Saturday, November 30, 2013

This happened

That's the Barbie bathroom where the hole in the ceiling leads to an unfinished attic. Now that The Brothers are older, they've taken on the job of  climbing a ladder, hoisting themselves up through the square and getting whatever we need that's been stored up there. This year, they invented a pulley system which took a bit longer but entailed zero help from The Long Suffering Mother. The Christmas decorations are down, and now, in addition to the life-size bilingual Santa, we have boxes filled with Christmas cheer to distribute throughout our mansion.

I know you can't wait.

(I promise that I will have some more in-depth reportage and musings or mullings, along with scintillating poetry one of these days --)


The last week of five am mornings have found me lying flat on my back in Henry's bed (he, relegated to the couch, my parents in mine), the sun hours away from rising, my thoughts more a mull than a muse, my life displayed in front of my mind's eye without death to make it precious, more terror than melancholy. I have no idea whether it's the season, the fact of having my aging (however terrifically) parents in my bed while I lay low to the ground in my boys' baseball player-postered room, my age, or just the damn facts, but I was hard put to remain composed. All the gratitude was schmatitude in the darkest hour before dawn. Texts to a friend on the east coast buoyed me, her reminder that it was the darkest hour before dawn lulled me back to sleep where I dreamed technicolor snippets, walked through parties in houses with rooms and old lovers behind doors. I woke sheepish in light, drove my parents to the airport, embraced them in gratitude for spinning the web, however sticky, where I'm stuck, ran my hand over Oliver's head and wiped away his tears with my thumb. Why do they have to live so far away? he sighed as we pulled away. We waved as they fussed with their bags, smiled, blew kisses.

There's a black reindeer head sitting on my dining room table, waiting for me to bring it back to the store where my mother accidentally dropped her cane and broke off one of its antlers. She paid for half of it and brought it home so that my amazingly handy father could glue it back like new! In the above photo, just to the right of the black plastic-covered foam sheets for Sophie's room -- the path to hell is laid with the best intentions, I believe Blake said --  is the gift they left: a life-sized Santa who dances and sings a number of Christmas tunes -- in our native tongue and Spanish.

That's my family recap. What's yours, dear Readers?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Feast of Photos

Thanksgiving menu included turkey, gravy, roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted root vegetables, sweet potato pone, Italian sausage stuffing, cranberry jelly, cranberry jelly slices from the can (a must in our family), mashed potatoes, Manhattans for my father and me, sparkly cider for my mother and the kids, apple pie and banana cream pie. Sophie continues to have an unprecedented string of days free of seizures.

We are grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Venice in Southern Cal

I looked the other way when we left the house this afternoon, past the black garbage-bagged foam sheets on my porch. I looked to the west.


The canals!

It was a glorious day in southern California. I know many of you are suffering through wind and rain and snow and sleet and hail and all manner of wicked November weather. You really should reconsider and come on out to visit us.

More stuff going on around here

Does that photo scare you? I woke up this morning at 6:30 to hear two cement mixers churning their goods right outside. A new neighbor is renovating a house across the street and today was the day that cement was poured for the driveway. Dandy. As I'm prone to do, I lay on my back, mulling. Mulling is different than musing. I mulled about the shipment of CBD that should come today and how much money it was going to cost. I mulled over the five gigantic panels of foam that are squeezed into our front porch, how my parents' offer to upholster Sophie's walls while they were here went awry and how I'll have to look at everything in disarray until I can find someone to do it. I mulled over the coming end to de-schooling, when home-schooling will start in earnest and then I mulled over marriage, family, life and death. I was not light-hearted. That would have been musing. I was sleeping in Henry's bed across from Oliver who talks in his sleep off and on throughout the night -- yells in his sleep, actually -- admonitions and exclamations and all manner of drama. My parents are in our bedroom. Henry was on the couch, and The Husband was with Sophie. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do but retreat to the kitchen and make coffee. So, that's what's going on around here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Having a good sneeze

Some days, I just like the quotes thrown my way. Here are three:

I like to write when I feel spiteful. 
It is like having a good sneeze.
D. H. Lawrence, via Brainpickings

Congratulation: The civility of envy
Ambrose Bierce

Animadversion: the act of criticizing; an unfavorable comment


Mirtha cutting Sophie's hair this weekend

I woke this morning at 5:15, anticipating the drive to Henry's school where he "conditions" three times a week for baseball tryouts in January. I lay on my back in the cold darkness, enumerating worries. Anxious about money. Anxious about Sophie and our ability to pay for, even continue to get, the medical marijuana that is, after nineteen years, the first treatment to help her. I glanced at my phone, at a thread on the pediatric cannabis therapy group on Facebook, a thread hijacked by a woman who insists on conspiracy. Something about seeds and growing it yourself and letting the seeds out. More about mold and pesticides, rumors that it will be another year before Charlotte's Web is spun in California. I felt the thread of worry. These people are all nuts, I thought, even as I get it. Get the nuts, that is. I've climbed into bed with people who believe that 9/11 is a conspiracy, who post about Obamacare in apocalyptic terms, who don't bat an eye at yellow journalism. But I get it. People thrown together, tied by threads, spinning. We do what we have to for our children. Who am I to judge? I will only accept another drug if Jesus himself offers it to me. I lie down, fully clothed, next to men who call Obama The Anointed One -- as an epithet. Mary Magdalene would do no less.

I forgot, though, of gratitude, that groping impulse toward it.

Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true,
that it instantly stops the rational mind, and all its planning
and plotting.  -- Regina Sara Ryan

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The bathroom's favorite time of day

All truths wait in all things.

Walt Whitman

Sunday colors

The Little Mermaid illustration by Josef Palecek, 1981

My little mermaid is awake and awake. She is sitting in her yellow and lavender room, waiting for me to come dress her and perhaps, if she's lucky, go outside. The sky is blue today and the sun is low and warm, leaves are brown and the tomato plants droop. Henry and Oliver sit on their blue shag rug with a black video console, the blinds are brown. I yank them up, release the sun, step over a gray tee-shirt yellow at my back. We can color a Sunday to live through it.

Listen to this.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

No words necessary

(thanks to Deanna for the inspiration)

Me Want

A hobbit hole house of my very own.

Here's another one:

Children, husbands, men in general not allowed entrance. Women allowed, but only those bearing books, coffee, bourbon, cheese and chocolate can stop by for a few minutes. Javier Bardem is exempt from above rules.

See more here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tiny Particles

That was a headline in this morning's paper, and it just struck me. That's all -- it just struck me. So much that we think we know -- in fact, everything we think we know, lands up being debunked. This headline, that I glanced at on my way to the bathroom (I'm one of those people who realizes they need to pee well before they actually pee so that they find themselves really needing to pee well after they first noticed) provoked so many other thoughts:

  1. the fact that Sophie is responding to marijuana after unsuccessfully ingesting twenty powerful synthetic drugs in nearly as many years (really, what the hell? Couldn't THEY have figured this out sooner?)
  2.  how often THEY (because it's always THEY, right) reverse positions on what is good for you and  what is bad. For instance, I know you've heard that having a large ass helps you to live longer than a skinny one (I'm living forever, apparently), but did you hear the latest news that eating a handful of nuts a day will help you to live longer? So much for counting out those cashews on Weight Watchers.
  3. how we're pressured to trust Science unequivocally
  4. how we often do trust Science unequivocally
  5. how we're browbeaten for expressing our doubts (think vaccination "debate")
  6. how weird and inexplicable the universe really is (the typhoon in the Philippines, tiny particles upending the universe, men in general)
  7. how weird and inexplicable human beings generally are (despite "evidence" to the contrary, there are still those diehards who believe Adam and Eve just appeared one day in a garden)
  8. how weird and inexplicable my own brain is (that thoughts keep coming, willy nilly, prompted by no less than one headline and the urge to pee)
  9. how tiny particles can upend one's universe in general (evidently the world of astronomy is rocking)
  10. how Blake wrote in 1803 To see a World in a Grain of Sand/and a Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/and Eternity in an hour.

Reader, what's upending your universe today?

This boy

Oliver is spending the night in San Diego with a small group of people from a wonderful little school that includes homeschoolers in its Friday program. They left in a car caravan yesterday and will be exploring the border today, learning about immigration policies, peace and justice. He was a bit nervous (and so was I) to leave with relative strangers, and I'm so proud of him for doing so. Our adventures in de-schooling continue, and each day that passes makes the difficult decision to pull him from school a more concrete and "right" one. I've ordered some books to supplement our far-reaching curriculum and will be, of course, farming out the math as just the sight of it gives me the willies. He will also continue to see an educational therapist who is a reading specialist each week. To those who think I've enough on my plate and couldn't possibly or shouldn't possibly handle another side, let me assure you that this isn't even gravy on the buttery mashed potatoes (meaning, delicious but bad for me). It's roasted root vegetables with the best olive oil and sea salt.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

CBD Update, without photos

No sooner had those photos of Sophie gone up and out, curls flying (scroll down to see), than she had three big ones, back to back, on this rainy Los Angeles morning. But, you know what? I'm not going to be like my paternal grandmother, dressed in black and praying that I die, convinced that anything good, uttered, will turn to bad. I'm going to defy the jinx, stomp the ego that believes it can control every little thing. I'm going to exult in the fact that Sophie has had many good days, a number of good days, where she has had no seizures to speak of other than an occasional jerk. That's nearly a week of dinners free of tonic-clonic episodes, of mornings without clammy hands and days without clusters. Yes, nearly a week, the longest she's been seizure free in as long as we can remember. Sophie has NEVER had a honeymoon period on any drug, ever. Remember that she is taking a tincture that is not even the ideal proportion of CBD to THC, that we are waiting for Charlotte's Web, and that given this promising start, we have every reason to believe that she will continue to find relief, maybe even more relief.

Thank you for all your happiness, for sharing in ours.

Sophie, seizure freeing - --

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge,
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Seamus Heaney from The Cure at Troy

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Things to Think About

Last night, I joined Tanya Ward Goodman and the poet Helena Lipstadt for a reading at a very cool independent bookstore in Echo Park. A small, intimate crowd came, and we sat outside in a funky light-stringed courtyard behind the store. I can't tell you enough good things about Tanya's book Leaving Tinkertown, and even though I've read it in different incarnations over many years, it's still a thrill to hear her words. Helena is a new friend whom I met in my new writing group, and her poetry is so intelligent, lyrical and powerfully erotic. I read a few of my How We Do It posts and realized as I was doing so, that they might make a book if they are strung together in some skillful way. I need to get on that.

Other thoughts today concern my struggles with obtaining a better health insurance policy, how I'm realizing just how insidious the tentacles of the Insurance Industry really are --at least for those of us in the independent market. A few years ago, when the whole healthcare reform movement began and the rumblings started about Obamacare, I wrote of how ridiculous it would be to "shop" on the free market for healthcare. You can read about that here.  I'll give you a moment, because it's pretty prescient, if I do say so myself.

Are you back? What I'm finding is that while I can certainly add Sophie to our individual policy  because the ACA has done away with the preexisting condition clause, the drugs that she takes are not on the formularies, and I'm terrified that we'll have to go through some crazy labyrinthine system to get those drugs covered. If you can recall from my Canadian drug mule days, we finally found a non-profit foundation that picks up the co-payment of one of those drugs, but the other one is equally expensive and was only covered after months-long wrangling with the insurance commissioner and my local congress person. For those of you who have written me with the suggestion that Sophie go on Medi-Cal, well, she is, secondary, and those drugs are not picked up by them either.

Hey, like The Tan Man says, The United States has the best healthcare delivery system in the world.

Why the hell do we not have a single payer system? Why the hell is socialized medicine a less attractive alternative to a plutocratic system?

What a clusterf#*ck.

I'm also thinking about the Congressman from Virginia who was stabbed by his mentally ill son who then shot himself and died. Evidently, the son had been admitted for mental health treatment earlier in the week, but a bed wasn't available for him.

Again, let's recite the powerful Tan Man's mantra:

The United States has the best healthcare delivery system in the world.

That being said, Michael Tomasky has a great, brief piece on how the Affordable Care Act addresses mental health coverage for the first time in history. You can read that here.

Finally, ya'll might want to come on out and visit the estate sale of Dr. Arnold Klein, the dermatologist who worked on the face of Michael Jackson. He lives in my neighborhood (the fancy part), and evidently his estate will be liquidated over the next four days. Rumor has it that an extensive collection of Star Wars memorabilia, as well as Picassos and other celebrity crap will be auctioned off. There's a line snaking out the door as I type.

Good Lord.

Reader, what are your thoughts today?

Aboriginal Skills, Part II

That's Jim Robertson, an instructor of aboriginal skills. In the above photo, he was demonstrating how to lie close to the ground and begin to move forward, tracking an animal. This man was wonderful -- craggy and handsome, he spoke of his deep reverence for the natural world, for animals and their environment. He told the kids that while he loved meat and ate it, he always took a bite knowing that the animal was a part of him and that he was a part of the animal. Jim doesn't believe in hunting or fishing for sport. He believes that we should respect where our food comes from and from whom.

Here Jim is showing the boys how to track a deer, how to slowly pick one's foot up and put it down, roll it in stay still and low and silent. It reminded me very much of what it looks like to do a walking meditation, and in some respects it was exactly that.

Here, Oliver is laying low like a deer, head down, unaware of a tracker behind him. If he heard the tracker, he lifted his head and the tracker, in turn, stood still and silent.

I love this picture, Oliver readying this boomerang thing that catches rabbits, the sun's rays over him. I think it's holy.

Here, Jim is demonstrating a bird trap. They worked for a long time on this, and it was intricate, careful and slow work. The other boys horsed around, but Oliver was completely into it.

Here Oliver is getting ready to shoot an arrow. I've mentioned it before, but The Husband is a sharp shooter, from his days in the compulsory Swiss bicycle cavalry (yes, he was in the Swiss bicycle cavalry). Oliver appears to have inherited his steady hand and eye coordination. A bow and arrow, a rifle -- anything requiring that sort of coordination and focus, is easy for Oliver and certainly a strength that was rarely recognized in a school setting.

Here's the broody sky that hung over us all afternoon.

I walked back up the trail toward the end of the day, cold and needing to warm up in my car. On my way back to get Oliver, I came upon probably twenty or more deer, silently nosing around a beautiful oak tree.
They stopped and twitched their ears, stared at me and continued sniffing and munching.  I felt free for a moment, of every single care.

Here's Jim Robertson's website.


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