs 57 lbs.
    17. Transfer the oil to an amber bottle or bottles easiest to draw up each dose with a dropper or a syringe, depending upon the dose. I like these syringes which can be put in the dishwasher without the numbers washing off; choose white plungers so you can see and measure the oil easily. I use leftover Onfi bottles, which look something like this, their plastic bottle adapters made to accommodate various oral syringe sizes and can also be purchased online or gotten from your pharmacy. I label and date my batches, which are tested by the good folks at two local laboratories, Tested Labs and Proverde
    To give you some idea of concentration, I start with flower that has about 18% THC. When all is said and done, using the recipe above, I get an oil that is between 21 - 26 mg THCA per ml with roughly 1 - 2 mg THC per ml.
      CBD cannabis oil:
      Procure dried, cured high CBD cannabis flower (I use a strain also from Remedy). The first step is to bake the bud in a mason jar (or two) with a slightly loose though well-thread lid at 240 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, agitating every 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature with the lid just finger tight. (In my opinion, this is the most straight forward way to decarboxylate your bud, but not necessarily the optimum method. I recommend researching and asking an expert, but it has worked fine for me.) Then, continue with the same steps as above, starting with step number 2, however ... 

      In my experience, the high CBD strain yields less medicine, so I add 13 mls of oil to each gram of resin instead of 30 mls, and I come up with a concentration of around 43 mg CBD per ml and about 2 mg THC per ml. I continue to fiddle with the potency. You can test your resin before adding the oil to have better control over the final product, but the labs need a fair amount of resin, which is why I test the end product instead and adjust Calvin's dose accordingly.

      For much more detailed and precise instructions, please refer to the original recipe, from Epsilon Apothecaries, which you can download. The entire process takes several days but less than a week. 

      Tip: to coax the resin to dissolve more quickly into the oil, add 1 ml of oil to the alcohol mixture and shake well just prior to evaporating it in the pan. This will dilute your final resin some, but will make the scraping easier and the dissolving faster. Simply weigh 1 ml of oil so you know how much weight to subtract to get the net weight of pure resin. In my experience, 1 ml of MCT oil, for instance, weighs about 1 gm. For instance, if you add 1 gm of oil to the alcohol mixture and, after it evaporates, you are left with 6 gms of resin substance, subtract 1 gm to account for the oil and your total net resin weight is 5 gms. Make sense?

      Disclaimer: I can't be sure you'll end up with what you want or with an oil that will help your child's seizures, but perhaps it's worth a try. Remember, keep things as sterile as possible throughout the process.

      Best of luck!

      We Shall Be Changed

      I woke this morning in a groan as a woman in Edwardian dress with a little child stood at my door, two ghosts, dark and terrifying silhouettes. Wraiths.

      This morning I am busy, getting ready to drive down to Orange County for a meeting. Before I go, though, I wanted to share this with you because it made me cry, the dream a faint hangover dispelled.

      Wednesday, December 16, 2015

      Mosh Pit

      Do you want to hear the good news first or last? It's not actually news but more of a rehash. SOS. Save Our Ship and Same Old Shit. I got a Christmas greeting card from our new health insurer. It was a snow globe with a cheerful winter scene inside. Despite coverage not beginning until the first of the year, I suppose Anthem Blue Shield is trying to butter me up. You know -- all that thank you for entrusting us to insure your good health and looking forward to a wonderful relationship in the new year. Wouldn't it be awesome if their season's greetings included Happy Hellidays and Looking Forward to Ripping You a New One in 2016! I'm thinking about printing the e-card out and using it for target practice -- oh, wait -- I don't own a gun and have already refused to even acknowledge those who believe it's their right or need to carry one. Maybe, instead, I'll use the card to practice spitting, or maybe blowing marijuana smoke rings. Wait -- I haven't really spit on anything or anyone since my sister and I fought over Parcheesi back in the mid-70s, and I don't smoke marijuana despite my fervent belief in its medicinal powers. May the new year knock some sense into our legislators, persuade them that accepting money from Big Pharma and the NRA enslaves you to drugs, fear and death.


      Where was I? Christmas greeting cards from your future health insurer (for whom you've already girded your loins in expectation of the Fight Over Formulary and Non-Formulary Drugs) are irksome and seem a waste of the cloud, no?

      Here's some good stuff. I spent a few glorious hours in Sophie's school classroom this morning. I brought fresh donuts and about nine Trader Joe's gingerbread houses for the kids to put together and decorate. They're a rowdy, fun bunch of young men and women. They are Asian and Hispanic and African-American and Caucasian and Christian and Orthodox Jewish and Muslim. They sang Christmas carols, danced and laughed and wiped frosting all over themselves. They worked very hard throwing sprinkles over the roofs and piled the little sugar people up by the front door. The teacher declared awesome mosh pit! and they all giggled. If you need a bit of cheer in your life, if you're completely demoralized by all the bullshit -- by the freedom lovers and gun lovers, by the war mongers and terrorists, by the expressions boots on the ground and collateral damage, by the Federal Reserve -- you should visit a class of young adults with disabilities.

      You won't feel gratitude for what you have and what they lack. You'll want what they have and what you lack.

      Tuesday, December 15, 2015

      Time Spent

      What a weird day.

      Everything feels all wrong.

      We didn't even bat an eye this morning when the robo calls came in. No school due to bomb threats. You've already heard it all. Credible threats and the incredible. Hoaxes. People solving all the world's problems on Facebook. De Blasio and Bratton -- I say screw them and their blandishments. Screw those who think we're at war, too.

      How could Christmas be ten days away and not a single present under our tree?

      I'm watching the second season of Transparent. Jeffrey Tambor's Maura face breaks my heart. The show depresses me. The Cherry Jones character.

      I keep forgetting to rip the pages off my day calendar.

      We're all waiting for something.

      Monday, December 14, 2015

      Blandeur or Grandeur?

      We're still weaning the Vimpat, and tonight I went to CVS to pick up Sophie's refill and even though I'd girded my loins and steeled myself for something to go wrong, when it went wrong it still took me, if not by surprise, then for a fool. I'm not going to re-write that silly, silly sentence. I guess it's good that The Government and The Corporation are colluding to make it even more difficult to get your Addictive Narcotic Substance Prescribed By the Medical-Industrial Complex Worker, but honestly, Reader, where I used to be a fuming tiger at the counter I am now a whimpering, beaten, nakedly desperate soul.

      Here's a poem:


      If it please God,
      let less happen.
      Even out Earth's
      rondure, flatten
      Eiger, blanden
      The Grand Canyon.
      Make valleys
      slightly higher,
      widen fissures
      to arable land,
      remand your
      terrible glaciers
      and silence
      their calving,
      halving or doubling
      all geographical features
      toward the mean.
      Unlean against our hearts.
      Withdraw your grandeur
      from these parts.

      Kay Ryan

      Sunday, December 13, 2015

      Naked As the Eyes of a Clown

      It's the time of year of life that calls for the cliche, the trite. I'm still here, none the worse for the wear. What does that mean? I think that photo was taken in 1964 or 1965. Fifty some odd (another weird string of words) years ago. I looked pretty damn serious. Funny thing is that I never could stand Bugs Bunny.

      I have nothing to report, to write. I went to hear Percival Everett speak and read yesterday afternoon at my favorite independent bookstore, Chevalier. I'm reading Everett's new collection of short stories -- Half an Inch of Water.  Ranching. Horses. Animals. Dogs. Old women who find portals to alternate vistas. They're extraordinary and seductive. How's that for adjectives? Adjectival. Every time I open the book, I start singing John Prine's song, and yesterday I asked Percival whether he'd thought of that song when he titled the book. He said, No, it was an expression my mother always used. Then he said the lyrics to the Prine song -- all of them. 

      Here are a few:

      I was sitting in the bathtub, counting my toes
      When the radiator broke, the water all froze
      I got stuck in the ice without my clothes
      Naked as the eyes of a clown
      I was crying ice cubes,
      and hoping I'd croack
      When the sun came through the window
      the ice all broke
      I stood up and laughed
      I thought it was a joke
      That's the way
      that the world goes round

      Extraordinary and seductive. Sweetness.

      I met John Prine a few times when I lived in Nashville. He was a nice guy with a crinkly smile. He seemed up to no good in the best of ways. Cliche. He'd play out in the country at these things called Harvest Moon concerts -- lots of people playing music under the stars, famous and obscure (both the stars and the people). It was the way the world went round.

      Extraordinary and seductive. Sweetness.

      Friday, December 11, 2015

      Peaceful Images and Poems

      A postcard from Paris' Shakespeare & Company
      via Tanya



      She does not believe even in herself --
      the first prismatic glimpse

      of scale caught in the bathroom
      mirror, flake of rainbow

      she mistakes for a weird scab
      Given to picking, she takes the Bic

      to it, but it bleeds blue and doubles.
      Another, another --


      From there to here's a blur. Sky
      -scraper horizons then anemone

      fields, jellyfish swirling as snow
      once did -- carillon orchestras

      without noise. It is this absence
      of sound she loves and misses

      most -- jackhammer at dawn,
      another screaming child.

      Somehow she made it to the sea.
      Something carried her -- full-finned.

      I can't even hear myself think
      she'd complained, the mystery

      now tones as a steal beam
      drum: Will I survive? This current

      I'm riding, does it feel? Tunnel
      of water through water

      Mist and foam, white travel.
      There is some place we belong.

      Lauren Goodwin Slaughter
      from a lesson in smallness*

      *this book of poetry came in the mail the other day. I ordered it on the advice of someone, but I can't remember who told me about it. Are you out there? Did I read about this beautiful book somewhere? Where? I love it.

      Reader, what are you doing?

      Thursday, December 10, 2015

      Our Lady of Ripening on the Vine

      to Carrie and Wil

      There are no accidents.

      Yesterday was a difficult one, and I spent much of the afternoon in tears. By dinner-time, my responsibilities as a mother seemed as burdensome as a factory job, and while cutting a lemon for dinner, the lemon not dinner, I knicked the nail on my middle finger of my left hand. It was the first time I'd used the knife, a new one from Japan, it said. Exceedingly sharp. Precise. A bead of blood rose instantly to the surface and then a line that ran down the crease and into the cuticle. It hurt. A heart throbbing in a nail bed. Oliver was circling around having picked all the Meyers from the little tree in our garden bed. A bounty of lemons hanging heavy and ripe, limoni, a Montale poem. Please don't pick all of them, I had told him. They'll keep on the vine but not if you harvest them. He didn't listen to me as his wont, and because he's fourteen and his wont also includes over-reaction, because he is newly part of a broken family, I held my tongue at least to something duller. I set my mouth hard when I saw the giant bowl of lemons on the counter. Why did you pick them all? I said as I chopped, while I chopped before I cut. He wiped each one clean at the sink as I held my finger under water, pushing the blood out. We were both silent. I'm not sure when the tension eased, but at some point he showed me one particular lemon with a tiny "4" etched into the skin. Look! Mom! he said. Isn't this weird? It was weird, and it was cool. I agreed, my mouth softened. You have to eat this one whole, he said when I told him that 4 has always been my lucky number (since the 4th grade, when I had Mrs. Delp, my favorite teacher, four letters, the number itself, four letters, room 4 in school), Oliver put it beside my bed.

      This morning I woke up, heavy in my bed. My finger throbbed. A heart in a finger. The bed of a finger. Some months ago, my friend Carrie wrote about Alana Fairchild's Mother Mary's Oracle cards and guidebook. I'm a sucker for oracles -- whether it's bibliomancy, the I Ching, a book of poetry, Mary the Mother of God. I bought a set. This morning, I shuffled the deck, cut it and turned over the top card. 

      #4. Our Lady of Ripening on the Vine

      I ask you to surrender your future-thinking to me. Although your future contains the promise of great blessings, do not let this distract you from the blessing I bestow upon you in this moment. I ask you to open your arms to my blessings in the here and now. You are the sweet fruit, heavy on the vine. The time for harvest has come. This is your time.

      ...This oracle comes to you as a confirmation -- there is something within you, something of you, that is ready. Even if the immediate reality doesn't match a fantasy that you have once held about how life would be when you would finally share more of yourself with the world, you are still ready and this is your time to shine.

      ...This oracle brings you a particular message that you are more ready than you think you are -- for whatever adventure most concerns your heart, or is already right at your feet. Do not shy away. It is your time for harvest. Open your arms and gather abundance to you. Trust that your abundance will benefit others too, because the more you have, the more you can choose to share and give. Do not be afraid to receive blessings and to have what your heart desires. The manifesting desires of your heart are the heavenly fruit becoming heavy on the vine and ripening, ready to be enjoyed. Fruit that is not gathered and eaten will rot, feeding the earth to be born again. So nothing is wasted. Yet that fruit could be sweetly savoured by those capable of receiving. There is so much waiting for you in this moment. Gather your harvest, accept the goodness and let gratitude fill your heart.

      Damn if I'm not eating that lemon whole today, letting the sour and the sweet run down my face, clean my wounds. We've got bags of lemons to share as well.

      Wednesday, December 9, 2015

      Paradise is hidden in each one of us, it is concealed within me too, right now, and if I wish, it will come for me in reality, tomorrow even, and for the rest of my life.
      Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

      I didn't have much to write today, and I had everything to write. The whole unbloggable stuff going down in my own life. The obliterating stuff going on in the world. My old job and my potential new job. Sophie hasn't had a seizure in a while. The death of the guy who started North Face, and then his life -- how he gave up the corporate thing when it disgusted him. Waking up to a kind email from the publisher of O'Shaughnessy who put one of my recent posts on his wonderful website. Siri is now teaching humans how to interact with the disabled (so weird that we live in this world where a computer-generated voice will probably be more effective in conveying something so intuitive and basic than the legion of humans that have been trying to do so for as long as humans have existed).


      I told a friend today to go on a news diet. That means no listening to NPR or reading the news or if you're old school, watching the news. I myself am on a modified news diet. I read a few headlines and scroll through some news photography, but if I hear mention of The D, I put my fingers in my ears, scrunch my eyes closed and start singing Van Morrison lyrics. That means a whole lot of Van. Right now, I'm partial to And It Stoned Me:

      Tuesday, December 8, 2015

      Greetings from the Christmas Tchotchke Shop (with trigger warnings, see below!)*

      First of all, let me clear things up regarding my post from yesterday. I failed miserably at conveying what I meant, and that was made clear by many of your thoughtful comments. I was struck by the T.C. Boyle quote that I used to open the post because it spoke to me about paradox, about holding opposing thoughts at the same time. I've written about that ad nauseum on this blog and elsewhere. Yesterday morning, as Henry struggled to get Sophie's wheelchair folded up and into my sexy, white Mazda, I remarked how strong he is and how lifting that thing would surely help to further build his muscles. I said it in the lame way that mothers do when they know what they're saying is cheerful bullshit. At least to me it's bullshit, because, frankly, having to lift a wheelchair into the back of the car for your handicapped sister and weaker mother is a pain in the ass. I have long mulled over the spin that we use to justify our situations or make them more tolerable or better. As a writer, I'm prone to flights of fancy and imagination. Sometimes it feels like I'm making the whole world up as I go. The things people say about Sophie or my boys, the things I say or think about Sophie or my boys or our situation -- I didn't mean to judge them.  It is what it is, as the moral relativists like to say. So, don't feel guilty if you've had those thoughts or said those things. Don't we all make stuff up to make ourselves feel better or to cope? And there is truth to all of them, anyway. Good truth and uncomfortable truth.

      Now let's move on for a visit to the Tchotchke Shop. Despite my intentions to not bring down all the Christmas crap from the attic, I was over-ruled by the The Brothers who were aghast that I would even think about holding out on the annual extravaganza. Of course when it came time to actually decorate, I was the one doing it all.

      I tried to remain Christmas Stepford Momish last night when it was looking like no one was going to help me put the lights and ornaments on the tree, but eventually I had to raise my voice to a moderate Christmasy decibel and insist that you need to get off those dang devices and get in here and decorate the tree! Then I forced Oliver to choose between decorating and sitting on the couch with Sophie. He chose Sophie until her head bangs forced him to do the job with Henry, and I sat on the couch with Sophie while simultaneously and sweetly ordering the both of them around.

      We watched about five minutes of White Christmas until The Brothers' constant mocking (oh my god! Look at how fake it is! This is so stupid! WHAT IS THIS?) destroyed the shreds of Christmas cheer I was so valiantly trying to maintain. I gave the boys and Sophie their annual new ornament and gazed, again, at the one I bought myself.

      Have you seen anything more fabulous than that today? I might have to craft a new blog header, right? How about this?

      That brings me to the trigger warnings for this post:

        * Lots of scary tchotchkes that might bother those of you who get agita at Christmas
      ** Lots of wonderful tchotchkes that might possibly throw your panties into a wad if you believe in the war on Christmas. Happy Holidays to you!

      Monday, December 7, 2015

      How We Do It, Part LVII

       To engage your humor and your emotions, that’s quite a trick. I’d like to think that I’m able to do that, to keep the reader off balance—is this the universe of the comedy or the tragedy? or some unsettling admixture of the two?—to go beyond mere satire into something more emotionally devastating, and gratifying. If that ain’t art, I don’t know what is. 
      T. Coraghessen Boyle 


      What we tell the siblings of the one with special healthcare needs, despite.

      What we tell ourselves about the siblings of the one with special healthcare needs, despite.

      What we tell one another about the siblings of the one with special healthcare needs, despite.

      What others tell us about the siblings of the one with special healthcare needs, despite.


      What we tell ourselves

      What we tell one another

      What others tell us

      1. You're really strong and developing your upper body strength! (lifting sibling's wheelchair into car)
      2. They are learning resilience! (the countless times they had to leave parties, not go to parties, not go on vacations or otherwise "give up" normal childhood passages)
      3. They are so compassionate! (which they've learned by watching their sister seize tens of thousands of times in their lifetimes)
      4. They're learning tolerance! (enduring the stares of strangers in public for their entire lives)
      5. They're tough as nails and fearless! (see #3)
      6. Look how able he is at age three! (learns how to get into and out of a 5-point harness in a car-seat so that mother can attend to disabled older sister)
      7. Your boys are so resourceful! (diminished attention at an early age from parents because they're otherwise occupied with disabled sister. See #6)
      8. At least she isn't an obnoxious teenaged girl! (she's developmentally disabled and hormone swings cause hideous seizures but no discernible obnoxiousness because she can't talk)
      9. You're so lucky that you can dress her in whatever YOU like. (disabled child is unable to make discerning choices and is basically stripped of all power)
      10. She's made you who you are.

      Sunday, December 6, 2015

      Right Ho Jeeves!

      We had a lovely night on Friday at my monthly Books & Bakes salon. We had read P.G. Wodehouse's novel Right Ho Jeeves, and because several of the attendees were die-hard Wodehouse lovers and the rest of us had never cracked one open, it was a lively discussion with lots of laughs. My friend Allen had just returned from a nine-month stint at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, so he cooked our traditional French meal. His husband Craig brought wine, as did several of the other guests, and between the champagne cocktails, the rich food and French whites and reds, we were all pretty happy by the end of the evening. I bought Christmas crackers given the British setting and made placecards for each person with the name of a character from the book. It was easy to go all out when someone was making all the food.

      Here's Allen preparing something:

      Here's Oliver peeling pearl onions, a thankless task that he did in tears.

      Here's the Green Bean Soup, my favorite dish, and one plated so beautifully in Allen's interesting soup bowls:

      Here's the main course: Breast of Chicken Agnes Sorel (you can read the scandalous story about her in my previous post) with rice and wild mushrooms, glazed butternut squash, carrots and pearl onions:

      I know the quality of that photo is poor, but those are asparagus sprigs on top of the chicken, and the sauce is a traditional Madeira. Everything was delicious and cooked perfectly! I felt blasted back into my days as a commis at Lespinasse in New York City where I worked for nearly two years doing ridiculous high end food for an insane chef. Allen is the total opposite!

      I did make the dessert -- a Cranberry and Raspberry Vacherin. It's basically two discs of meringue, layered with whipped cream and a compote of fresh raspberries and cranberries. It's tart and sweet and crunchy and soft, all at once, and is one of my most favorite holiday desserts:

      Reader, how was your weekend?

      Friday, December 4, 2015

      Sneak Preview of Books & Bakes (adult version)


      French Cheese and Crackers
      Champagne Cocktail

      Wild Mushrooms in Puff Pastry

      Green Bean Soup

      Supreme de Volaille Agnes Sorel

      Asparagus with Parmesan

      Glazed Butternut Squash, Carrots and Pearl Onions

      Mixed Greens 


      We have read and are discussing the great P.G. Wodehouse's light and hysterical novel Right Ho, Jeeves. We also have a guest chef who recently returned from Paris where he attended the Cordon Bleu. The menu is in keeping with what the characters of the novel might have eaten -- in fact, the Supreme de Volaille Agnes Sorel is mentioned in the novel. Agnes Sorel was the courtesan of Charles VII of France. Here's a brief description that I found online when searching for the dish:

      She was extremely bright, politically astute, exceptionally beautiful, and was known to have had the most beautiful breasts in 15th century Europe. Agnes Sorel came to the attention of Charles VII of France when the monarch ws forty and she was twenty-two. Charles was fascinated by her uncommon beauty, her sky-blue eyes, golden hair, and magnificent decolletage emphasized by her low-cut diaphanous gowns that scandalized stricter moralists such as the Flemish poet George Chatelain who lived up to his name by complaining that when he first met Agnes at the French court he could see her nipples.

      Of course, this has very little to do with Right Ho, Jeeves, but if you want to learn more about her, the website suggested reading Agnes Sorel: The Breast and the Crotch That Changed History by Tim Desmondes. The entire Los Angeles Public Library system has neglected this volume, so if you find it, I'd very much appreciate borrowing a copy.

      Now I'm off to put on my diaphanous gown before putting the finishing touches on the Vacherin. Reader, I'm just doing my part to educate the world with my tiny little mother mind.™

      The Mystery of the Whole

      Love all that has been created by God, 
      both the whole and every grain of sand. 
      Love every leaf and every ray of light. 
      Love the beasts and the birds, 
      love the plants, 
      love every separate fragment. 
      If you love each separate fragment, 
      you will understand 
      the mystery of the whole 
      resting in God.

      Fyodor Dostoyevsky
      via Word of the Day

      Thursday, December 3, 2015

      Righteous Talk

      Lots of righteous talk -- I'm guilty of it, too. I "unjoined" a lobbying group (that I've contributed very little otherwise) working to make cannabis accessible to all states because many of the congressmen and women, as well as senators that the group has to lobby are recipients of NRA largesse. I just can't do it with good conscience. I can hardly stand to look at the mothers of children with seizure disorders standing next to these men, thanking them for their support. I don't want to collude anymore. I love living in a democracy, having a vote and making my voice heard. I'm going to use it to support only those people who pledge to make gun laws stricter and who do not accept one penny from the National Rifle Organization.

      I'm going to resist cynicism and risk righteousness.

      Here's a guide to who gets what in Congress.

      My Alto Voice in the Choir

      Oh, sad, gunslinging whorehouse...Ah freedom.
                                                          Jeff F.

      I have no interest in those of you who like to collect, carry, protect yourself with and otherwise support the narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment.  Your exultation in your conceal and carry status or your photos of your gleaming gun cabinets are nails in the coffins of all the people who've died these last few weeks, culminating in the fourteen deaths yesterday of people who work with the developmentally disabled. Like Sophie. Yes, I'm making an emotional decision. You've made your decision, a decision that I believe is immoral and cowardly and based on nothing but fear and craven impulse. I have no interest in speaking with you nor in living alongside you.

      I have nothing to add to this bit that Mary Moon at Bless Our Hearts wrote in her inimitable style and would only add that I refuse to listen to anyone, ever again, justify their lack of support for extremely strict gun laws.

      What sort of guns did those gunmen, still on the loose, use today to calmly murder fourteen (at last count) people at a center for developmental disabilities in San Bernardino?
      I don't know. But I can tell you this- the guns, whatever kind they were, were manufactured for one purpose and one purpose only and that is for the murder of human beings. Many human beings. As quickly as possible.

      At this point, I don't give a shit what these crazy white men (it's always crazy white men, isn't it?) have or had as a motive to make them do what they did. I don't CARE if they needed mental health care that they were unable to get. I don't care what their religion was or their social or non-social lifestyle was. I don't care what video games they played or what their neighbors thought of them.
      All I care about is that they were able to get these guns, these weapons of evil intent and the ammunition to go in them and use them to kill innocent people.
      And of course it's always "innocent" people. School children, people in church, people in movies, people seeking health care services, people at an awards ceremony at a center for people with developmental disabilities.
      Look- anyone who would do what these men do is mentally ill. That's a given. Whether they are teenagers who want to kill their fellow students or grown men who want to gun down abortion providers- they are sick.
      That is not at question.
      But here's what is- what sort of deep sickness has infected us as a nation which would allow this direct cause and effect to still be legal? What is it about us as a society which makes us hesitate for even a second before outlawing these sorts of weapons? What has happened to us as a species that would allow this to happen over and over again?
      I don't even care if the second amendment DOES protect the rights of people to buy these guns (and I don't think for a second that it does). Let's amend the damn amendment. Because our babies are being killed.
      And we are the laughing stock of the world.

      So how do we do it? How do we, as a nation, say no more? 
      Look- I'm at the point where I'd let the government declare martial law and send agents to every house in the nation to collect these guns. Which, of course, would lead to civil war and unbelievable bloodshed because that would prove to the gun insanists (yes, I made that word up) that the very thing they've been yelling about as a defense for owning guns has finally come true.
      Nothing is going to happen overnight. It just isn't. This is a problem and a horror that may take decades before we see some results. Is that a reason not to begin the process? To outlaw these guns?
      The horror and evil of slavery wasn't solved in a day. Hell, we're still suffering the consequences.
      And this absolutely undeniably psychotic love affair with guns that a certain segment of American society has must be stemmed. The finger has to be stuck in the dike, no matter how huge the force behind it threatens to be. And no jokes allowed- this ain't funny.

      I'm preaching to the choir here. I know that. But let me remind you- don't vote for anyone who wavers or waffles on gun control. Just don't. Stand up and let's begin to start the process of getting these guns out of the hands of the insane. And no one in this whole world really believes that background checks really work. We have to just stop selling them. And even, dare I say? Making them?

      Tuesday, December 1, 2015

      The Subversion of Quackery

      WPA poster, 1936-1938



      noun: A quack: one pretending to have skills or knowledge, especially in medicine.

      From obsolete Dutch (now kwakzalver), from quack (boast) + salve (ointment). Earliest documented use: 1579.

      I woke up this morning next to Sophie who proceeded to have a relatively big seizure that I was able to stop by administering a couple of drops of THC. I have no doubt that if I hadn't given her the THC, the seizure would have been prolonged, and she would have been clammy and unresponsive for a couple of hours afterward. Instead, she fell asleep for an hour or so, woke up, ate breakfast and went to school.

      I lay in bed after the seizure thinking back over the years of her seizures and the years of various doctors' prescribing her anti-convulsants. I thought about the combinations of these drugs -- 22 of them -- their effects on her brain and body systems, how none of them worked, how her seizures still came and how they, the drugs, wreaked more damage, arguably, than the seizures themselves. I thought about the moment when she was nine months old, writhing and screaming uncontrollably all day and night, when I asked the esteemed neurologist whether my baby might be reacting to the combination of the three drugs he had her on, one non-FDA-approved and the other two approved for use in adults. I thought about his response, a hmmmmm over the telephone that stretched into infinity, followed by that's an interesting idea and then the universe tilting on its axis, folding up and disappearing into a black hole from where it had been birthed. I knew in that moment that no one knew what was up with my baby, and if my suggestion was a good idea (I was 31 years old with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French Literature and a Pastry School certificate), we were traversing a no-man's land.

      I thought about the moments when we injected her with five vaccines to protect her health and yours, her tiny mouth an O, the subsequent scream that stretched out for years, my own a mirror image. I thought about the derision, the mockery that those of us who question vaccine safety have been subject and then the smugness of Science.


      I thought about all those moments this morning as I lay beside Sophie, and then I thought about the thousands of families still subject to the multiple drug combinations that these doctors are still peddling, how a young woman contacted me last week to tell me that her 18-month old baby, on four drugs, was still seizing. I thought about the compulsory and draconian laws that were recently passed in California regarding vaccinations and how grateful I am not to have any babies subject to them. I thought about the CBD and the THC and the fight to get it and then the getting it and Sophie's immediate response. I thought about my great good fortune in meeting Ray at Realm of Caring and Dr. Bonni Goldstein and living in California where we have access to high quality cannabis. I thought about the Coloradans: the Stanley brothers, Paige Figi and Heather Barnes Jackson, all of them instrumental in shifting Sophie's path and countless others. I thought about the FACT that Sophie is now off nearly 80% of one drug and 65% of the other, that these two drugs have done irreparable harm to her, even as they are withdrawn. I thought about the cavalier attitude that most neurologists have toward cannabis, their caution and their ignorance. I thought about Obama's acting Drug Enforcement Administration Chief's statements on November 12:

      "What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal -- because it's not," Rosenberg told reporters last week. "We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don't call it medicine -- that is a joke.""There are pieces of marijuana -- extracts or constituents or component parts -- that have great promise," he continued. "But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana, which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana, it has never been shown to be safe or effective as medicine."  

      I thought about the wheels of Big Pharma, churning, trying to catch up. I thought about their influence on Science's practitioners, how they pay them to promote and advertise their products, ensure their profits. I thought about the money they must set aside for those damaged by their products, how they are shielded and how little it matters to their bottom line. I thought about quackery and the subversion of quackery -- when what is considered Science is actually not Science at all.

      Quack. Quack.

      I thought about those who come here and tell me that I'm too angry, that I complain too much, am terrifying, a miserable person. Is there a word for a reverse black hole? For chaos pushing outward, inward? If I were an angry person, I would have long since disappeared. You don't watch your daughter seize for nineteen years and suffer from terrible side effects of drugs and vaccinations that you gave her in good faith and then see her improve dramatically with an oil from a plant that anyone can grow and stay angry. You'd be dead, and I'm very much alive.

      Repeat. I woke up this morning next to Sophie who proceeded to have a relatively big seizure that I was able to stop by administering a couple of drops of THC. I have no doubt that if I hadn't given her the THC, the seizure would have been prolonged, and she would have been clammy and unresponsive for a couple of hours afterward. Instead, she fell asleep for an hour or so, woke up, ate breakfast and went to school.

      Quack. Quack. Quack.


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