Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Far Away Literary Magazine - The Sex Issue

Yes. I'm veering away from politics into sex. The beautiful Christine Johnson of Far Away Literary Magazine honored me by asking to include one of my blog posts in the newest issue, hot off the press today. Go check out all the other writing, too, as well as beautiful photography. The sex part? Mine is mostly inferred.

The Tired of Politics Chicken Post

Henry, dressed as a chicken for Spirit Week at school

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shame on You, State of Virginia with an addendum

When I lived in New York City many moons ago, I remember there was a news segment on the nightly news called "Shame on You." There was also a pretty racy soft-core porn show on network television at 11:00. I was grateful when it went off the air, if for nothing else than its outrageous tackiness. It was downright bad. The Shame on You segment was really funny, though -- produced on the fly and always featuring some loser who had tried to shirk the law or done some egregious deed.


The legislature of Virginia just passed a bill that would require all pregnant women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound 24 hours before doing so, to ascertain the age of the fetus. The big Repubs who pushed this through (after backing off their requirement for a trans-vaginal sonogram) call it necessary for informed consent, because you know they do have the woman's best interest in mind and as of this moment, the law dictates freedom of choice.  Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is expected to sign the bill into law.

I say, Shame on you, State of Virginia. Shame on you.

Addendum: I'm inspired by a couple of the comments, already, and I wonder whether you might contribute your ideas for intrusive medical procedures for unmarried men before they consider having sex with a woman. And yes, I realize this is a very complicated issue and yes, I realize that people are genuinely offended by and disagree with abortion morally, and yes, it's a free country and we're free to disagree, but no, I'm not mincing words when I say shame on all those who fight tooth and nail to dismantle freedoms afforded to women. My response will be bitter and scathing satire at best. At worst -- well -- I won't say it in public.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Emily Rapp, Paradox and Rick Santorum (again)

I'm going to read Emily Rapp's new essay in Slate over and over again because she is writing beautifully of paradox, that elusive thread that I tried to articulate just the other day. Emily is a writer and a mother of a young boy with Tay-Sachs, a rare and degenerative genetic disorder. Her son will die one day, probably very soon, and her response to the recent ruckus caused by Rick Santorum and his extremely conservative views about women is very provocative, to say the least.

What do you think about Emily's essay?

Pioneer Woman and homeschooling

Heather Sanders wrote an interesting piece on Pioneer Woman's blog the other day about homeschooling and recent comments made by Rick Santorum. Why, you ask, am I reading a homeschooling post? Well, I read Pioneer Woman's blog like ten million other people in the universe do, and yesterday I accidentally clicked on the Homeschooling tab instead of the Home and Garden tab, and it just caught my eye. I read the post, which was interesting, but then I started scanning the comments and got a sense that yes, there really are people out there who like Rick Santorum and don't think he's a crazy and they even have names and blogs and I could "talk" to them if I wanted to. There are literally hundreds of comments on that post, comments that quickly veered away from the topic at hand -- homeschooling -- and dug deep (or shallow, I suppose) into religion, birth control, women's roles, abortion, evolution and all those other topics that strike fear into the heartland of our privileged country.


This is some scary stuff for left-wing, communist, socialist, gay-loving, elitist, phony theologist, environmentally radical people like ourselves.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What's given and what's handled

Is the ability to hold two opposing feelings and/or thoughts something that one is graced with or something that comes with time and experience and exposure? I don't know the answer, but I see it all the time in those who share the experience of caring for a child with disabilities or who have lost a child to illness. I can look at Sophie and grieve for the loss of "normalcy," but I can also exult in her being exactly the way she is. I can sorrow over the absurdity of changing a near-seventeen year old's diapers and marvel at the gift of intimacy that entails. My friend Jody's beautiful daughter Lueza suffered from severe cerebral palsy due to gross medical malpractice when she was born, and she died unexpectedly nearly a year ago at the age of sixteen, but Jody told me the other day that it was such an honor to have cared for her daughter so intimately for so many years. I'm not talking here about all that unconditional love blather, although trite expressions are trite for a reason. I'm heading toward an understanding of openness -- of what it means to be truly open to experience, to the relinquishment of false notions of power and control, to, dare I say it, Love. I wouldn't be able to live, one person might say, hearing of the death of someone's child.  I could never do what you do, another says, I just couldn't handle it. 

Contrary to what some might say, we're not given what we can handle. We're opening to handle what we're given.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


My father and mother (1964?):

Henry (2012):

Giveaway Winners Announced!

I announced two winners of Karen Gerstenberger's beautiful memoir, Because of Katie, last week on my blog, but neither person has emailed me to claim their prize!

Please click here to see the winners, and if you're one of the fortunate ones, email me at elsophie AT gmail DOT com. If I don't hear from you by the end of the weekend, I will draw two more names!

The suspense builds...

Hexagram 9** with an Update

Hsaio Ch'u/The Taming of the Small

No matter what you do, the fruit of your labors never seems to ripen.
Your reward remains just out of reach.
Men have gone mad from such anticipation.
Don't lose your balance lunging for the brass ring
While the fates continue to restrain you, go them one better and display a self-
generated restraint and grace.
Look for the humor in the situation.

-- The I Ching

** Opacity is called for here, so I won't tell you the question.

Update: I realize that my opacity is sort of stupid, especially when you might not know what the iChing is in the first place. I wrote an essay a few years ago that discussed it and some other stuff, and it was published in Spirituality and Health Magazine, but for some reason it has disappeared from that magazine and appears in another publication here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Surf Report - Things I Like


Das Puppendorf

  • This separation of the soul from the body and from the world is no disease of the fringe, no aberration, but a fracture that runs through the mentality of institutional religion like a geologic fault. And this rift in the mentality of religion continues to characterize the modern mind, no matter how secular or worldly it becomes.

           -- from Wendell Berry's The Body and the Earth

Thursday, February 23, 2012


He's a real piece of work. That's what my father says about Oliver, and I've always loved that expression. Tonight, while I was making dinner (tacos) and admiring Henry's pamphlet about medieval Japan, I mentioned how terrific I thought both boys' projects always were, how they worked on them without my help. I reminded Oliver of his Indian one from earlier in the year, and he cut me off in disdain and said It's Native American, Mom, not Indian. Indians are from India. He sighed and might have rolled his eyes. In my mind I cursed his political correctness but said, Oh, yeah, that's right. A little while later I turned patiently toward him when he stated, I think I'm going to start making and collecting


houses. (I had to write it like that because it was just so weird and apropos of nothing).

In my mind I thought of so many clever things to say that weren't very nice, but instead I nodded and said, Sounds interesting.

It takes a village.

This is Henry, holding Sophie's legs at the dentist. I'm sitting on a stool, torqued at an odd angle, holding down her hands and keeping her head straight so that the hygienist can clean her teeth.

Going to the dentist with Sophie ranks up there with going to the hospital  or dealing with a seizure in a public place as one of my very least favorite things to do. While Sophie doesn't mind having her mouth propped open or even the actual cleaning, she does struggle with the lying down part, and in order to do an effective job, the hygienist needs help keeping her head straight and her hands down. There's no adaptive chair at the dentist, and because I'm just so grateful that this particular dentist is incredibly sweet and good with her, treats her at all, actually (did you know that dental care for the disabled is something that is hard to find?) and works hard to not have to sedate her, I willingly bend my body into pretzel-like shapes to keep her in the chair and prevent her from folding her own legs up in her customary pretzel-like shape. This time I had Henry, though, who kneeled on the floor and kept one arm over her legs and played a video game all at the same time.

Am I lucky or what?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When the bus comes

All photos taken by Oliver

This Speaks to Me Today**

Corner of La Brea and 2nd - Shepard Fairy - Los Angeles

**I'm not answering.

Word Verification

I know that I read on Ms. Moon's blog that the new word verification requirements and procedures on Blogger are supposed to be a way to preserve some of the old typesets or something like that, and while I enjoy a good typeset, I haven't enjoyed entering weird word and number combinations over and over the last few days on other people's blogs. I've also gotten far fewer comments on my own blog despite a huge surge in visitors, so I can only imagine hundreds of you peering at the screen and trying to decipher the blurry configurations only to give up any attempts to either agree with my damnatory words about Santorum or damn me to hell for my heresy.

So, I've dismantled my own word verification and fully expect the comments to pour in, both spam and otherwise.

Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It's Time for Another Round of -- Part 5,652

Yes, I know there are many of you that are going to click off right about now, because you just don't like the controversial stuff, the ugly stuff, the politics. But I know there are many more of you that enjoy the dialogue and the conflict, the choir and the perverse, so I'm just going to continue until it's time for me to click off and do something constructive, like the laundry and the bed-making and the calling the insurance company.

Today I read that Mitt Romney spent $18.7 million dollars on his campaign last month. Okay. It's said that his money-making machine is drying up, and he might have to delve into his personal fortune (which is, I believe numbered in the billions, but correct me if I'm wrong) to keep going. Okay. I'm going out on a limb here and stating that I'm perfectly aware that this sort of obscene money is being spent and raised by the Democrats, too. Okay?

That's why when I read about the State of California and other states round the nation cutting programs for the disabled because there's no money, I smell bullshit. And when people argue about welfare queens and corruption and complain that food stamp collectors are just lazy and have enough money for manicures and pedicures and flat-screen televisions -- well -- I smell bullshit. And when people dismiss all of it and say that the government is bad and all politicians lack integrity and in so doing (dismissing all of it) absolve themselves of fighting for what they know is right, well -- I smell bullshit. And when the Catholics, the Orthodox Jews, the evangelical Christians and the Mormons claim their religious liberty and freedom is being threatened and trampled upon because the government of the United States, (of the people and for the people), insists that women's preventive health and  reproductive freedom is paramount over the insurance industry, I smell bullshit. I'll go out on another limb and say to these religious people, Are you out of your minds? Is your faith in God  and your Church so fragile that you feel under siege when you can't shove your beliefs down every throat?

I might be stupid (I did receive a C in Economics 101 in college, but damn, that was a boring class), but there's money enough in this country to keep caring for the disabled and the elderly, to keep educating the children and young adults and to ensure that every person has a flat-screen television. Just kidding on the last one -- I'm not sure anyone is reading this, by now.

Here's a great video of John Stewart's I Smell Bullshit:

Now I'm off to do my chores and refill my aerosol can with some sort of air freshener.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Laugh Out Loud

Sighs, Exhalations and Irony/Disgust/Despair

The Body of Abel, Found by Adam and Eve, William Blake

Republican Presidential contender, Rick Santorum, is calling for an end to public education.

Can I hear a sigh? (and I'd be ever so grateful, if you're a Republican, if you'd tell me, why, why does your party stand for this man?)

Republican Presidential contender, Rick Santorum, is calling for an end to prenatal testing, using the religious/anti-abortion defense. 

Can I hear an exhalation? (see parenthetical statement above)

The state of California is debating whether to help balance the budget on the backs of the ultimate money grubbers: children with special healthcare needs. 

Can I hear some irony, disgust and despair?

Here's a bit of information about the last thing on my list. If you want to express your own irony, disgust and despair, click on the link and sign the petition.

Can I hear another sigh?

The Medical Therapy Program (MTP) is a special program within California Children's Services that provides physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT) and medical therapy conference (MTC) services for children who have handicapping conditions, generally due to neurological or musculoskeletal disorders.
Currently, children in California with one of these qualifying medical conditions qualify for services regardless of their financial status. 
Cerebral Palsy, Spina bifida, Muscular dystrophy, Rheumatoid arthritis, Spinal cord injuries, Arthrogryposis, Osteogenesis imperfecta, Head injuries.  
The California state budget proposes to align income eligibility requirements for Medical Therapy Program with the broader California Children's Services (CCS) Program. Currently, there is no financial test for eligibility. Under the proposed eligibility standards, families with annual income more than $40,000 or with annual CCS related medical expenses less than 20% of their annual income would not be eligible.

This means, a family with two working parents who make minimum wage make too much money and are no longer eligible for medial therapy services.  They would be responsible for finding these services and paying for these services for their children.  This is a huge financial burden for any family, especially families with children who have special needs.  A family with good medical insurance would still have to pay $200-500 per month on therapy.  And, the therapy sessions would have a maximum number of visits, which is usually around half of the time the child needs.  A family without medical coverage would likely not be able to afford services at all.

The Medical Therapy Program provides necessary physical and occupational therapy for children with medical conditions that effect their day to day life. 


I urge you to go here and read these thoughts about disability and government. I could never say it so well.

Downton Abbey Quote of the Season

Life is a game in which the players ARE all ridiculous.

-- Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, in conversation with Sir Richard Carlisle

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday shenanigans and one Saturday picture

Henry's bacon-wrapped hotdog

Milk in a bottle

Our cluttered living room

Picking tangerines and fighting on the trampoline
Sophie, in her swing, under the tangerine tree, protesting the fighting

Tangerines, tiny, full of seeds and sour, although good for jams

Chocolate Chip Cake

Vanilla Buttercream for Chocolate Chip Cake

One Saturday photo:

Mirtha, my sister-wife and Sophie's dear friend and caretaker on Saturdays

Two Things


Hildegard of Bingen, The Spark of Creation, from the Liber Scivias, Book II, 12th century, Germany

and this:

... if we tend to things at the deepest level, our repair will be so much a part of who we are that there will be no scar. It is easier to bend underneath the surface, in the deep timeless fluid of the beginning, than to break once fully grown.

Mark Nepo, from The Book of Awakening

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I know absolutely nothing about dance, but yesterday I stole away and saw the movie PINA by Wim Wenders, and I can't think of another word to describe it other than transcendent. It's a documentary and it's in 3-D which I normally can't stand but I was mesmerized for the entire 100 or so minutes. I can't tell you what it's about -- other than love and loss and longing and men and women and sex and violence and intimacy and life and death and trust and joy -- but I understood it, somehow. I understood it all just through dance.

Go see it.

How I respond when people tell me it must be romantic being married to a Chef, and why I sort of believe in karma

A typical Saturday involves the careful calibration of two very sporty boys' sports schedules. Right now, we're in the middle of the BIG CROSSOVER -- when pre-season baseball begins and lacrosse is still going on. The Husband, The Chef, is NEVER around on Saturdays. In fact, he's never around on any day, bless his heart, (although I am grateful for how hard he works for our family).

I literally had to map out my day last night. I challenge you to figure out the glitches and report back. As for karma, remember that I had absolutely no interest in any sports at any period of my life (well, maybe for Tar Heel basketball) and I have not one but two boys who love them, all of them.

Start Destination: HOME (mid-Wilshire area)
Driver/Chauffeur: Myself

Here I am, waiting for the boys to get in the car

Destination #1: Cheviot Hills (west Los Angeles), 25 minutes away on surface streets
Event: Pre-baseball season baseball game
Time: 11:00 am
Time to be there as per coach: 10:15 am
Child involved: Henry (Oliver will have to come along because of Destination 3, see below)
Who Watches: Myself and Oliver

Destination #2: Mar Vista (even further west LA)
Event: Final Lacrosse Game (unless they win and then there's more next week)
Time: 1:00 pm
Time to be there as per coach: 12:15 pm
Child involved: Henry (will have to leave baseball game early and change from baseball uniform to lacrosse uniform in car. Oliver is still in tow)
Who watches: Myself and Oliver, until we have to leave for Destination 3 which is also Destination 1

Destination #3 (or #1): Back to Cheviot Hills 
Event: Final Lacrosse Game (unless they win, and then there's more next week)
Time: 3:00 pm
Time to be there as per coach: 2:15 pm
Child involved: Oliver (Henry will still be playing his lacrosse game at Mar Vista, above)
Who watches: Myself, until I have to leave for Destination 4

Destination #4 (or #2): Back to Mar Vista
Event: Lacrosse Game
Time: who knows?***
Child involved: Henry

***Currently trying to figure out whether Henry's game will finish in time for me to bring Oliver to his game. If not, will I have to leave Oliver's game and drive back to Mar Vista and then back to Cheviot? 

Such are the musings and machinations of a literary mind.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's time for another round of

with an UPDATE below:

I haven't had a good rant in a while, but this whole birth control/religious freedom thing makes me crazy. I think it's bullshit.

What's wrong with this photo? 

That's the first panel of witnesses, all religious leaders, that House Oversight Committee Chairman Republican Rep.  Darrel Issa of California, called to a hearing where he also denied a female witness, claiming As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness. You can read more about it here. 

What's wrong with that picture is that each man sitting there is a representative of some of the most conservative Christian churches and Jewish orthodox temples in this country. Here's the list.  I know I'm supposed to respect a diversity of views, but frankly, they make me sick.

Let's face it, ladies: the conservative establishment, in whatever guise you want to call it, has been slowly and  inexorably working backward  to dismantle reproductive freedom and a woman's right to choose for decades. They're making progress. Those same figures decry the lack of human rights in countries like Afghanistan, but I tell you what. They're really not too far from living in caves themselves. They're just dressed in suits and collars instead of robes, and their wives, if they're allowed to have one, in pearls and cardigans instead of burkhas.

UPDATE:  Less of a rant and more measured -- Read HERE.

Friday Surf Report - Things I Love

  • I know I've posted this video before, but I came across it again and I just about adore it.

My Brightest Diamond | I Have Never Loved Someone | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

  • Ms. Moon of Bless Our Hearts has rocked my world with this post about those annoying word verifications and captchas. 

  • Here's another perfect song:

  • I'm going to give THIS a whirl. Hold me to it. Otherwise I might start using an exercise wand. I envy her waist -- it looks doable.

California woman in 1912, holding an exercise wand

  • When Sophie has a lot of seizures, she drools. Sometimes she doesn't have a lot of seizures and she drools. I imagine the sensations in her mouth, in her salivary glands are shot. For all I know she feels nothing in her mouth. In any event, she craves sensation and we want to give it to her. I found these online -- made for babies, but non-toxic -- and they serve the purpose. I think I found them on an autism site, but I can't be sure. If you recommended them, and I haven't given you credit, I'm sorry!
1997: Sophie has had a long love-affair with beads.

  • My old college friends, writer Dean King and his beautiful wife Jessica have four daughters. Two of them created a video for a great cause. All you have to do is click and vote. I urge you to do so, even if you're "not the type." Here's the info with all necessary links :   Willa and Grace King recently produced a video for the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School, which was selected as a finalist in a competition that awards $100,000 quarterly to educational and humanitarian organizations around the country based on a popular vote. Over the next couple of months, people can vote on the short videos. Anyone can vote up to once a day for the duration of the voting process. Anna Julia Cooper School, a middle school operating in the low-income East End of Richmond, provides promising students there a great opportunity to succeed at the next level. St. James's supports the school, and parishioners Alex Slaughter and Tom Horton serve on the school's board of directors. Registration and voting is quick and easy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Best Giveaway Ever

Last night, I finished reading Because of Katie: A True Story by Karen Gerstenberger, a woman who I am proud to call friend and grateful to call a deep inspiration and source of wisdom, spiritual advice and compassion. Karen's daughter Katie and my daughter Sophie share the exact same birthday (March 8, 1995), so I've always felt a kinship with her. I literally began to read the book when I ripped it out of its wrapping, standing at the dining room table. I continued to read it through the late afternoon, lying in Sophie's room when she came home from school, even holding it as I cooked dinner. After the children were in bed and I'd finished catching up on email and blogs last night, I finished the book in bed, around 11:00 and quickly got up to send an email to Karen, thanking her for sharing her story with the world.

The book is an honest and quite searing account of the journey Karen's family took when their eleven year old daughter, beautiful Katie, was diagnosed with a particularly gruesome and rare form of cancer. The writing is gripping, harrowing at parts, but always informed by Karen's grace and honesty and courage. I believe it to be not just an important personal story, a courageous and honest portrayal of what happens to a tight-knit family as they cope with a grueling treatment plan, but also an important primer for people in the healthcare profession. There is little to no anger in this book -- only the right raging of a mother whose child is dying -- but Karen is generous in pointing out how "the system" worked and how it didn't. As a person who has worked quite extensively in the "quality improvement" area of children with special healthcare needs, I know that this book should be shared with all medical students, doctors and people involved in the care of children who are sick or disabled, and I hope it will be.

From a personal standpoint, although my own experience caring for Sophie for the last seventeen years is quite different than Karen's for Katie, I found renewed strength and inspiration reading Karen's account. I think her descriptions of her family's, particularly her own, growing and intense intimacy with Katie as her treatment progressed and then later when they knew she was going to die, resonated with me the most. I realized that my own family has a startling intimacy with Sophie, and while it might be overwhelming at times, it is, essentially, a gift.

Thank you, Karen, again, for sharing your story with the world, and I hope that everyone has a chance to read this beautiful book.

To begin to make that happen, I am thrilled to offer TWO autographed copies of Because of Katie to two of my readers. Please leave a comment here to enter the giveaway -- perhaps a word of support for Karen or for those who might need support in their own journeys caring for a sick or disabled son or daughter. I will announce the winners on Monday, February 20th.

THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY IS: Taylor's Healing Arts. Please send me your email address ASAP!

I FORGOT! THE SECOND WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY IS: se (Please send me your email address ASAP!
from Wim Wenders "Wings of Desire"

To converse with the greats

To converse with the greats
by trying their blindfolds on;
to correspond with books
by rewriting them;
to edit holy edicts,
and at the midnight hour
to talk with the clock by tapping a wall
in the solitary confinement of the universe.

-- Vera Pavlova

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Truth at Last**

Grandma Josephine, my Nonni
Speaking from my own experience, I would argue that the best mothers are Italian-Americans, in part because they are warm and affectionate, but mostly because of the manicotti. When I was a kid, my own Irish-American mother was a terrible cook, so I would dutifully eat the remains of whatever luckless animal she'd just burned to a crisp, puke it up and then run down the street to Richie Giardinelli's house, where his mother was always baking ziti or cooking up a fresh pot of meatballs or making manicotti.
I never met anyone who was more beloved by her kids than Mrs. Giardinelli, though she wasn't much different from all the other Italian-American mothers I have known. Italian-American moms love their kids, they look out for their kids, they defend their kids, and because of that their kids generally grow up to be pillars of the community. If I had to do it all over again, I'd come back as an Italian-American kid—in part because of the warmth, the affection, the passion and the generosity, but mostly because of the manicotti.
-- Joe Queenan, from Why Italian Moms Are The Best
** This is no way denigrates my own mother's mothering. She was the best of mothers, but she was half Syrian and half Scotch-English. Despite that, she could cook very, very well!

More Valentine's Day




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